Last night was an emotional evening with friends. Many expressed their feelings openly. It was a time to share experiences and individual truths relating to the exodus. And, there were a few people there last night which continue to work for Company XYZ, and are listening and witnessing the deep emotional scars of those that left. And, sharing the continued underlying problems of Company XYZ. I feel for them as they seek to continue to work there with dignity in their hard work and hope for their own futures. I think about all that went wrong and continues to go wrong with that place. And the saddest part is that everyone (for the most part) that left, had a strong connection with the place, in many cases because of the vision of the work. In our business, when you find a niche or market that fuels you with passion and purpose, it’s an amazing thing. I had that with Company XYZ. When I entered their doors as a new employee, I rejoiced at my good fortune. This was going to be it. I was surrounded by fellow lovers of a specific geographic location that warmed my heart, I would be helping create dreams of custom itineraries for the independent traveler throughout the countries of this glorious region. Finally, instead of being a travel agent that could offer the entire globe, I was now dialing down to a specific place on the planet which had my heart singing. And, I would be traveling to this collection of countries myself to network with our ground handlers, guides, business partners in travel to develop our products of hotels, sightseeing, transportation and more. I thought I had landed my dream job. I could use my language skills for specific countries relating to my mother’s homeland. And, for the first few years I felt I had made the right decision. The perfect decision.
However, underneath the joy there was also doubt as I watched strong personalities bump heads and saw decisions made that in my view negatively impacted the company; but then, what did I know, I was merely a worker bee. They must know what they are doing, right? I glanced occasionally at my paltry bank account balance and justified my poor financial status in life to the fact that – after all, I work in travel. Everyone in the industry knows that travel doesn’t pay. If I had wanted money, I should have chosen another field; like law, or medicine. I chose travel because, honestly, I love languages and exploring the globe. In this field, my bank account has been pathetic for most of my career, particularly someone in my age bracket. The truth is it’s an accepted standard in the industry which makes living single almost impossible without some creativity in sourcing options. What I didn’t know at the time was that this didn’t have to be the case. During those years of meager income, I benefited from staying in the most luxurious places in the world and continue to enjoy the most high level services just about everywhere I go. All on someone else’s dime. So, to properly evaluate my income, I need to remember to add what those items would cost to my annual figures. One year, a ten night trip through Norway staying mostly at historic deluxe inns owned by families that have been running the place for generations; sitting on my balcony with the fjord view. Of course, I would never have the money to personally pay for those ultra luxurious trips while working in this business, but the more that I sell certain things, the better chance at a familiarization excursion to test those services out myself; whether paid by my company or paid by the supplier itself. If paid by the company, the trips cost minimally as the suppliers organize these trips to showcase their offerings for our clients. It’s a perk, for sure. I don’t have to save up for a trip, I just wait for the glorious announcements of which suppliers are sponsoring the upcoming FAMS, and then learn who in the office gets which cherry assignment. Usually, these occur once or twice a year and in the fall season, when things slow down a bit for the average agency and certain destinations.
So what happened at Company XYZ?
So many abuses of power and many moments of poor leadership in general. When almost half the staff exits in one year, the management must look at their practices and consider what they may have done to contribute to the discontent. Was it wages? Poor direction? Financial struggles? Overall disrespect and disregard for the work produced by its workers? Common blatant overuse of criticism and infrequent praise. In Company XYZ’s case, all of that and so much more. Management’s recurring poor decisions in every aspect of running the business left the workers feeling devalued and irrelevant. At the end of my tenure there, I recall sitting at my desk wearing fingerless gloves and a billowing scarf around my neck to take the chill off my body as I tried to type on my computer; the recent move the summer before had been into an old building in a tiny strip mall that backed up against a motel known for being both a whore house and a narcotics headquarters for the local druggies. But our general manager moved us to this location because, I am sure, it was cheaper than the alternatives. So there we were freezing because of poor insulation and not permitted to use too many space heaters at once because it would overload the circuit breaker. Hun? This is where you work?
That summer move was a nightmare as they smooshed 10 of the staff in one department into a small walk in closet like space with industrial folding tables and folding chairs, wires coming out of the ceiling and landing behind our computers so that we could plug in. No filtered water, just the bathroom sink so we filtered our water by hand for coffee using one of those tiny pods. This placed into question for me each day, how sanitary is this? The thought going through my head was, maybe I am making too much of this. The management tried to encourage by suggesting how great the space would be once finished next door. The construction project took several months. While we attempted to discourage in person client visits, and suggested we were not available for walk in services, some clients would pop in anyway to drop of payments for their trips or to talk to our consultants. Seeing them standing in the doorway of our closet made me wonder, how can they have confidence when they see how our working conditions look? And even if the new space was meant to be great- how could they not see the questionable locale? It was embarrassing. But we were cheerful, we’re moving- pardon our mess. When the move was completed, we had another surprise from management- all those heavy filing cabinets in the back storage of the temporary space- yea, those; they shall be moved by staff. No moving company. There I was with two damaged arms from previous injuries, being asked to buck up and move heavy furnishings from one space to another, while upper management GM is in Belgium sipping a brew with her hubby. Yes- she opted to take a vacation during the worst part of the move. And while it might be true that her trip had been scheduled earlier in the year, prior to the anticipated move- how ultra convenient for her that her trip fell in the busiest season of our business and during the worst part of the move. Management was missing from that move and after several hours of heavy labor, I sat in a chair talking to myself in my head- this is the ultimate in horrible management. No regard whatsoever. Complete and utter nonsense and so unprofessional. Workman’s comp anyone? This is not acceptable. And, they are clueless on how to handle staff.
After the move, it was the financial strains that sealed my decision later in the year. Supplier bills were not being paid and it was making it highly uncomfortable to reach out to these same suppliers now to request future bookings for our clients; whether hotels, guides, luggage services or transport. How can I ask a supplier to confirm a booking for me when we had not paid them for bookings from five months ago? And our fears and concerns are batted away and a legitimizing comment is made with venom if we questioned it.
So I was the first in the domino effect. When my opportunity came with a strong agency, financially at the top of their game, with solid opportunities for growth and an increase in pay my first year that would be infuse hope that the poverty standards of a travel agent did not have to be my own reality. This new company was suggesting incentives and pay opportunities that would reward my efforts. I would have been an idiot to say no. So, I said yes. And, I left. And then, within a year- 9 are gone from Company XYZ; and they blame us. They hate us. They unfriendly us on FB. They speak perhaps poorly of us and our betrayal. To me, the betrayal was theirs. They either didn’t care, or if they cared- they were too proud to do anything positive to change the current mess. And, the place continues to struggle. And, my heart goes out to it, because deep down, I loved Company XYZ, and wanted it to be my final stop on the career track.
Now, a year later, I am thriving. My productivity at new Company ABC is right on track. And, it feel good. It feels good mostly to be acknowledged as being a positive contributor, of receiving praise for efforts well done. For being paid fairly. And, for knowing that my future has hope and promise.