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Cinderella in the Workplace

Updated on May 8, 2009
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

Poor Cinderella. So much work. So little appreciation.
Poor Cinderella. So much work. So little appreciation.

Once upon a time....

There was an earnest young woman named Cindy [not to be confused with our very own Cindyvine]. This Cindy was booksmart, but in many ways naïve to the ways of the world. She loved the "work" part of work, but had a hard time dealing with the politics inherent in the workplace. As a result, she often found herself abused by those so inclined.

In the year 1996 Cindy was recruited for a job with a public relations firm. A respected friend worked at this firm, so she assumed it was a good environment.

She could not have been more wrong. It was a bad place. A very bad place. In fact, Cindy refers to that PR agency and her time there as "The Bad Place."

The husband and wife who owned the agency courted Cindy. They made her feel very special, luring her in with bright promises. They made their agency sound like a tight-knit family. On the surface, they seemed so normal ... and nice!

Things started out reasonably enough. But Cindy soon noticed a disturbing trend. At any given time, Evil Bosslady singled out two staff members. One was the golden child, and the other was her scapegoat. Assignment of these roles was seemingly random. The only thing certain was that once you became the scapegoat, your time was limited.

All told, the average tenure of staff was 8 to 9 months. This is notoriously fast turnover, even for a high-turnover industry.

She really does look like my former boss
She really does look like my former boss

Waterboarding would have been preferable

Although Cindy was not a trained psychologist, she recognized passive-aggressive behavior and borderline personality when she saw them. Evil Bosslady suffered from/indulged in both. Her husband, Mr. Tippler, was affable enough, but seemed a bit too eager to push "happy hour" on the staff every day at 4pm. He also had a habit of taking a nap every day in his office.

Cindy was initially hired to manage the staff. She did her best to bring order to agency processes and to improve morale. But she soon saw the futility of her efforts. Her main function was to comfort.Someone was always in tears. Besides handing out tissues and offering her shoulder, there was nothing else she could do. It's not like she could bring any of her staff's complaints to the owners -- because the owners were the cause of the complaints!

Some examples:

* Snarky voice mails left in the middle of the night berating staff members for ... anything or nothing

* Similar handwritten notes -- lengthy and abrasive, would greet staff in their inboxes as they arrived in the morning

* One staffer was dressed down (no pun intended) in a performance review for not wearing enough color. Bear in mind, this was a junior staffer whose job did not involve client contact.

* Any and every chance to compare staffers was taken. If one could be put on a pedestal and praised to the hilt, another would be publicly chastised. Basically, for every Marsha Brady, the owners created two Jans...

Cinderella -- have you finished all your chores?

Inevitably, Cindy's turn in the hot seat came. The first thing the Evil Bosslady did was strip Cindy of her management title -- and  needless to say, her management salary. They "demoted" her back to a regular PR account executive.

Of course, now that she was no longer top dog, she did not need the big dog office. So they made her move into a smaller one, right next to her old one. The real estate downsize hurt as much or more than anything else.

About this time the owners discovered that Cindy had a unique talent they could exploit. No, it wasn' sweeping the ashes out of the fireplace or fetching water from the well. It was writing proposals. So they put Cindy on proposal duty -- sort of like KP duty in the army.

But she still had direct client responsibilities.

Oh, no, Cinderella. You can't go to the ball.

One day, the agency was going to pitch a new piece of business to one of Cindy's clients. Cindy had slaved for days on the written proposal. She was excited, as she liked this client and this client liked her. She felt confident the client would buy off on the projects in her proposal.

When it came time to pack up the proposal and the visual aids and drive over to Napa Valley for the big presentation, Cindy stood up from her chair, but was quickly put in her place.

"Oh no, Cindy. You're not coming with us!" snapped Evil Bosslady. Instead, she took Cindy's protégé. It was the same junior staffer who had been accused of dressing too drably..

Where are you, Fairy Bossmother?

Cindy cried and cried. She looked around for some singing mice and birds like in the movie, but all she could find were the stupid stuffed teddy bears the Evils decorated the damned office with.

"I've got to get out of here," she reasoned. But the Evils pretty much kept her under lock and key. And little did she know, the Evils weren't her only foes. An Evil Coworker had been bribed to spy on her and rat her out. The badness of this place was that insidious!!

Just then, Cindy's Fairy Bossmother appeared. "Do not worry, my child," she said. "Things have a way of working out the way they are supposed to!"

Cindy had no idea what this chick was talking about, but she did remember something that made her feel better: "When the going gets tough, the tough go to ..... Europe."

And that's exactly what Cindy did. She took her accrued vacation time and cavorted on the Continent for two blissful weeks.

On the way home she even bought a box of Belgian chocolates in the duty free store for the staff.

Cindy was definitely not drab

I have no doubt Evil Bosslady took that raincoat for her own self
I have no doubt Evil Bosslady took that raincoat for her own self

Where's my glass slipper... er, raincoat?

Cindy returned to the US rejuvenated. She felt ready to face the Evils with renewed endurance.

The minute she got home she called the office to retrieve her voice mail messages. Hmmm. this was weird. She could not access her mailbox. Well, maybe they'd had a blackout or something.

Next, she went to pick up her snail mail. There was a note from her apartment manager advising her to come to the office. Hmmm again. "What's that about?" she wondered.

Cindy walked over to the apartment complex office. There, she found a large cardboard box -- about 3 ft x 3 ft x 3 ft. She opened the top and found inside a letter from the agency.

She could not believe it! She was being terminated. Fired. Canned. Just like that! Not for cause, mind you -- they were just exercising their rights as employers. Cindy was not represented by a union. She was an employee at will. And in this case, where there's a will, there's a won't. As in, "You won't be working here anymore, Cindy, so you can keep your ridiculous box of chocolates and stay the hell out of here. No more Bad Place for you."

The rest of the box contained Cindy's personal effects. It was a bit disturbing to think that someone had gone through her desk without her permission. More disturbing was her missing raincoat. It had been hung on the office coat tree when she left, she was certain. She tried several times -- unsuccessfully -- to track it down (through her sympathetic, no, shocked staffers). No luck.

The symbolism was not lost on Cindy. As I said, she was booksmart, and used to finding literary themes and meanings in plots. By losing her raincoat she'd been left naked and unprotected from the harsh elements. Yep, that pretty much summed up how she felt.


Happily ever after?

This being only 1997, it's hardly the end of Cindy's workplace adventures. But the chapter does have a happy ending.

Cindy realized that she'd worked at The Bad Place exactly one year. Their letter of - whatever the opposite of resignation is -- was dated exactly one year from her first day on the job.

She was let go at the end of November 1997. Instead of panicking, Cindy bucked he odds that no one hires during the Christmas holidays. She found a great new job within three weeks, making more than she had (originally) at The Bad Place.

Imagine the good impression Cindy made on her first day when she brought her new boss a box of Belgian chocolates!*

*Okay, I admit it. That last part didn't really happen. Those chocolates were gone the same day Cindy got fired, are you kidding me!???


Are you a Cinderella?

Have you been the victim of bullying, harassment or discrimination at work?

See results


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    • jimmylesaint profile image

      jimmylesaint 6 years ago from Metropolis of Life

      Mighty Mom nice hub. Glad you're out. I'm fighting the good fight against my two evil stepsister bosses.

      Just drafting legal documents to sue as the multinationals only listen to you if it is going to affect their "image" and wallet.

      Not one for suing culture but sometimes that's all you have in your arsenal, without going postal.

      Stand up to bullies and make it public what they are-two things bullies hate.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hey thanks, TR. I would have stayed indentured forever if Fate hadn't intervened. Now I could not even imagine going back to that kind of insanity. MY sanity is worth so much more now! Good to see you, friend.

    • The Rope profile image

      The Rope 8 years ago from SE US

      Excellent MM! I stayed tied to the paycheck and the undermining of my self-esteem. Ah well, eventually it was over. Thanks for a great hub. It was a fun spin on a very difficult situation.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, kartika. As women, I think we are all vulnerable to attack -- hidden or blatent. Glad I could giveyou a laugh. MM

    • kartika damon profile image

      kartika damon 8 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

      Loved this! Yes, I've been a workplace casualty and it was very much like being under the thumb of an evil stepmother! I am no longer being abused in my current job - but, all "jobs" put us in a vulnerable position and things change so quickly these days - we've had massage lay offs so I could be Cinderella on unemployment any day! :) we often laugh to keep from crying and this had me laughing.

    • JPSO138 profile image

      JPSO138 8 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

      Its amazing how you shared this information. Great hub indeed. I love it and cant help but join as a fan...

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Diana! Yes, the chocolates did help. I seem to recall Cinderella paired them with a nice Cabernet...

      If it happened to her these days, she might be tempted to take the chocolates over to the Bad Place and "innocently" proffer them -- just to rub it in. Hopefully she will not be in such a position again!

    • Diana Weiss profile image

      Diana Weiss 8 years ago

      Good thing Cindy had those chocolates... Otherwise someone might have been hurt!! Nice story and i imagine very therapuetic.

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Nice to be back MM, :)

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      LOL, Misty. I don't doubt for one minute that you've got stories that would curl Cinderella's hair! Good to see you. MM

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 8 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Excellent Hub speaking as someone who has had several nightmare Bosses in different jobs, plus some very bitchy colleagues.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Pam! These days when I write about bizarre experiences, particularly of the work variety, I try to make them "Grundyesque." Honestly, I thought of you often as I penned this. Who knew so many other hubbers would have abusive work experiences like ours?

      I will def have to check out that movie. I also should write about some of my other ad agency experiences:-). Thx. MM

    • profile image

      pgrundy 8 years ago

      Lol! Love this. You HAVE to see the movie, "The Ex" with Zack Braff. It's about this guy who loses his job and his father-in-law gets him a job at an ad agency that is very similar to how you describe The Bad Place. It's really, really funny. So are you. Great hub MM!

    • Paper Moon profile image

      Paper Moon 8 years ago from In the clouds

      Loved it. I still work for an insane boss, but at least I have gotten far enough to buffer most people from him. I could really use a fairy boss mother about now.

    • trooper22 profile image

      trooper22 8 years ago from Chicago

      Great story MM.

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 8 years ago from Free and running....

      Well MM- I am working for an absolute lunatic and I can relate to the abuse like never before. There is no human resources in construction, especially at my position where its other people's job to actually grind me up at spit me out. Of course its hard to do that to me, but at the end of the day, I always ask myself what am i doing here, oh yeah, I got bills and kids, and the economy sucks, and don't have a choice, yet. But it is funny, the positive out of all this, is that I've had time to play on hubpages, get my writing going, where before I was all go, go, go, and I'm sure my next job will be the same way.

      And Happy Mother's day.

    • profile image

      Leta S 8 years ago

      Wow, MM, what a well-told fairy tale! It sure does ring true, as many of those folk stories are apt to do. I have one about Snow White to tell. Currently working on Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz (maybe). lol :)

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello Shamelabboush. Thanks. In this case, art imitates life! MM

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      OMG, Mighty Mom, I was Cindy. I worked for a mean Bosslady for 3 years and developed all kinds of medical ailments as a result of the stress that she caused me. I was sick to the stomach most days going into work. My story ended a little different in that the Bosslady quit.

      This is an awesome story and I can absolutely relate to Cindy. Thanks for writing this story. Horah for Cindy! She is in a Better Place.

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 8 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Sometimes, personalities overcome what management course teach - I guess they just can't teach personality, huh? I've been both a subordinate and a superior and so I realte to this, totally! Good thing I've decided I'm done with the whole castle thingy! Thanks for sharing :D

    • shamelabboush profile image

      shamelabboush 8 years ago

      Great use of symbolism. I believe this story resembles many of us in the real life. Thanks Mighty Mom.

    • MissJamieD profile image

      MissJamieD 8 years ago from Minnes-O-ta

      It's insane how many people in the world with good business skills have their heads up their asses when it comes to common sense, courteousy, and just plain thankfulness. The two characteristics don't mix well, especially if you want your employees to WANT to work for you. These jerks don't realize that if you treat your employees with respect, that is what you'll get in return. If you treat them like dogs, that's what you'll get in return. Which one of these traits is better for business? I think we know the answer to that one.

      Good hub and I'm sorry to hear that other people around the world deal with this crap. I've been taken advantage of at work and my ex husband was used incessantly by his boss! They stole his ideas and made millions, while he barely got a raise!

    • Silver Freak profile image

      Silver Freak 8 years ago from The state of confusion

      Good for Cindy!

    • Hawkesdream profile image

      Hawkesdream 8 years ago from Cornwall

      My friend was treated like your Cindy, and she took them to court and won.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      LOL Christoph. You know for a damned fact I am NOT one of them!! I am, if not your biggest fan, certainly among your biggest defenders:-).

      Your boss must have been really retarded. He obviously had a good thing going. Here you were feeding him ideas good enough to steal. Why would he want to cut off that supply by discrediting you? Like so many things in the world of work, it just makes no sense.

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis

      MM: Things about discredit me. That's all. And no..I'm not paranoid, but this is about me isn't it? That's what you meant, right? You're one of them, aren't you?!!!

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello Whiskeychick (great name, BTW). Yeah. At least Cindy got her trip to Europe out of it. LOL.

      kCC -- I'm glad for you, girlfriend! Here's to retirement... someday!

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      No worries for me MM.......I'm at the last place I intend to work. :)

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hello dear friends. Where were all of you when Cindy was being persecuted this way? She sure could have used a little online support. Oh well.

      Ag -- your idea is brilliant. Living well is the best revenge. Cindy did go on to better things (even without a knight in shining armour). And The Bad Place did shut down. But -- and this is for KCC -- they moved to TEXAS, so watch out!

      Christoph -- Have had that syndrome, too. Bosses who take credit for your ideas. Drives me absolutely nuts. But it's their insecurity. BTW, when you say, "Then the rumors started..." what does that mean??

      Dianacharles -- the raincoat is a true fact of the story.

      FP -- Ain't that the truth! Chocolate is the universal antidote!

      CW -- I am not so imaginative as to concock stories like that out of thin air!

      BC99-- Cindyvine is way too on top of life to have this kind of situation. PGrundy would have something like this happen to her, but Cindyvine -- can't picture it.

      Teresa -- Are there any workplaces that are not toxic? Since leaving the ratrace and going out on my own I simply cannot imagine going back. Shudder!

    • WhiskeyChick profile image

      WhiskeyChick 8 years ago from North of Somewhere

      How perfectly everything turned out. Apart from the trip to Europe, a friend of mine had this exact thing happen to her. At first I thought you were! Very enjoyable twist on Cinderalla.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Toxic workplaces are way too many in this world.

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

      Now who is this "Cindy"? Is this a true story or a fiction? My workplace does have some interesting characters but on the whole I am pretty comfortable. Thumbs up for a fantastic hub.

    • profile image

      Feline Prophet 8 years ago

      Chocolate will help one get over anything, and it doesn't have to be Belgian! :)

    • dianacharles profile image

      dianacharles 8 years ago from India

      Great one MM. I so do empathize. Have had my fair share of Evils. I loved the touch of the raincoat... ;)

    • Christoph Reilly profile image

      Christoph Reilly 8 years ago from St. Louis

      MM: I love this fairy tale - and all fairy tales have at their core some lesson; some truth. I had one boss who took credit for all my ideas. The big boss would praise him at company-wide staff meetings and he would take it all in with nary a glace at me...and then the rumors started. i got the hell out.

      Lots of fun!

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      I like how agvulpes thinks!

    • agvulpes profile image

      Peter 8 years ago from Australia

      MM , poor Cindy, no Knight in shining armour for you, sorry Cindy.

      Now this could be an alternative ending. Hows about your little Cindy starts up a business (in her garage of course) and is such a raging success that she is able to (secretly) buy out all the stockholders in the aforsaid 'Evils' business . Then goes in and sacks the b******s'.

    • KCC Big Country profile image

      Karen Curtis 8 years ago from Central Texas

      LOL @'s funny you should bring it up tonight.  I actually drove by that old workplace tonight with my husband and showed him where it all started. 

      I worked for Mrs. Evil for one day in 1996 and it was supposed to be the dream job.  I worked one day and went in the next day and told her I was leaving.  I told her she didn't even have to pay me for that one day, but she did.   Funny enough, one of my current assistants used to work for the same lady and she lasted 4 months.   She needed the job and put up with it.  I wasn't prepared to do that.

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi KCC -- Not all workplaces come with handsome milkmen:-). Cindy still shudders whenever she goes to the part of town where that office used to be!

      Wndererh, You are definitely not missing a thing. Making the move to working from home is like jumping off a cliff into an ocean of soft feathers. You will never, ever want to go back! Thanks for visiting. MM

    • wandererh profile image

      David Lim 8 years ago from Singapore

      I had practically worked from home my whole life. There were times when I thought that I would have been better off if I had worked in a normal job for at least the first few years after I left school but it seems that I didn't miss much. :)

      Glad that Cindy got out of the The Bad Place.