It always amazes me how things seem to be so complicated in my life. Maybe I am just unlucky, or maybe my BPD makes it that way.
This is going to be a bit of a long one, so bear with me. If you don’t want to read it, don’t worry, but it is going to help me to get it out, write it down, and hopefully I can then sift through it logically.
In 1991, my mum decided to start her own company, as a property manager. (Like a letting agent who looks after the property for the landlord). Gradually, over the years, she built the business from 5 properties and one desktop PC in her living room, to what it was when I joined the company, in 2006, with just over 100 properties, 5 staff and an office. She is brilliant at what she does – don’t get me wrong – but she is very set in her ways; in a lot of ways she seems to still think she is working on her own, back then, when she had that one PC in the corner of her living room.
At first, she took me on because I was at a loose end. I had just finished university, there were no jobs about, and she needed an extra pair of hands. At the time, the office was based in a big shed at the back of the house, and the staff members consisted of Marlene and Rose (the two ‘older’ ladies who came in together on a thursday and friday, did their bit, an went home again), Judy (part time) and myself.
Marlene and Rose adopted me, even before I worked for the company. As the office was based at the house where I lived, I used to go into the office when my mum wasn’t there and talk to them. I would pour my heart out to them and loved them to pieces. They could see the failing relationship between my parents and me, and were there through my issues, such as my eating, self harming, suicide attempts and failed lesbian relationship with Jean.
As I began to get more involved with the company, I began to get more interest in the industry, and enrolled in a year long diploma course in Residential Lettings and Management (which I recently completed, after deferring it for a year). It was during this diploma that I learnt a lot about the legal procedures that should be followed, with regards to contracts, agency procedures and the like, and it became very clear to me that we weren’t following them. Gradually, I have attempted to make changes to our systems to get us up to date, but it is an ongoing struggle.
There have been complaints about the company being inefficient, a lack of communication, having our wires crossed. There seemed to be something that wasn’t working, so I eventually persuaded my mum to purchase a new all-singing-all-dancing database software which we could use to keep track of all our data, procedures, tasks, accounting and everything else you can think of! I also designed a company logo (we didn’t even have one), set up a new website, gained membership to online property marketing sites, designed new office stationary, cleared out the office and archived all old data, and put new, more effective and more efficient procedures in place.
Unfortunately, I became ill, and had to take nearly 8 months off work, but have since returned, with a phased return at first. I now work 10 – 5 every day, and although I am very aware of regulating my tiredness and levels of stress (I know how quickly they can affect my mood), am doing ok.
So, over the past few months I have been implementing our new software systems. This is no small task! Imagine each landlord is one record, and he has up to three properties, with each property having one, two, three or four tenants in situ. Each of these records has to be input into the new system, and in addition to this, never before have we had such an inclusive database, so all the information is scattered in files all around the office – I am having to compile all the information for each person/property into this one place. Each record is taking around an hour (we have 150 properties – do the math) but once it is done, it is done.
So, bear with me. It takes me an hour to put on one record, and as you can imagine, I am trying to make sure no information is missed, or lost. It isn’t difficult to put the records on correctly, but there ARE certain ways of doing it. So, I agreed with the company supplying the software that myself and Judy would attend a two-day training course on using the software, to ensure that above all else, we were using it correctly.
On our return, under the guidance of the software support, I set up user controls/permissions on the software. I gave myself an administrator role, given that I have had the training to access and use safely all parts of the software, I have Judy the second highest role, but locked her out of accounting (she has not been trained on this section) and locked her out of being able to access the software default settings (Branch settings, Set up of the database, User settings – being able to change user roles etc). Other staff were given permissions suitable to their roles. I didn’t do this to be nasty or malicious, I did it to protect the software, to prevent people who haven’t been trained from accessing parts of the software where they may be able to make a mistake.
Anyway, I digress. My mum makes me pull my hair out. The best way to describe her, as I have said already, is that she is almost as thought she still thinks she is working on her own, with one computer in the corner of her living room. There is no communication, and this makes us all look stupid, and inefficient. She will take messages, and never pass them on. When she goes out, she takes the office diary with her so we can’t book viewings. She enters data on the old database software wrong, which takes me hours to fix. She isn’t interested in learning how to do it correctly, I spent long enough trying to persuade her to come on the two day training course, which she refused. She just wants to carry on as she is; it is almost as if she can’t handle or accept that things move on, they change and adapt. She is living in the past and it is affecting the business.
We row almost constantly. Now I have the knowledge about our legal obligations, when she asks me to do something ‘illegal’ or ‘immoral’ I refuse, rightly or wrongly. From one side, she is the boss and I should do as she asks. On the other, I know it is wrong, and I am trying to protect her, and her business.
One example, which happens almost every month, is her asking me to pay a landlord, when we haven’t recieved the rent from the tenant. This is a big no-no, as you are obviously risking losing a lot of money if a tenant defaults. She has been stung before, she lost £10,000 last time, but still continues to ask me to do it. When I refuse, we row. I don’t know who is right but it feels wrong to go against what I know is the wrong thing to do and could have such bad consequences.
So, the last few days have been terrible. The stress has been giving me headaches and I feel exhausted and upset. I know I need to sort it before it affects my mood and I become ill again, I just don’t know how to go about it. Hopefully writing it out in this blog will help me get some things straight in my head.
It all started last Tuesday. I went out of the office to a viewing. The previous few days I had spent with Carly, another member of staff, putting records on the new software. We had been doing it slowly and carefully, making sure everything was correct. I had taken the time to show Carly how to do things properly as she hadn’t attended the training course. The golden rule, I told her, was if you don’t know – ask. Don’t just try it, and risk getting it wrong.
When I returned from the viewing, I logged onto the new software (it’s called Gemini), to find strange records on there named ‘XXXX’ and ‘YYYY’. When I asked Judy what they were, she told me she thought she would ‘have a go’ at putting records on. Now, if you hadn’t already realised how thoroughly pissed off what she had done and her general attitude would have made me, you can just imagine how I felt. Myself and Carly have spent months trying to do things properly and Judy just takes it upon herself to ‘have a go’… bulldozing in there, doing it incorrectly, despite having been on the same training course as I had been on.
But, it gets better. She has a problem with her Gemini, so I tell her to phone the support line. As an afterthought, I told her I would do it for her, as she wouldn’t be able to access the files needed due to her user permissions. She then calmly informed me that while I was out, my mum had given her permission to go on to my computer, access the user permissions and change herself to an administrator.
CAN YOU IMAGINE THE STEAM COMING OUT OF MY EARS AT RIGHT THIS MOMENT?! I can’t even describe how this made me feel. This was TOTAL TOTAL gross misconduct, which she had been given permission by the boss to do!!! It was like a slap in the face. I had spent MONTHS trying to protect the system, for her to just log in, and give herself full permission to fuck it up. It was like my mum didn’t care, or at least didn’t understand. I have tried explaining to her how important it is everything is correct, and everyone has the correct user permissions, but it doesn’t get through to her. How important it is we protect the database, the documents within it (being an administrator means you can edit legal documents on the mail merge).
That night I had a huge row with my mum. She told me she couldn’t see the problem with it. How do I put into words what I am trying to say? I wish I was more articulate, had just the right words.
Since that day, there have been a series of smaller rows, until today, when another problem arose. Judy asked me to show her how to edit the template documents. When I say template documents, I mean the legal documents (such as the tenancy) which are mail merged with data on the system to create a legal document given to the tenant. For obvious reasons, once these have been created, they must not be open to editing, unless they are required to be changed by law, and even then it should be done by someone with the relevant training and knowledge. So, when Judy asked me for clearance to edit the documents, I (as tactfully as possible) declined, and explained that I would prefer it if it was only myself that had access to the template documents. But still, she persisted. ‘What if you go off sick and they need to be edited? I will need to know how to do it then’…. ‘You’re workload is too heavy as it is, let me share it’ were two of the things she came out with.
Let me try and explain what Judy is like. She likes to have everything the way she likes it. She sets up her desk so she has everything ‘just so’ (I know we all do that), and has her own set of files on the computer. She spends hours editing documents with colours, lines and pictures to improve them and likes to be involved in everything. To give her her due, she does work hard, and has gained a lot of experience from working with the company, but she doesn’t have the professional training or knowledge required to be given access to documents like that. It would be a failure in our duty of care to the company (although it doesn’t seem that my mum really cares about that!).
Judy went on and on; it was almost as if she thought if she carried on enough she would break me. I continued to be calm, polite but assertive, and refused to give her clearance. In the end, she stormed off to take her lunch. As soon as she left, my mum, who was sat at her desk during the whole debacle commented that I should have just given her clearance. Why does she not understand why I refused? Does she not realise the consequences of giving junior members of staff access to important documents like that? Does she even care?
Another member of staff who was present later commented that they were impressed at how tactful I was, and how I held my ground. I do worry, that by being responsible for so many things at the moment is giving myself too much pressure. What would happen if I get ill again? What would happen to the business then?
The long term plan is for me to take over the business, hence why I have taken such an active interest and role in protecting it. Hopefully when I have finally finished updating the new system things will be a lot easier and the pressure will be off. Perhaps it would be an idea to convince my mum to take a less involved role in the administration of the company and be more of the ‘face’ – then it wouldn’t be such a problem that she is so resistant to change and learning new procedures. That said, she is now taking more holidays (she is actually off to Malta tomorrow for 10 days) and things are a lot less stressful when she is not around!
I left the office today feeling very tired and very stressed so I really hope I can get on top of this before it makes me ill.
Take Care. x