"So why are you so nervous all the time?" Jennifer asked.
Kay twisted in her seat, obviously uncomfortable with the directness of the question. This half-yearly update chat with her manager was a good moment to get frustrations out, but it always made her nervous. Questions like these would inevitably pop up.
"I have not always been treated all that well by previous employers."
"What, like actively mistreated?"
"No, well, sorta? There were passive-aggressive things where I was not really given the opportunity to grow, and there have been complete clusterfucks... Err."
"It's okay, I get what you mean."
"Okay, complete clusterfucks where what was promised did not even remotely resemble what eventually happened. Just, I dunno, I have a hard time believing that things work out, you know?"
Jennifer took a sip of her tea and smiled.
"I know what you mean, yeah. But have we given you a reason to feel that way?"
"No, but it has nothing to do with you. You guys could be the most amazing and trustworthy group of people, but if you're used to getting shafted, that's what you expect."
"So it doesn't help that that hasn't happened yet? And that, as far as I can tell, nobody has shared such stories with you?"
"No. And again, it has nothing to do with you."
Kay sighed and looked out the window.
"It's nice here. I'm not saying it isn't. But everywhere this shit happened, it was nice too. There was something to really like and give a reason to stay. Even if shit happened."
"So you're saying it might still happen here?"
"No. I'm really not."
She sighed again and cracked her fingers.
"All I'm saying is that it'll take time. It'll take time for the crap I'm still angry about to become the past. Truly become the past. For me to not be angry anymore. I'm not angry at you, I like it here. But there's still a part of me that wants to punch their stupid faces in for the crap they pulled."
Jennifer jotted down some notes on a piece of paper. Kay looked but couldn't quite make it out.
"What are you writing down?"
"That you've had past bad experiences and we should take that into account."
Kay was silent. Now that Jennifer said that, she could make out enough of the scribbles to know that she was telling the truth.
"So what actually happened that you're so angry about?"
"Well, one good example is when I'd just started on this career path, I got a job at a really small company. Basically 2 dudes and another girl. Worked there for half a year to the day. A month before my temporary contract was supposed to run out, they told me I didn't need to worry. Back then, I believed that sorta thing."
"And yet you worked there for half a year on the dot."
"On the dot. The week before my contract ran out, I asked them when my new contract was coming in. Then the owner told me that there was no new contract, and that I should leave immediately. They'd still pay me for the entire month, but I was no longer welcome."
"That sucks. So do you think if you hadn't asked..?"
"Yeah, they would have let me believe all was fine until the last day and then, I dunno, change the locks or something? I never really understood why that even happened, but after that the bitterness set in."
"So what was the next job like?"
"After a short bout of unemployment, I found another job elsewhere. They seemed nice, and for the first year everything was great. Then, and I can't remember how, one of the senior coworkers started to cause conflict and I got sucked into it. I tried not to be, but it was nearly impossible, since he kept blaming me for things I didn't even have anything to do with."
"So what'd you do?"
"I kept a low profile and tried to stay out of trouble. There was still enough there to stick around, just that one difficult coworker I couldn't escape from because he was also the department head. Other people were starting to catch flak from him too."
Kay played around with a coin she'd found in her pocket.
"He lobbied to get me removed from his department. And the CEO did so. I ended up folding envelopes for the sales department. I didn't last long after that happened. I made it clear I wasn't okay being sidetracked in my career because of somebody else's personal issues. That's when they offered to pay me for 2 months of work if I left at the end of the week."
"And you took it?"
"Of course I did! They had put the brakes on my professional growth and the personal aspect of it was draining my self esteem. I thought about it, did the math and accepted."
"And how were the jobs in between then and now?"
"Not as bad but they weren't great either. There's a reason I'm working here now. With the jobs in between it wasn't so much malice as incompetence from management or just a complete unwillingness to change. And while trust isn't my strong suit, I've gotten more vocal about what I want from my job. And that didn't land well with everyone."
"Get into many fights?"
"Never got into fights after that second job, really. Just disagreements on issues of principle."
Jennifer jotted down some more, but Kay didn't care much. She was sure it was along the same lines.
"Alright. I think I understand somewhat better now. I know it might not mean anything, since I believe you feel that only time will tell, but we're really not like that at all."
"I know. That was never the issue."
"Just give us a chance, and we'll give you a chance. When either side disappoints or otherwise negatively influences the other, let's agree to talk about it as soon as possible."
Jennifer stood up and picked up her cup of tea.
"Now get back to work."
Author's note: Write what you know, they said. That's the good stuff, they said. It's hard, I said and maintain. But I have to learn to do so.