Work Politics; somewhere between communist, survivalist and liberalism?

Like I’ve mentioned before I work for a small construction company in a small rural town but it does pretty well for itself. I am the only employee, so it’s just me and the owner who take care of all the company activity. I’ve been here for almost two years and for the most part it’s got it’s advantages and perks but it’s still missing some key things for me.

I tried to make a list once of all of my jobs just to see how much I was really doing, here’s what I came up with:

  • Bookkeeper (Accounts payable/receivable, payroll, remittances, reconciliations, cash flow)
  • Administrator (Office Manager, Government correspondence, reception, contracts & amendments, lawyer and accountant correspondence, client relations)
  • Sales Person (model home tours, potential client relations, meetings)
  • Cleaner
  • Personal Assistant

To start off with I’d like to go over my perks of working here so that when I get to my next points it will give them a bit more depth. As I mentioned, I live in a rural town with no apartment options, my boss was nice enough to work out a small rental agreement for me to live in the model house. With that comes the responsibility to be on call if potential clients stop in and making sure it’s clean and tidy 24/7. I’m really happy that this is my place to live for the time being and I’m hoping that I can live here for a couple more years. To top it off, my boss also let me keep a dog here as well, I really needed a companion since I’m in the middle of nowhere and it was great that he  was on board with the idea. I don’t really have any set benefits, but I get to take the company card and buy office supplies and since I have no other coworkers I get to buy the brand of coffee I want which is pretty great. I also get to use the card for dental cleanings which is really nice as well. The company also paid for me to take a bookkeeping class which I completed a few months ago.

My main issue in working here is that my boss is not very good at positive feedback, I don’t get told things like “good job” and “thanks for….” It’s really hard for me to feel like I’m excelling or learning when I don’t get any positivity for my work. I know it seems like something I should just get over and not worry about, but since I have no coworkers, I have no support in what I do and it makes things seem bleak and negative, I feel stupid a lot. Especially if I make a noticeable mistake, he has no problem lecturing me about how much more I need to concentrate and think before I speak and so on. It’s like living under a microscope, if something goes wrong, it’s my fault, he’s not going to blame himself so that just leaves me.

My other biggest issue is a big promise that my boss made and how he handled the situation. When I was hired to do the admin role he told me that I would be making $20 an hour which was an amount I was not expecting. I was on a really great high from it, I made budgets and calculated how long it would be before my student loan would be paid off. The day I started though, he told me that I would actually be starting at $15 an hour because the previous girl who worked for him didn’t think that $20 an hour was fair because I wasn’t bookkeeping. He took me aside and reassured me that I would get a raise every six months anyway until I reached that amount. I was happy enough with that so I accepted the terms and signed my contract.

In the summer, three months after working here, my boss let me know that I got my first dollar raise which I was very appreciative of and I knew I’d found a good and honest place to work. In the fall, he asked me if I was interested in learning bookkeeping and as an incentive he told me that once I graduated from the course that he would give me my raise to $20. In my mind, I did the math and figured if I finished the course in about a year then I wouldn’t have to wait an extra 6 months to reach the $20 mark; which got me pretty excited. Around Christmas time, my boss took me aside and let me know that I got another dollar raise so I was up to $17 an hour.

About six months later I was expecting the same kind of conversation, but it never came up so I assumed he wasn’t going to give me another raise until I finished my course which made sense to me so I didn’t bring it up. I pushed myself so hard to do well and to finish the course as fast as I could; this course should have taken me roughly three years to complete and I was finished in just over a year. In October when I got my final mark back, I casually mentioned to my boss that I finished the course, kind of expecting a “congratulations! Let’s go over the raise I promised you” conversation. Instead he just kind of said “that was quick!” and left it at that. I convinced myself that he wasn’t ready to give me a raise yet because of company finances and that come Christmas time again he would be more inclined to discuss it then because we would be getting a big lump sum from a project.

Christmas came and went and he never brought it up, I practiced over and over in my head how I should bring it up and when; and that I was entitled to ask because he did promise. One day in the middle of January I got enough courage and asked if we could revisit the raise thing. He looked at me and said, “well actually I did want to talk to you about something… but don’t worry I’m not going to lay you off”. In all the ways I saw the conversation starting off, that was not one of them. He told me that since the company was really slow, that I had to be more productive in cleaning the house and taking on extra jobs to fill my day – mostly personal assistant work for his dealings with shares and things like that. So on top of making me feel like I don’t work hard enough he also added that I wouldn’t actually get another raise until our business basically doubles (we’ve been building about two-three high end houses a year). I was really crushed because I’d already made up my budgets and calculations for my future – but on the spot, I just agreed and didn’t say much else (even though I make the budgets and know for a fact that the company could afford my raise no problem).

A couple weeks later he invited me out to have some drinks with him and some of the contractors which happens a couple times a year. I was enjoying myself, up until my boss brings up a story about one of our other contractors who wasn’t there. The way that my boss told the story was that one of the employees for that contractor had asked for a raise, and was subsequently fired on the spot for asking. My boss then looks me right in the eyes and says “That’s what happens when you ask for a raise”. I was so shocked that he would bring it up like I was some sort of a horrible human being for ever asking. I was really embarrassed and ended up drinking way more then I should have, I just couldn’t deal with it (got a really lovely hangover the next day).

Also, for some extra context, the man who asked for a raise was asking for a $5 raise and was already making $20+ an hour, had been issued a recent DUI, and drives that company’s trucks for a living. So I’m pretty sure him asking for a raise was at the bottom of the totem poll for why he got fired. Plus it’s illegal to fire someone without a solid reason, asking for a raise does not fall into that category. Period.

So I’m in really weird situation where my job atmosphere is very accommodating, it’s my home, but it’s awkward and intimidating. If I do one thing wrong I have to hear about it in a condescending lecture from hell, but if I do 100 things right I get nothing. I know it’s still better then a lecture, but it’s frustrating to never be appreciated.

I know I’ll probably still work here for a while yet, my game plan right now is to save as much as possible and to get my 5 years of experience (so three more years to go) and then I can start actively looking for a real career (with benefits, and coworkers, a pension and a positive environment).

Until then, I’ll just keep dreaming of a beach somewhere and pat myself on the back when I do the right things and make the right decisions; because no one else is going to…


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