This past week, I have been struggling with the concept of taking the high road and speaking my truth. The notion that business is business and things should not be taken personal. Especially, in a time when the clapback is prevalent and social media is used to air out dirty laundry, it gets hard to know when something should be shared and when it shouldn’t. Even when it’s taken to the old school yard laws of snitches get stitches, we have all learned that when you see something, you keep your mouth shut. There is this underlying notion, that we must do what we can to protect those that are essentially bigger, badder and perpetually always worried about the ramifications of speaking up. Even as I am writing this I have this tug of war, that in my core I know is ridiculous because I am a fighter, I am a truth speaker and I am a person that believes everyone’s story should be told. To find such a struggle in telling the story of how and why I left my job should not be so difficult, yet here I am scared to tell my story…
For the past few years, almost 6 to be exact, I have worked for company that I believed in. A company that no matter what horrible things I heard, I defended. A company that I gave my time, my faith and even considered family. I made it a point in my life to stand behind the product and the woman who started with a vision and let nothing stop her for doing what she believed in. I felt like I was apart of something that was dignified and wore it like a badge of honor. Through the years the company began to get bigger and I was able to grow with it as well. I had trepidation of being a mother and simply starting as a busser, but knowing that I could be apart of something I believed in, cleaning up after the rich elite was just the position alloted to me and if I stuck with it, even that postion would change. The promotions began and with that, I began to see the owner as a mentor and even a hero and no matter what I heard about her, I defended her and the company, because progress is progress. As a woman that still has aspirations of starting my own company, I took everything that was said with a grain of salt, because in my eyes, the masses generally hate seeing a woman succeed. I put everyone in the haters category and paid them no mind. Sure she was demanding, that is a quality needed in being a business owner. Sure there was an air of arrogance about her, but that comes with the job. I put on my blinders and cashed my checks with dignity.
I saw people come and go and even found myself saying the words “… is no longer with the company”, never paying any mind to how it sounded like they had died. Never really questioning what had happened, never once thinking about the untold story, just spitting out the verbage told to me, because why should I? I never had any problems, they just must not have what it takes to be apart of greatness. Drinking the kool-aid, ignoring because it was easier… cashing my checks. Seeing people come and go. Not questioning. Keeping the blinders on. Hearing things and ignoring things. Overlooking things. I started to struggle with the notion that the company I took so much pride in being apart of was getting so big that the bottom line was conflicting with what I believed in. I found myself getting to a point where the checks became all I believed in. I began seeing the bottom line in my own value system. As long as I was making money, I would put up with things that I didn’t believe in. It shames me to say this but it really wasn’t until the checks became smaller that I finally realized I no longer believed in what I was doing.
It is amazing to watch a company grow. There is something awe-inspiring to see something that began with humble and pure intention become a force to be reckoned with. Yet, I now see there is also a point when you have to question when enough is enough. There is a point in all that progress where you make a decision to put the bottom line before everything else, even before what you believed to be your own values. I saw it within myself and even more so in the woman who I called my mentor. Yet, I still found myself defending her. “It’s just what happens when you get big. It’s just my hipster tendencies to not like something when it becomes mainstream. It’s not her, it’s the people she has working for her projecting what they want.” I had placed that company and the woman that ran it on such a pedestal that I continued to ignore blatant things. Even as I came to grips with no longer being able to put my own bottom line ahead of my values, I defended her.
Deciding to leave the company that I so valued for so long, was not an easy decision. It was one that took months of thought and time. Coupling the fact that my views no longer aligned with the company and there were things within my particular location, that I could no longer take . Even though I had gotten to a point where I’d have these grandiose visions of how I would leave, sending my 2 week resignation, was one of the hardest things (in my work life) I had ever done. It was even harder to tell my coworkers, so I kept it a secret from most because I would get choked up on the thought of saying goodbye. Despite what realization I had about the company, the people I worked with on a daily basis became my family. The day after I put in my two weeks, I went to work with a sence of freedom and sadness. I was finally making the move to do what I felt was right for myself, but I was leaving people I cared about to deal with the bullshit they couldn’t escape from. After that shift I had a meeting with the head of HR to have what I thought was my exit interview. I still hadn’t known how honest I was going to be about the current working conditions, but I knew that I had to speak up. The few people who knew I was leaving asked me to do so, and no matter what, at my core I am a person that will always speak out for those that can’t.
I went into that meeting and spoke my truth, knowing that the next 2 weeks would become a living hell for me, but was willing to take it, for the greater good. I won’t go into details about the meeting but I will say that it was there, that I was told I would not be needed to finish out my two weeks. It was there that I realized, the company that I had spent the last 5+ years of my life, the company that I had defended despite it’s flaws, the company that I considered family, could cast me away. Just a week prior to my resignation, a new employee also put in her 2 weeks. They sat there and listened to her issues and gave her what ever she needed to keep her with the company. I went into this meeting aware of that possibility for me, but knew that nothing they could say would sway me from my decision. I was prepared for that.
What I wasn’t prepared for was being asked why I was leaving AFTER I was let go. What I was not prepared for was being denied the opportunity to say goodbye to my coworkers. What I was not prepared for was being denied my two weeks of pay, which is important when you live paycheck to paycheck. What I was not prepared for was finding out that the company that I cared so much about and took pride in being apart of, could care less if I worked for them or not. What I was not prepared for was to become a “she’s no longer with the company” statistic. What I was not prepared for was the messages that followed hours later, after their investigation to find out I was right. What I was not prepared for was the phone conversation the next day with the woman I called mentor, essentially confirming all the things I had chosen to ignore. The thing that has struck me the most is that even with the way I was treated, I still found my self defending her. I let myself struggle with the notion of speaking up and protecting this woman and the company she owns, that clearly doesn’t give a shit about me.
Why? Because despite what I have heard and despite what I have experienced for myself, I still wanted to defend her. This isn’t just about leaving a job. This isn’t just about trying to ruin a business or throw shade. This isn’t just about finding out someone I considered a mentor, just saw me as a disposable employee. This is about not being scared to stand up for what you believe in. This is about how nothing good comes from only focusing on the bottom line. This is about standing behind your decision to move forward. This is about me finally letting go of the fear of speaking out on what is my story. This is honestly about me letting go of the last six years and fully freeing myself from the grasp of the place that took up too much of my time, devotion and thoughts. This is about me telling my story without fear, because that fear is what kept me silent for way too long.