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December 13, 2011


the sweet taste of freedom!

by Andrea O'Connell

Every day the wonderful folks at WordPress send us ideas to write about.  Tonight’s suggestion has to do with bravery.  A good one.

But, I rarely use the suggestions because always have something specific I want to write about.

And tonight, I have something specific I want to write about and it happens to be about bravery.  I’m writing with the mind and the heart and the soul of someone braver than me, but who is me.

The topic sent by WordPress writer, Scott Berkun, is “Where do you go to be brave.”    Bravery is a place, I found out today.  It’s a place of intuition and knowing.

Bravery is also knowing when to break a pattern after you realized it’s too harsh to be vital, too rigid to be kind, too unhealthy to be loved.

It was the classic way to quit.

I stood up and said: “I’m not going to put up with this!  You’ll have my resignation before the end of day.”

I even slammed the door on my way out!

No crying, no remorse, no dramatics.   I just did it.

“No, Andrea!  You don’t have to do this,” the Employee Services Director said as I turned to leave….

(It was SO like a movie!)

“You don’t have to do that, Andrea.”  I shot back, “Oh, yes I do have to do this!”

I’d had it with their 19th century Scientific Management-like sick rules.  I was done.

Well, I’d made my decision a while ago, but I was too afraid to give up the pay check.  That was the only thing between me and freedom – that damn paycheck.

I needed a push and I got it today.  I needed to be humiliated out of that inflexible and harsh environment.

Today the last straw was handed to me like a gift.

Things happen for a reason.

I needed the push and I got it.

I needed to get out of there.  It was a prison.  Literally.

The stark truth is, when a whole department of people use words like Concentration Camp, or Nazi Germany, and they are dead serious, there’s a problem.

I would describe it as:  having a harsh culture, punitive, inflexible, anti-team work, and consciously putting employees last….

For me, it’s about principal and common human decency.

When a person, like me, who is salaried, works like a maniac, evenings and weekends to deliver on a really great project, but in the past have occasionally been 1, 2 or 3 minutes late…. only once I was 7 minutes late – does it makes sense?

“It’s our policy.  You broke our policy, Andrea.”

I was at my desk, deeply concentrating on a project, when my (now former) boss tapped me on the shoulder and said she needed to meet with me.  She said we’re going to an upstairs conference room.  At first I thought they were giving me a raise, or a promotion, or something wonderful!  Well, that thought was brief.  My intuition told me something was wrong.

I asked, “Is something wrong?  Did I do something?”  Nothing, she said.  It’s nothing.


On November 10th, apparently, I was two minutes late to work, and that was the final straw.  I was given a  “write up.”

There were fourteen instances of my lateness on the write up.  September, 2 minutes. October 1 minute.  October 3 minutes.  October, SEVEN minutes – that was the worst.  November 10, that was the final one on the list.  (I’ve been on time everyday since then because the traffic-clogging construction ended.)

So, I was last “tardy” on November 10th.  Today is December 13th.  “Why the delay?,” I asked.  Because it takes that long to have Human Resources do the paperwork.

It’s true.  I’ve seen them take two months to fire someone.  It’s true.

An employee was allowing someone else to punch them out of the time-clock that hourly employees use.   When it became known this had happened, a time or two, they talked to both Administrative Assistants.  They both thought they’d surely be fired.  Then, nearly two months passed and nothing happened.  They thought they were free and clear.  Then, one of the women was called in and was fired for allowing someone to punch her in and out.

Ah, you’re probably thinking, why fire only one?  Shouldn’t the other woman get fired, too?  Well, you’d think so, wouldn’t you?

It didn’t happen.

Why?  Favoritism.  The one Administrative Assistant worked for the university for nearly 30 years.   And, her daughter worked there, too.  If Mom got canned, the daughter would leave, too, and she was too valuable.  So, the one who should have been fired was not.

I was an Associate Director.  And, salariedExempt!   Exempt means, “exempt” from overtime pay.  As a salaried worker, I don’t get overtime for the extra twenty hours a week I generally worked.

So, I’m free.

I knew immediately that resigning was the right thing to do.

I know, I know!  The economy is in the tank.   I am not worried.  Not in the least.

I have thought and thought and thought very seriously about quitting for the last six months.  What stopped me?  The paycheck.   And even though I hardly have any money to my name right now, I am not in the least worried.  I’m not sad, I have no reason to worry or cry, or moan, or anything.

I did the right thing.

Tonight feels like the first day of the rest of my life.

Something wonderful is coming…..  It’s just around the corner….it’s gonna be great.

17 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dec 14 2011

    That was Very Brave! I wish you the best of luck and pray great and wonderful things for you. A lot of people could not have done what you did. I am not sure I could have… You post is very inspiring and corporate America totally takes advantage of hard workers. Good for you! God Bless!

    • Dec 16 2011

      Gena, Many thanks for your kind comments! I am in a good place right now and looking forward to some really great opportunities! Happy Holidays and many happy days to you, too! 🙂

  2. Dec 14 2011

    That is brave! It sounds like a nerve-wracking place to work. They call you in for being a few minutes late? I know about the construction going on everywhere because it’s all a mess and sometimes the traffic freezes up for who knows how long. It’s like an obstacle course that we’ve been having to navigate through for the past nine years (possibly more). May you find a better workplace that’s just right for you.

    • Dec 16 2011

      Hi George…. Yes, it’s an arcane and insipid practice, and they say they apply the policy across the board, to everyone, but I told them, after I resigned and during my exit interview, their policy is not evenly applied as I see many people coming in late (5 minutes or so) on a very regular basis. She wanted me to tell her who! Of course, I didn’t do that. Then she said she’d have to start standing by the main doorway to catch those who are late. Can you believe it?!! It’s beyond petty, in my estimation.

      • Dec 16 2011

        I can’t believe she wanted you to rat out the others! As if you were that type or there was any incentive to do so. She needs to head to the park if she wants to find pigeons. I agree, beyond petty. Sounds like people with power lust, sickening.

      • Dec 17 2011

        I know! Amazing. Yes, it’s the type of environment where it’s all for oneself and one for one’s self period. That doesn’t work in life, and certainly not in a workplace where you have to rely on others despite their warts. It should be about the work and serving the goals of the university. It was the kind of place where people boasted about their accomplishments and then described how much more work they did than Jane or John on the project… CrAzY!

  3. dee
    Dec 14 2011

    Your actions were indeed brave. From the description of your work place, it seems that we may have worked for the same employer.:) Choosing freedom is always best…because in doing so you showed such great respect for yourself. Best wishes it will work out.

    • Dec 16 2011

      Dee, so nice to hear from you!! And, you are absolutely right. I couldn’t take it because it would have harmed my self-respect too much.

      I have never ever worked for an employer who policed people this way. Especially salaried, professional employees. And, two, three or five minutes late??? and over a month ago????

      They knew the roads around and beyond the school vicinity were, and still are, under massive construction and renovation.

      The silver lining for me? If they had not “written me up” I would probably never have left, even though I have wanted to exit stage right for a long time, i would have stuck it out for the money, which is the wrong reason to be in a job… for me, anyway!

  4. colleen
    Dec 14 2011

    Good for you Andrea!!! i Have been there before. Things will work out!!

    • Dec 16 2011

      Thank you Colleen! I believe it’s a very positive change! Have a very happy holiday!

  5. Dec 14 2011

    Well I just finished writing you a letter then posting it but I didn’t see that my email address and name were absent!!! In short, you are FREE at last, where your deepest and most precious moments are yet to be blessed without the worry of your jerky boss or their policies that suck. I think your Xmas wish was subliminal but oh so granted. Just like in It’s a Wonderful Life, where George visits his past present and future. It all turns out alright and an Angel gets its’ wings. Enjoy your time with family and friends. This is time for reflection and after all money doesn’t buy happiness.

    • Dec 16 2011

      Hey weezie! You couldn’t post? Where you posting via facebook? That’s awfully strange!

      Anyway, thank you for your encouraging words – and you’re right, I wasn’t supposed to stay there, but needed something to get me out of the door. It was self respect that wouldn’t allow me to take that nonsense. And, oh my, yes… money does not buy happiness!

      Thanks dear heart!

  6. Dec 14 2011

    Brave AND Courageous, my friend. Have faith, trust in yourself. I was laid off after 13 years of sweating blood and tears at that place, and it was a relief (physically, mentally, emotionally)! I believe, still, God is in control. Andrea, may your dreams be realized!

  7. Dec 15 2011

    Oh! (and mine too!) heehee! ~High Fives & Big Hugs!

    • Dec 16 2011

      Hi my dear! Thank you for your comments…. you sweetie! I trust and believe that everything happens how and when it should. I’m very content with my decision and feel I had no other choice but to stand up for myself and say NO!

      I think of that character in the film, Network when he says: “I’m mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” That’s the point I had gotten to too.

  8. Dec 15 2011

    I didn’t even know that salaried personnel could be “late.” Having been salaried myself in the past…I know how you put in those hours after everybody else has gone for the day. When the heat on a timing system turns off, and you’re left in the cold, with the only light being the one still on in your office. Then finally, shutting down, locking up, knowing that as you’re making the commute home, everybody who left hours ago has already had dinner and probably turned in for the night. And then…before you know it, you’re up and at it again the next day…
    I admire you, Andrea! You’ve taken a huge leap, and I wish for only the very best for you to come!!!

    • Dec 16 2011

      Hi Kitt! It sure is a huge, huge leap of faith, but the future is promised for me, I feel really confident and will make the best of it – this could be the start of my free lance writing career, too.

      I know what you mean, salaried people don’t punch a clock, in reality, though there is a work-schedule. My work schedule was 8:30 – 5:00. There were times when I arrived at 8:32 in September, October and November. And that was against policy. They encouraged the extra hours I put in, too. The Saturdays, and even Sunday’s that I worked, all the many evening hours for them. That didn’t matter to them – they got that free from me; they didn’t feel they had to give flexibility in return.

      They have fired people for being late. It’s an odd way to run things…


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