Successfully Managing A Work Meltdown

The Beginning Of The End
It started in November 2016. Specifically, around the time of Black Friday. It’s significant to me because it was when the work REALLY piled on, the mad rush of shoppers during that period reflects my emotions, even the name ‘Black Friday’ sends shivers down my spine. I worked in a global fast-fashion company at the time and the month of December was the busiest of the year. I was ok with that. Busy, I can handle and pressure, I can handle. Something in my brain, however, clicked and wouldn’t let me take care of it. I hated it. I hated the month of December, the work was twice as much without praise. Deadlines were shorter, days longer and for what? I looked back on my job track record, and the longest I’d stayed in a job was thirteen months. This was my thirteenth month. I should probably count that as unlucky in itself. I powered on, telling my subconscious that I was just getting itchy feet and to be patient.

I told myself it would get better: ‘Just get through this month, and there might even be a pay rise at the end of it.’ ‘There’s room here for growth here’ I told myself unwittingly. I got half a day’s holiday for Christmas including the actual holidays. I can only blame myself really, for not being smart enough to save those days for some time at home with family. It was especially hard going back since I live in a different country from my family and the shared accommodation I lived in was empty since everyone was home for the holidays. The Christmas high was over before it even began and I was back in the office doing the same shit I’d been doing for the last fourteen months. However, this time I was by myself for two days, running the whole show, and letting my negative thoughts about the role plague me before another girl on the same level as I came back too and we joined forces to work on the same mindless shit together. The workload before now was varied and creative, but now it was robotic, target-focused just plain dull.

Two assistants and an intern completed a week’s workload of 2-3 people in three days and did we get a thank-you for it? Absolutely not.

New Year, New Me?
I went away for New Year and tried to forget about how horrible those few days after Christmas really were, but that’s when the dread really started to kick in. Before now I’ve always had the ‘Sunday Scaries, ‘ but this was a dread deeply rooted within me that really did not want to go back. I tried to tell myself it was January blues and people always feel the need to drastically change themselves/their lives during this period, so again I told myself to ‘be patient’ – something I’m not naturally good at, trust me.

I pushed on. However, January didn’t get any better. The same robotic shit, process, formalities, creativity taken away, facts, figures, numbers and going cross-eyed at countless Excel sheets. Still, I told myself all this ‘would go away soon enough’ as we were coming out of our ‘peak period.’

February comes, and so does the first of many mistakes… An intern on the lowest working wage, expected to execute content to around three million people, globally and daily in the form of emails made a mistake. She was treated like she had single-handedly put the company (the company that was making a million GBP a day) out of business. I know how the world of business works, you make a mistake and put processes in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again. It’s human error after all, and it could have happened to anyone. Simple.

Processes, checklists, and threats of a disciplinary or even worse were introduced from then on. Checking took triple the amount of time because we were working in fear. That’s when my work started to suffer. (We’ll get to that later).

Light at the End of the Tunnel
Through all this, however, there was a glimmer of hope. I’d seen a role advertised internally through the wake of this all that was ‘right up my street.’ (How wrong was I?) I spoke to my manager on 3 separate occasions, lip quivering each time. Did I want her thinking that I hated the job? Of course I didn’t. I wanted to be diplomatic and explained that it was something I was interested in and wanted to progress my skillset further. And given all the crazy red tape and checklists that were being introduced into my team, I wanted out!

I emailed the manager hiring for the role and even went up to see him on one occasion; he was quick to shoo me away and said he would ‘catch up with me later.’ Did I ‘catch up’ with him? Well, I think you can answer that. I really thought that my efforts that went into asking my manager and approaching someone new and in a different department would really indicate that I desperately wanted to move. After all, I knew the company, its attitudes, its brand focus and tone of voice, so it was a perfect move for me.

In a company that prides itself on turning projects and content around fast, it seemed to me that when it came to their employee’s nothing was dealt with haste.

I’ll admit some amount of paranoia did kick in at this point, and I convinced myself my manager was ‘out to get me.’ I do believe, however, that she never had an active interest in helping me into the other role whatsoever. As for the other manager, well I told myself he were a busy guy and had a lot going on. He’d just done a video shoot overseas and was relatively new to the role himself. But, as I’ve learned more recently, no one is ever too busy; if they care, they’ll make time.

I kind of felt I was bugging the managers in the end since there was no clue or indication of if or when I would even be interviewed. Three weeks had gone by, and nothing had manifested. My manager murmured something about the role not being entirely defined, and they had to make some changes to the spec before interviewing anybody, yet the role was on most job sites I looked on.

Now? I don’t give a shit whether it was all a plot (I’m sure it wasn’t) to ignore me completely and inevitably mean I was never going to move or whether the two people I’d asked who happened to be managers simply couldn’t be fucked to help a person out. In the end, it was never going to happen, and it was never meant to be, and I’ve accepted that.

The Work Meltdown
I mentioned above that my work started to suffer. Yeah, it suffered in big fat leaps and bounds. I wasn’t getting anywhere with the role I really wanted. I was frustrated. I hated life. I hated the office environment. I hated everything. I was stupid to think my bubbling hatred now overflowing on the surface was well-guarded. I was projectile vomiting my detestation all over my sloppy workload and everything in between. A mistake happened, and a meeting followed. Nothing too serious but enough to make me fear for the future of my job at this company and to re-evaluate it too.

I looked around the room, anything to draw me away from the computer for ten minutes while I regained my blurred cross-eyed eyes from all the dull week-on-week sales comparisons and percentages which may as well have been hieroglyphs. Everyone was MISERABLE. Plugged in, engrossed the realms of their 22-inch monitors.

A few weeks later, another mistake happened. Guess Who? Me again. It happened over the weekend and my manager at the time, unprofessionally in my eyes, messaged the WhatsApp group containing our team to notify every one of my mistakes. Why didn’t she just message me? And why was she messaging me at the weekend? Couldn’t this wait until Monday?

Anyway, Monday followed and after not sleeping properly for around 48 hours, another weekend ruined, another Sunday dread, I sat thinking that morning was it all really worth it? I didn’t even want to go in, but I had to brave it all and face the music. Again. My manager didn’t look or speak to me until I asked her at around 2 pm if she would like to sit down and discuss what had happened. Oh, and I also found out that I’d made ANOTHER mistake by this point as she pointed out in one of the many emails she sent me that day while sitting on the same desk as me. (That’s how it worked there: emailing from across a desk, so you have a trail, which I think is how most companies operate, but as we sit emailing, we lose all sense of human compassion and interaction.)

Her abrupt and rude reply?

‘I don’t have time to speak you right now, I’m busy.’

‘So, when do you want to sit down then?’

‘I don’t know, I don’t have time today.’

WOW. I get she’s pissed at me, but is that REALLY the quality of a manager? Someone to me, who is supposed to manage, guide, support and help fix and understand the situation?

She walked off.

A rage quite literally burned inside me. I’d never felt it before. The kind of rage people talk about in books or movies that start from the ground and works its way up, like a kettle shaking and bubbling as it comes to the boil, before finally making that ‘click’ noise indicating it’s boiled and ready.

I became a kettle. I clicked. I was ready. I got up, and I walked out. And I didn’t look back.

Was it the most mature thing I could have done? I guess not. But it solved my problems, and at that moment, it felt right.

The Days That Followed
I rang into work sick (with worry, anxiety, and stress) the following day and agreed to meet my manager on the morning of Wednesday 22nd February. A short meeting and we amicably agreed that I would no longer work there.

Great: Freedom! But what next? 
Firstly, despair, a whole lot of crying and generally being a complete and utter pussy. Which still hasn’t completely gone away but I’m getting there.

Secondly, I couldn’t wallow in my own self-pity and managed to score my current restaurant job within a matter of days. A busy Thai restaurant in the centre of the hustle and bustle of Manchester. I’ve worked in hospitality before, meeting new people and service with a smile comes naturally to me. This is a stress-free stop-gap for the time being while I figure out what the hell I wanna do with my life!

Thirdly, writing. I started writing for my company’s blog about a month or so before I left and I was hopeful that it was an ‘action speaks louder than words’ kind of situation. The blog posts coincided with me wanting to move into a different department (it was a global copywriting role by the way) and like I mentioned above I was hopeful that it would ‘all work out in the end.’ (Ugh.)

Present Day
Anyway, after I left, I signed up to be a contributor on a site called Elite Daily, for the Generation Y people like myself. My first post was accepted and published straight away which I was ecstatic about. Although a few followed and they were rejected, I couldn’t let a few rejections set me back, and I fought really hard to continue, given the state I was currently in (the self-loathing, despair, and the daily reminders that I was a ‘failure). I’m no J.K Rowling, but I’ve read that she was turned down by 12 publishers before finally being successful.

On the 12th March, Elite Daily published an article I had written called ‘The 6 Stages Of A Meltdown In Your Mid-20’s‘ which highlighted some of the things I’ve mentioned above. I put my email address at the bottom and reached out to anyone in a similar situation asking them to get in touch if they wanted to discuss my experiences without thinking too much of it.

The feedback was phenomenal. 12 different people from various places all over the world contacted me, reached out via email and all of them thanked me on my honest and brave approach and asked how I was handling what had happened.

People were rooting for me! I had fans. People had actually read my piece and resonated with that I was going through. I wasn’t alone! What a breakthrough. What a high that came with each thought out and personal response.

The ratio that Elite Daily accept and reject articles for me is 1-1. I still don’t know exactly what Elite Daily are looking for regarding content, but I try to keep my posts positive and relatable to people my age. Sometimes they reject them because the article ‘execution is lacking’. Completely understandable and no love lost. ‘I have to do something with my rejection posts’ I thought. I’d put time and effort into writing them and didn’t want them to go to waste. Which is why earlier today (23rd March 2017) I made a WordPress blog. I’d toyed with the idea for a while since a girl in my new work suggested that it would be a good idea to make one and put my Elite Daily rejected articles on there and link from my Elite Daily profile to here.

And that’s where I am right now. At this moment, on Friday 24th March (24-hours after creating the blog) concluding the very first and most important piece of writing that explains how I got here. I think writing is a new career direction for me, who knows. At the minute, it’s therapy, as for a future in this type of work, I cannot say, but I’m hopeful.

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