“What do you mean you don’t have any employees helping you load the entire store into the storage unit,” Auburn my DM cried into the phone. I stood in the back of the medium sized U-Haul that we surprisingly crammed every last bit of product into the day before. The hot 100 degree weather and humidity was taking it’s toll leaving my clothes sopping from the perspiration and desperate for water that I didn’t think to bring. The storage office manager came out regularly to watch in amazement as it was only the store manager and myself unloading these large heavy artifacts from around the world for nearly 6 hours. “You will be on the con-call Jess, I need you to talk about communication binders.”
I hung up and looked at the time on my phone, with only thirty minutes to go before I would have to speak on the call, I looked over to E who I had never seen scowl until this day and I thought of the domino effect that had led to the typical loss of my temper that landed us in this predicament.
Two nights before we had shut down our location in southeast Houston for a full store remodel. I was assistant to the District Manager and located in South Houston so it was only natural that I be chosen to oversee the process. Every item in the store had to be wrapped and packed by myself, one of my team members and the staff of the store that was being shut down. The idea was to load it all into a U-haul, drive it to the storage unit in the mall parking lot, and then two weeks later, when the renovations were complete we would replace all the product on the new fixtures to stand out amongst the new gorgeous walls and lighting.
The night started out upbeat, though I noticed the employees were more interested in discussing their personal life and hanging out then getting their hustle on. I didn’t want to overstep or interfere as I was not store manager and this store was not one of the stores I was actually over. Though at the end of the night I did approach the eternal peppy store manager and suggested she needed to become a little more clear of the expectations with her staff members. That making out with our boyfriends during the pack up, and stopping their work to catch up on idle gossip will not get this store packed in a day. The manager shook her head, “no they are my babies, they know what is expected of them.”
“I’m not saying they don’t know, but they need to see this important to you, and that this is not time to sit around.”
She again protested, and refused to further discuss this with her staff.
The next morning I came in with my first assistant. We packed most of the store as the employees were already coming in complaining about the load of work that was requested of them. They worked slowly, gossiped, and I kept looking over at the store manager who was taking part in the gossip. I would yell out kind reminders to hustle, but it only fell on deaf ears as they did not respect me as they had no idea who I was.
Of the staff there was only one male employee, though male is a strong word when referring to him. His hair was long, wavy, and oily as it had obviously not been washed in quite sometime. At 20, he was incredibly tall, he also had an incredibly tiny frame. He shared with us how he was a ‘pet’ to a married couple, the sex toy they shared. E, the store manager, even went onto explain that he would visit the store on his days off where the woman that he belonged to would have him on a leash and he would wear a tail. To each his own, but this is not something to be shared in a professional surroundings, a customer service surrounding, or with your boss’s assistant.
He insisted to carry everything heavy on his own, and to do most of the heavy lifting, but in the process of pushing a cart of boxes through the mall tunnel system to the storage truck he twisted his ankle sometime in the early afternoon. He spent the next hour crying, complaining, and limping. I approached him after I finally caught on what was going on in all the chaos. “Dan, I’m going to need you to fill out an injury report and then go home.”
Right at that moment he burst into tears, “Nooooooo,” I felt as if I was watching a reenactment of a StreetCar Named Desire, and he was a puny Marlon Brandow ripping his shirt to shreds screaming out for Stella. Tears began to stream down his face, “But I’m the man, you need me here. You have to let me work, you have to let me keep going, you need me.” His voice was so incredibly strained, and so incredibly dramatic.
I took a moment, I really needed the help, he was the only person actually working. “Can you walk on your foot without limping? If you can walk on your foot without talking about the pain or hobbling then you can stay.”
“But I can’t, it hurts so bad!”
“Then you have to go home.”
Just then E approached me quickly, like the mom of a toddler who had just watched her child be shoved on the playground. “What is going on Jessica?!”
I explained the situation to her expecting she, as an adult, as a manager, as a person who knew the protocols of this company for the past decade would understand that my decision was for not only the company but the wellness of her employee. Her thick spanish accent came through as she cried out, “But Whyyyyyyy Jess-ica? Whyyyy?” She then continued to fall on her knees and plead with tears falling from the corners of her eyes, “Please let him stay, do not send him home.” My assistant and I could only exchange glances over the spectacle.
Upon Dan’s departure the rest of the team pretty much quit. There were no positive words said, and E worked happily, oblivious to her staff’s attitude or lack of initiative. My assistant was worn out and we were late getting out as the painters were starting to set up the scaffolding around us. When the truck was loaded I turned to the staff and said, “Thank you all so much for getting this packed up, I really appreciate your great efforts,” sometimes lying can be so incredibly difficult, “tomorrow we unload the truck into the storage unit. This should not take long with the lot of us, but if you’re going to complain or drag your feet, I honestly would prefer you to stay home.”
I was not surprised the next morning when I was alone at the storage unit at 9am. E showed up thirty minutes late (as usual), and I had long since begun hauling boxes alone down the hall into our unit. “Where is everybody?”
“I told your dedicated staff, that if they couldn’t work without a negative attitude that I could handle this on my own.”
“They will be here, don’t worry.” She was so certain, but I knew the truth.
“I told you, you need to step up to your staff and make your expectations clear.”
“They love me they wouldn’t let me down”…but they did.