Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Battles with the Boss, Part II

Disclaimer: I know the adults in my family have always told me not to lie, and especially not to tell big lies. But this is a different country and a different culture, and desperate times call for desperate measures.

So my boss is a total jerk. I might lose my job this week. Allow me to explain.

I wanted to get out of my classes on Mon/Weds nights (2 classes...2.5 hours each day). I have a good number of people interested in private classes with me, and the money is a LOT better (like 3 times more what I make per hour there). Alexandre and I conspired and made up this really extensive lie because I knew my boss wouldn't accept something like "I'm busy" or "my boyfriend needs his car back" or even that I was getting classes at my other job. He does not accept answers that don't favor him. Also, just like Michael from The Office, he responds better to being included in secrets and personal things.

We thought we had an air-tight story. I told him that Alexandre and I were having relationship problems and that Alexandre was having some personal problems of his own (I was vague, but made hints at depression) and that it was really hard for me being here going through that without friends, and so we were going to go to counseling together, but we could only find one English-speaking psychologist and he was only available on Mon/Wed nights in the middle of my classes (how convenient!).

I think any American boss would be legally required to accept an answer like that, especially when are schedules are the way they are, and when he changes up teachers and classes all the time. It's not like a 9-5 job. But he didn't! He said, "Well, if Alexandre's the one with the real problem, then YOU don't need to go to counseling. Just him." (!!) I even thought about all the bad things in the world and made myself cry a little, and he told me (while saying "I'm not your boss, I'm your friend!") that he would be totally "fucked" if I didn't work these 5 hours each week (lack of native speaker intuition). Then, he said (while saying that we would "work together to figure it out") that if I couldn't teach those classes, he would have to just give ALL my classes to another teacher (i.e., fire me).

I guessed that he was totally a bluffing, so I held my ground. I told him that talking to him was my last resort, that I had already decided to go to counseling with Alexandre and I hadn't imagined it would be more difficult for him to replace 2 classes than it would be to replace 12 classes. I told him I was giving him 3 weeks' notice, which would be plenty of time to find another teacher or to change up the current teachers' schedules (ahem like he already does when he wants to change his schedule). But then I said that I would accept losing my job because this was so important to me... and also my boss at the other school would take me back (ha-HA!).

He hadn't thought about that. So then he asked me if he could have the number of the psychologist (!!) so he could "talk to him to see if he knew anyone else that would be available." WTF?! I don't know what his true intention was here, but he was totally overstepping his bounds. But I couldn't say that. Instead, I said, "I appreciate you offering to help, but if that were an option, I obviously would've tried it already. This was my last resort. I didn't want to cause problems for you or drop any of my classes." Jesus, this lie was becoming so extensive.

So now he's "thinking about it" to decide if he's going to fire me completely or just replace my 2 classes. I told him that if the other teacher needed more classes I would understand if he had to take away some other ones, too, but I hoped we wouldn't have to "end our working relationship completely." But I'm at a point where I don't even care. I couldn't believe he could be doing something so awful (imagine if this problem had been real! What if I really was in some bad state tell him I needed time off work for THERAPY, and he said no?) while saying at the same moment that we're friends and he wants to help. He really needs a new teacher anyway (this person could also take his Saturday classes that he always pesters me to teach) so this is just going to give him a kick in the pants. He might fire me just to maintain his "leadership role" or whatever, but Alexandre says he won't because he knows that lots of students, especially the advanced 1-on-1 students, would probably leave with me.

When I first started teaching here, I had a nice conversation with one of the teachers at my other job. She told me that almost every English teacher has 2 jobs, and that schedules always change. She said that bosses always pressure the teachers to conform to their schedules, but that the teachers have to stand firm against the bosses so that they don't control our lives. That's what's been happening at this job (7am-10pm work schedule anyone?), and if I don't take care of myself work-wise, no one else is going to.

If I lose my job, it won't be the worst thing in the world. Some of you may be aware of my compulsive habit of making lists and doing money math. I figured out that, with the private classes that I have secured, I'm already making about 80% of my monthly income from the school. If I secure the other classes that are "in the works," I'll only be working about 10 hours a week and I'll have more than my income now. So, obviously, I can work more than 10 hours a week; it might just take some time to find the students. The point is, it will be a much bigger problem for him than it will be for me.

But can you believe that? I go to him in tears that I'm having all these problems in my life; I reach out to him and ask for help, and this is how he responds. If this had been a real problem, I would've been traumatized!

So I'll keep you posted. (Get it, posted?! Because it's a BLOG?!) In happier news, Alexandre's making a presentation about his malaria research at a medical conference today, so I'm on my way over there now to watch him do his thing. :)

Gotta find the good and go to it when you can!


  1. It always bites you in the ass. I told you to watch yourself. One lie leads to another and so on and so on. I, like you, am not too worried about you losing this job. You can definitely do better at this if you do private classes. It's just a matter of getting the students. Hopefully the students you have now will pass on good recommendations to their friends, family, or colleagues. I hope Alex does well at his presentation today. I will talk with you soon.
    Love and kisses to you both,

  2. First let me say OMG!!! What a jerk then let me say OMG!!! What a jerk again just because I can't believe someone could be so ignorant. AAARRRRGGGGG!!!

    OK that being said. You know how I am about Karma. Go out right away and do something nice. Help someone throught a stupid turnstile... walk and old lady accross the street... push a kid on a swing... feed a stray cat... some birds... Something... Anything.... Get the Karma balance back right away.

    You will do fine. I know you will get enough private students. Word of mouth travels fast, just be patient. When does your exchange student come? Will he have to help with bills? That would take a little presure off too. :)

    I love you
    Kisses to you all
    Auntie Tammy

    P.S. OMG!!!!!!!

  3. So, about the lying thing, it sounds like you definitely did the right thing. Sometimes you do what you gotta to get ahead in life because the world is not peachy keen and will eat you alive if you don't- and is full of people like your boss. That is really unbelievable how pig headed the man is. This can't just be a cultural thing, I think if he was from anywhere he'd still be a douche.

  4. I <3 Danielle.

    And lying is totally no big deal in Latin American culture. I mean you ask a guy on the street where something is and he doesn't know, he'll sure bluff his way through it. And even that guy you were talking to about the visa, that guy had no idea what he was talking about.

    P.S. Sorry you and Alexandre are having problems. Cheer up and stop crying.

    And do you have your plans set yet for when quieres ir a los EEUU. Sé que debo hacer planes, pero todavía no puedo hacerlos hasta que hable contigo.



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