Career Development

The [Wo]man Behind The Curtain

Carolyn Hinsey was let go from Soap Opera Digest last week. I’m a fan of the soaps, I’ll admit it; I’ve been watching General Hospital since I was in junior high when it was at the height of awesome. I played in some of the online, writing RPGs and even wrote fan fiction (no, I’m not providing links, but I will go off on a tangent to say that fan fiction is an awesomely acceptable way to hone your creative writing skills– they provide a base so that you can focus on fleshing out the characters, plot, and relationships while still being creative. I don’t care what anyone says, it’s cool — pick your favorite show and try it.).

When I was in college, I pretty much stopped watching altogether and now catch up once or twice a week on YouTube so that I can fast forward 98.8% of it, using snarkily entertaining message boards to catch up on the other 1% I wasn’t missing. Still, even as a fan of soaps, and although I would peruse the magazines in the grocery store aisle, I didn’t know who Carolyn Hinsey was. By the outpouring of bitterness around the web, apparently everyone else did. And everyone was elated at this news.

I don’t know her, I never worked for her, and we have never spoken. So I refuse to judge based on rumor and stories, although those stories are really compelling and possibly telling of her character. I try hard to give people a chance, the benefit of the doubt. Eighty percent of the time they actually deserve it. The other twenty percent is what pisses me off because one way or another, someone gets screwed over.

I never talked about my old job before basically because it was still fresh, I actually really enjoyed it and all of its responsibilities, and, probably most importantly, quitting was what led to what I like to call the Year of Limbo (and no, not the party-kind, either). I had a boss who was a lot like Carolyn; she, like myself, was fairly new to the company, turned over almost the entire staff to create her own department within six months (they either left willingly or not-so-willingly), and completely changed everything inside of two years. I don’t mind change — in small doses, yes, but I think that change is a positive force when it’s progressive. However, if something is working for a company, stick with it, see what makes it work, accommodate what is working to fit your vision, and don’t burn bridges or tick people off.

Case in point: We had a great employee relation program where employees could win tickets to baseball games, thus enabling a sponsorship for the team and forming a great relationship with the ballpark, a relationship that I didn’t set up but I was proud to maintain. When I left, it was decided that the relationship would be severed and all employee relations requests would be directed to the ballpark itself. The people with whom I worked very closely at the ballpark were not happy with this, to say the least. I want to try to be objective about this and think of it as a form of productivity — perhaps the department (consisting of one full time person and two contractors at the time of my departure) had other necessary tasks to focus on; maybe it was better for the company as a whole to essentially “outsource” that specific responsibility. From her viewpoint, I could see that being a successful change. From the viewpoint of the employees, who loved the contests, and the ballpark coordinator, who now had more responsibility on her hands, I can see that this change would cause a lot of bitterness, possibly adding to the bitterness towards corporate that was already in existence.

I loved every part of my job while I was there, but this aspect was an especial pleasure for me, as I was able to connect with all employees as well as outside vendors and give something back to them that I knew they would enjoy. We had promotions, events, giveaways…It was fun, it was exciting, and it just felt good to make someone’s day. So it’s probably a good thing I left when I did, as I probably would have been royally pissed when this was taken away from me, only adding to my overall unhappiness and feeling of a lack of self worth.

People sometimes say that you are the only person who has control over you. In fact, there was wisdom in her words when Eleanor Roosevelt wrote “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I agree with this — to an extent. Yes, you need to find an inner strength and stand up for yourself; yes, you are in control of your own life, and how you perceive things and react is entirely up to you. However, I understand completely how someone can wear you down with words that sting.

My ex-boss was never as bad as the stories told about the former Soap Opera Digest editor. In fact, I really wanted to like her, and I like to believe that we had formed a kind of mutual respect. This was my first “real” job outside of college, not including the bank, so I was young and a little naive, but I was eager to learn, I loved my job, and I was actually really good at it. Looking back, I think she may have taken advantage of all of that. Looking back, I’m able to see just how foolish I may have been.

I’m not going to go into detail of just how bad an experience it was for me. The thing is, I learned from it, feel like I have a lighter shade of those rose-colored glasses now, feel like I’m a better person for walking away from it, my integrity in tact. I was very, very lucky that I had the support of my parents and Roommate when I did — it’s not financial anymore, they had told me (because I was making really good money, which, now that I’m making next to none, is sometimes the only reason I regret leaving), it’s personal — it’s about who you are and what you stand for. Everyone has bad bosses, Mom once said, but now it’s your decision — you have to figure out if it’s worth it (translated into Mom-talk, it wasn’t, but she wanted me to figure that out for myself).

Good point, Mom, I said, and after debating the issue for another few weeks, I turned in my letter of resignation. Boss knew exactly what was coming; she put on that smile that she reserves for niceties even though inside I know she’s feeling anything but and sat me down. She tried to turn it around on me, explaining that I was very young and this was the corporate world, but I expressed that I had completed my job successfully, exceeded all expectations, including my own, and that age and experience had nothing at all to do with my decision now. It was personal. And in the calmest voice and with the most respect I could muster, I expressed myself. And I was proud of it.

So I put in my two weeks and worked my ass off for the duration as I set up instruction manuals for the next person who would take over my position — they didn’t hire anyone for about six months afterwards, using instead someone from HR as a temporary replacement. I had talked with this woman quite a bit, but she was eager to be a success and wanted to move up, and so she quickly claimed my old position and settled in. Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, from what friends tell me, she went back to HR the first chance she got.

I heard from a friend the other day that this ex-boss was leaving the company, effective immediately. I don’t know exactly what this means or what transpired, and as much as I want to rejoice, I’m not really feeling it. In fact, I feel almost bad for her; I feel almost bad for Carolyn Hinsey. Yes, all of the bad bosses are getting what they deserve, yadda, yadda, but I feel sorry for them as human beings. Because what I remember when I looked at my boss were her eyes, the lack of life in them, as if there was no emotion behind her smile. As if, in getting where she was, she became a shell of a person, forgetting herself and who she was, forgetting that she had once been at the bottom, too.

I understand how difficult it is to be a woman in the workforce. Hell, I know how difficult it is to be in the workforce now, period. But I don’t believe in treating others, especially others who work for you, as if you are nothing. I learned a lot from this position — I learned what I do and do not want out of a company and out of a boss, I learned (after many, many months of recovery of my self-esteem) that you don’t need to drag someone down to assert your authority. You’re the boss. We get that, we respect that. Now have some respect for those that work for you. And never, ever forget where you came from or compromise who you are.

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