The Power of Persuasion

Sep 6, 2013 by

          Let’s take a time machine back a few weeks to Tuesday, August 20, 2013. It was a gorgeous summer evening, the sun (which has been scarce this summer) radiating heat to a temperature of nearly 30 degrees. It was just after 5 o’clock. I was walking across the gleaming asphalt of my office’s parking lot when I noticed a text from Olivia.

          “I need three reasons why I shouldn’t quit my job and spend a month in New York,” it read.

          To provide some context, Olivia works at the same hell hole that I once did. Recall that after two years of working there, I became a program coordinator, which meant that I had a team of approximately 30 brand ambassadors reporting into me, give or take a few. During my first week in the role, six of my direct reports were sick or at a funeral or lost at sea or something else I had to pretend to believe in an HR-friendly manner. (The excuses I used to get ranged from acceptable lies to downright impossible tales.) As a result, by my first program execution day as a manager, my resources had been stretched to capacity. Everyone who was available to work was scheduled. I could not afford to have any no-shows. Sure enough, in what I had already discovered was typical brand-ambassador fashion, a seventh employee notified me at the last minute that he wouldn’t be able to deploy his shift. I can’t remember his excuse. He probably totalled his car or the date of a wedding he had to go to was just bumped up to that weekend (yes, I actually got this excuse once). With no brand ambassadors left to reach out to, I called Olivia and asked if she wanted a job. She’s been with the company since.

          Staring at Olivia’s text, my mind was blank. “Oh shit, girl, you know I’m the wrong person to ask. Want reasons to go?” I offered.

          Less than ten minutes later, I was in front of my old office to pick up Olivia from work, as I do every day. She had been crying.

          Sending invisible rays of hatred to her boss with my mind, I asked, “What did she do today?”

          Through tears, Olivia began to vent, “She’s a fucking bitch! I hate her! She makes me feel incompetent to the point that I believe her. I actually felt guilty today, because I felt responsible for everything that’s gone wrong with these reports, since she’s blamed it all on me. Then, I stopped, realizing that it’s all her fault, and she’s manipulated me into thinking that I’ve made her mistakes. No one should have to feel this way at work!”

          “Ugh! Do you want me to call this bitch and put her in her place? I’m good at that,” I reminded her.

          Thankfully, she laughed. (Olivia, that offer is still on the table. While writing this, weeks later, my blood is boiling as violently as it had then.)

          “You should fuck her over. Let’s drive back, drop off your laptop with a resignation letter, and laugh at the idea of her trying to cover her ass in that client presentation she wouldn’t survive without you tomorrow!” I excitedly encouraged.

          “I would want to give two weeks’ notice,” she said.

          “Why? She’s not going to be a good reference, and you don’t need her. You have me. I’m one of your past managers, and you were the best team lead ever. Plus, there are other people who would vouch for your work ethic. I can think of more than two others. Fuck her! I’ll drive you to the bus station tonight!” I continued to egg her on.

          “I can’t,” she stated.

          “Why?” I persisted.

          “I feel guilty. All of my work will be piled on the new girl,” my saintly best friend explained.

          “Of course you do,” I acknowledged her reason in disappointment. “Girl, this is about you! There will always be repercussions for someone else. Your manager probably won’t replace you right away even if you give two weeks’ notice, so the new girl is going to be screwed anyway. This new girl is a blimp in your life. What is more important to you, your ongoing happiness or trying to avoid giving short term hell to a girl who’s probably going to have it delivered to her on a silver platter either way?”

          “I feel guilty,” she repeated.

          “Fine. You want to give two weeks. No probs! But are you actually going to do this?” I questioned in all seriousness.

          She was silent.

          “You’re not. Are you kidding? You have the money to get up and leave. You’re in tears right now because your manager is a cunt. This is unacceptable. It is my goal to convince you to quit by the end of this conversation,” I vowed. “I know that’s what you want, and you know I am very persuasive.”

          Her eyes widened in slight horror, “Oh, I know.”

          “Okay, so what is stopping you?” I asked.

          Silence. (This chick never makes getting anything out of her easy.)

          “Are you worried about not finding another job?” I probed.

          “Yes,” she answered.

          “From a girl who survived six months of unemployment with a lot less money than you have right now and without accruing debt, you have lots of time to look for a job. I’m not going to lie, your savings will likely be non-existent after, but that’s a separate issue. Are you uncomfortable spending the money?” I continued.

          “I don’t know,” she non-answered. (Can this girl ever give me something to work with?)

          “Why? Do you like having that money as a buffer? Does it make you feel more secure?” I began feeding her the answers, already sure of what she was thinking (years of best friendship has turned me into an Olivia mind reader).

          “Yes, it makes me feel comfortable knowing that I have it, just in case –”

          “Just in case you ever want to walk out on your job and go to New York?” I rhetorically questioned, already knowing the answer.

          She smirked, knowing that I was well on my way to winning her over.

          Cockily smiling, I excitedly awaited confirmation of her moment of epiphany, confident that it was seconds away.

          She sighed, “Yes.”

          “This is that time! What is stopping you? Tell me what non-bullshit reasons you have to hold you back,” I demanded.

          She had nothing! Obviously, she was just scared.

          “Olivia, what would you do if you weren’t afraid?

          She laughed with an (unnecessary) eye roll.

          “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” I asked again.

          More silence! (Is it this difficult for everyone to coax information out of their best friends? It was as if I was interrogating her for suspected drug possession.)

          “You would quit and go to New York,” I answered for her, not needing her to say it to know.

          Her blissful smile at the thought confirmed my assumption.

          “So, are you going to keep being scared or are you going to do something about your life?” I pressed.

          She nervously bit her lip and looked up from her fidgety hands, eyes smiling with excitement. I had her.

 

***

 

          And so we embarked on our top secret mission to get Olivia out of her job and off to NYC. That night, we began researching Manhattan apartments for the month of November. Not ready to quit just yet, she needed a deadline and motivation to follow through. She planned to book her stay, knowing that a bus ticket valued at $90 alone would not ensure her resignation as effectively as $3,500 plus spent on accommodations.

          “Damn, I am persuasive,” I said. “Why haven’t I persuaded a guy to be my boyfriend yet? I have even more persuasive tools to use to my advantage on guys than on friends,” I pointed out, giving Olivia a needed laugh.

 

***

 

          Olivia did not end up waiting until November to quit. Once she had decided to go for it, she mentally checked out of her job. She resigned a week later, making today her last day at a company that exploits experience-hungry students and young professionals. Instead of November in New York, she’s headed back to school to study the performing arts, her passion and the main reason behind her love for NYC.

          Olivia, welcome to the happy side of life, my love! Congratulations on choosing to execute Happiness Tip #34! I am so proud of you, and I wish you all the best in your opportune days of singing, acting, and dancing to come!

          Friends, Happiness Tip #34 bears repeating: If you don’t like your job, quit.

 
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