That Time My "Work Wife" Filed for Divorce After Just One Day
Becoming the site director of OK! Magazine’s web site was a weird dream job/nightmare job situation. At first, I didn't even want to take the meeting. After my US Weekly stint, I basically knew I did NOT belong in the tabloid world. But a good friend took a big job at the media company that owned OK! and promised me that digging through celebrity trash (literally and figuratively) was not in the job description. In fact, they wanted someone like me with real ties to celebrities and their publicists to move the site away from the “dirt” the print publication was famous for dishing. At least that's what I was told.
So, I took the bait. I was taught to always say yes to meetings—you never know where they might lead. And, in this case, I was wooed like I’d never been wooed by anyone before—counting my own husband (love you, baby)! It turned out that the company had finally created a digital division and hired an impressive roster of executives to lead them into the 21st century. My friend, however, was the only shiny new digital executive with an editorial background. The rest came from the product side. They built apps and figured out how to make things monetized. So, the non-editorial exec/my boss-to-be all but said the job was mine at first handshake. My resume gave him peace of mind that he’d never need to write display copy or learn the difference between a hed and dek. He wanted to be so hands-off that he promised I could hire my own staff, have full autonomy, work separately from the print operations by creating an entirely new voice and direction for the site and never worry about being micromanaged. Spoiler alert: He was hellbent on leaving at 3pm and counted on me to make him look good. Spoiler alert again: There’s a HUGE difference between a boss that gives you creative control/freedom and a boss that just doesn’t a fuck.
I left feeling things were too good to be true because until I had an official offer, I refused to even consider this a viable option. I also knew the “hurry up and wait” game all too well—plus, I was in serious talks with a headhunter about a huge opportunity at another media company. So, imagine my shock when I walked into my apartment, had barely kicked off my heels and got that career changing call—did I want to be the site director of OK! magazine’s site? Was the solid six figure salary they were offering reasonable? When could I start? Never in my life had I been hired on the spot. It felt amazing—and too good to be true.
It was both.
More on that another time soon—but for the purposes of this tale, things were peachy in the beginning. I finally had that coveted director title. I’d convinced myself that my career would implode without it and started to worry that I’d missed the mark (note: fancy titles really do very little for you in the grand scheme of things). I had a boss who trusted me to plow forward.
And, I had a new superpower—one I never experienced before—the power to give people jobs!
With the snap of my fingers and one email to HR, I could hire whoever I wanted and therefore provide them with money to do important things like pay rent and splurge on the Venti coffee with an extra shot. I wasn’t just strongly recommending people I liked and using my clout to push them through the bureaucracy of HR. No—I literally had a budget, a headcount and could offer whoever I pleased the jobs I needed to fill almost immediately. It was the strangest and most wonderful position to be in. People came out of the woodwork—I’m talking brief flings to former co-workers (even the ones I KNOW hated me before I could do anything for them) and, of course, friends.
Now, I was put in this position because of the recommendation of a friend. So, I felt like I should return the good karma. I didn’t want a staff full of besties (more on that later). I did, however, want at least one ally and confidant on this journey with me. So, when a close friend—we’d been to each other’s weddings type of close—reached out about one of the few remote positions I had open—I didn’t hesitate to bring her on board. I asked if she was okay with me being her boss (she was) and if this was a role she really wanted (she did). That was all I needed to hear—I had an instant work wife!
Except, like all “newlyweds,” I (selfishly) ignored the hesitation that I heard in her voice over the time commitment this semi-full-time/freelance social media job may require.
Now, even though I was adamant that OK! online would NOT become a 24/7 news cycle—we did have to be on top of the general, breaking celebrity news such as births, deaths, divorces and drastic haircuts. Understandably, it made her nervous that with her other freelance work and family responsibilities that she wouldn’t be available at 9pm on a random Wednesday to jump online because Kim Kardashian ate fro-yo in broad daylight sans her wedding ring.
I ignored those fears—instead, I promised we’d be strategic about breaking news and get a junior staffer to help. I didn’t even look at my stacks of resumes of the other highly qualified and highly recommended candidates. I felt this sense of duty and loyalty to my friend to make this job work—and as a new boss, I wanted a strong supporter in my court. I wanted to choose my work wife.
Well, things didn’t quite work out that way . . .
. . . She filed for divorce after her first day.
Well, she tried to. All her apprehension that I sensed (but ignored) bubbled up to the surface. She didn’t think the job was the right fit and the time commitment was more than she could give. I should’ve been understanding and let her move on peacefully. Sure, it was going to set me back as I’d have to reopen the search. Sure, I had the awkward task of breaking the news to my boss and the rest of my team. But, I should have put that aside. If I had, it could have saved our friendship.
Instead, I used my best guilt trip skills and selfishly convinced her to stay . . . which I realize now she did out of a sense of loyalty to our friendship. And I’m a pretty good work wife who goes for coffee runs . . .
But, alas, she quit AGAIN—this time, for real—the next day.
I should have just let that be the end, paid her for the two days and started anew. Instead, I took her up on her offer to finish out the month. My thinking was it would be win-win— I wouldn’t be left in a lurch and she’d make more money. That was 100% the wrong move. My boss begged me to let her go immediately. “People who quit won’t do good work—they have no incentive and don’t care,” he said. “Just move quickly and find someone who wants to be here.”
I ignored him . . . and that’s when things fell apart. Maybe I didn’t realize the depths of my resentment and anger? I didn’t want to end our friendship—but despite what my boss said, I did feel that she owed me her very best until her last day. So, whenever little things slipped through the cracks or something didn’t get done—my tone didn’t hide the disappointment.
Problem was I thought I came across as professional, taking a stance of “this is business, nothing personal.” She perceived it as me being a bitch.
Which wasn’t entirely wrong . . . I can admit that now. Especially since that job never lived up to the hype and the friend that brought me into the mix ended up screwing me over too . . . when I was six months pregnant.
Over the years, I’ve had a few epiphanies about the experience.
1. Friends shouldn’t hire friends—and don’t expect them to become your instant “work wife.” Your hires can BECOME your friends and certainly evolve into “work wife” status—but it never starts out as such.
2. If you DO hire a friend, know that it’s a slippery slope. Just like you should think long and hard before making a close friend your roommate—the same goes for entering into a business arrangement of any kind. You see sides of each other that were better off staying hidden.
3. You need to be able to complain to your friends about your co-workers. So, when said friends ARE co-workers, you end up isolating yourself and it’s not cool. It is lonely at the top . . .
4. If you do hire your friends, they WILL expect special treatment and will never understand when you must put on your “boss hat.”
5. When someone quits abruptly, part ways immediately . . .
6. Despite how Gina from the Real Housewives of OC is trying to depict divorce as something amicable, it never is ... whether it’s your husband of ten year or work wife of two days.
7. I no longer have that job—and that is fine, I’m over it and really am so much better off—I’ve had a million other opportunities since then. But, millions of other good friends don’t pop up in quite the same way . . .