A hardworking woman turns into an aggressive and impatient boss after her most recent promotion at the store. She gets away with it until insulting and firing an old janitor.
It had only been a week since Nia’s big promotion, and she still couldn’t believe it. She was now the general manager of one of the biggest outlets of a fashion retail giant.
Years before she got the promotion, Nia had filled up a binder with ideas on how she would improve the store if she ever got the chance. That morning, the binder sat proudly on her desk as Nia addressed the staff shortly after the shutters went up…
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“Alright, guys. Is everyone clear on the new protocols we’re going to follow?” she asked.
The staff replied in nods, kind smiles, and a few gentle yeses.
“I don’t want anybody to be lax or deviate from my new guidelines. To ensure that, here’s what we’re going to do.”
“Anybody who fails to follow the new rules — whether it is about uniform, customer greetings, display arrangements, punctuality — will lose their incentive for that month.”
Nia looked at the faces turn serious and grinned proudly at her own idea.
The staff, however, were utterly shaken by such a drastic decision. They were afraid that any small mistake, conscious or unaware, would cost them the money that paid most of their bills.
The men and women looked at each other in shock, wondering if they should try to reason with Nia.
Never judge a person you know nothing about.
Even though she had changed a lot in the past week, every employee in the store was happy for her. They all knew how hard Nia had worked for it for the last three years. They were all aware of how passionate she was about this industry. And they were happy that someone who started as an intern on the floor had risen to such heights.
However, Nia’s newfound power was doing more damage than good for the store and the people who worked there.
Since day one on the new post, she had been changing things, setting unrealistically high expectations from people she knew were hardworking, and reacting to the smallest mistakes with excessive anger and impatience.
“Can I have your attention, please?” Nia called out to everyone. “I just had an important meeting with the clients, and I have some good news — we are planning to increase our sales volume this quarter. So, here’s what we’re going to do… I’ll send a list of names by afternoon, and those mentioned will have to extend their shifts.”
“If anyone has any plans for the weekend, drop them off coz we’ll be working on weekends, alright?”
The employees grinned and were upset. They all had families, and weekend time off was their only getaway to unwind. They could do nothing to change Nia’s mind because they knew how stubborn she was.
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Each day, Nia introduced some new strategy that demanded more input from the staff. She began setting unrealistic goals that could degrade the quality of work. But she kept convincing herself and the others that whatever she did was for the company’s profits.
Then, one day, she sent the loaders away and ordered the salesmen and women to unload products to reduce loading costs. Nobody was allowed to take a break for more than five minutes, and talking in groups during work was strictly prohibited.
Day by day, the employees were nervous whenever Nia gathered them to make a new announcement. She banned sales staff from sitting or relaxing during their shifts.
No sick leaves were permitted for cold and flu unless it was something serious. Nia was strict with the punching system, and the employees were not allowed a minute more beyond a half an hour lunch break.
“When customers see we are always busy and running around, they get a very good impression of us. We’ll have to show them we are never tired of serving them. And always serve them with a smile. Am I clear?” she sternly said.
Nia was overly pleased with the way she was conducting things. She’d always dreamed of proving she was no less talented. She sat in her new office and sighed with pride, sipping coffee and thinking about her way to success. Reaching such a height was not that easy for her.
She still remembered the rough days when she climbed up and down several offices and was turned down by almost every recruiter.
Nia was raised by a single mother after her father died in a car crash. She was a bright student in college, and after graduation, she tried her hands at various pursuits. But nothing worked. Nia was a dreamer. She wanted to achieve big and not settle down with any ordinary job like her mother.
Nia was so desperate for a dream job. Then one day, she saw a pamphlet with an advertisement for an internship in a fashion outlet. She attended the interview, proposing new strategies and ideas that could be profitable. Nia was hired on the spot as the recruiters were impressed with her potential.
On her first day at work, she put on a smile, promising herself to earn a promotion very soon. Her dedication paid off well, and in just six months, Nia was promoted as the outlet’s general manager.
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It still felt like a dream when she sat in the rolling chair and stared at the street she once wandered, looking for a job from her private office on the third floor. Nia did not wish to go back to those hard days again, not even in her thoughts.
She was incredibly proud of the changes she brought about in the store while making her rounds. Everyone was occupied with work. It was more work than they could handle, and they were forced to finish their tasks within the deadlines Nia had set.
But as time passed, overworking started taking its toll, and the sales volume drastically dropped. It contradicted Nia’s plan for the upcoming quarter. She was furious and started blaming the employees for the loss.
“Our ratings are dipping. We will be ruined at this rate,” Nia yelled at her staff. “I don’t care what you guys do, but I want all of you to work even harder. Extend your shifts, cut down on breaks…do whatever it takes, but we have to do this. I can’t let the sales drop.”
Nia was so disappointed and could not guess what had gone wrong all of a sudden. Instead, she bombarded the employees with more work.
One day, when she was already tense after a meeting with a client, Nia entered the trading room and saw Maya, a saleswoman, had fallen asleep on the counter.
“How dare you sleep during work??” she yelled, startling Maya.
“No, mam, I was just…I’m…I’m sorry. This won’t happen again,” the lady panicked.
“Meet me in my office,” Nia fumed and gathered all the staff in her office. She was already upset about the drop in sales and was convinced her employees were not working hard enough. She decided to show them her power and the extent to which she could go if they disobeyed her.
“Here’s your paycheck. YOU ARE FIRED! GET OUT!”
Nia hurled the check at Maya and sacked her in front of all the employees. Everyone shuddered. Nobody dared to stop her and tell her that the woman had dozed off as a result of constant overworking.
“What are you waiting for? Take your check and get out,” Nia yelled again. That’s when Victor, a 68-year-old janitor, unexpectedly spoke up from the crowd.
“Nia, child, I’ve got something to say,” Victor raised his shaky hand and smiled.
Nia reluctantly turned to him. She was in no mood to take feedback or suggestions from the old custodian.
“Firstly, let me tell you that we’re all very happy to help you with your vision for the store, Nia,” Victor said, bringing a smile to her face.
“But I think this new challenge will make us work in fear. None of us wants to lose our incentive, and maybe we could find a way to let go of the small mistakes and…”
Nia frowned at Victor’s suggestions. She couldn’t stop imagining what the others on the team were thinking as they nodded in agreement with him. She just could not stand Victor speaking up for all of them.
“I can’t let Victor talk to me like he’s on my level. I don’t want to send those vibes to the others here,” Nia thought.
“That’s enough, Victor!” she blurted, much to everyone’s shock.
“How about we fix our own mistakes before throwing suggestions around, huh? Do you think I haven’t been noticing how late you arrive to work every day? Or how long your lunch breaks are? You may have been allowed all that in the past, but not anymore. From now on, as per my rules, you need to—”
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“Nia, there’s a reason why I’ve been coming later than the others…”
Nia couldn’t believe that the older man had interrupted her again. Looking at the other employees stare at her, anticipating her reaction, she decided to put her foot down and set an example once and for all.
“I don’t care about the reason! And you weren’t given permission to interrupt me, were you?”
Victor froze in disbelief, as he had never been on the receiving end of Nia’s anger or insults before.
“Let this be an example, folks,” Nia said. “Anyone who makes excuses on my watch will be fired. Just like Victor and Maya here are about to be!” she declared.
Victor’s face turned pale, and he was prepared to beg for his job back.
“That’s right. Hey! You’re both fired! Thank you for all those years. But I don’t see you fit to work here anymore. You may leave now!” Nia sounded almost jubilant as she laid the janitor and the saleswoman off.
Realizing that nothing could change Nia’s mind, Maya and Victor quietly walked out of the store as the staff watched them go, shocked and with tears in their eyes.
That may have been the end of Victor’s job as a custodian at the store. Still, something unimaginably bigger was about to come his way the following day.
Mr. Gordon, the owner of the multi-million-dollar store chain, paid a surprise visit the next day. He wanted to meet Nia to discuss the rapid drop in revenue and to figure out what had gone wrong.
“Good morning, everyone! How are things going?” Mr. Gordon first met his employees and observed the disappointment on their faces.
“Mr. Gordon, it could’ve been much better,” a worker answered as everyone nodded in approval.
“I see! What’s up, everyone? Aren’t you guys excited? Christmas holidays are nearing, so what are your plans?”
“Mr. Gordon, some of us wanted an extended break this Christmas to spend more time with our families. But Miss Ferguson has permitted us to take just two days off,” said another.
Mr. Gordon partially understood what was happening and called Nia to his office.
“Miss Ferguson, I see the revenue has gone down drastically. What happened here? I thought you’ll take care of everything on your own. Do you need any help?” Mr. Gordon asked Nia.
She made vague excuses and blamed the staff. “Mr. Gordon, I keep trying, but they are so lazy. I have to monitor each of them closely to get things done. They were used to lagging with work, and when they were asked to do things at a faster pace, they found it difficult.”
“I see…We had the same ‘lazy’ staff with us the last month, didn’t we? But everything was much better. We didn’t hire anyone recently, so I don’t understand why they are suddenly acting lazy.”
Nia pressed her lips tight and nodded when Mr. Gordon gave her a month to rectify the situation and get things back in order.
“Just one month, Miss Ferguson!” he said, and as he left the store, he asked about Victor, the old custodian.
“Where’s Victor? He would be the first one to greet me every time I visited, but I didn’t see him around today…Where’s he? Can you please call him? I would like him to join me for a cup of tea.”
Nia had no idea Victor and Mr. Gordon were so close and hesitantly revealed about firing him.
“Mr. Gordon, I was forced to do it because Victor was always late to work. He violated our policy. And he’s too old to work.”
“WHAT DID YOU DO? WHO ASKED YOU TO FIRE HIM? Do you know what a hasty mistake you made by firing the co-owner of this store?”
“Now I understand why our business is falling,” Mr. Gordon fumed.
Until that moment, Nia had no clue who Victor was. “What? The co-owner? But’s he just a janitor,” she exclaimed.
“Who said??” began Mr. Gordon.
“When I was little, my dad owned only this store. It was his first start-up. And I still remember Victor, our janitor. He was a middle-aged man who worked very hard. I’ve never seen such a kind and sincere man all my life.”
Mr. Gordon’s eyes teared up, and his glasses fogged as he went on. “I still don’t remember what happened that day…but my dad told me I ran after an ice cream van and almost got hit by a car. Victor had seen me while emptying the trash and rushed to my rescue. He pushed me away and saved my life but ended up in intensive care after being hit by the car.”
Mr. Gordon’s father had covered Victor’s treatment, and when he recovered, he offered him a share of his business for saving his only son’s life.
“Do you know what Victor said when my dad wanted to reward him? ‘I just did what any normal human was supposed to do. Tom’s life is more precious than this reward, and I’m glad I was able to save him!’ Such a heart of gold Victor is!”
“My father kept persuading Victor, and eventually, he accepted the offer to co-own our business but on the condition that he be allowed to work as a janitor. My dad agreed, and Victor has been working here ever since.”
“He doesn’t have a family. He lost his wife and baby during childbirth, and he regarded the staff here as his only family. Victor donated all his earnings to homeless and orphaned children.”
“Every morning before coming to work, he visits the shelters to offer food to the homeless children. Sometimes, he would be late for work due to traffic. He was always hardworking and fair, but it is so disappointing and sad you could not get along with such a kind man.”
Mr. Gordon hurried out and paused again to reveal something Nia was not prepared for. “You have to apologize to Victor. He will take over this unit tomorrow. I’ll come again, and it’s up to Victor to decide whether or not I should fire you.”
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Nia was alarmed when Mr. Gordon left, leaving her future with the company in her new boss, Victor’s hands. She immediately drove to meet him, certain he would fire her the next day.
“How am I going to boost the sales in one month?” she panicked. “How will I face Victor? He should have told me he was the co-owner. It’s his fault. He just walked out when I fired him. Now everything is turning against me. God, what will I do now?”
Several thoughts bombarded Nia as she pulled over outside Victor’s shabby little house. Despite being a co-owner of a multi-million-dollar business, Victor did not live in a posh mansion. He still lived in his old house, where he once led a beautiful life with his late wife.
Nia could not still believe Victor co-owned the fashion outlet after seeing the state of his house. She walked up and anxiously knocked on his door.
“Nia?! Mr. Gordon just called me, and I knew you would be visiting. I made an apple pie…I hope you like pies! Please come in,” Victor invited Nia inside. He was kind and polite and did not hold any grudge against her for what she did to him.
“Forgive me, Nia! After my wife died, this house lost its charm. Please make yourself comfortable.”
Victor plated a pie in front of Nia and observed her. He knew she was restless and could quickly guess Mr. Gordon would’ve lectured her about the outcome of her reckless decisions.
“When Mr. Gordon’s father was alive, everyone was intrigued by his secret of success,” he broke Nia’s silence.
“Unlike most businessmen who think about profits first, then about customers, and their staff last, he thought differently.”
“Mr. Gordon’s dad always thought of his staff first and tried to ensure they loved their work and were comfortable with their shifts. He offered them nap rooms, a generous system of bonuses, corporate events, and weekends off, and most importantly, he did not allow customers to be rude to them. He treated his employees like family.”
Nia shyly nodded, partially realizing what had gone wrong. “But how does that help with the growth of the business? If employees get such perks, how will they work without distractions? Won’t they take it for granted?”
“It’s simple, my dear! When employees love their work, they only provide top-notch service. Now those services will satisfy customers. When customers are pleased, they return in more numbers. As a result, the business grows, and profits increase! A smart boss will not fire his employee but will find a way to make them devote themselves to their work.”
As Victor hungrily devoured his pie, he requested Nia to call Maya back to work. “You may never know how fate works for others, Nia. You joined as an intern, but you became the general manager. You may never know what potential a simple salesgirl like Maya can have. Never underestimate and judge others by their appearance or job!”
Nia grinned, and just as she was about to leave, Victor stopped her. “Don’t worry, Nia. I will not fire you. But we will decide later together with all the employees and Mr. Gordon by a vote, alright?”
Assured she still had a second chance, Nia returned to the store and gathered all the employees in her office. They were afraid about what more rules she was going to impose on them. But none of them had expected to see what was about to happen next.
“Good day, everyone!” Nia began with a smile. Everyone thought it was unusual because she had never greeted them with a smile since day one of her promotion.
“I would like to tell everyone that Victor, the company’s co-owner, will be heading us from tomorrow!”
The employees were shocked at the revelation. Some of them didn’t have a clue that the custodian of their store was their boss.
“Don’t be shocked, guys! I am young and new to this trade, and I made mistakes. I hope you’ll all forgive me for what happened in the last few days. Maya and Victor will be back tomorrow, and we will work as a team. Is that clear?!”
From the next day onward, Nia followed Victor’s advice and implemented Mr. Gordon’s dad’s principles. She treated her employees respectfully and did not show authority over them. She thought more about them and made sure each and every employee loved their job.
As days passed, Nia’s efforts worked in her favor. The employees started giving their best, and as Nia had wanted, the sales for the next quarter surged with impeccable results.
Mr. Gordon was impressed with Nia’s efforts, and with Victor, he decided not to fire her. Five years later, Nia was promoted to the position of CEO of all the outlets. As for Victor, he chose to keep working as a janitor because he loved his job.