This is not What I Expected
The UN headquarters is the most beautiful building when you see it in person. It is not beautiful in an aesthetic aspect, but more in its majestic nature and magnificent symbolization. From the street, the building looks like a long rectangle with a round dome in the center of the roof. It is decorated by the flags of countries all over the world. Just looking at it makes you realize that it represents something greater than itself. As I stepped out of Grand Central Station, walked down 42nd Street, and turned left on 1st Avenue, its stature blew me away. I felt so proud that this walk was my new route to work and that I was working directly across from a building that used to only be in my imagination. I knew how significant this was, not only for me but for my family. In my family, there are three of us, me and my sisters. I was the only sister to leave my hometown at the age of 18 and pursue a greater life. Now I was the only sister to work at what I thought was my dream job. If my Mom were alive she would be so proud. I felt this rush of energy the first day entering my new workplace. That rush stayed until I sat down at my desk and reality set in.
When I entered the office, the only person there was my new co-worker, a young intern named Amara*. She was from Africa but lived in New York for most of her life. My new boss Sandra* told me to come in at 9am but Amara told me that Sandra wasn’t showing up until later that morning. I stood in the middle of the office while Amara figured out what I was supposed to do. It was very awkward. I was too excited about starting the job that I didn’t stop to think how odd it was that it was the first day for me, a new employee, and my boss hadn’t organized any training for me or told Amara how to get me started. I went with the flow until Amara received instructions from Sandra over the phone.
After talking to Sandra, Amara was more confident. She directed me to my new desk and got me started on the first tasks of the day. She also gave me an employee handbook. After that, I hit the ground running. My first job was to write letters to several people in high positions, inviting them to a high profile event scheduled for the following month. The writing came naturally to me and I enjoyed it very much. In fact, it didn’t feel like work.
Everything was going great until Sandra arrived. When she entered the office, she seemed annoyed and stressed. She was accompanied by my other co-worker LeeAnne*, a sweet-natured and beautiful young woman. I immediately felt different energy coming from my boss which was contrary to what I felt during the interview. Sandra greeted me very briefly then immediately asked me what I was working on and whether or not I had the employee handbook. I answered her questions right away, then she retreated to her office with LeeAnne. I felt very uncomfortable and out of place. I decided to brush it off and thought it was nerves. I figured that this is how New York is, and the bosses are tougher. I let it go and got back to work.
The rest of the week was similar to the first day. The only exception was that every morning, Sandra spoke with me over the phone, asked me what I was doing for the day, and gave me some tasks. She was very short with me, barely explaining anything. I thought to myself, “How am I supposed to know what do to if nobody explains it to me?” The handbook I had explained some of the tasks but it was only five pages long and didn’t entail the breadth of work that I was hired for. When I was unsure about something I asked Amara or LeeAnne because Sandra seemed impatient about answering any questions.
On Thursday of that week, I was tired of being in a workplace with no communication but unsure of how to approach Sandra. The more I was around her, the more I realized that she wasn’t being a tough New York boss. Instead, she was being non-communicative, unapproachable, and impossible. My opportunity to speak with her came when she asked to have a meeting with me. At the start of the meeting, she began lecturing me about not doing my job and that there were unfinished tasks. I had no idea what she was talking about, so I let out all of my concerns. I said that as long as I knew what my job description was, I could do my job. I also said that I felt like I was thrown into the position with no training and that I was figuring it out as I went along.
At first, she looked at me with confusion but then proceeded to answer my questions. She told me that the employee handbooks explained everything, then asked me if I had both of them. Of course, I said no so she handed me the second one, which was about ten pages long, and told me to go over it. She then told me that I was the Office Manager and in charge of everything. This meant that Amara answered to me. I knew that this was not the position I applied for, but I didn’t want to risk upsetting her so I kept my mouth shut. Sandra went on to say that my job description was Office Manager. I knew this wasn’t true. Finally, she said that moving forward, I was in charge of everything, including her schedule, and she wanted to see me take control. I agreed and the meeting ended.
I knew after the meeting that I didn’t feel comfortable being around Sandra. She was not a nice person and treated her employees with disrespect. Yet I was afraid to quit because I wanted the experience under my belt and I was looking for an apartment. Property owners wanted to see employment on the application and I couldn’t risk not getting a place to live. I was definitely in a predicament. I decided to tough it out to see if it got better over time. The next day was a Friday and it was pretty laid back. Amara was off so I worked on my own. I enjoyed my first weekend, going out with a friend I met on my trip to New York the previous month. When I walked in on Monday, I took control. I told Amara what my boss said and let her know that I would be taking charge of most of the tasks. I then got to work. I thought that since I knew what my job was, things would get easier. The following few weeks, that would prove to be wrong.
*Names were changed to protect privacy