At my previous employer there was a woman who served as the company’s accounting manager. She was easily the best employee in the office—showing up first, leaving last, and doing incredibly hard and thankless work, all while also meeting the needs of everyone else in the company. Every single day she trudged through hell and back, and did it all without complaining. When I talked to her she would smile, crack a laugh or two, and act like she was okay, but I knew better. Today, at my current job, I’m beginning to understand what she was going through, though I won’t claim my petty sufferings are anywhere near what she endured. I’m beginning to understand how wretched her days were at the company, and how her smiling, laughing, and acting content both hid how much she was hurting and were also probably a defensive mechanism to prevent herself from breaking. If my current job is beating me down so badly, I can only begin to comprehend her daily tribulations.

A little under a year before I resigned from the company, that woman was fired. Despite being the best employee, one of the owners had held a personal animus against her for a long time, so when she finally made a mistake that owner took the opportunity to be rid of her. All her years of loyal, tireless contributions in the face of constant trials in the end counted for nothing. The company had chewed her up, and spat her out. As dejected as I was feeling towards the end of my time at that company, I can’t claim to know what it’s like to get stabbed in the back like that by one’s employer, since I left of my own volition and on good terms with my superiors. That’s something I hope I’ll never come to understand.

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