One morning, back when I was a “paid by the hour” employee, I logged into the system that employees at my job use to look at company information like hours, sales, overtime, etc. to look at the pay stub for my upcoming paycheck.
What I saw felt like a punch in the face.
I sat there on my couch looking at the information in complete disbelief; Four hundred and twenty-two dollars for two weeks of my sweat and frustration??
It took my total sales, minus the returns, and paid me a percentage of the ‘difference’.
All I could see were the words “Net Deposit”.
I sat there in my living room and I cried. I cried because that paycheck confirmed what I’d been feeling about myself. It made me feel like I’d wasted two weeks of my time for a company that thought it was fair to pay this little for two weeks’ work.
I cried because I felt useless, like I couldn’t do better than stay at a job that paid me so sinfully little.
It was by far, the LEAST amount of money I’d ever made in my life (including when I first started working at 16), and I was done.
Because I believe that everything really does happen for a reason, I took it as a sign from the Universe (one of many) that I should finally quit that damn job and put my “work for myself” plan into hyper-drive.
So I called in sick that day.
When I was offered the job a year prior, something in the back of my head was screaming “Just get up and leave”, but I didn’t listen. As a single mother of 3, I didn’t really have any marketable skills, and getting a job in this market is like having lightning hit you, so I thought that taking this job until I found “something better” was my best option.
It was actually my only option at the time.
It was the type of pay structure where you get whichever is higher; hourly pay or commission.
As it turned out, working on commission wasn’t that much different at first financially than working on an hourly basis. I even made more money than I would have made on salary for the first few months!
That is, until the retail environment turned sour. I found myself standing around for days at a time, waiting for customers to come into the store so that I could make money from them.
With all the hype about online shopping and how it’s dwarfing ‘regular’ shopping habits, most retailers are feeling the crunch. But those ‘hourly pay’ employees aren’t feeling it nearly as hard as those who’re working on commission in a retail environment.
Statistics are showing that US millennials now do 60% of their shopping online.
Millennials — those born between 1982 and 1996 — make up the largest generation in human history, with over 80 million members in the U.S. alone.
And they’re doing most of their shopping from the comfort of the couch.
The suffering economy turned my working environment into one that was much more competitive than the one I was hired to work in because there were fewer and fewer customers to make money from.
In addition, when I was at work I felt like my soul was literally being sucked dry.
My bi-weekly checks went from being ‘decent’ to “Holy shit, how on Earth am I gonna pay rent?”
I thought “this HAS to be a mistake”. Even with the horrible retail economy, this paycheck just didn’t make sense.
Working for commission in retail was killing me financially and spiritually. It was destroying me emotionally.
I called the HR department, and the phone rang until voicemail kicked in.
I hung up.
I didn’t want to leave a message. I wanted to rant at an actual human being.
So about half an hour later, I called back. This time the HR manager answered.
I told him about my ‘issue’, and he apologized and said that there was a ‘glitch’ in the payment system and that they were working on it.
And this changed the game completely
But (and this is the part that threw me) he said “it could take a couple of days to resolve, but we are aware of it. Are you okay for money for the next few days? Is there anything we can do?”
I was stunned.
What a beautiful thing to ask!
That man managed to humanize the whole company with those two sentences; “Are you okay for money for the next few days?” and “Is there anything we can do?”
He had me re-thinking my whole attitude about my job. Instead of thinking that I wanted out, I now thought about what I could do to better my performance, even in a shitty retail economy.
He made me thankful that I had a job at all, instead of being resentful of the job that I thought I hated.
I was so thankful that my crappy check was actually a mistake, but the HR Manager’s words so completely changed my work mindset, that I went from being ‘pissy’ and making ‘so so’ money at that company to being grateful and the top seller in my department.
I’m still dumbfounded at just how little it took.
Every interaction that we have with our fellow humans means something. It might not mean much to you, but I guarantee you that your words or your actions have a huge effect on someone else.
Whether that effect is positive or negative, is entirely up to you.