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View Full Version : The Spectacular Implosion, Part 2



SiouzQ.
2-20-12, 9:25pm
I just woke up from a 3 hour nap (obviously I really needed to catch up on sleep) after a day in which not all the stuff I planned got done, as the two government places I needed to go to were closed for President's Day. I'm still a bit groggy and discombobulated but I'll go ahead anyway with the rest of the story.

Jan. 2012: owner decides that since business picked up and we finally sold stuff for X-mas, that means the economy has turned around and things must be getting better going forward. He decides not to close the retail portion of the store. Orders are placed and inventory starts coming in and we actually have stuff to sell and I'm not always turning people away who are looking for particular things.

Feb. 2012: owner has internet guy start posting stuff to facebook page about special events, such as a workshop, a free restring (guitar) special, a Valentines Day /Leap Year Sale. That was last week. Sounds all good but he neglected to tell any of the staff about the details of each of these things, important things such as what items are on sale, how much, etc. I get to work last Thursday, after being off for three days and having noticed on the webpage that we were having this "sale", walked in and there is absolutely no sign of any sort of sale. I ask FM about it and he said owner never told him about the specifics of the sale (I forgot to say earlier that the owner doesn't keep regular hours, is often late when opening the store - a couple of Sundays ago two employees, three teachers and several students had to wait on the cold porch because he was 10 minutes late opening the store. He also often forgets his hearing aids, or glasses and has severe tinnitus). Anyway when owner came in last Thursday and FM asked him about the sale, a big fight ensued and FM, after 8 months of abuse from owner, simply handed his keys back and walked out for good...

Last Thursday& Friday: ...and then there were two (plus a half, as the owner's abilities on the sales floor, except to jaw with customers, are pretty limited and he can't remember anything on the computer so him ringing up stuff is absolutely excruciating for all parties involved.) Me (age 50) and my younger co-worker (I'll call him J, he's 22) are running our asses off trying to deal with customers buying stuff, customers asking questions, phones ringing constantly, customers asking about the status of their repairs, running up and down stairs over and over to get stuff (it is a four story old house) trying to be nice and kind and take in yet more repairs. There are so many repairs that we can't even take them up to the shop because they have no room anymore to store them so we start piling them around the sales floor. During all of this, we are also doing free restrings and consultations on yes, more repairs. At this point the repair shop is about 3 months behind...I ask owner what his plans are and say if he doesn't get a general manager in ASAP we are going to have a major train wreck. He doesn't seem that alarmed (denial?) and says he's got "someone" he's been talking to. I privately don't believe him and think is just more smoke and mirrors actually.

Somehow we get through Thursday and Friday (both days no lunch), head into Saturday and somehow make it through that, all the while taking in more repairs.

Sunday: an exercise is ridiculousness, in which the owner starts bitching to me about a drawer in the cash area that doesn't slide quite right on its track (it actually just started acting up that day) and why didn't I tell him right away and he starts trying to fix it which results in two drawers being emptied of their junk. I am supposed to sort through the junk (meanwhile, customers want to try guitars, buy guitars, get guitars fixed, buy tickets to concerts, get guitars restrung, pay for lessons, get appraisals and he is inside the cabinet unscrewing **** and making me sort through it. I work very hard to maintain a zen-like approach....I find a cardboard box to put the extraneous random junk drawer junk in to be dealt with later. I put box downstairs in the store room with a note that says "Junk Drawer Junk". A little while later he brings box back upstairs and starts to go through it meticulously, asking me about each item of junk drawer junk that has been in the drawer ever since I started there. He acts as if I know why it's been there, who put that junk there, why haven't I taken care of it, where does it go...blah, blah. Meanwhile, J and I are running our asses off, dealing with people who want to talk guitars. At one point I was multitasking so well I had one sale going on one register, talking on the phone, in the process of writing up a repair on another computer and selling a harmonica. Oh yeah, and getting tickets for someone else.
Meanwhile, owner sets cardboard junk box on stool behind me, in which while turning around to go help a customer, I promptly crash into. I almost completely lost it right there but I managed not to. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture...total chaos, pure mayhem...I make it to the end of the day and go straight to the bar for a beer to calm myself down.

Ramifications of all these events: basically, no one wants to work for this guy anymore. None of us can deal with him and the farce of it all and we are at the end of the rope here. My buddy in shipping and receiving got a call last week from his old job that he was laid off 3 years ago and they want him back, so of course he will quit a 10 hour a week job to go back to a salaried position. J might have something else cooking too, so he'll be out of there. I think this is the week where the sh** hits the fan and the owner quite possibly will end up having no one who wants to continue working for him. I'd hate to be the last (wo)man standing and have been tossing and turning about how to deal with these events and how I am going to react. I'm afraid I have already given myself permission to just walk out if I need to, without giving notice. I am struggling with guilt but I know in my heart and head none of this is my fault and or my responsibility to fix. It's just so sad and pathetic to see this crotchety old man doddering around pretending he knows what he is doing and driving everyone away. He had such a good team there the last few years and a great opportunity to preserve his 50 year legacy and transition out with grace if he had agreed to sell it and now, because he couldn't let go, he is literally ruining his own business and reputation by not be able to accept he is mortal.

Ughhhhhhhh....I'm sure there will be more later. Tomorrow I need to get done what I couldn't do today, and hopefully I'll get a decent night's sleep and get myself back on track mentally. I so dread going to work on Wednesday.

Bronxboy
2-20-12, 10:08pm
:|(I assumed it was a hardware store, and not a music store.

Probably because the whole thing reminded me of a discussion I had about ten years ago with an elderly hardware store owner, who had only an old fashioned tinplate gasoline can to sell me. He was amazed and horrified that I specifically wanted a plastic gas container (which I still use), and not a metal one.

The store was out of business in a very short time.

gimmethesimplelife
2-20-12, 11:06pm
Wow I thought some of the restaurants I have worked in were totally insane (and they were) but this work environment has me beat I'm afraid. Good luck getting out of there and I am glad you know that self care is absolutely essential during this time before whatever is next presents itself to you. Hang in there! Rob

loosechickens
2-20-12, 11:29pm
So sad.....both to see a good business going down the drain, and for what you are going through, personally, in all this. It seems clear that this guy and his business are headed for a trainwreck, there are no children to appeal to, to help save their inheritance, the wife seems unable or unwilling to step in......to me, you just need to be doing the best you can to move toward other employment. Because, sadly, this situation is unlikely to get better and probably VERY likely to get a lot worse before the doors close for the final time.........

I hope you're able to find other employment, am glad that you've managed to amass some emergency savings if you need to bail without another job, but don't think there is a lot you can do to save this very obviously sinking ship. So......save yourself. And don't feel guilty. The business owner had a chance to exit in a way that would have preserved the business, his reputation, and probably done wonders for his pocketbook, and stubbornly refused to sell out, and by this time, it sounds as though his decision making ability has deteriorated even further. Very, very sad, but......as I say, save yourself. Not worth the kind of stress this is clearly causing in you, and your health is important, after all. What a mess, huh?

SiouzQ.
2-21-12, 12:03am
I believe I have come to the same conclusion this evening, after talking with with a couple of friends, one of whom works in the same place. He is going to be leaving this week as well, as he accepted taking his old position back from the job he was laid off from. That is a no-brainer. I am really working on being selfish and looking out for my health, and really, really understanding it is NOT my responsibility to fix or save anything there. It's just that I really do care about the customers who trusted us with their precious instruments and hate to see them going through this asinine situation. I repeat as a mantra, I am not responsible, I am not responsible, etc, etc.

I intend to get a good night's sleep, try to lay off so much coffee and cigarettes, go to the unemployment office tomorrow and talk to my career counselor, work on the computers and start sending out resumes, make sure I go grocery shopping and eat, and really try to find a sense of calm and peace before I go in on Wednesday. Anything could happen, really. I must remember too, all of this crap (not even of my own making) is just not worth any more angst. It's time to close this door and walk through a new one, however scary it may be.

lhamo
2-21-12, 12:23am
I'm all for escaping from toxic/dysfunctional environments, but somehow this reeks of opportunity to me. Is there any chance the wife can get power of attorney/get him declared incompetent to manage his affairs and turn the business over to someone who could make a go of it -- like you? I know you said you didn't want to take on the stress of managing under him, but what about if you were running the show? That image of you multitasking tells me YOU CAN DO THIS! You love music. You know retail/customer service. You have a great and loyal clientel at this business, in spite of how poorly it has been run lately. Could you possibly make something of that? I know it is probalby a long shot, but maybe if you shift the focus from not wanting to take on an overwhelming responsibility (dealing with the owner and all his issues) to an incredible opportunity (turning this business around and making it into something really great), you might see it a bit differently. I know, easier said than done. But it sounds like things are really at the rock bottom for him, and maybe the wife could do a bit of tough love and give someone a chance to rebuild things.

I don't know, maybe the right thing to do right now is walk away. But do make sure his wife has your number. And if there is any chance you think you could turn this thing around, let her know she should call you before they finally give up.

lhamo

razz
2-21-12, 8:53am
I'm all for escaping from toxic/dysfunctional environments, but somehow this reeks of opportunity to me. Is there any chance the wife can get power of attorney/get him declared incompetent to manage his affairs and turn the business over to someone who could make a go of it -- like you? I know you said you didn't want to take on the stress of managing under him, but what about if you were running the show? That image of you multitasking tells me YOU CAN DO THIS! You love music. You know retail/customer service. You have a great and loyal clientel at this business, in spite of how poorly it has been run lately. Could you possibly make something of that? I know it is probalby a long shot, but maybe if you shift the focus from not wanting to take on an overwhelming responsibility (dealing with the owner and all his issues) to an incredible opportunity (turning this business around and making it into something really great), you might see it a bit differently. I know, easier said than done. But it sounds like things are really at the rock bottom for him, and maybe the wife could do a bit of tough love and give someone a chance to rebuild things.

I don't know, maybe the right thing to do right now is walk away. But do make sure his wife has your number. And if there is any chance you think you could turn this thing around, let her know she should call you before they finally give up.

lhamo

Believe it or not, many families are going through the same dynamic working with someone with declining abilities. Do you have a mental health agency that is experienced in dealing with declining mental abilities for ask for advice and options of care? If you can get some advice and guidance, deal with the wife as part of a support team and as lhamo suggested, you may have an opportunity that is wonderful.

SiouzQ.
2-21-12, 9:36am
Ilhamo and Razz, thank you both for your suggestions but it is at a point of needing a crisis management professional to fix this, skills I simply do not have. I am just a salesperson; I don't even now how to run most of the store's computer system and there is no one left to train anyone to do it under such dire circumstances.

I also believe the wife wants it to fold because she can't deal with it anymore. She wanted him to sell the store in the first place, and he wouldn't. I am sure she is completely exhausted with the whole scenario. These two are not warm, fuzzy people to begin with anyway.

I have decided to call my old psychiatrist this morning and ask if she can prescribe me some anti-anxiety medication; I cannot get it under control myself by any other means. Anxiety like this for me is like a speeding train that keeps gathering speed. I've had enough of it by now. I need to be able to sleep.

iris lily
2-21-12, 10:02am
agreed, sleep is essential.

You can't address this situation, save yourself.

SiouzQ.
2-21-12, 10:20am
I just talked to my doctor (who I haven't seen in over a year) and she can see me at 2:30. I'm doing it. It's save SiouxzQ time. "I'm doing the things that must be done" (a quote often spouted by one of my facebook friends). I already feel a little relief just reaching out and asking for help.

jania
2-21-12, 12:15pm
Best wishes, I hope this afternoon's appointment brings you more clarity and resolve.

puglogic
2-21-12, 3:36pm
Save yourself. This is not important enough to be putting yourself through so much suffering. It may seem worth it because you're in the vortex right now, but it. is. not.

Pretty soon, with no employees, the guy will be forced to shutter the place anyway. Then your resume can say "Firm went out of business". :)

lhamo
2-21-12, 5:19pm
Understood. At this point any attempt to help is basically rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. What a shame, but you MUST put yourself first. Be extra gentle and kind to yourself in the coming days/weeks, SQ. It took me months to recover from the damage my toxic work environment did to me, and in some ways I still have a kind of PTSD reaction to certain dysfunctional behaviors when I encounter them. It did really help me learn to establish some better boundaries and draw clearer lines between work and personal life, though. But not a fun experience and I feel for you.

But man, this would be a great opportunity for someone. Maybe the old store manager who wanted to take over can sweep in and take over once the family finally pulls the plug on this. Would be great to see that "Under New Management" sign in the window.... I was half tempted to jump on a plane and throw some cash at the silly man yesterday, just to see if he would react differently to someone from outside making an offer.

lhamo

leslieann
2-21-12, 6:46pm
Hope you are able to get a good night's sleep tonight, SQ. Thinking of you...

Bronxboy
2-21-12, 9:45pm
Pretty soon, with no employees, the guy will be forced to shutter the place anyway. Then your resume can say "Firm went out of business". :)
Maybe I'm cynical, but the place being shuttered also comes with an unemployment check. If you think it is only weeks away, it could be worth sticking. Ask at the unemployment office whether failure to get paid on time may be quitting for good cause and grounds to collect unemployment. Don't start working without pay!

Without significant capital you can put at risk, and a spouse or relative you believe you can work with, a business rescue sounds very risky and unpromising.

If it could have been saved, someone would have intervened already. Businesses such as this tend to have customers with sufficient cash and knowledge to step in. The fact that nobody has tried says quite a bit.

saguaro
2-21-12, 11:53pm
Maybe I'm cynical, but the place being shuttered also comes with an unemployment check. If you think it is only weeks away, it could be worth sticking. Ask at the unemployment office whether failure to get paid on time may be quitting for good cause and grounds to collect unemployment. Don't start working without pay!

Without significant capital you can put at risk, and a spouse or relative you believe you can work with, a business rescue sounds very risky and unpromising.

If it could have been saved, someone would have intervened already. Businesses such as this tend to have customers with sufficient cash and knowledge to step in. The fact that nobody has tried says quite a bit.

Good idea to check on the unemployment in the event you don't get paid.

Have to agree that at this point it's best to get out and make no attempt to salvage things somehow. The wife wants out and is willing to see the business fail, the managers have all bailed, no one is stepping up, your physical and mental health is at stake, and why put your hard earned emergency fund toward trying to save such a venture.

Good you contacted your doctor. Hope your session helped you get some perspective as well.

SiouzQ.
2-22-12, 12:24am
Today's update: I spent the morning at the unemployment office using their computers and got some resumes sent out. Went to doctor's appointment in which she let me stay a full hour and let me to pay only $50 (she's really nice like that) but she didn't think I was getting manic or anything. I don't think I am either; it's just the snowball effect of stress that's wigging me out. I was hoping she'd prescribe me some pills that would calm me down, but she insisted if I start cutting out the caffeine and cigarettes and start exercising, I'd be able to handle the stress. And she is right, really. I have to own up to the fact that I am trying to handle the stress my old way, so this could be a great learning experience. I really wanted the easy way out, I think, I wanted to be able to melt into my mattress when I try to go to sleep and let it all slip away for a few hours.

So, that being said, I will go to work tomorrow at 11:00 and see what happens. At least the other half of "As The Crow Flys" (my acoustic duo partner) will be there at 2:00 and that is comforting to know I will not be all alone all day with Mr. Crazy Man.

Oh, and I found out today that I would loose any unemployment benefits if I walked off the job, even if the situation is intolerable...I think I am going to try to approach this as if I was a scientist or sociologist (or gerontologist for that matter) studying a bizarre alien human form, and try to perform my job with grace and humor somehow... Maybe that will be a good way to detach. I do it when I have to go to the mall for something and it works there okay :)

lhamo
2-22-12, 6:57am
SQ,

I have mentioned this before, but think it is worth repeating in this context. After I had my "shut up or get out" encounter with my former psycho boss and decided to stay until I could wrap up my important projects and build/unfurl my rescue parachute, one thing I did that helped keep me sane was to create a spreadsheet that tracked to the penny how much I was earning every single day I stayed on the job. I had it planned out for several months with periods of paid time off (which I basically called "free money") thrown in periodically when I figured I would need a break. It really played a key role in helping me stay zen about the whole situation. Especially toward the end when they ordered me to do some really silly things to document my work history. I just kind of took a "are you seriously paying me to do this? whatever, it's your money..." attitude. Did it, and did it very well, but realized while doing it that NO ONE was ever going to look at those carefully composed files.

Good luck detaching. Maybe you can pretend you are the star of some really bizarre reality show or something.

lhamo

razz
2-22-12, 8:45am
Break the day into 5 minutes periods. Get through one period and concentrate on just that one and then pat yourself on the back and face the next one.

leslieann
2-22-12, 9:20am
Good morning, SQ. Good ideas here from lhamo and razz, and I really like your idea of being a scientist on the job. Excellent self care to check out the unemployment situation. Excellent awareness that you are using old, not-very-adaptive coping methods to try to get through this. And very impressive to know that you will learn useful stuff from this! So easing back on the stimulants and increasing the physical activity will help the endorphins flow, taking your observing scientist perspective will keep you from falling into the river of stress, and remembering that "this, too, shall pass" will all help. It doesn't sound like the end will be too long in coming and you might have material for a book for someday.......


(((((SQ)))))

mtnlaurel
2-22-12, 9:56am
Here's a mantra I used in an unbearable job, "One day this will be distant memory."

And I used this aromatherapy blend like I was huffing airplane glue! :)
Panic Button by Aura Cacia
http://www.auracacia.com/dspCmnPrd.php?ct=anpceoes&l=P

Another little phrase that helps me tremendously is to "Wear the world like a loose garment." - St. Francis

You need that paycheck and it is a tough, tough employment landscape.
Find your next lilypad to jump to.

Wishing you much needed sleep.
When you get flustered this week, just think of all of us encircling you with Super Simple Cyber Hugs.

What's the pits is when something you think would be so cool -- working in a music store in a cool old home ends up being a poopy sandwich and just one more cluster you have to extract yourself from.
I once found what seemed to be a perfect job for me at the time and it was a nightmare - I was so bummed out about it.

SiouzQ.
2-22-12, 10:47am
Thanks everyone, it really helps to know out there in internet-land that you are listening and patting me on the back and wishing me well. I (being the private person I am and keeping things to myself usually) am beginning to reach out and ask for help with family, friends, co-workers...I don't have to shoulder it alone.

P.S. For years, all of us who have worked in this place have thought it would make a MOST excellent reality TV show - I can see the show in my mind, with the fast pan camera action and jump cuts and the complete unscripted ludicrousness and folly that happened WAY before any of these latest shennanigans...

mira
2-22-12, 5:00pm
^ Please can you start filming right away?? :)

I had no idea that unemployment benefit in the States was dependent on how you left your last job... that's such a shame, or else I'd be suggesting that you get out ASAP whether or not you have another job lined up.

SiouzQ.
2-22-12, 9:27pm
Today was strangely....anti-climatic. The place was still standing, no more people had quit, and the old man was fairly reasonable, if not completely exhausted. The main thing is he left me pretty much alone. However, this is exactly why it is so frustrating to work there - you never, ever know what you are going to get with him. Either you prepare yourself for a horrendous day of trying to deal with him and nothing happens, or you walk in wearing a good mood and he zaps it right out of you by picking at sh** and micro-managing even the stupidest details. The classic walking on eggshells crap.

Anyway, I think I will be able to relax better tonight. I appreciate everyone's input. It really does help! Supposedly, he is interviewing possible managers and trying to hire some part-timers. Yep, this is going to drag on and on. I will still do my damndest to look for another job on my time off.

beckyliz
2-23-12, 2:41pm
Wow, just quickly read through the drama which is your life right now (hugs, SQ). I wonder if the former GM who opened his own business might be able to come back in eventually and buy it for a song? It may get to the point where Owner ends up shuttering the business and former FM can come back and buy it for pennies on the dollar. Hopefully it wont' be too far gone and he can resuscitate it and you can work for him.

Selah
2-23-12, 3:23pm
SiouzQ, I wish you so much the best of everything. You are not alone, neither without friends IRL and here, nor in your awful situation at workplace with a toxic "boss,"--and I use the term loosely here, since it doesn't sound as if he's really running anything at all, except his employees out the door with his nuttiness. Get that next gig, whatever it takes, and just do what you can to bear it until it comes. I remember having a rotten job and keeping a calendar on which I marked out every day I managed to not quit, until I finally got another job. Sometimes just managing to keep showing up for work is worthy of a medal of honor!

Bronxboy
2-23-12, 5:16pm
I had no idea that unemployment benefit in the States was dependent on how you left your last job... that's such a shame, or else I'd be suggesting that you get out ASAP whether or not you have another job lined up.
Very much so; there are very few circumstances where one can leave voluntarily and still get unemployment. I was expecting to get heat over even bringing up the idea of hanging on to collect unemployment if closing of the business was imminent.