I’m going to attempt to tell you the very short version of a very long story. Please excuse my vagueness…but I don’t like to be specific about work.
When I joined my current company almost four years ago, my office director was a man named…well, let’s call him Gil. Gil was a perfectly nice man, but I learned quickly that if something could be made more complicated, more difficult, more convoluted and more complex…Gil would find a way to do that. If there was a molehill, he would turn it into a mountain in about 3.4 seconds.
Working for Gil was extremely difficult. We couldn’t ask him questions because the answers would take hours and usually result in even more work for us. We didn’t want to discuss our current projects with him because he would find a way to make them harder. And when it came time for quarter-end and tax projections…if I could have hidden under my desk I would have.
Fast forward a few years and Gil decides he’s ready to move on. He tenders his resignation and we get a new director…Leo. At first we were all skeptical of Leo. He is also a perfectly nice man…but Gil had beaten us down and made us miserable. There was zero morale in the office. We had real problems that we wanted addressed…and we were wary that Leo was going to come in and try to make radical and sweeping changes that we didn’t like while leaving us with the same old problems.
But we decided to go easy on Leo and give him a chance to make things right. After all, he was walking into an office full of angry and miserable women…the least we could do was give him a break and let him try to set things right. He took us each to lunch and listened to our grievances. He made some promises and tried to instill some hope for us that things would get better.
We were still hesitant to believe and we remained skeptical that things would change. But slowly, things did. We could go to Leo with a question and he would give us an answer or at least help us find the answer. We could update Leo on our projects and he would help us make things easier. Hell…sometimes Leo actually took stuff off our plates instead of just piling it on. Also…Leo has a joke for every occasion and he’s a pretty funny guy.
After a short while, I started to like Leo. But still…a small part of me felt that Leo didn’t take our complaints about Gil seriously. A small part of me felt that Leo thought we were just a bunch of hysterical women blowing something out of proportion.
Until last night. My co-worker, E, and I were getting ready to leave and commenting to each other that in the almost four years we’d been working at the company, this was the smoothest tax season we’ve ever had. We are on track to have everything done by Monday…a full two weeks early. Under Gil, things always got finished at the last possible second…and now we were two weeks early. And every tax meeting we had with the family we work for went spectacularly well.
We were feeling pretty happy when Leo walked into our office and closed the door. He started asking us questions about the way things were before he arrived and he asked some specific questions about Gil. Leo made a discovery in the files and he was beginning to understand what we’d been telling him all this time. He finally understood the cause of the morale issues and of our frustration.
Leo thanked us…for working so hard…for cleaning up the mess we’d been left with…for helping to make his job a little bit easier…for working so well together and sharing our information. Then he apologized…for not “getting it” sooner…for not necessarily understanding everything we’d been trying to tell him. He assured us that, going forward, he would work with us to make sure that things went even more smoothly and that our office became a happier place to work.
E and I walked out of the office last night the happiest we’ve ever been in the 4 years we worked there. We were relieved…that Leo didn’t think we were nuts…that our claims had been validated…that things were finally going to get better. We have hope that our company will become the great place to work that we’ve always thought it could be. Someone is finally on our side…and that is a really great feeling.
So this morning as I arrive to work actually happy to be there, I will say some silent prayers of thanks that Leo found his way to us. I think things are going to get much better from here.