Today’s guest post comes from Liz, who publishes Rose Colored Water. If you’ve ever had a bad boss, you can probably relate to this piece.
It’s a great post about recognizing a toxic work environment, overcoming adversity, and realizing the relationships between our finances and the choices we make in life. Here’s more about Liz:
After earning her B.A. in Communication and racking up $40,000 in student loan debt, Liz suffered a quarter-life crisis. She loathed her job, her city, and where her future was headed. As a last ditch effort to change her life, she enlisted in the United States Air Force.
Currently, Liz attends nursing school through an awesome opportunity afforded her by the military. She strives to help others recognize that it’s never too late to start over. She writes about her Air Force career and journey to financial freedom on her blog, Rose Colored Water.
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How One Bad Boss Can Change Your Life
Most personal finance bloggers can pinpoint a specific situation or moment that made them want to pursue financial independence. Though I don’t claim to be a finance blogger, I do have an experience that stands above the rest. It marked a clear turning point for me and what I wanted for my life.
Before joining the Air Force, I worked at a small e-commerce company handling a range of jobs from SEO to Marketing and PR. It was the worst job I ever had and introduced me to my first horrible boss.
I knew Brad* and I would not get along the moment he walked into my interview. He was accompanied by the HR Director, a sweet and funny man who made every question feel more like a conversation than an interview. Brad, on the other hand, was dictator-like with a fake laugh and poor social skills. If offered the position, he would be my direct supervisor and team lead. It sounds crazy, but I knew from the start that working with him would prove challenging.
At first, I thought Brad was a victim of circumstance. The company was known for its high turnover rate, non-existent employee benefits, and expectations that college graduates would work for $10-12/hour with no potential for raises. I thought, maybe he’s just as miserable as everyone else in this place.
I tried to be optimistic. He was a strict micromanager. If you’ve ever been micromanaged or have otherwise experienced poor management, you know how toxic that environment can be. We were required to submit daily activity reports showing what we had accomplished and what we planned to do the following day. Every Tuesday, he would have a one-on-one with each team member, questioning us about every task in our reports. On Thursdays, we would have a “team meeting” that lasted 1-2 hours.
We were not allowed to talk. It was an open office environment so everyone could see each other and interact. Other teams would chit chat, make jokes, and gallivant while completing their work. If we spoke too much, he would come over and quietly whisper that we needed to stop talking and focus on our work.
He did not like being challenged, especially by women. If a man challenged him on an idea or project, he would discuss it and find middle ground. If a woman disagreed or challenged him, he would tense up and speak in a low tone. You could sense his irritation and anger. I always felt he was a ticking time bomb.
Brad was more than uptight; he exuded uneasiness. Over time, I began dreading work. I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. Most of our team did, and eventually everyone quit or moved to another team (due to rearranging and project changes). Finally, only two remained. We felt like ants under a microscope.
Searching For More
My time in that job forever changed the way I looked at money and myself. After a few months of employment, I started reading personal finance and career blogs in search of a way to escape. This was back when Michelle at Making Sense of Cents was still living in St. Louis and making a few thousand per month.
Seeing this community struggle, rise up, and tackle their problems spurred me to start my own blog and track my own journey. It inspired me to try my hand at freelance writing and look for other positions. Most of all, it showed me that I didn’t have to feel trapped in my job because of my debt and that a path to freedom did exist.
During that time, I developed three beliefs. I used these to guide me when I joined the Air Force, and with every decision thereafter.
- I never want to feel trapped.
Having a bad boss made me realize that financial freedom is everything if you want to have choices. How many people do you know working jobs they hate because their finances are a mess? Knowing I couldn’t quit my job because of my heavy debt burden made me feel hopeless and depressed. I felt stuck with no way out, even as I searched for better paying positions.
The feelings of hopelessness pushed me to make drastic life changes. People thought I was crazy for enlisting in the military at age 25. Even though I am committed to the Air Force with an enlistment, I never feel trapped. Even if I’m not always happy in my position, there are a wealth of opportunities to explore and pursue.
- I never want to worry about money again.
I struggled financially and emotionally in that position. The toxic environment affected every part of my life. It wasn’t until I started reading finance blogs that I felt like I could do something different. My position in the company was unstable because the owner wasn’t sold on the importance of SEO and PR. I never knew if my job was safe, and that stress weighed on me more than my student loans.
When you have a scarcity mindset, you are afraid to take risks that could improve your life. You fear losing what you have – even if what you have sucks.
A few months after dealing with Brad, I decided to take risks and not fear the what-ifs in life. Even though I haven’t been perfect at this, this belief is what pushed me to join the Air Force, leave a bad marriage, and apply to nursing school for an Air Force commission.
- I want to feel valued.
This is a very important point. I never felt valued as an employee under that manager or company. I would be told one thing only to see the opposite happen. Our team would hit milestones and break records – only to immediately be questioned on why it wasn’t better.
This may be a common practice in many work environments, but that doesn’t make it right. I understand that there is always room for improvement, but oftentimes, my best work wasn’t enough enough. I was giving all I had to a company and boss that didn’t value my time ($10/hour and no benefits) or achievements. Truthfully, they didn’t see anyone’s value.
I refuse to be treated that way again. If someone doesn’t care about the value I offer, I will find someone who does. You should never settle for less than you are worth. That goes for every part of your life.
A Note From Liz: I hope this story doesn’t come off as a whiny millennial who didn’t get her way. It is not meant to be that. It is meant to show that you have value and worth, and that you should never settle for less. There are awesome jobs and bosses out there who will see your potential and foster it.
Fortunately, I only dealt with one terrible boss. It was an awful time in my life, but it made me stronger, smarter, and willing to take risks. I learned to go big or go home, and that taking risks is always better than being complacent and miserable.
*Name has been changed.
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