Picture of an empty retail store

In the 90s I worked at multiple Orchard Supply Hardware locations.  I enjoyed working at all but one. I dreaded most days showing up to work there.  There was one assistant manager in particular that prided himself on how well he could belittle the employees.  I know that it was probably pressure from upper management since it was an underperforming store but it was sad how poorly he treated people.  One day I was in the break room and a fellow employee, who looked like she was crying earlier was starring at me.  I asked her what was wrong and she paused and took a breath and said quietly “You were at one of the best stores. Why did you transfer here to this hell hole.”  She proceeded to tell me how good I had it and how bad our store was.  Another time there was the tough as nails biker chick (she worked in the department that sold nails by the way) broke down crying because of the way she was being treated by that manager.  There were stories of employees being accused of things that I was certain they didn’t do.  Not a fun place to work.   

I thought I wasn’t as affected by the abuse because it was my second job, or at least I thought it didn’t bother me.  My main job was working part time managing the marketing department at the student union at Fresno State where I was going to school.  Yes, I needed the money but I knew I wouldn’t be there forever.  The manager who was the main tormenter didn’t seem to like me much and said I had an attitude and that it was probably because I thought I was better than everyone because of my college job and the fact that it wouldn’t be long before I graduate.  He would regularly pick on me for the dumbest things and I would never get praised for the good job that I was doing, at least from him.  My department manager never had a complaint.  He just always seemed pissed off at everything.

I worked in the Garden department which I loved… that was one of the reasons why I transferred to that store.  My availability at my old store made it impossible to work that department.  I spent most of my time on the registers when I wanted to be on the sales floor selling chemicals and lawn equipment.  I didn’t make a commission but I loved making the sale.  One night one of the other managers asked me to go into a neighboring department to do some reorganization because he knew I was good at it.  He told me that I probably wouldn’t get all my work done in my department but it’s okay.  The morning crew can straighten things up.  At the end of the evening that manager praised me for the job I did and he was very impressed.  I was really proud of what I had accomplished and I appreciated being recognized.  It was time to punch out… they had a no overtime rule so I went upstairs and swiped my card and proudly walked to the front of the store.  It was after closing so all of the closing employees were there.  I could see the manager (the one who liked to intimidate people) come walking from the back of the store just as pissed off as usual and this time he was looking past all of the other closing employees at me, “JOSH!!  I don’t want to have a SHITTY break room just because you want to leave early!  Punch back in and clean it up!”  I had forgotten about the break room!  It was my department’s week to clean it.  I tried to explain that I was avoiding overtime but he didn’t want to hear it.  The other manager who had me do the other project didn’t defend me even though he said it was okay to skip my regular jobs.  I punched back in and went to the break room and it really wasn’t that bad.  It could use a little sweeping.  The microwave looked like it had some minor residue from something that  wasn’t covered up properly, and the newspapers weren’t nicely stacked.  Nothing that the morning person couldn’t have done in less than 10 minutes or so.  The only thing that I could think of was that he didn’t like me much but the reality was he was forced to work a double shift that day and decided to take out all of his frustration on me.

I kept the emotion in while in the store but when I got out to the car where my mom was to pick me up I cried… I couldn’t stop crying. I felt so proud of the praise I got earlier in the evening and then to be yelled at in front of my coworkers.  Then to have that other manager NOT defend me really sucked.  I reflected on all of the times he would pick on me where I thought it didn’t bother me and then to all of the other employees that were discouraged by how poorly that store was managed.  I also reflected on the employee review he gave me several weeks earlier that was my worst review ever.  Why do people feel like they need to intimidate other people to feel better about themselves? Within days after that incident I put in a transfer back to my old store.  When I got back to my old store it felt like coming home.  When my department manager looked at my file as he prepared for my employee review he said “Josh, the person that they said you were in that review is NOT you.  I’ve worked with you for years and that manager must have really not liked you unless you became a different person in the short time you were gone from this store.”  I let him know how glad I was to be back.

What inspired me to write this story is to talk about perspectives.  With the recent closure of all of the Orchard Supply Hardware stores, I drove out to the empty shell that was this location of my worst work experience.  Looking into the window and seeing virtually nothing left of the place that caused me so much anxiety and emotional distress really did put all my problems past and present into focus.   I gave that place so much power over me and now it’s nothing.  The problems you face today that give you so much stress and anxiety in a few short years will just be a distant memory and it will no longer have any power over you.  

It’s not that the problems you face today aren’t important but you will get through it like you got through other issues in your past.  Having the right perspective can help you better deal with what you are going through today.

Updated on: January 29th, 2019