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Screwed Up At Work Now Paralyzed With Fear


ArthurP

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So, I've screwed up at work. I am an assistant and do my boss's expenses. They're enormous because at any time she has to fly off to LA, Dubai or England (we're based in NYC). Long story short, the AMEX bill is in the thousands but all the expenses I've submitted don't match. Literally thousands of dollars are unaccounted for. There are two reasons for this: 1) I've missed something because I didn't go through her monthly AMEX statement like I should and 2) Accumulated penalty and lates fees over the year because she refuses to pay the bill until she gets the expense payment for the company (which is also my responsibility because I should be keeping track of them and I haven't).
 
Now what I should be doing is going through the statements and payments now with a fine tooth comb to find what's been missed. Then I need to call AMEX and see how much of the penalty and late fees I can get dismissed because they will do that. 
 
What I've been doing is crying in the fetal position because the anxiety over it has triggered my depression in a major way. I stopped eating and basically hyperventilate myself to sleep.  I'm the control freak son of a control freak and whenever things seem out of my control I plummet like a stone. I'm reminded that my life is a failure. I've accomplished nothing. I'm middle-aged, never been married or even lived with someone, have no kids, heavily in debt, live check-to-check and have no kind of job options so if I lose this job I'm done for.
 
I wish I still had my therapist, but she's out of network and my insurance deductible for out-of-network went from $2000 to $4000.
 
I literally went into work on Saturday and got all the files and statements needed to go to work on it. I've got them covered with a blanket because the very sight of them makes my stomach drop and my hands shake. They've been sitting untouched for 24 hours. I know what I need to do. I've prepared for it. But I. can. not. move. Only curl up into a ball and cry.
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What really led up to this? Any insight on why you didn't go through her AMEX statements when you were supposed to? Did you just not have the energy to perform your duties or was there a part of you that wanted to get even with her for whatever reason? Or are you perhaps unconsciously trying to sabotage your job? Since it it's not a company card and she's waiting for the company to reimburse her she's personally liable for any late fees and it could affect her credit score, seems like the last thing you would want to mess up on. 

As a Platinum holder I have to say that the AMEX customer support is amazing and they are much more lenient and understanding than any other card issuer so at least the odds are good that you'll be able to have some of the fees waived if you explain the situation to them. 

You can't change what happened now, best you can do is try to mitigate the damage. Seriously ask yourself though how it got to that point. As you well know a therapist can guide you but he will not do the work for you, perhaps it's time you talk to you boss about your personal situation and see if there is any way she can accommodate you. 

No point in freaking out about what's already been done, just take it day by day and start working on it and I honestly  think the best thing at this point would be to come clean. It takes courage to do that and if she's a good boss she'll appreciate your honesty. If you don't she'll make up her own reasons for why you failed to perform your duties and they'll much likely be worse than the truth. 

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I hear you, ArthurP.  You seem like an intelligent, highly capable person - I have no doubt you have done the best you could.  Our best looks different depending on where we are in life, and what we are struggling with.  You are doing your best right now, too. :hugs: You can do this, ArthurP. 

I was in a similar situation a couple years ago, though my job does not carry nearly the responsibility yours does. Even my tried and true anxiety management techniques did not help much.  Of course, back then I did not have my anti-anxiety meds.  I was in the middle of another work crisis about three months ago when I finally went to my doc about anti-anxiety meds - it was either that or quit my job.  I talk to my regular doctor, not a psych - it's too hard to find one in network.  You might think about talking to your regular doc about getting you on some anti-anxiety meds if you're not already.  It's made a world of difference for me. 

:hugs:

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I have a question - it is your bosses' Amex card and her expenses - would she not have to get all the receipts to you so that you would be able to submit them? I have a similar situation at my job and I have to chase people around the office every month to get them to turn in their darn receipts. Also, if it is her personal card - imo it is her responsibility to make sure that it gets paid on time - regardless of if the reimbursement has been received or not. 

In any case - best to be honest with her and try to work out the situation. I would recommend taking the statements one at a time - that way it is not overwhelming. ((Hugs))

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Thanks everyone. I finally pulled myself together enough to go through everything and then I asked my HR person for help who then told me to reach to a person in finance. They were helpful especially given it's a Sunday night. The accumulated fees were as bad as I expected but when I was more on my game, I did get approval from finance to expense some of them so that helps a little. And when I sent my boss a text to let her know what was going on she seemed calm enough but to call her mercurial is kind. but who knows what tomorrow will bring?

I don't know when anxiety became an issue for me. I'm just so used to thinking of the end result (depression) than I never looked at the off-ramp (anxiety) that took me there.

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6 hours ago, lonelyforeigner said:

What really led up to this? Any insight on why you didn't go through her AMEX statements when you were supposed to? Did you just not have the energy to perform your duties or was there a part of you that wanted to get even with her for whatever reason? Or are you perhaps unconsciously trying to sabotage your job? Since it it's not a company card and she's waiting for the company to reimburse her she's personally liable for any late fees and it could affect her credit score, seems like the last thing you would want to mess up on. 

As a Platinum holder I have to say that the AMEX customer support is amazing and they are much more lenient and understanding than any other card issuer so at least the odds are good that you'll be able to have some of the fees waived if you explain the situation to them. 

You can't change what happened now, best you can do is try to mitigate the damage. Seriously ask yourself though how it got to that point. As you well know a therapist can guide you but he will not do the work for you, perhaps it's time you talk to you boss about your personal situation and see if there is any way she can accommodate you. 

No point in freaking out about what's already been done, just take it day by day and start working on it and I honestly  think the best thing at this point would be to come clean. It takes courage to do that and if she's a good boss she'll appreciate your honesty. If you don't she'll make up her own reasons for why you failed to perform your duties and they'll much likely be worse than the truth. 

I can't speak to any deeper issues, but it was always in my mind to address the issue. In fact, I did reach out to finance about it initially and was giving permission to expense them. As to why I stopped or went lax, I'm only now beginning to accept the reality I may have been overwhelmed by my responsibilities. which has never been a problem before, but I've never been this far up the corporate ladder before.  And it is a corporate card so I don't believe it hurts her. This screw up only hurts me. But I'd be lying if I said I held any great love for this job. It was a port in a storm when my company had layoffs in 2017. But I need it. I'm in debt, have no savings and have nowhere else to go should I lose it.

And AMEX was no help to me. They just read me the rules and told me to deal with it. Maybe it's because its a simple green card or maybe it's because I got the weekend outsourced staff, but I'd actually gotten my appetite back a little before I reached out to them (when I'm depressed, my appetite is the first to go).  They sent me plummeting back.

And she seemed calm enough by text when I told her. We'll see how long that lasts. I think it helped I told her I was working with the Supervisor of exp reports to find all the money that was still owed her and had a plan for the future to possibly avoid this. I'm not sure what that'll be given she refuses to pay until she gets paid and our expense turnaround can be anything from two weeks to two months.

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2 minutes ago, ArthurP said:

I'm only now beginning to accept the reality I may have been overwhelmed by my responsibilities. which has never been a problem before

Accepting our own limitations can be difficult, especially when we know that we are intellectually capable of doing the work. In a way depression and anxiety is like trying  to run with an injured leg, you know how to do it, you were perfectly able to do it before the injury, and now your body is holding you back. It's tough when you desperately need the income but please try to take care of your mental health, I'm saying that as someone who's experienced a complete burnout and lost absolutely everything because I wasn't able to work for an extended period after that. If you feel you are getting close to a breaking point request some time off, even if it's unpaid. The damage will be less than the damage a breakdown would cause.

6 minutes ago, ArthurP said:

Maybe it's because its a simple green card or maybe it's because I got the weekend outsourced staff

Yeah, the higher tiers have a different customer support so that may be it. Perhaps you can still try talking to a supervisor once you find the energy, low-level customer support workers are rarely allowed to make any decisions anyway. 

8 minutes ago, ArthurP said:

had a plan for the future to possibly avoid this

That's what most bosses want to hear so good response 🙂 I've had some mercurial ones myself, one would even threaten to shoot people when he got enraged, I learned not to take outbursts personally and neither should you. Mercurial people come down eventually, they're just impulsive and need to vent. I think the most important thing right now is to stay calm, anxiety and depression can make you catastrophize, try not to let that happen. You cannot control how she'll react next week so beating yourself up and losing sleep isn't going to help. 

I'm hoping that everything will work out for you, hang in there!

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5 minutes ago, lonelyforeigner said:

Accepting our own limitations can be difficult, especially when we know that we are intellectually capable of doing the work. In a way depression and anxiety is like trying  to run with an injured leg, you know how to do it, you were perfectly able to do it before the injury, and now your body is holding you back. It's tough when you desperately need the income but please try to take care of your mental health, I'm saying that as someone who's experienced a complete burnout and lost absolutely everything because I wasn't able to work for an extended period after that. If you feel you are getting close to a breaking point request some time off, even if it's unpaid. The damage will be less than the damage a breakdown would cause.

Yeah, the higher tiers have a different customer support so that may be it. Perhaps you can still try talking to a supervisor once you find the energy, low-level customer support workers are rarely allowed to make any decisions anyway. 

That's what most bosses want to hear so good response 🙂 I've had some mercurial ones myself, one would even threaten to shoot people when he got enraged, I learned not to take outbursts personally and neither should you. Mercurial people come down eventually, they're just impulsive and need to vent. I think the most important thing right now is to stay calm, anxiety and depression can make you catastrophize, try not to let that happen. You cannot control how she'll react next week so beating yourself up and losing sleep isn't going to help. 

I'm hoping that everything will work out for you, hang in there!

 

Thanks. I'm trying to remain calm. I'm actually terrified to go to sleep now because it means when I wake up I'll have to deal with this. My therapist attributed my late nights to my dread of the coming day. But that's the rub isn't it. My anxiety won't let me sleep and not sleeping guarantees the next day will me immeasurably harder as result. Sigh.

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Okay, so I literally didn't get a wink of sleep stressing out over this. In the am she was totally calm saying this was her new thing to not get worked up about it and told me to find a solution and we'd meet again at the end of the day. At the end of the day when I didn't have a "solution" she went off on me ("I gave you all day and you don't have a plan!?!") and told me I'd better find one because she was not going to put company business on her personal AMEX for her London trip. I told her I'd explained the situation to the head of finance and she asked why I'd talked to him. She told me to talk him that morning for obvious reasons (to get the company to cut a check to get the card reactivated).

This is when I considered that lonelyforeigner might have been right. It might have be subconscious sabotage on my part, but not to hurt her, but to hurt myself. To get myself fired from a job I hate and away from a boss whose mood swings and temper are well known throughout the company (I knew none of these things; I just needed a job as my division was laying people off).

For awhile I thought it was over and I began to think what I would do next. On one hand I was petrified financially. I'm in debt and if I miss a paycheck I'm homeless.  And I have a roommate. That would put her in a difficult spot. Also, my next check means I'm paying sanitation fees on the house my younger sister lives in so I've got her to think of too. But then I remembered unemployment. I could give my roommate a rent check or two, rent a van and pack all my shit up and move down to Asheville with my other sister who loves the idea. I also thought maybe this is what forces me in to taking photography from expensive hobby to something that can actually be used to make money. Just go all out on the hustle and take any job I can from anyone can.  When there actually seemed to be a solution to the problem and my HR person insisted I wasn't going to be fired, I admit a part of me was saddened.

Of course I could still do the photography thing with my job. But I know I won't. And that makes me want to cry most of all. 

It's been 36 hours. Time to try and get some sleep.

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3 hours ago, ArthurP said:

Of course I could still do the photography thing with my job. But I know I won't. And that makes me want to cry most of all. 

It's sad how much fear controls our lives. We're trading the opportunity to do something we love for a job we hate just because we're so scared of not having that steady pay-check and yet the feeling of security we get from a "normal" job is just an illusion. Pay may be predictable but we're at the whim of an employer who may choose to let us go with little to no notice. In a way we're just buying time and not using it to invest in our own future. Time we never get back. 

Given that the prospect of losing your job has gotten you to see other options why not further investigate them? Don't quit your job just yet, but formulate a business plan for your photography business, crunch the numbers, start saving every cent you can to build up a financial buffer... It may take a few months of even years to get to a place where you're comfortable leaving your job but if you already have a solid plan it will be easier to do. Also, next time shit hits the fan you'll already have a backup plan so it won't stress you out so much. 

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I know I should. I know it would be good fo me, but when work is over all I want to do is rest. I can't tell if that's fear masquerading as exhaustion of depression draining me like always. It's a self-feeding entity because if I don't do something I enjoy I get depressed over wasting my life.

Sigh.

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  • 6 months later...

Not that anyone asked, but here's an update: through three miserable months it was all able to work out. And soon after she quit because her horrible treatment of her employees resulted in someone filing a complaint not to HR but the HR of the holding company. Our dept had a behind closed doors meeting with the CEO himself over it.

So now I'm without a boss and the anxiety of dealing with that horrible person has now been replaced by the slow growing anxiety of possible unemployment. Never a dull moment.

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  • 3 years later...

It's been a minute but in case anyone cared, I too was laid off during a company-wide culling right at the beginning of Covid. I received three months severance then unemployment and I actually enjoyed it for awhile as it was the first time I didn't have to work in 30 years.

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