A good friend, confidant, and coworker of mine casually yet poignantly dubbed a particular work phenomenon as the “Mallory Effect.” His words were, “[It’s] when a person breaks their boss’s heart, takes a idgaf approach, and then has to suffer through their interactions until they leave… like living with your ex-fiancee because you both can’t afford [to move out] until the lease is over… only 10 more months to go!”
I’m pretty sure the subjects are switched here. The worker’s heart is broken, not the boss’s, but I think the sentiment is rock solid.
Regardless, it’s all true, it’s exactly what I do, and there are stages to it. I’ve had so much practice over the last decade, I’m now able to see the pattern (though the real skill will come in the next decade in which I learn how to spot the patter before it happens!).
- A poor experience happens, usually involving a poor exchange
- The boss reveals her/himself to be a total ass in some way (morally, intellectually, whatever)
- Incompetence is unbearable, thus I lose all respect for the superior
- You get nothing more out of me except the exact amount expected and there are no casual interactions (literally avoid talking to them at all costs)
- I deal with the jackass until a change in leadership happens (I leave, they leave, someone gets fired)
I work for a company that is “essential.” It is “essential” that we all show up, therefore it is “essential” that I have to for whatever reason conduct and audit several daily audits that ensure we’re doing our part to operate safely. No, that’s not a typo; due to the necessary vigilance an epidemic demands in order to not infect my associates (or them me, or each other), we are now auditing audits. So yeah, work’s getting real fun these days over the added stress.
So fun in fact, that I was doing a preliminary online search for something else. It’s really the best time, I think, to attempt a career change. Naturally, the job market disagrees with me. That use to be my one saving grace – knowing I could leave if the heap of shit just built too high. But now, I don’t have that option and it’s – “stifling” is not the correct word. It’s full-on suffocating. It’s like owning instead of renting – I’m not ready for that sort of commitment! Although in January I wasn’t planning on moving jobs in Q2, at least then it was an option.
Anyways, I realized the other day I couldn’t see over the shitpile anymore, and it’s been made clear on several counts that my boss isn’t here to help. But the last steaming pile was thrown aboard just this past Tuesday when he yelled at me over our daily regional conference call. I’d had it. In a calm, deep-burning rage, the kind that parches your throat and slides down like a kindling coal into the hollow of your stomach, I calmly defended myself and my operations.
Because he never listens to the words that I actually say, he commented with something completely off-hand, defending himself per usual. So I messaged him, explaining that although I had to apologize for not using such-and-such audit because I was unaware the standard changed, he called me and my folks out and said we were building a culture of neglect.
Three hours, four conference calls, and plenty of messages later, he called to apologize. He gave me the rundown of how his ass is getting chewed out by all these high ranking folks, and though I sympathized because I was feeling medium rare as well, my gut still screamed “SCREW YOU, DUDE.”
Immediately, that “screw you” turned into an all-out “FUCK YOU, FUCK THIS, FUCK THAT, AND YOUR COUCH” as soon as he said, “y’know, I wasn’t tracking to this change either, so…” So? So! SO I got lectured about a thing my boss wasn’t even aware of on a regional call, and no one else in the region had completed either. Oh, I checked. I audited them too, because my pride and feelings got smashed that day and I’d had it.
There is always a moment in which trust is completely broken between two people, regardless of their relationship, titles, or configuration. I had lost respect for him weeks ago, but this was a completely different breaking point for me, and a completely new experience. My boss, who telecommutes 24/7 not just during a COVID outbreak, a person who I cannot see or demand the truth from in person, had just low-balled me further than I could have anticipated.
That was the breaking point. The following Wednesday, he offered an apology on the daily call. It was half-assed, unrehearsed, and did not touch the heart of the problem I brought to him. So he swept it under the rug, but was able to save face, while we cannot see his face. Immediately following that hollow “apologies to Nashville,” I opened up a new tab for my online job hunt.
I’ve worked for some cut-throat folks who would step on anyone just to get a leg up (my second manager), I’ve worked for some incredibly stupid people who even though I’ve explained it to them like a 7 year old’s lemonade stand couldn’t comprehend (my second Ops), and I’ve worked for people who worked harder to get me fired than to get me on board all because they didn’t like my face and I wasn’t playing friends with their “inner circle” (Memphis). But I’ve never worked for someone who covered the truth and refused to treat me like an equal to my male counterparts so blatantly as my current boss.
What I’m most afraid of is the fact that the “Mallory Effect” leads to an acceptance of abusive relationships. There is a level of shitpiling that I’ve become comfortable with because I’ve experienced worse, right? I’ve dealt with something similar, this isn’t as bad as that one time, right? All the countless excuses I run on repeat in my head to make the current situation bearable. I have to find it within myself to literally say that how I’m being treated is unfair or not in line with how I’m willing to be treated.
But it’s so easy to take a fracture person and see how much they’ll take, isn’t it? I mean, pushing the envelop here and there, let’s see how she reacts, what she shows me is acceptable. That’s how abuse begins and not correcting it is how it perpetuates itself. Not all of this is on me by any means, I’m unwilling to own my boss’s poor behavior. This is how it begins, and I’m having to reiterate it to myself: 1. Be smart enough to recognize the abuse as it happens. Pay attention. You feel it innately, but you have to engage with it intellectually or you risk being “over emotional” and discarded. 2. Be strong enough to call it out as it’s happening and verbalize your unwillingness to allow it to continue. 3. Do it publicly so others witness the break in power, witness a commitment to change, and a witness to if a change fails to happen.
What’s key is my peers see it. They reach out to me about it, ask if I’m okay, express their mutual head shaking, “I don’t know why he does that to you.”
What they don’t do is stop him when it happens. I very much enjoy the guys I work with (even remotely like we do, I feel really close to them), but they’re not going to help me. I have to find the resolve in myself to call it out next time and be as public as my boss is when he’s yelling about stuff. Just like in my personal relationships, no man has ever defended me – no matter how intimate, no matter how trusting, no matter what situation – they’ve always shriveled. And these are the men I trust! Imagine, just for a moment, how I consider the men I don’t trust!
A silver lining may be someone in our HR department wants to be my mentor. I’m going to talk to her about this situation, this particular example, and get her opinion about how to proceed. I’m skeptical, very anxious about it, actually, because HR has burned me in the past. I keep my professional and personal spheres separate, but the anxieties stay true: TRUST NO ONE. It’s so sad because I use to be such a happy, compassionate, trusting youth.
In typical fashion, boss-guy and I had our “bi-weekly one-on-one.” I was prepared to give him what for, calmly and deliberately, demanding he see and change the difference he’s making between myself and the other members of our region. I felt so strong, so righteous, so prepared to be fired and sue the shit out of him and the company for it. Then he offers me a promotion.
Of course, being the Southern broad I am, I couldn’t find it in me to act on the tirade I was playing in my head. How rude and ungrateful that’d be! So the new pay kicks in on 4/12, we’ll see if there’s light over the shitpile after all once I sign some papers.
Regardless, our dynamic has to change. He’s a robot, so emotions are incredibly hard to read (non-existant), but he sounded happy maybe even proud I challenged him on his call out? Said I gave him good feedback and that I should do it more often. So he’s not unwilling to take advice, it seems, but the fact he thinks it’s okay to treat a subordinate (particularly his only female subordinate) in such a manner is sad. However, I don’t have faith that he will follow through with his changes. I’m just going to document, reach out to others, and move on. I can guarantee he’s going to have some excuse as to why he treats me the way he does, but doesn’t give any crap to the guys.
Either he will leave before I give up (I’m pretty sure he’s hanging by a hair thin thread), or I will leverage this promotion into a new deal of my own choosing. I’m just waiting on the paperwork. Money speaks so much louder than a half-assed apology, let me tell you. #TheMalloryEffect