My manager quit this week.
We all knew that this day was coming eventually, but across the board all the partners thought that it would be later rather than sooner. Monday she turned in her two-week’s notice; Tuesday she worked her last shift. I’m still reeling a little.
The reaction has been varied to a degree, but the first gut reaction from all of us was shock. Do you know that look people get when they are hit in the stomach so hard that they lose their breath? That’s the look we all had on our faces as the news traveled from person to person.
I understand why she is quitting. Life at Starbucks gets more challenging by the week. There’s never enough labour to go around, expectations seem to rise exponentially, and morale is dropping like a barometer during a hurricane. Physically, we are all exhausted. Emotionally, we are strung out. Mentally, we have been pushed to our limits and beyond. Through everything, our manager was there to keep us informed, help us learn and understand, and to make sure that we didn’t kill each other.
Now, we’re on our own.
Shock has been replaced with acceptance, even happiness that she is finally going to be able to call her life her own again. Happiness that she doesn’t have to deal with the hassle. Happiness that she will be able to pursue some of her other interests. She gave everything to the store. She was salaried to work 40 hours each week- often she worked 65 hours, sometimes more. She never asked us to work any harder than she did. If there was something to be cleaned, she would clean it. If we were shorthanded on the floor, she’d leave her administrative duties to lend a hand. She’d drive the 45 minutes from her house at night just to take inventory so we didn’t have more to do at night.
We’re going to be okay though. One of the most important things she did was make us into a team. At first this concept was fodder for a bunch of jokes. Every note from her (and there were oh so many!) contained the word “team” in it at least once, usually more. One of the running jokes was that if you wanted to post a note that everyone would read, you had to use the word “team” to make it look official. However, at some point we stopped laughing at the idea of being a team, and instead started acting like one.
We have each other’s backs. We don’t turn someone in when they’re doing something wrong- instead we try to help them correct the problem themselves. When tragedy hits, we’re there with meals. When people have to leave the store, we’re there with cards and gifts. We know what school classes everyone else taking. We know each other’s family and close friends. We have most of each other’s partner numbers memorized. All this is pretty much our manager’s doing.
She could turn any night into a party. If she had to stay late to keep an eye on a special event, do an order, write a schedule, or count merchandise she would order out pizza or Chinese food. Then, we would take advantage of any slow moments to grab a bite together in the back, talking and laughing about stupid things.
Most importantly, she made us work hard. She took over our store from a poor manager. The store was filthy, not known for being overly friendly, nor for making exceptional drinks. Within months, we were the cleanest store in the district, were ranked the highest store in the district by customers for a year straight, and were in the top three stores in the region (that’s over 90 stores in competition!). She won manager of the quarter last year, and totally deserved it. Even though we are tiny and relatively low volume, we are now the store to beat- it’s a real coup to be friendlier, make better drinks, or sell more promotional items then we do.
That’s what will get us through the next few weeks while we wait for a new manger, and what will sustain us through the first few months of a new person in charge. We have each other- no matter what happens, we can turn to each other and talk things over, try to make sense of everything. So far, we are doing amazingly well on our own, and I have no doubts that we will continue to do just fine. It’s an adjustment, but she trained us to survive on our own. We are independent for now, and it’s going to be okay.
So, goodbye friend. Even though we may not want to admit it, we’ll miss you in the store. We’ll miss the notes, the impromptu parties, the conversations about bowling. Don’t worry about us; we’re going to be just fine.