Steve Slater’s appeal doesn’t surprise me. Lots of jobs have made me angry and I wish I’d done a public announcement kiss-off like Steve. I would have told the colleagues – from accountants to sales people – who told me how I should write what they could do with their writing instruction. I would have expressed deeply felt sentiments to the directors who reaped the benefits from my work for themselves. Yeah, a cleansing, uncensored rant would have shocked everyone the way I’ve been surprised in the workplace.
Like the day I was “downsized” from my last position. For more than a year I had been my company’s equivalent of cheap labor: sleep-deprived, underpaid, un-promoted, and reminded that true team players were grateful to be employed. So I was working through another lunch in my putty-colored cubicle when my manager called and asked me to his office. When I entered, I noticed his palms pressed on the desk like he was seasick and about to hurl.
“Hi Nancy. Why don’t you have a seat.”
I jumped because the greeting came from a voice to my left. Crap, I thought, when I saw it was Vivian, the human resources director, all smiles and patting the chair next to her.
“Do you know why we’ve called you here today?” she asked.
Even under good circumstances I don’t have patience for dumb questions so at that moment I responded, “I’m getting my raise?”
“Oh, this is so hard,” moaned my manager.
“We’ve always valued you, Nancy,” Vivian began and my stomach began to cramp as she explained that my role was not aligned with the company’s strategic objectives.
“So it was decided it would be best to eliminate your role. It’s nothing personal,” she assured.
Though I was sitting still, I felt as motion-sick as my manager looked. I wondered who would get sick first: the weenie who couldn’t watch as someone else eliminated me. Or me as I thought about my mortgage, job prospects, and having skipped breakfast with my husband that morning to get to the office extra early. Then Vivian asked a dumber question.
“Are you surprised?” she asked, like I’d just found out what I’d won behind door number three – yet I hadn’t known I was the day’s contestant.
“Of course not. I’d never expect my hard work to be rewarded any other way,” I’d answered and wanted to add, “Dumb ass bitch.” But that would have gotten me escorted out of the building by security since there was no evacuation slide in my manager’s office. I packed my belongings to be shipped to my home and left the building that day with my “transition” paperwork and a lot of anger.
Since then, I’ve been angry about being discarded unfairly and at myself for not having made a stand. But really the anger has been at feeling helpless and afraid in circumstances I couldn’t control. Which is why Steve Slater – and Sister Mary Pat – have captured my imagination: whether with the aid of a beverage cart and a slide or a hammer, they responded to their situations with an oh-yeah?-take-this defiance I envy.
I can’t control the unknown future I face but I hope pursuing my writing goals will bring satisfaction and closure. And when I feel nervous or angry, I think of the alternate response to Vivian’s question of, “Are you surprised?” suggested by my dearest friend Dena: “I would have slapped that bitch upside the head, then asked, ‘Well, are you surprised?’”