I experienced a long sobbing session yesterday. The tears then came and went through the day. Partly also a release from the immense strain and pressure I’ve been under recently. A swollen eye day!
And then I went into a peculiar state of numbness. I read that the body sends us endorphins after crying. Unable to take anything in, no noise, no music, no information. I called my mum and she was lovely and helpful and supportive.
I arrived on site to hear initially about the men’s added difficulties, delays and complaints about the new materials we had to replace due to Brexit and covid related shortages, the extra work and time involved. Then as I was reeling from all that bad news at a time we are already struggling and trying to get this job finished, the foreman delivered another blow. A personal one.
He told me the men feel overworked, under appreciated by me, and the words ‘slave labour’ were even used. I was and am shocked. At the time I did not hold it together at all, and had to leave visibly sobbing and upset. They all saw it.
I tried to hold it in as best I could, to look strong, but I cracked as he went on, already feeling the pressure of just trying to keep us going this year. This was the last straw. The one thing that was going well, our team, our mutual respect, love and care. A happy workforce at least enjoying what they do and feeling valued – but that was only in my head. A fantasy I used to feel good. To enjoy the pride that I’m doing well in some areas at least. That and my design work I thought were indisputably successful despite an experience of failure in other ways.
The forman followed me out to the car to give me a hug as I was leaving but I was inconsolable. What a mash up of emotional responses were going on for me. What the fucking fuck. Confusion. Disappointment. How on Earth are they feeling that?
Self recrimination and criticism edged in. Another thing I’m failing at here. I’m an encouraging empowering person I thought. I thought I was a really respectful genuinely caring boss! And they feel like slave labour unthanked and unappreciated. How did that disconnect happen.
He texted me though – a retraction of sorts – a really soft and loving one saying it’s not me it’s them feeling burned out after a hard winter. Another guy texted to see if I was okay, and another guy texted to say they were not speaking for him and doesn’t agree with them and feels appreciated.
Something has changed for me though, not sure what.
I think about the things I do that I thought demonstrated respect and kindness. They get away at 12 on a Friday for example. And I reduced their hours to 35 for winter and pay them for 40, they get pay rises even when I can’t afford it because I feel they deserve it as their skills grow. I paid out thousands in driving lessons, which I’m under no obligation to do, I just want them to feel they are moving forward in life. They get good quality equipment and clothing, their vehicles valeted. I take an individual interest in their lives, their well-being, and families and ask how they are doing ask after their children. I make sure I say hello individually. I give them paid time off for this that and the next thing, like a whole day for funerals of not even relatives. I pay them for holidays they don’t take that in other companies they would just lose if not taken within the year. Even offered them some cryptocurrency to get them started and 2 took me up on the offer. They have freedom of not having a boss standing over them. I respect their decisions and they can disagree with mine and it’s fine with me. That sort of thing I thought added up to a pretty acceptable picture and being a decent boss.
However I made the decision to let them know that the last big job made a loss. I didn’t realise how crushing that would be to their pride in their work. I was thinking it will let them into my world and share what’s involved with the ups and downs of the business, that I’m not getting rich on their backs.
In actual fact they probably would love me to get rich and want to be part of a business that is thriving and hugely successful, the best in the business. That their work is valuable and creates profit, not loss. I guess I was also just sharing my own stress and disappointment with them, not having anyone else to share it with. I did make it very clear that it was through no fault of theirs, that the winter weather was to blame.
So what now. I don’t know how to proceed. I didn’t answer to any of their texts, just didn’t have any words. I don’t want to go and see them either. This has changed things though I don’t know in what way yet.
It could be that it’s time to let go, to stop this constant perseverance through adversity. To unburden myself from this responsibility. To accept I’m not winning this game. Maybe.
Need to dig deeper.