A bitter anniversary

For the last year, I have made wondrous progress in reconciling with my past. I have tried to get away from negativity, to stop beating myself up over mistakes made and poor decisions. Be that as it may, today is the 2 year anniversary of the worst decision of my life. 2 years ago today, I ignored my inner voice and better judgment and left the best job I ever had for what I thought was a better opportunity. There is no doubt in my mind that, had I not done so, I would be in a very different place right now.

I have spoken often of the “best job of my life”. I romanticized it a bit, truth be told there were some very difficult times, but in hindsight, it was more often great than not. After bouncing around in my career, making mostly upward and a few lateral changes in position I had a rare moment of good fortune. I just happened to meet someone looking for someone with my exact background. The initial interview was very exciting, I had never before felt so right about something. I was hired almost immediately and the owner made it clear that I would be given whatever I needed to establish and grow my own department. Who wouldn’t jump at an opportunity such as that?

It was a small company that was growing too fast when I joined them. It was a sub-prime auto loan company. By sub-prime it is understood that they dealt with people with poor to no credit. They were being inundated with repossessions and my short-term goal was to find an outlet for them; auction them off or remarket them to our dealer base. My long-term goal was to assist collections in determining the reason for the increase in defaults and try to find a way to stop the bleeding. I immediately found myself in a shitty situation. I would get tremendous opposition from the collections and sales departments who felt that I was meddling and feared that I would cost them money. Their paychecks weren’t predicated on losses, only on sales volume. I somehow managed to be very diplomatic, selective in the battles that I chose and eventually made them understand that I was there to help.

It eventually started clicking and my knowledge of appraising vehicles, my relationships with auctions all over the country and my work ethic made me a top manager in the first year. My biggest contribution ended up being problem-solving. I didn’t always have the answers but no one ever worked harder than I did to find one. In a building full of people able to make decisions, I became one of the only ones to follow through on them. The employees and dealers who we funded loans for, essentially making them our customers more than the debtors, came to appreciate and value my efforts. It came down to one essential ability that I had that you would think is common but strikingly not so…I knew how to talk to people and I worked with them, without hubris or bluster. It worked for everyone.

For a while, I almost thought it was too good to be true. Because I always think this way I waited patiently for the other shoe to drop. It didn’t take long. I soon saw the real personality of my manager, who I spent a lot of time with, and it wasn’t pretty. An accomplished man with the gift of gab, he really came across as a genuine and nice man. He was very good at his job. But underneath that exterior was an explosive temper and a very insecure personality. In short, he wanted me to be good but not as good as him. I could be smart, but not as smart as him. He was unpredictable in how he was offended and as volatile a man as I ever met. As I began to really establish myself, he became insanely jealous and tried to tear me down as often as he could for fear of becoming upstaged. I tolerated the closed-door meetings in which he would slyly try to put me down and sometimes burst out in angry tirades. For a while. Then I gave it back, sometimes in spades and our relationship deteriorated. We would be like this for the entire time I worked for the company. Overall, we got along more than we didn’t and we made it work.

It was difficult for me. As hard as it was to tolerate his megalomaniacal behavior, I both liked and needed the job. My relationship with the owner kept me grounded. A quiet, non-confrontational and highly intelligent man, the owner refused to get involved in personnel matters but he would always take care of me financially and he often referred to me in his distinguished class of businessman and clients as “the best in the business” at what I do.

Two years into my employment I hit a real downward slide. My ongoing financial woes, that I took with me upon hire and my health both came to a head at the same time. I had to declare bankruptcy, our house was foreclosed upon and we had to move. In addition, my illness progressed from maybe needing a transplant to definitely needing one. I would become increasingly ill for the next 2 years. While keeping up with my rigorous schedule, it was starting to take its toll. Until the greatest stroke of luck I ever had came my way.

A co-worker offered to donate a kidney to me. It would end up being a perfect match and she saved my life. In addition, my manager initiated a fund-raiser for me. The owner personally kicked in $15,000.00. I would end up getting the transplant before the fund-raiser. Deb and I limped in, a mere 7 days after our surgery, to a huge room filled with friends, family, and co-workers. I have to give my GM credit, he really stepped up for me. But little did I know that his gratitude would be a permanent wedge in our relationship. He held the fund-raiser over my head mercilessly.

As generous as Deb’s gift was, the only one who made me feel guilty was my manager. Whenever I appeared ungrateful, to be determined by him, I would get beaten down for my lack of reverence. Other than recovering, coming back to work in a mere 33 days total, and working harder than ever I will never be clear on the source of his animosity. But as I said before, the good days outnumbered the bad and I loved the job. I was a key player, I was in a position to help people, I was well-known and respected in my industry and earning a good living. I would stay for 9 years.

Towards the end of my ninth year, the company started getting visitors. Those visitors were involved in a lot of closed-door meetings that I wasn’t invited to. As it would turn out, the company was being sold. Not the worst news, many companies sell. But this buyer intended on liquidating us. Some knew some didn’t, but 2 months later everyone would hear that in April of 2016 we would write our last loan. The entire sales and most of the administrative staff was summarily let go with no notice and a very weak severance check. My GM was among those let go, he was livid, to say the least. I was asked to stay indefinitely because my role was a clean-up position and I was needed now more than ever.

My GM was so upset, due to a combination of embarrassment and not being consulted with in the process that he went on a tirade. He made a hell of a scene on his way out the door and conducted a serious phone campaign after to pull any remaining employees away. Myself included.

I was experiencing many powerful emotions. I was sad for the fate of my company. I was upset over the good friends that lost their jobs. I was relieved that I was safe for the moment but aware that it was definitely temporary. In the interim, I negotiated my terms for the immediate future.

At the same time, a good friend who had left the company a year before called me. He would never recruit me before, but now that the job was defunct it was perfectly legitimate to see if I wanted to join. I would be Operations Manager of a large finance company that specialized in financing motorcycles. The job was perfect for me. 3 interviews and 3 weeks later I was offered a position. I asked for an offer letter. It took them 9 days to provide one and I was very turned off by this. My wife and I were arguing, she thought I should stay and ride it out, I argued that I was on a sinking ship and I had a chance at a new beginning. Add to this mix my former GM calling me constantly urging me to take the job, joining him in sticking it to the company that wronged him. He put a lot of pressure on me. My decision was made when my present company immediately cut my pay. When the offer came I jumped at it.

I ended up working for the worst manager in history. Controlling, arrogant, unaccepting of any input than what spewed out of his fat, donut-stuffed mouth. It was a horrible experience. My staff loved me, I could do the job, but he was unbearable. I think he’s mentally ill. Speaking of ill, my new kidney began to fail and I started to miss a lot of work. The days of working for a company that cared for me and worked around my illness were long gone. I was laid off 3 months in. I had made a huge mistake.

I could have stayed at my previous company for years. They are still open, collecting on their portfolio. I’m not sure how long they would have kept me, but I know that I would have earned for a while longer and they would have worked with me as I dealt with my health issues.

Today is a day that is hard to just pretend never happened, regardless of how hard I try.