A couple of days ago I really felt like punching my boss, Jan, in the face. For a good few months we had been getting on brilliantly, until Monday morning when I made one of my increasingly rare but important mistakes, costing the company about £1,000. I am essentially responsible for passing on all the commission that retailers pay us onto the consumers who use the site, and when I’m not on the ball, like when it’s 9am on Monday morning and I want to go back to bed, I can make mistakes. We all make mistakes, but I’ve ended up in a role with a great deal of responsibility, and my record this summer has been close to exemplary when it comes to such mistakes. Unfortunately mistakes are sometimes made, they always cost the company money, and Jan has a habit of taking such instances personally. He used to do my job; by all accounts he was a pioneer in terms of getting this part of the business to break even, and therefore he feels incredibly protective of the funds that we procure from our retailers. For at least three or four months I went through hell trying to learn the ropes from him. It’s an incredibly tricky job that involves knowing exactly how much commission we’re supposed to be getting and how much we’re supposed to be passing onto our users. About £3,000 passes through our hands every day, and I have to answer the questions of users who for whatever reason believe they’ve been ‘rewarded’ with the wrong amount of cashback.
On Monday I managed to pay out about £1,000 too much – I simply wasn’t looking at what I was doing, and when it became clear what had happened I received a terribly patronising e-mail from Jan, telling me essentially to wake up and do what I was being paid for. The real truth of the matter is that over the course of a year he’s very cleverly managed to fiddle the rates so that we don’t have to pass every single penny that we receive from retailers onto our members. When a high street name like Debenhams decides that they want to pay us 6.5% commission on every sale that we pass their way, we might give members 6%, keeping the 0.5% because no one’s going to miss it. We don’t do it all the time – it’s only in the occasional cases where we know that our members definitely wouldn’t care about the small amounts that equate to half a percent. Since he started last year Jan has saved us over £20,000: it’s for the whole company, not just Jan, and they’ve used it to fund special promotions, better cashback offers for the retailers who don’t want to pay us much. Because Jan and Jan alone is responsible for the saving, he was incredibly reluctant to pass power over to me, and I can honestly say I have never met anyone in my life who is such a perfectionist. The £1,000 lost on Monday won’t hurt the company – no one even knows about it outside our little team – but obviously the point needs to be rammed home that I can’t keep making such silly mistakes, otherwise it will start to hurt the company.
After getting his admonitory e-mail on Monday afternoon I went into a full blown strop for the rest of the day, mainly because I couldn’t handle the fact that I had made yet another silly mistake, when I thought I had put all of that behind me. I honestly believed that a turning point had been reached; Jan and I hadn’t had a single argument for at least two months, and in recent weeks I’d been getting quite a lot of praise from him, something that never fails to produce the sense of approval which I craved when I first started in the company. It was just like old times, and for a while the whiny fascist in my head kept telling me that I had better prepare for a sacking.
Of course I didn’t lose my job on Monday – even the chances of a demotion are exceptionally slim, thanks to the fact that I’m the only one apart from Jan who knows how to do my job, and Jan doesn’t have time to do it now on top of everything else he has to do. I have to plan all my holidays very carefully so that they never clash with Jan’s. If we were both away at the same time the whole cashback arm of the business would be sure to collapse within a day.
I only began to feel better today, as I was able to go into work without wanting to bite his head off. I knew that I had done wrong on Monday, and I knew that sulking about it couldn’t help matters, but I wish he wouldn’t send me e-mails like that. Throughout yesterday I seriously pondered whether I should take him aside for a chat. Other people might not be hurt by his condescending tones, but I have always felt personally slighted by it. I may make more mistakes than some – sometimes I wonder if alcohol damaged my memory in some way – but I’m not an idiot. Yet if I really believed that I wouldn’t be so affected by people treating me like one, would I? Obviously I have a long history of being mistreated by people in superior positions to me, but if I didn’t still believe in my own inferiority a bit then surely I wouldn’t even be writing all of this down tonight.
I didn’t take Jan aside for a chat. I’ve worked with him long enough to know that he never, ever apologises for anything. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him admit even the slightest bit of error in his ways. He may be a genius – it can’t be an accident that someone so young was able to walk into such a high-powered and important managerial role – but no one is perfect, and Jan definitely isn’t. But he won’t apologise, so there’s no point in trying to make him. I know when to pick my fights. By today the whole incident had been forgotten and he was back to treating me like a normal person again; a few months ago it might have been two weeks before he spoke to me again.