Case 019 - Motor Trade

I started work for a motor dealer in 1995 as a sales administrator. The firm I worked for, although somewhat draconian on their ways, are very professional and at that time very successful and supportive to their staff. After a period of six months or so, the principal of the firm recognised that I was doing a good job and offered me some additional responsibility. This was to begin a project for the firm to obtain ISO 9002 accreditation which included for me, some managerial responsibility in addition to my duties with the promise of an increase in salary when accreditation was achieved. In 1996 the firm became ISO 9002 accredited. All was well, although I received a disappointing pay rise.

I was still ambitious to achieve a decent salary and status and kept my head down, working. Although having a so-called managerial role, I still carried out many junior functions such as reception cover right down to washing up the cups for the firm at the end of the day. This I took in my stride at the time. A further opportunity came my way in 1998 to take on the role of Customer Services Manager and I attended the courses required and took on the role with enthusiasm. (This was again in addition to my other responsibilities). I remember thinking at the time "wow really busy" however I was proud of my ability to manage the this and knew that I had gained the respect of my superiors.

Come the end of 98, a new computer system was to be installed in the firm and my boss asked me to a meeting regarding this. During the meeting I was "volunteered" to manage some of the data input required, which I tentatively agreed to. It was not until a month or so later, I realised that the whole project for implementation had been dropped in my lap and I was going to be the Systems Administrator for the system when up and running. This again, was additional to my responsibilities, however, I was verbally promised an assistant along with additional salary. (I have to say that I at least, was given a company car at this stage to manage Systems Administration and Customer Service Manager role for two sites).

By the beginning of 1999, I realised a had far too much responsibility to manage on my own and requested a meeting with my boss to address to the problem. The so-called assistant I was promised was given 90% responsibility for something else with 10% allotted to me. The details were initially acknowledged with tentative promises of additional help although the motor trade was hitting hard times. Customers could now buy new vehicles abroad at a greatly reduced price. The pressure was still on with a deadline to hit for computer system implementation by September 1999. I began to work longer hours out of stubbornness. (I refused to allow the problem to beat me). The computer implementation was put back to February 2000 for various Accounts department reasons, not the least because I simply did not have to time to concentrate on a considerably complicated project.

By December 1999, increasing stress was beginning to take its effect and I began feeling depressed. I could no longer switch off from work and my private life became almost non-existent. Walks along the cliff top at 9pm in December became frequent whilst I tried to sort out the mess in my head.

By the beginning of 2000, I could not sleep and found myself getting up a 4am, and going to work. My thoughts were, "maybe it's better to get the work done now, rather than lie awake worrying about it". This subsequently resulted costly mistakes creeping in and finally, after costly mistake number 2, I broke down in tears and hid in the lavatory! My boss was initially concerned about me and supportive with "I'm going to give you the rest of the week off and assess what help we can give you". A colleague from another department was temporarily put in charge. When I returned, the bombshell dropped. I was accused of bad time management. This was followed by exclusion from meetings, diminished responsibility, and the accusation "of course, you are now earning far more than your responsibilities" and " you are the author of your own downfall". When a disciplinary meeting was called, I was even accused of plotting to sabotage the new computer system! Fortunately for me, I still had enough sense to invite an independent witness to my disciplinary meeting who negotiated a redundancy package for me along with (the most valuable) an excellent reference. I took the summer of that year off and obtained my current job on a third more salary with around an eighth of the responsibility. With the help of my doctor (and a dose of Prozac), some excellent friends, and a faith healer I felt ready to take on a new challenge in late summer 2000.

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