This week, I chanced upon the call of a bashful girl in her mid-twenties, calling to complain about work problems. In the interest of anonymity, let’s call her Bash.
Bash called Crisis Line seeking help to overcome her paranoia, developed in over two months worth of daily scolding from her boss. I asked her to describe her boss and how she is like. At this point, I’ll spare you the edgy choice of words she used to describe a powerful woman whose temper swung delicately between almost-tame and totally monstrous. As she described her boss, one name came to mind – Miranda Priestley (from the film The Devil Wears Prada). So from here on, let’s call her boss Miranda. Then I realized that Bash is calling from work, which explains her almost inaudible voice so Miranda would not hear her desperate call for sanity.
To paint a devilish picture of Bash’s typical work day, it might be crucial to mention that Bash wakes up between 4 to 5 A.M. and travels daily from Pampanga to get to work before 8am. She braves the daily hellish commute in an effort to save money from renting closer to work but without her family. Depending on the traffic, she gets to work barely in time and begins catching up on her daily grind to the best of her bashful ability.
Enter Miranda. The day becomes a lot more heated and tension becomes palpable in an otherwise gentle atmosphere. One by one, employees are called into Miranda’s office for reports and updates. While they may hear the occasional raising of Miranda’s voice, Bash recounts how nothing matches the treatment she receives. As soon as Bash enters the room, an insult automatically greets her. “What stupidity do you bring with you today?” Of course this is spoken in the Filipino vernacular, which to her makes it more painful and heartfelt. Bash’s only consolation is getting several minutes of break time with some supportive office friends who encourage her. Yet by day’s end, she leaves work feeling tired and thinking of a couple tasks that she needs to catch up on the following morning. During her commute home around dinner time, she says she feels exhausted and demoralized to come to work the following day.
I asked how she would evaluate her own work in the office, in an effort to gauge the level of commitment she has with her work. She promised me that she honestly tries her best and even thinks of extra things she could do for credit but to no avail. She says her efforts go unnoticed and almost feels as if the whole thing is something personal. Bash has tried reasoning and explaining her side but she noticed this would only aggravate things. So she opts to keep quiet and lower her voice when speaking. Unknowingly, she now carries this soft volume and tone of voice even outside work, as pointed out by her family and friends. Her friends assure her that her quality of work is not the problem. So they too are puzzled why Bash receives this kind of bold treatment from Miranda.
I then asked Bash what her plans are. She tells me she loves the company and her office mates but can no longer stand her boss. This has led her to the decision of resigning instead. I asked if she has other employment options in mind but Bash can’t think of any yet. She goes online and looks at job postings but cannot commit to interview schedules because of her current workload and hours, not to mention her lengthy & exhausting daily commutes. I asked if she has some savings, and fortunately she has some saved up.
I then focused on her decision to resign from her work. I asked her to envision herself after she’s left the company. She saw herself temporarily in between jobs but actively looking, relying on her savings to get by in the meantime. I suggested narrowing down her search to offices nearer her home as this is also a crucial factor that she can address to cut down on her commute time. But overall, she imagines feeling lighter and better about herself. At this point, her voice improved. It sounded stronger and dare I say—more hopeful. When I pointed this out to her, she said she felt empowered. She was reminded that she had an option and she can be happy. And I told her that’s how you know what your heart wants. You just have to be bold enough to get in touch and listen.
We ended the call in a more positive tone. She thanked me for helping her. I pointed out that I did nothing other than listen and ask her the right questions. But all in all it was she who made herself feel better. She said this made her feel even more empowered.
After the call ended, I realized that this can happen to the best of us. Whether at work, in school, or at home, there are moments when we feel too tired and helpless to even think of ways out of our problems. In these testing moments, be bold enough to admit that you need help. Find someone you can talk to and never hold it all in. You may not have all the answers but you have the power to get them. When situations no longer serve us, look inwards and be honest to yourself. Happiness is a state of mind that we afford ourselves. Be bold enough to find it and decide to pursue it.
Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.