March 8th, 2009
One day, at a job I grew to hate because the executive director was replaced by an incompetent woman who wore too-small stilettos and carried teeny tiny purses (I don’t trust woman who carry teeny tiny purses every day — it’s unnatural), I did something decidedly San Diego Momma-like, before there ever was such a thing: I baked a cake and decorated it to illustrate my position’s priorities — and then brought it to a high-profile-ish meeting. (Most modifiers in a sentence ever that was NOT written by Hemingway.)
I’d just landed this job and absolutely adored it. Although given some baseline job requirements, the position was pretty wild, wild west, which floated my boat, (or rode my horse?) And after many years in corporate communications and PR, I felt ready to chart my own course (keeping with the boat analogy, I see), but not go the consultant way yet, because I needed good health insurance and to see adults every day.
All this is to say I made a cake. A chocolate cake with chocolate frosting of course, and yellow icing that broke the cake’s vast landscape into jigsaw-puzzle-like pieces of varying sizes with the words “PR,” “Website,” “Newsletter,” etc. written inside them to correspond to the percentage of time I’d allot to each function or job responsibility. I don’t know, I just sort of gave in to my personality. For some reason, the cake idea seemed silly, but brilliant, and also tasty and delicious, so I went with it. I guess I thought this job “got me.” Still, at the time of cake unveiling, I will admit a quick thought hit me like “These people will now wonder if I’ve taken the short bus here,” but at least they pretended to like it and things went on from there.
Until they didn’t.
You know when you’re confronted with the thought that the people (person who became your boss more like) around you do not indeed “get you?” That’s exactly what happened. A new guard entered the scene and I was not got, not got at all, singularly by the woman who stuffed her feet into too-small stilettos, and carried a teeny tiny purse every day, and didn’t know how to use her computer and insisted we change our job titles to justify our crappy pay and frozen salaries, but ordered the best cell phone and PC on the market for herself, and had a licensed social worker degree, but couldn’t diagnose herself as narcissistic if you forced her on a couch and paid her $100, and wrote every single one of her emails in all caps, and worried more about the color of our employee party napkins than where our non-profit would receive its future funding.
Well, today is two years since I left that job.
With the new executive director’s tenure began an era of Big Brotherism and soul-sucking rules along the lines of “No laughing, no talking, no be-friending,” that completely re-made the place into a sad little quiet existence. The whole vision and joie de vivre left with a series of people who’d resigned because they didn’t see things the new director’s way, which would be fine if she actually had a “way.” Instead she blindly made rules and created methodologiesbecause she thought she should and that’s how it was done at her former bureaucratic job.
In the end, I left because I grew alarmed at how low morale had dipped. The agency lost its passion and worse — the ability to really help people with needed programs the director eliminated due to goodness blindness and huge ego.
I still hear from people at my old job every now and then. And while I made the right decision to leave, I still wish for their sakes, and those we helped, that it were the kind of place where your boat floated (or your horse galloped) and you could eat your job description.