Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The pitfalls of being the C.O.O.

One of my earliest blog posts was called "The perks of being the C.O.O.", wherein I rhapsodized (fancy word substitute for "gloated") about the advantages of being the child of the owner/s. A little over 2 years later, I have now come to realize the down side to my seemingly cushy job. The lonely lunches don't even bother me anymore; I have come to accept that as long as I'm related to the people who sign the paychecks, I'm never going to be chummy with anyone on our staff, at least not in the way I was with the Philam MAPpers or AP-Annex. There are other more significant drawbacks which I failed to take into account, like added responsibility, higher degrees of accountability, and increased levels of stress (see my post titled "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown").

But I didn't start feeling the full impact of the biggest downside (which I haven't blogged about yet) until recently. See, the toughest thing about being the C.O.O. is that I live with my bosses. This means that the topic of conversation during family dinners invariably turns to work-related matters, even when we're dining out. It also means I'm on call 24/7, and I can be asked to draft a letter on a Sunday afternoon or encode our staff's salaries at 1 in the morning. When we're out malling, instead of shopping, we conduct store checks and scope out what the competition is up to.

Mind you, I'm not complaining about the extra work, nor the lack of overtime pay (pay is never an issue with a former teacher). It's more of the lack of peace of mind. Even when we were on vacation in Europe, while the rest of our tour group were blithely burning money on designer bags and clothes and overpriced souvenirs, we were doing research on upcoming fashion trends,
checking what kinds of fabric, patterns and colors were in style. Granted, it's a small price to pay for the overall wonderful European experience, but it's a small price I pay every single day of my life now. There's no respite from the daily grind, even after work hours, even on holidays. Worse, when my bosses are in a bad mood because of work-related problems, they bring it home with them, and guess who bears the brunt of it? WORST, when my bosses are in a bad mood because of work-related problems CAUSED BY ME, then I don't get to hear the end of it. Other employees who get the 3rd degree at the office get to go home and bitch about their boss. I get the 3rd degree at the office, then go home and get yelled at some more... and more loudly too, since there's no one else in earshot except my siblings.

Fine, I readily admit I deserve to be lectured and scolded most of the time; I screw up a lot more than anyone can imagine. I don't even begrudge my parents the privilege of having a convenient whipping girl who's around at work and at home. But there are days when I just wish I could go back to being an ordinary employee whose only benefits are PhilHealth, SSS, and being able to go home to a quiet house, unhounded by work. I could live without the trips abroad and the flexible work hours and the other privileges of being the C.O.O. But I'm not sure if I can live under this constant strain for much longer.

Don't get me wrong, I'm usually very good at handling responsibility, accountability and stress. I can even take a lot of heat from my superiors, or stomach them when they're being unreasonable ("mitigating circumstances", anyone?). But when I don't have an outlet, when I can't relax in my own home, when I can't escape my employers' wrath, and when the line between family and business is perpetually blurred, then I have trouble dealing. A few more years of this and I might have a meltdown. In the meantime, I'm coping, thanks to the wonders of the Internet, pirated DVDs, stacks of books, and a whole lot of ice cream. Whatever gets me through the work day... and night.


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