Right after I got married I worked at Kroger in the deli. I was known to call off more than the average employee, but other than that I felt that I was a strong worker. I always did what I was told and I got the job done right. But one day I came in to work and wasn’t there even fifteen minutes when I got a text message revealing some very bad personal news.
“You mind if I go home?” I asked my store manager. “There’s something I’ve got to deal with.”
“No, if you leave, you’re fired,” she said.
What I should have done was explained the situation and tried to get her to understand and explain that I knew I had been calling off more than they had liked, but that this was serious.
But what I really did was let my anger problems get the best of me.
“Fine, f*** you, I f***** quit,” I told her.
And when she said that she needed to see that in writing, I wrote those exact words on a piece of paper and took off my work shirt and threw it behind the customer service desk. It was not my finest hour.
In hindsight I know now it was very immature. I also know now that letting my anger get the best of me at work doesn’t only affect me—it affects my wife and kids, too. Me getting fired equals no money and no money equals no support for my wife and kids.
Honestly, I’ve gone through many jobs because I quit. And I’ve usually quit either because I got mad or I felt like someone had disrespected me. One part of my anger problem is that when someone asks me to do something, depending on their tone, I feel like they’re trying to belittle me. And I think I’m quick to feel belittled like that because I was bullied a lot in school. (In that way it’s similar to post-traumatic stress disorder, though I know the trauma of war is very different than the trauma of getting bullied.)
Nevertheless, it’s not an excuse. I know that it’s not them, it’s me. I’ve learned that I’m there to make money for my family, not to care if someone likes me or respects me. (Of course, it is nice if you feel like your boss respects you, too.) I’ve learned that I can’t let my emotions get the best of me at work, because nothing good comes of that. And if I’m having a crappy day at work, I try to remember that I’m fortunate enough to have a job—and if I have a job it probably means I have something to work for, and if I have something to work for it means I’m truly blessed. Finally, I always try to remember to keep my brain two steps ahead of my mouth: don’t do or say something that I’ll regret in the future.
A bad work history is something that can’t be easily fixed or undone, but a calm response in a potentially explosive situation at work is one small but important step toward a good work history. And when you’re a man (like me) with a family on the line, how you respond in those moments doesn’t just affect yourself, but also those you love so dearly.