Don’t Make Employees Fight Your Battles, Boss

, , , | Working | January 5, 2021

My first proper job after leaving school is in a tiny sales company, consisting of the boss, his wife, two salesmen, and one admin: me. The job market is terrible, so I am fortunate to be employed — or so I thought.

There are no proper rules; the boss makes things up as he goes along, so we are constantly doing things “wrong.” Basically, we do things the way they were done yesterday, but he’ll have changed his mind overnight. And he never makes mistakes; he always insists he is right and has some convoluted, complicated reasoning for anything he does. I am seventeen and have no idea of the way a company is “supposed” to work, so I mostly just do whatever the boss says.

There is one single rule that we are NOT to break under any circumstances: every phone call has to be answered within three rings — no excuses, no exceptions. We should never, ever leave a phone ringing.

One day, I get a call from a customer who is expecting a refund and hasn’t received it and wants to speak to the boss. I put the call through. Ten minutes later, he comes out.

Boss: “If she calls again, I don’t want to speak to her.”

She calls the next day.

Customer: “I still haven’t gotten my refund. Can I speak to [Boss] again, please?”

Me: “He isn’t available right now.”

Customer: “He has been promising me a refund for the past two weeks and he keeps making excuses. Could you please have him call me back?”

I give him the message. He rolls his eyes and throws it in the bin.

The next day she calls again, demanding to be put through to him. When I say he isn’t available, she hangs up and rings again ten minutes later. I say he still isn’t available, and she says she will call all day until he speaks to her. True to her word, she calls every ten minutes, getting angrier and angrier. He refuses to take any of the calls; I am just to say he isn’t available.

Finally, after about two hours, she refuses to hang up.

Customer: “I know he’s there; now put him on the phone.”

I ask him what to do, and he says to just hang up on her.  

She rings back immediately, absolutely furious, shouting at me and demanding to speak to him, and I am trying desperately not to cry. I put her on hold and beg him to take the call, and he refuses. He says to hang up again. I do, and I tell him she was really angry and shouting, and she will probably call back.

Boss: “Just answer, and if it’s her, hang up.”

I stare at the phone, crying and terrified, and of course, it rings again. After three rings, the boss yells:

Boss: “Answer that phone!”

I grab it and she immediately starts screaming.

Customer: “DON’T HANG UP! DON’T YOU DARE HANG UP! I WANT TO SPEAK TO [BOSS] RIGHT NOW!”

I have no idea how to handle this. I do the only thing I can think of: I pretend I can’t hear her. Over her screaming, I just say:

Me: “Hello, [Company]. Hello? Hello?”

And then I hang up.

By this point, I am shaking and feel sick. When the phone rings again, I answer, and of course, it is her, and she is (rightly) furious. I just put the call straight through to the boss and go to the bathroom and sit on the floor, having a panic attack.

When I go back to my desk, my boss comes out of his office and glares at me.

Boss: “Don’t ever do that again.”

And he slammed his door.

I lasted another two months in that job, literally afraid to go to work every day but needing the money. The last day I was there, the boss walked in and told us the company was going bankrupt, we weren’t going to be paid, and to go home.

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