After having worked numerous retail, marketing and modeling jobs during high-school and college, I became self-employed very early on, even before graduating from college. My business partner was twice my age, but he always listened to me and we were a great team. When asked by clients what it felt like to be successful that early in life, I usually told them that it wasn’t the money, but the freedom to be able to decline a prospective buyer if they were rude or had bad credit, that I enjoyed most.
That kind of freedom spoiled me and ruined my expectations. So when I moved years later to another continent, it wasn’t easy to start all over again on the bottom of the retail business and work my way up. I switched jobs to advance to a better position, hours or income potential. Eventually I was on straight commission. It has the advantage that, in an ideal world, you determine how much money you make. There is no different salary based on gender or age, but not only do you never know how much income you’ll have the next month, there is also a lot of competition. You have to guard your clientele from co-workers and in many cases your boss is the business owner who takes the best customers.
I always felt it was wrong to compete with your own employees, who are already generating income for your company, just to save their commission, or to satisfy your ego.
Then there is another downside to be paid straight commission. If you don’t get paid by the hour, it doesn’t cost your employer anything to force you to work unpaid overtime. Many days I lost money by paying a babysitter, so I could work the weekend, without making any money. Often there are no insurance or benefits, and any vacation is unpaid.
Knowing I was one of my last boss’s favorites makes me shudder to think how much worse it could have been had she disliked me! I constantly had to compensate for other people’s incompetence, lack of paperwork or mistakes. The last minute changes the owner made, threw me for a loop more than once. No matter how well I prepared a project the day before, I never knew what to expect walking through the door the next morning.
How do you apologize to a customer knowing it wasn’t your fault, but your boss’s? It is hard to take the blame if an order doesn’t arrive on time, because the company you work for, has unpaid invoices with a supplier and is on credit hold.
I also learned that no good deed goes unpunished. The more organized and efficient you are, the more responsibility is being put on your shoulders, without compensation of course! I was given the keys to a 30 K sq ft showroom with millions of inventory. Now I had to stay behind while co-workers left early to lock up, or come in on my day off to open the showroom.
I saw over 5 years a lot of people come and go. I never understood why companies don’t do more to keep employees. It costs a business time to train new hires, and the more frequently they switch employees, the more money they lose.
The final straw that made me walk to my desk, collect my most important items and leave that building for the last time, came at the end of a long Saturday. On that day I had been the only one to close a sale and collect a deposit for a project, so I was the last one left at work when the owner suddenly told me to come in the next day, on Sunday. Again no good deed goes unpunished! When I objected to work for free on my day off, she insulted “my little brain” that couldn’t understand she needed somebody at the front door as a receptionist! I walked out on unpaid commissions equaling a half year’s income that day, money that I had worked for and never saw, but I just couldn’t do it anymore.
In an article by Entrepeneur about the 6 most familiar ‘Bad Boss’ types the last person I worked for was definitely a ‘Claim Jumper’ among others.
1. The Claim Jumper
These bosses don’t mentor, train or lead their employees; they compete with them. The Claim Jumper takes credit for the project you spent all Thursday night working on (when you could have been binge watching Master of None), and asks for status updates on it every 10 minutes.
I would work on projects with her, meaning I did the research, layout, sketches, paperwork, while she took credit for it in front of the client and then I had to split my commission with my boss, the owner of the company! I think to label these business practices as unethical would be an understatement.
Now in contrast to the private sector, there are government jobs. Working for the state or county gives you more job security, but if you are employed by the most corrupt county in the country, it isn’t any better. A family member made years ago the transition from a successful military career into civilian life and started working for our county. The job was a great fit and he loved it. But I always warned him that the structure and leadership he was used to from his old military life would be missing in “real life”! The rules that protect you in the military don’t apply to civilian jobs.
There is job security in working for the government, you get a pension after enough years on the job, and it takes an act of God to get fired! The downside is that people know it and use the system. For every employee that gives a 120% there is one that gives less than 80%! People abuse the amount of sick days and co-workers have to cover their shifts on short notice. No matter how hard you work, there is no appreciation and that hurts the morale and results in lack of motivation to do good work.
Friends get hired, regardless of qualification, and incompetent female employees promoted over more qualified applicants because the boss has his eyes on her. People with more experience have been skipped over repeatedly while personal favorites move ahead. The better candidate should get the job regardless of looks, age or gender.
Everybody there knows that females are “a protected species”. As a woman myself I don’t think it’s right that people can get away with murder just because of their gender. The moment somebody so much as suggests how to do a better job, or mentions a mistake a female employee made, it is considered “harassment”.
They are all good old buddies there and protect each other. Trying to make a difference and improve the workplace by creating training manuals or making suggestions to modernize communications by getting iPads for everybody is viewed with suspicion.
The turnover at this place is so high that they can’t fill job openings as quickly as people are leaving. Many young, ambitious employees quit after only a few months as soon as they noticed the toxic atmosphere and work environment. Others are old-timers just waiting for their retirement and have given up a long time ago to make a positive difference. If bosses don’t learn how to be better bosses, this place won’t be able to function any longer for lack of workers, it might just implode on itself…now imagine if that would become a security issue?
I am sure my family member can relate to this article by John at Social Marketing Solutions who took to LinkedIn to write about his experiences, and I suggested to do the same. He finally quit his job, one that he loved, because of his negative boss, the micro-management, lack of leadership and favoritism all of which created a stifling, hostile work environment.