by Julie Conley
Grove City, Ohio, USA
My first job after college was working for a small apartment complex as a rental agent. I actually enjoyed a lot of the job, interacting with residents, solving problems, and meeting new people. The downside was working with the owner and manager. I became the resident flunky.
I was publicly reprimanded and not allowed to express my opinions or make decisions. Many times I felt berated for being who I was, and humiliated for what I was doing. I figured this must be what work is all about. It was enough to make me question my skills, and wonder how awful my opinions must be.
After two years, I found an entry level office position at a restaurant chain with offices near my home. I started out as receptionist on a large switchboard.
Ann was my new boss, a tiny woman who commanded respect. Bright, cheerful, gracious — yet hard as nails. No one tried to take advantage of her, because she knew her business and knew she did a good job.
I made sure I let Ann know about each break I took from the phones. I took care of our “honors system” snack cabinet in the lunchroom. I checked with her each time I sorted the money, and told her what I ordered. I managed the company vehicles, which often led to minor disputes. I let Ann know of every occurrence.
One particularly bleak day, Ann called me and asked me to come to her office. She closed the door, and I heard the theme music from jaws playing in my head. One knows what a closed door means! She proceeded to tell me how intelligent I was. She reminded me how detailed I was and what pride I took in my work. “But,” she said, “You don’t trust yourself. You do not need to justify everything you do, because I trust you.”
I was speechless. In a few seconds, she rebuilt the self esteem I had lost with my previous employer. It may have seemed like nothing to her, but I suddenly knew what made a good boss. I learned that even though I’m an employee, I have a right to be treated with respect.
It struck me too that no one, even my superior, has a right to belittle me, or shout at me, or use foul language at me. I learned that I was a valuable person, and no one could take that away from me. This may seem common sense, but sometimes the basic lessons are the hardest ones to learn.
I was fortunate enough a few years ago to see Ann and tell her what impact she has had on my professional life. Thanks Ann, I’ll never forget you!
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 2.