Face-planting on the finish line.

It’s a very hard-won victory crawling over the finish line to Saturday this week. As I’ve shared before, my back is giving me a lot of grief trying to incorporate more activity into my routine. Whenever I add that third walk to the day, to reach my 30 minutes of activity and get ever nearer to the 10K steps a day I should be walking, my body launches a major protest that has crippled me more as the days go by. In the past I could go back to the two walks and find some kind of relief. Sadly this week it’s just been even more of a struggle. By Friday, coughing, laughing, turning slightly in my chair or even taking a deep breath caused my back to “hitch,” seizing up for a few painful seconds where it’s too painful to even breathe.

My coworkers are even seeing it now, which is major. Most people never know what I’m going through, but this… I can’t hide.

Still, I tried to maintain at least two walks a day throughout, refusing to admit defeat. I just usually came home and collapsed at the end of the day as a result.

Plus there’s a lot of negative stuff happening at work that have really dragged down my spirit. In that respect, I really do feel defeated, and have for a very long time with this company. In the year and a half that I’ve been there, I’ve officially gone up for positions that would pay very well, positions for which I’m well-suited and have experience, only to be passed over for other candidates, some of whom don’t have experience that I do.

I guess I can’t be too surprised this is an ongoing pattern since that’s been how I got officially hired into the company. I started as a temp last February, when they needed some assistance getting caught up on a project. I worked so well they kept me on, doing odds and ends to justify my time there until a position opened up and I could be hired full-time. Such a position came around last May or June, a billing position that was being especially created for our particular site – the Mother Ship of a company with six other sites across two states. A billing consultant interviewed me for this, and he believed I was the perfect candidate, but he was forced to interview two other favorites from the company, to keep it “fair” and “equal.” The owner made the ultimate call, promoting someone who had been there near a decade without any real upward mobility aside from merit increases every year to reward her for her continued service. It’s hard to hate over that, and I figured as long as I got my foot in the door replacing her entry level position, I would eventually work my way up the ranks.

So I accepted the position, which paid $10,000 a year less than the billing position, and have worked my butt off since then, revamping the department I’m in, taking on other roles, being a vital part of the billing team, figuring that in the future I could work my way into a position that would pay me for what I bring to the table: decades of experience and a focus on excellence that even surpasses the company’s standard.

In the year and a half I’ve worked there, I’ve focused on learning things outside the scope of my job to help assist, be a team player, get the work done. Bring money into the company, keep it healthy. Protect my job and the jobs of everyone around me. All I’ve asked in return is a higher investment on me as an employee. When they needed help at another site, running their Medical Records department, I stepped up. In fact, I was virtually *begging* for this opportunity to show what I could do. I created Standard Operating Procedures for how I ran my own department, so I wanted to take this to another site and further prove how efficient I could be – especially since their site had decided they didn’t even need a full-time Medical Records Coordinator. The reason they needed anyone at all is because the one they had quit rather than go to part-time work.

Months went by as they tried to patch the leak in the dam. They tried to send our old MR person, the one who got promoted, but it didn’t fit her schedule. They sent another employee, who does work for all seven sites, so she wasn’t able to get them caught up with the demanding duties of her job. Meanwhile I was chomping at the bit, just for the opportunity to show what I could do, like a stallion stuck in a starting gate. When the time came, I drove 3+ hours to go to that site 2-3 times a week to catch them up (which I did handily, impressing everyone there to the point they wanted ME full time.) And I probably could have run both sites, the largest one (where I work, along with another coworker in MR) and that smaller one, which has 1/3 of the census, and I told the founder this. I suggested that for just $1 more an hour, they could save the $30K+ a year hiring anyone over there and I’d just do both.

They paid me mileage to go back and forth to the site, it was a nice little boon to the check. One more dollar and hour would have made it a sweet little gig – AND saved them tens of thousands of dollars annually in the process.

Within a few weeks they hired someone there… for $1 more than I make an hour.

And I’m still helping them out, because that’s my ethic as a coworker. You help, even if you’re not getting paid. Things need to be done, period.

My current ED (Executive Director) pulled me in during that time, saying that they wanted to “promote” me to working in another department in my home site to cross-train. That turned out to be lip-service to keep me quiet in the wake of my ballsy request for a raise. The department they wanted to cross-train me in had just been downsized from two people to one, and they basically told her that she’s doing well enough that they can’t justify the expense of having someone else brought in to help her.

So nothing ever came of it. They dangled the carrot and then they dropped the ball.

Another opportunity came up recently where a very well paid employee resigned in our admissions department. I applied for her position, because I felt like I could kick ass it, the same as I did with the department I’m in. Nothing we do is rocket science. It’s a medical administrative office, and the non-clinical stuff is pretty basic. I felt like I could bring a lot to the role. I contacted the recruiter at the advise of a friend, and she confirmed that the move would have definitely included more money.

I figured I was a shoe-in. The job needed someone who could talk to outside sources and families, and I have customer service experience in spades – to the point I was implementing their new phone standard *BEFORE* I was technically trained to do it. The minute I got the new protocol, I enacted it. The CEO called and got that kind of excellence, and couldn’t stop raving about it. They needed someone who could be accurate and precise, and that’s my job as Medical Records Coordinator, often to the annoyance OF the Admissions department, as I’ve returned a lot of paperwork for being inaccurately filled out and won’t budge on it till it gets fixed. I have a very, very high standard, both for myself and others.

Not to mention BOTH my ED and another manager came to me the day that this gal resigned, asking me if I was interested. Of course I said yes. They said it would include alternating weekends, which didn’t make me happy but for more money I wasn’t going to complain.

When she asked me how much more I’d need to give up my weekends, I told her at least $18 an hour – which was a bargain price for the department and the role. Again… I was keeping the company’s bottom line as part of my focus.

But of course the minute I brought up more money, the whole subject once again dropped like a hot potato. I heard through the grapevine they ended up interviewing someone ELSE after that, someone who already gets paid more than I do, and it went as far as an official interview with all the managers, which I never got.

I figured that was that, until the recruiter herself wanted to interview me – which she did on a Friday. That following Monday, after she talks to my ED, the recruiter tells me the move would be “lateral” – meaning I would get the same money I’m getting paid now (entry-level pay) for a vacated position that paid over $30 an hour.

Oh, and I’d have to give up ALL my weekends, so that the other gals in that department – who get more than $20 an hour, can get their weekends off.

Everyone who knows what that position entails was flabbergasted by the offer, which, I truly believe was given like it was to force me to say no.

It worked. I said thanks but no thanks. If I’m giving up ALL my weekends, it would have to be $25/hour.

At least.

Ultimately they brought someone else entirely in and guess who is doing a lot to train her to revamp the department to what it should be, per their own compliance rules, which were still not being followed by the chick who had just left?

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if this new gal, who is there “just to help out,” makes more than what they offered me.

This seems to be a similar and frustrating pattern.

Finally, the position I really wanted became available: the office manager position. It has been vacant since February, when our then-office manager (and my boss – the best boss ever) had quit. She recommended me before she left. I had actual hands-on experience in the role, since I worked closely with her from the time I was hired on as a temp. I worked on HR files. I worked on the invoices. I created tools to help my then-boss to keep track of our current vendors and make the billing process more efficient. I even helped her write the newsletter. She knew I’d kick ass. I have management experience. I’ve helped two start-up companies, and run my own business on the side, so I bring maturity and experience to the role. I’ve hired, trained and supervised people. I work closely with the billing group every single week to turn their Bill Hold around from a two-hour trainwreck to thirty minutes at most, with a couple of months bringing it down to either $0 held or a handful of holds at the site level.

These are firsts at our location.

The *only* reservation I had about taking the position meant I’d have to manage my fellow coworkers, who, back in February, wouldn’t have taken too well to the change. But I feel like those relationships had gotten better since then, so I applied the day I saw it, which was a day after it posted, though I really didn’t expect anything to come of it. No one pulled me in to ask me if I could do it, even though I know for a fact that they had two people recommend me to the higher ups.

To my surprise, they actually interviewed me for it, but it’s not my first rodeo, particularly with this company. There’s a clear pattern that has repeated several times and I can read the signs. Their silence is a dead giveaway. I know that interview was just one more for the “Circus to appear fair and equal” show. They gave me a ten minutes, telling me how they “couldn’t pay me much more” than I’m getting paid now, despite the title and the workload.

They also said I wouldn’t have to manage anyone, which was my only admitted reservation to taking the position. But I already know now that the compensation is how they force me to stay right where I am, where they get maximum work for pennies on the dollar.

So I made it plain in the interview that even with only a slight increase, the promotion to manager (especially in such a short time) would really indicate what kind of work I do for the company, and be a great boost to my resume.

I’m forty-fucking-seven, I don’t have ten years to waste on an entry level position. If you want me to stay with your company, you’re going to have to meet my effort with respect and compensation. With VALUE. A raise is one way to do that. A title is another.

But that’s now how this company works. They’re drowning, but spend millions of dollars on consultants and manager training at ski resorts, but they can barely afford more than a 2.5% merit increase for all their employees, down from the 4% last year, and none of whom even got a face-to-face evaluation this year.

Unless you just happened to check your compensation history, you would have even missed you got a “raise.”

But I watch shit like that. And I watch what goes on around me. That’s why I’m 1000% sure that they’ll hire someone else as office manager – probably someone they approached before they even interviewed me, someone with less experience who will make more than what they want to pay me.

And I’m left wondering what the hell is wrong with me? It’s like I’m never going to get anywhere with this ED and this HR person. They’ve decided a long time ago where I belong at this company, and it’s at the bottom.

It’s been a rough, rough week dealing with this. It’s hard not to take this personally. The office is filled with people who make more money than I do, who play around on their computers, who slack on the work, who have no incentive to make the company stronger and healthier. They want to come in, do their eight hours and wait for the weekend. The “not my job” crowd never really sees any kind of consequence for their lackluster behavior. They get the same “merit” increase every year as everyone else, and this year was no exception. They barely get written up, even when they cost the company money, because upper management binds the hands of those trying to make a difference in the company. The red tape that we have to navigate through is a stranglehold, and I thought that it was contained just to this company, but my husband, who is a new assistant manager for a retail store, says he faces it too. Everyone is so fucking afraid of getting sued that slacker employees can damage the company with barely any retribution anymore.

Good news for them. Not so great news for people who actually give a damn.

To prove my point: last year it was uncovered that some employees were clocking in from their phones before they even entered the building, which was essentially stealing money from the company. It took months to get HR to take this seriously. Instead they wanted to “train” everyone that you shouldn’t clock in on your phone, you should clock in on your desktop computer, and without that training a “write-up” would be unfair, because they can claim they didn’t KNOW it was illegal to clock in a half-hour before one showed up for one’s shift.

I was gobsmacked. Is this REALLY where we’re at as a society?

Finally, months later, legal got involved and people were written up/suspended… but they all still work for the company.

And each and every one of them gets paid more than I do.

My spirit has died a little more every single day I’ve worked there. But it’s a job, and I have bills, so I stay. It’s not that I haven’t applied elsewhere. I have, especially on those days I get really frustrated. I’ve thought seriously about the day I can walk out of that building, flipping the bird to every single person who has made my life more difficult in the process.

I’ve been told to hang in there, that this company is facing a transition period. That rock star consultant they hired has a simple business plan: hard work will be met with more money, while the slackers will feel the pain of less. They tell me to wait out the storm and eventually it’ll be the job I want it to be.

But the fact is I don’t want a “job.” I want a career. I want my career. When the writing thing worked it was like I wasn’t working at all, even when I was pulling 15-hour days to churn out book after book. My back was never an issue. I could work around everything. And I got paid better than any other “job” of my life. It just felt *right*… like I had stepped into the life I was supposed to have.  It was physically and emotionally painful to compromise on ANY “job,” which is a big part of why I have been so dissatisfied for so long.

Stuff like this just reemphasizes to me that this is not the place for me. It hurts because it is supposed to. If they gave me a $5/hour raise, I’d stay forever, taking their shit because it’s easier to go down when you have money in the bank. I’d grow complacent. I’d give up on my dream because it’s smarter to count on the money that comes in on a regular basis, instead of the ebb and flow of book revenue, particularly when Amazon makes it more and more difficult for people to find you.

This current job and all its financial limitation keeps me hungry, for lack of a better word.

I want and need to crack that code again, and really – that’s all that the revenue from this job should provide.

As I sat at my desk in tears the other day, so frustrated with their treatment of me, and trying my level best not to let it rewire the chatterbox, that this is somehow what I deserve, I decided that I’ve grown too complacent. This isn’t a matter of them not seeing my value. They know what kind of worker I am, and they’re just jazzed they can get me (and keep me) at bargain basement prices. And I’ve taken it because despite that I don’t get fairly compensated at the job, I do make quite a bit more than minimum wage.

It’s just not enough. Not with everything I have to do. So I work harder, hoping that somehow the universe will reward.

Instead, it only throws me more scraps. They offered me a part-time job with another side company and I almost took it, even though I had no idea what kind of compensation I’d see. It wouldn’t be overtime, even though that’s what I’d be working. But how can I turn down money, when my finances are a big part of my problem right now?

After everything that happened this week, I wrote the founder and told her thanks for the opportunity, but no. I’m barely hanging on by a thread now, especially with my back. Something has got to give, and it can’t be me.

I need to create clear and consistent boundaries, focusing on what is really important: Plan A.

Whether this new job comes through or not, I’m going to stop treating Plan A like it’s Plan B, and vice versa. And if this promotion doesn’t come through, then I’ll know for sure that there is no future at this company for me. I’m sure as shit not going to languish in the same entry-level job for ten years waiting around for them to pay me what I’m worth. It’s a value statement, in how much they want to invest to keep me on the payroll as a part of their company. Despite the lip service of how I’m aces there, they clearly don’t value me as much as some of the others they have working there. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. As long as I’m being tied to the bottom rung of the later, that’s how I’m going to measure my ambition with this company going forward. They’ve offered to cross-train me on other positions, but I’ve decided to decline on doing anything above my job description unless there’s compensation involved. It’s time to make a stand, and if nothing else – THAT is what this job has taught me. I know what value I bring to the table. If they can’t see it, then they don’t deserve my best. I’ll do my job the way I have always done it, because excellence is not a choice for me.

But as far as doing anything else, above and beyond, to help them excel as a company, that comes at a price and I’m tired of being the only one who pays it. I’ll spend the time I would have spent working part-time for someone else on my OWN dream, which is where that time belongs anyway.

If the universe has determined that I’m going to play Sisyphus my whole life, then I’m going to roll the boulders up my own goddamn hill.

Despite this rocky week, I’m pleased to report that I didn’t binge despite several very close calls. It was almost frightening how little it took to wake the Sugar Monster inside. I just needed to feel good and it wasn’t happening, and I found myself physically having to turn myself away from the cravings. It was a conscious choice to say no, rather than the conscious choice to say yes.

After these last many months, I consider that a major victory. We’ll talk about that more tomorrow.

I did have a girls’ night last night where I drank a little too much, but I maintained my food intake like a champ despite all of the temptations. I really want to and feel like I need to go to the park for a little zen time, but my back is still in piss poor shape, so I’m going back and forth on whether or not I should do it. My son, who is a fitness guy, tells me it’s okay to take some time off to rest, that I’ve done enough this week, but it’s not just about the four or five miles I walk.

I just need to decompress, and that’s one of the best ways to do it. Spirit-wise, it’s probably one of the better things I could do. But where the spirit is willing.. the body is simply limited.

This, more than anything, is why I’m on this journey I’m on. It’s not to attract men, or make people like me more. It’s not even to make myself more promoteable in the workplace. It’s so that I can do what needs to be done, when I want to do it.

I’m sick and fucking tired of limitations. We’re nearing a Daffy Duck level meltdown. Seriously.

This week hurt because it was supposed to, to show me how I’ve clung to an ill-fitting cocoon for so long. This job doesn’t fit any more than this big body.

Somehow I have to break free… from BOTH of them.

It’s time someone treats me with the value I deserve, starting with me, because who on earth is better skilled or qualified?

I’m kicking ass for Ginger now. The world can prepare itself accordingly.


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