Quitting an abusive boss

By Lauren Caselli

My friend from college has no idea that my worst work memory was with him, at 5am, in front of the New York Public Library, waiting for a loading crew of immigrant laborers to remove four taxidermic peacocks (among other miscellaneous decor items).

I'd been there since 6am the previous morning, gotten served a notice from the fire department for setting off the fire alarms in the building (my boss' doing, not mine), and was on day 2 of an epic wedding that was a client of the wedding planning company I worked for straight out of college.

I was also counting how many hours I had left before I had to show up at work AGAIN on Sunday to help execute our third wedding that weekend. Sleep wasn't crucial, right?

Poor Tom had shown up on a Saturday night around 1am, after he'd finished an audit project for his consulting firm, in the hopes of "swinging by to pick me up on the way to my house." Little did he know that he'd spend the next four hours with me while I cried about how I could have possibly gotten myself into this mess to begin with.

He also asked me (more than a few times) why I didn't just quit.

The reason I didn't just quit the obvious employee abuse by my first boss (which included an almost daily verbal berating, some questionable physical contact where she would physically pull us places to show us what we did wrong, and items being flung at us on more than one occasion) was because I didn't think there was anything wrong with the way she was treating us.

I thought that's how most jobs were, especially in industries as competitive as event planning in New York City. I remember when they offered me my startlingly low salary of $36,000. I asked to negotiate and they laughed at me. Like that was an absurd request.

I only lasted 9 months at that job (which was longer than three other employees who had started and quit since I had been hired), and now, as a wizened 33-year-old, business-owning, contract-negotiating lady of the world, I feel so sad for that 22-year-old me, sobbing in front of the Patience and Fortitude lions, wondering why no one helped stand up for me.

Unfortunately, these are the stories that I heard constantly about jobs in New York. Unlike many of my male friends who had gone on to consulting and finance in 2007, there was no healthy bonus for me to cry into. There was only a paycheck that averaged out to somewhere around $5/hour.

If someone had just sat down with me and said "this is NOT okay, and you can do better" I may have done better. I may have believed that I was worthy of a decent wage, and a vacation, and a bonus.

But there was no one saying that. Only people saying I was lucky to have a job, and I couldn't quit before my year was up, and that "it certainly couldn't have been as bad as I was making it out to be."

So while I can't run screaming into their offices, telling them how I've been liberated through my own work on self worth, I can remember that experience when I'm hiring my own employees. I can start the day asking them about their weekend or giving them Friday afternoon off to watch their kids' tee-ball game. I can institute a maternity leave policy and provide health insurance.

I can remember that my company is growing because of amazing people, not because I'm making the ultimate profit. And I can sure as hell hire someone else for 8 hours overnight to wait until the damn peacocks get loaded out, so she can go home, get some sleep, and not be sobbing about the worst job she's ever had.


Lauren Caselli is the founder and CEO of Lauren Caselli Events, a strategic event planning and marketing firm located in Bozeman, MT, with clients worldwide. She helps her clients create high-impact events that cultivates solid relationships, and boosts lifetime value of clients, customers, and community members. She believes that your network is your net worth and that the ROI of relationships is always underestimated. She is also the creator of the eight-time sold out Boss Lady Bash, an event for creative female entrepreneurs who want to build their communities through a solid network of ambitious, professional, business-owners.

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