Exit Lessons

I’ve long dreamt of what I would say if given the chance to tell all. I fantasized about using several swear words that never cross my tongue. I imagined a drama-filled moment made for Hollywood. A microphone with gigantean speakers was another thought. No matter the means, I knew what I wanted to say. And I thought I should stay true to my character—be professional, be polite, be honest. I wanted to beat around the bush, do a soft sale; not an all-out nuclear attack.

The moment was scheduled for two days after I had resigned. I was surprised at the speed in getting it arranged and it caused me to wonder if HR was eager to hear what I had to say. The first question out of the gate set me up. “We’d like to know if you’ve been unhappy.” I wasn’t going to lie and say no. Saying yes would require more than just a one-word answer. Perhaps pushed by a burst of adrenaline, along came a burst of courage. I admitted my reason for being unhappy was the fact that I had a manager who should not be allowed to manage people. That got their attention.

I stayed calm, stayed true to my character. I didn’t lie. I was respectful and polite. I know I said too much but I couldn’t help it. Once I started talking, one thing led to another and another. By then I had already said so much that I just kept on going. The flood gates were opened and the river was swift. As I shared all that was on my mind, my body began to tremble in tell-tale symptoms of post-traumatic stress. It was then that I understood how toxic this experience has been. The HR director took copious notes, and partway through I mentioned that I had some emails to confirm what I had said. I agreed to turn those over. Well, the logistics of doing that were complicated so instead I printed out all of the emails and then scanned them into one PDF document. It ended up being 52 pages long.

I doubt the HR director is going to read all of those emails. But I want to believe that their volume will speak words. I want to have hope that this time, with “proof” that this manager should not be managing people, maybe some change will happen. I want to believe that it will be better for the depressed people I am leaving behind. I want to feel I made a difference. Time will tell.

I have two days left on the job. Today my manager was only in the office for a couple of hours and then he headed for the airport and will be gone the rest of the week. He came over and thanked me for all the work I’ve done and gave me a hug, something completely unexpected and something I’d never seen him do. I kept waiting for him to say some sarcastic comment or “just kidding” or something along those lines. He didn’t. He kept it simple and respectful. So the rest of the day I fought guilt indigestion. And I kept telling myself I didn’t make up all those terrible things he said and did. One hug does not erase all that history. But it does serve as a reminder that I need to forgive and let go.

Late Friday afternoon last week I learned a temp would be coming in this morning and I needed to train him in on my job. Not a problem. I greeted him at the appointed time and away we went. He’s a quick learner and I feel confident that he’ll be able to learn the job given time. About two hours into our day my manager surfaced and introduced himself to the temp. That’s when I learned they had never spoken. HR is the one who picked the temp, not my manager. That was a change in process. A coincidence? Or a result of all that I had shared in my exit interview?

I’ve had so much work to do for this transition—writing down processes that no one knows and instructions for how to run specific reports. The time has just flown by! It’s been so liberating to not pay attention to the daily bullying, telling myself I’m so over that. Why couldn’t I let go of it before now?

Perhaps the greatest surprise has been the overwhelming freedom from depression. I knew it had held me captive for some time, but I didn’t comprehend the grip it had on me and for how long. Now that I am free of it, I can see it’s been with me for more than seven years. It gives me a new perspective on all the biblical plagues that lasted seven years. What a test of determination, patience, faith. My husband says I’ve gone from one extreme to another, a swing of the pendulum from depression to mania. Suddenly I have energy, and I only sleep four or five hours a night. I awake with the energy of a much younger person. I keep waiting for my body to scream for a good night’s sleep. So far, it’s still running on adrenaline and courage. Eventually it will find a balance.

Two more days on the job. Then two days off and the weekend. Then a new beginning. “Monday, Monday. So good to me. Monday morning, it was all I hoped it would be.”

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