Melissa’s story



Melissa knew it was time to leave her job when her boss sent her that email. Nearly 20 years with the same firm and it all came down to one thing – trust. She simply didn’t trust him to be honest. Or fair. Or rational. He was her third boss, but they were all the same. All toed the party line, all had degrees in “CYA”. Normally, she would have put her head down, not drawn any attention, and soon things would blow over or the manager would retire or get transferred.

It took her six years to realize that her job, while saying that it cared for its employees, didn’t back that up with real action. The bullies and incompetents got the management positions. They wrote the performance reviews too, and they were all one-way. All the reviews were top-down, so the subordinates never had a say in how they were being managed. This was the norm all over, so it never occurred to her that it was wrong, never occurred to her that it was possible to change it.

Her friend Bobby had died because of it. He’d drunk himself to death over anxiety and fear, too much stress and a job he had to have to pay his mortgage and his alimony. He managed to work up the momentum to leave the sinking ship of his marriage, but his job was another matter. He was dead three days before he was found. In many ways it was three years.

Melissa wasn’t going to go out like that. She wasn’t going to give her boss the pleasure of knowing he’d won with his squirrely ways. She ran over Paul Simon’s song in her head for options. Hop on the bus? Make a new plan? Drop off the keys? Well, she wasn’t leaving a lover, but it still sounded like a good exit strategy. And, after all, she had been screwed.

The email that morning said it all without saying anything. She’d asked for some time off. Her only joy now was looking forward to vacations, yet she was told, in writing, that her request did not meet his guidelines. There was also a mention that this was her second attempt to violate this policy. The only problem was that it wasn’t written policy. It certainly wasn’t corporate policy. And he did not say at the time that it was his policy, but just a guideline. She had no way of knowing that she’d stepped over some line into dangerous territory.

He told her more with that email than simply “no”. By putting it in writing, his not-so-veiled threat was made clear. Two violations, without the first one even being intentional, meant that three and you’re out. What nonsense. How could she have known she broke a rule the first time she did it when he hadn’t told her the guidelines? Heck, he hadn’t even given her a list of her job duties. Suddenly she was one step away from trouble. It was like driving on a road that had dangerous curves and no guard rails and no warning signs.

He was a squirrel.  That was certain. Everybody knew that he was a manager in title only. The problem was that nobody bothered to tell him. So he sent passive aggressive emails rather than confronting people directly. He didn’t manage. There was no plan or direction. He didn’t lead. Well, he led by negatives. Don’t do what he does. He didn’t even know what people did for their jobs, so how could he manage them?

Melissa took a breath in and reminded herself that Jesus said only God is above us. Don’t follow people. If you do, you are saying that they are more important than God is. To follow a person, no matter who they are – brother, father, aunt, boss, teacher, minister, spouse, governor, president, – anybody – was to make them into an idol.

She often wondered why she had so many bad bosses, so many who let the power go to their heads and quit working. It wasn’t fair that they got paid four times what so she did yet did a fourth of the work. It’s like they forgot what it was like to be a subordinate.

Perhaps that was the problem. Where could she work with there were no was no hierarchy? She left the social group she was in because of that kind of bullying. She left the church too for the very same reason, among many others. Over and over again she kept hitting that wall. The lesson wasn’t learned yet, apparently.

She’d waited out bad bosses before. How long until he retired? But deep down, she knew that if she didn’t learn the lesson with this one, it would resurface with another one.

Back to Jesus. What does he say? First, give thanks for the situation because it reminded her to pray and seek his help. Sometimes that was as far she got in her prayer, but now she knew there was more.

Jesus said that before you take your offerings to the Temple that if you have issue with anyone, you must leave your offering and go make things right. But how was she to do that? She was starting out in the negative. And she wasn’t even the one who had caused the problem.  Her boss was in the wrong.  This was backwards.

She remembered that story in the Bible when David was small and had no armor. With God’s power he killed Goliath with just one stone. Not even a sword. Anything was possible with God on your side.

Would talking with him make him feel threatened and thus worsen her standing? She knew she’d get no backup from higher up in the corporation. She’s gone that route before with an even worse manager. She still had unresolved trauma from that time. There’d be no help from her husband, either. He was even more bullied in his past. He couldn’t be objective.

So she was alone, again. Sure she had Jesus, and God, and the Holy Spirit. That had to count for something, right? But they weren’t physically here. They couldn’t go talk to him for her, or find her another job, or kill him off, or magically change everything. Perhaps that was the point too.

Perhaps Jesus came and said all that he did to tell her to not even have him above her, but within her, to give her the strength to do it herself. She wasn’t alone, then. She was doubled. Enhanced. There was a synergy, more than the sum of the parts.

But she still didn’t know what to do. Wait, and seem passive? Or wait until there is a clear path, a plan, and instruction from God? In the past, she always found herself doing the right thing, like a puppet, motivated by God. This current problem was a jigsaw puzzle and she didn’t have all the pieces yet, but God always does.

Was this event shifting her away from this job? Was it right to stay in a place, work 40 hours, and not feel like she fit? Had she outgrown it? It isn’t like she married this job. It wasn’t “till death do you part”. It certainly wasn’t for richer.

She prayed some more, and then she knew what to do. She was grateful that even though God doesn’t provide a map for life, God most certainly provided a compass.  With her heart focused on God, she knew she could walk through any situation, knowing that it would come out the way it was supposed to be.

What’s in a name?

At what point do you start calling someone by their first name? How do you feel if someone calls you by your first name and they don’t know you very well? Have you ever insisted that someone call you by your last name? What is in a name? What does all this mean? What is going on behind the names?

There is definitely a difference when you go from being addressed by your first name to being addressed by your last name. After my parents died, I started calling our next-door neighbor by her first name. Before that she was always known as Mrs. Miles. There was something about all that I had been through before and after my parents died that made me realize that I was an adult now and I started calling her Margaret. No one told me to do this. I just knew it was time. She didn’t stop me. Even though she was 50 years older than me I was now equal to her.

Really that is what the difference is. When you call someone by their first name, you are establishing a hierarchy. If you both refer to each other by your first name, you are equals. But if one is referred to by the last name and the other is by the first name, there is a hierarchy. One is higher than the other.

Notice that teachers are addressed as Mrs. (last name) while the children are addressed by their first names. Doctors are the same way. Even if he has given you permission to call him by his first name (“Call me Don”), you will likely still give him a title – Dr. Don. He is above you in skill, so how you address him reflects that.

If someone is referred to by their last name they are considered to be higher than the other person. There is a lady that I know who works at the pharmacy I go to. Her mother-in-law is one of my coworkers. I know this pharmacy tech by her first name and she knows my first name as well. But I was a bit taken aback when she referred to me by my last name. I was suddenly an authority figure and not an equal. I felt that she had said that there was a space between us, and that she was making herself lesser than me. Perhaps her boss would think it would be over-familiar to address customers by their first names, though.

There is a gentleman who comes to the library who is 30 years older than me and I referred to him by his last name. It is Mr. Vanderlip. At one point he said “No, call me Hank.” and that felt really wrong. I expressed to him that I really like calling him Mr. Vanderlip because it is such a cool name. But really the issue is that I don’t feel it is appropriate for me to call him by his last name because he is my elder.

Now, being an elder has something to do with the person’s age but it also has something to do with respect. Someone can be older than you but not an elder. So there is something in there about experience and authority and wisdom. An elder would be referred to by her or his last name, unless s/he gives you permission otherwise.