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June 01, 2023 3 min read


What’s the first thing that pops in your head when you hear that word? It’s likely related to something romantic – maybe a current partner, maybe someone that got away. Maybe it brings a feeling of happiness, or even dread, but there is an immediate reaction to that word. 

I want to discuss a different form of relationship: the relationship between boss and employee. Not as exciting as a romantic relationship, I know, but it can be just as impactful on one’s life. 

I recently got out of a BAD working relationship. I was dealing with a director who let emotions dictate how she dealt with employees. We got off to a rocky start early on after she joined the department; my guess is because I voiced an opinion that differed than hers in what was supposed to be a group discussion. After receiving a snide comment in return, I was immediately shut out for two weeks. Literally no communication between us. Same thing happened when she found out I had gone on a job interview. And when she found out I was leaving? She changed my days in the office so our paths never crossed, and we never spoke again.

She led by evoking fear, made you feel like you owed her your life, and because our department was so small, everyone was too scared to go to HR. Group meetings were supposed to encourage open discussion, but I found myself hesitating and eventually lost my voice in the process. Asking for time off gave me heartburn. It was a thankless job with no support or encouragement from the leader. If this had been a romantic relationship, it would have been considered emotionally abusive. 

After we published the first issue of  Can I Get a Connection?, several people reached out to share their excitement and appreciation. I was overwhelmed by their messages, happiness bubbling up in the form of tears. For the first time in nearly four years, I felt like what I did mattered. I hadn’t realized how much I had missed hearing a simple “thank you.” 

I didn’t realize the extent the negative effects had on me. I had begun questioning my value, my worth. Maybe I wasn’t cut out to do this work. Maybe I had done something in a previous life to be stuck in that situation. Maybe I was destined to remain there because that was all I deserved. But I didn’t give up. Didn’t give up hope, didn’t give up on me. I am a valuable member of my new team. I have things to offer. I am enough. 

I’m so thankful to be out of that toxic environment. My new boss has been so supportive and encouraging. Two-and-a-half days in, she thanked me for my ideas and stated how happy she was I was there. Words I never heard from my previous director. My new boss wants to further develop my skills, help me grow professionally and has been extremely supportive in my short six weeks. 

What experiences have you had with management and/or employee relationships? What has worked well for you? What has been difficult to deal with? What have you learned about yourself through these relationship? How can you apply those lessons to Oula as an instructor and participant?




Kelly Vail

Los Angeles

Oula Community Commitments: 

We, as a community of individuals, commit to live the following as we move through the Oulaverse.

  • We are all human and deserve to be approached with  curiosity  and  care
  • We assume  good intent  with the most generous interpretation
  • We acknowledge our  impact vs. our intent  with the goal of understanding
  • We are all on the  same team  and will try to let our armor go and handle each other with care
  • We  seek clarification,  ask questions, and step away when needed
  • We  honor all truths  and understand some situations won’t be resolved

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