Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies. It is one of few that I can watch over and over and never tire of seeing.
Like any great movie, it takes you through a wide spectrum of emotions and has characters that you can like and/or relate to. And when this movie was cast, superb choices were made. Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins brilliantly created their characters, Red and Andy Dufresne.
I’ve often identified with Andy Dufresne on many levels. Like Andy I spend more time in my head than I do with other people. I try to listen intently when people are talking to me so that I can fully comprehend everything they are telling to me. And I am certainly the type of person that would use a rock hammer to shape little rocks.
Andy says at one point in the movie that his wife told him that he was a hard man to know. I’ve heard that same sentiment expressed to me all of my life in many different ways. You can know every detail about my life and still never know me. I suppose that is true of anyone though, isn’t it?
But recently I was able to relate to Andy in a new way. [WARNING: SPOILER ALERT] A big part of the movie is when the young inmate Tommy tells Andy that he knows who really murdered Andy’s wife, the crime for which Andy is doing time. The warden does not want Andy to pursue the matter because he is afraid his illegal activities will be brought to light. So he silences Tommy.
You can see the hope fade from Andy’s face when he finds out. He is broken and hopeless and beaten. And that, my friends, is exactly how I felt recently at work.
I’ve been at my job for 3 years now. My bosses are abusive and almost impossible to work for. Of the 20 people that worked there when I started, only 3 are still there. The average range of employment seems to run between 2 – 6 months. Rarely are resignations given. Usually people quit by slamming the door behind them on the way out.
The company has been growing and we’ve been hiring a lot of new people, one of which was someone to fill a project coordinator position. She was clearly a bright woman but her background was in HR not project coordination. I am guessing that because she was clearly bright, the thought was that she would be able to pick it up fairly quickly. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
In her defense, I don’t believe anyone spent any time training her. I asked repeatedly for her to be able to sit with me so that I could walk her through everything. And permission was granted each time but when the time came, they needed her to do this or that instead. Oh and it was decided that she was going to be doing the HR related tasks.
Well, finally she was able to keep one of the times that we set up. It was to go over our employee leave record. She sat down slightly behind me and I begin explaining how it works. I explained how we accrue paid leave, how we track it, etc. I admitted my ignorance in how and when they decided to deduct the unpaid leave from the paychecks because it definitely is not within the same pay period as the time used. And I told her that several times last year I just wasn’t issued a paycheck with the reason given that I had used that much time off that they had paid me for.
I looked back to make sure that she hadn’t fallen asleep. Her mouth was hanging open. She proceeded to tell me how illegal that is and that if someone reported them, they would certainly be in a lot of trouble. Just to be sure she had understood me, I repeated it all again and offered up the bosses’ explanation for how this was ok. Again, she reiterated that no matter how you dress it up, it is still illegal.
A number of emotions washed over me. I was angry that I had let them take advantage of me like that, that I had just accepted it just like I accept the abuse they dump on me day after day. I also felt validated; I’d known something was off about it but didn’t want to invite more abuse or, worse yet, an invitation to leave by bringing it up. And these guys see every employee as disposable so there is no such thing as job security. But mostly I felt hopeful. I felt hopeful that we had someone on staff who knew the labor laws and who would hopefully get them to make some changes that would help us.
I went home that night feeling pretty good. Sure there was the occasional feeling of anger every now and then but mostly pretty good.
The next day at work one of the bosses stopped in the doorway to my office, checked to see if anyone was close enough to hear, and then proceeded to tell me that we would be letting the new girl go today. He said we were eliminating the position so it would technically be a layoff. He said to get the paperwork ready.
And suddenly I was Andy Dufresne.
Hopeless, beaten, broken Andy Dufresne.
Guess it’s time to break out the rock hammer.
“I was in the path of the tornado… I just didn’t expect the storm would last as long as it has.” – Andy Dufresne, The Shawshank Redemption