My Journey Through Oz

Since graduating from college my career path has been like a trip down the Yellow Brick Road. I’ve had every variety of boss you could imagine – some had no brains, more than one had no heart, and a few simply lacked the courage to do the right thing. And yes, of course, there was one Wicked Witch. One thing’s for sure, corporate America ain’t Kansas.

But, like Dorothy, I’ve learned a lot throughout this harrowing journey. First of all, watch out for flying monkey’s, a.k.a. backstabbing co-workers. Second, Emerald City isn’t as shiny as they say. Third, beware the Wicked Witch of the Water Cooler.

In my version of Oz, the Wicked Witch didn’t start out wicked. Or maybe she did and I was under a spell that kept me from seeing it. In any case, my Wicked Witch. was a well-educated, incredibly attractive, brutally smart, very bitter woman with a biting sense of humor and outrageous style.

When I walked into the tiny conference room for my first interview, green and nervous, I was greeted by two very divergent images of women in the workplace. The first met me with a firm handshake and warm smile. Smartly dressed and not a hair out of place, she was the very epitome of professional grace. “This must be my future boss,” I thought.

The second woman wore a tiger print top that showed off her toned biceps. Her blond hair was big and wild. She chewed gum throughout the entire interview, popping it between her teeth once or twice for effect. Little did I know at the time that this unconventional businesswoman was to become my boss and, for a time at least, my misguided mentor.

She was brilliant, innovative and incredibly demanding. She had a Ph.D. in communications, but ironically lacked the basic skill of being able to talk to people without making them cry. From her office came a steady stream of befuddled staffers, belittled, insulted and utterly demoralized by her verbal lashings. She was a harsh taskmaster, and for the first year I worked with her, I was her protégé.

True, she was difficult, sometimes downright mean, but we worked in a world of scarecrows – nice people who lacked brains. So I justified her actions for myself and kept on working hard to meet her unreasonably high standards. I felt sorry for the scarecrows, I really did. But it was their own fault for not devoting their time, energy and lives to the Wicked Witch's vision of workplace perfection. I, on the other hand, gave her 150 percent – nights, weekends, and once even my husband’s birthday. I deserved her adoration and approval. The scarecrows didn’t.

Then one day the Wicked Witch saw a co-worker and me having drinks and laughing with her boss and sworn enemy, the Cowardly Lion, after a big event. The event was a huge success and made the Wicked Witch look good to all the Tin Men and Women in attendance. But the next morning everything changed. She thanked my staff for their effort and hard work, but she never even acknowledged my co-worker and me, who had been in charge of the event.

A few weeks later, the aforementioned co-worker and I were in the hot seat. During a four-hour meeting that lasted into the night, we were demeaned in every conceivable way. The Wicked Witch admitted that we were both doing great jobs, but she suddenly didn’t like our attitudes – the same cocky attitudes she herself had fostered in us and previously adored. Furthermore, she knew for certain that all of the scarecrows and flying monkeys hated us. In fact, according to her, neither of us had a single redeeming quality aside from a strong (if not misguided) work ethic. Ouch.

It was true that we didn’t have a lot of friends at work. Frankly, being the boss's pet, winning awards and getting noticed by the higher ups in the Emerald Palace gains you more enemies than friends. No, the scarecrows didn’t like us much and, in truth, we probably hadn’t done much to endear ourselves to them. But did we deserve this?

During the verbal beating by our boss I remained stoic. I’d seen her tactic tear down many a scarecrow, and I was no scarecrow. No way was I leaving her office a blubbering mess with my tissue in one hand and my self-esteem in the other. Never, never would she break me. My co-worker, however, was more vulnerable. She’d just gone through a traumatic divorce, and the Wicked Witch pushed every possible “you’re not worthy” button she had.

When I could no longer keep my tongue, I lashed out at the Wicked Witch to offer my friend, apparently the only one I had left in Oz, a reprieve. I questioned her authority. I challenged her motives. I was downright insubordinate. I was standing up not only for my friend, but for every employee the Wicked Witch ever chewed up and spit out. Just like that, the spell was lifted. I was no longer the charmed one. Now I was just another lonely traveler along the Yellow Brick Road.

I thought that my hard work would be enough to sustain her affection, but it soon became clear that that was just an illusion. It had never really been about the work. In the face of her cruelty, I questioned everything the Wicked Witch ever told me about the incompetence of my co-workers. Maybe they weren’t all scarecrows after all. In fact, maybe I’d unwittingly been one of her flying monkeys.

Have You Landed in Oz

So what’s a girl to do when she finds herself skipping down the Yellow Brick Road without a friend in sight and the Wicked Witch on her tail?

First, don’t let Oz change you. Dorothy was always Dorothy – a well-grounded, simple, homegrown girl. Although at times she was stunned, even appalled, by what she saw in that strange world she’d landed in, she never let it turn her into someone she wasn’t. She always remembered that Oz was just part of her journey. Her real life was back home, and so is yours.

If you do make it to the Emerald City (i.e. corner office with a window), always remember the Munchkins. They’re the ones who encouraged you when you were little more than a naive farm girl. They gave you guidance and support when few others in Oz even knew your name. Without them, you probably wouldn’t have gotten very far.

Find your Glenda. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from women you know, admire and respect in your field. A good solid mentor can be a girl’s best friend in Oz. She’s been there, done that. She knows the territory and the pitfalls and she can save your butt in a pinch.

Be realistic. Oz isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be, and the man behind the curtain pulling the strings might really be a bumbling idiot. It can be disheartening when you travel that long road to success only to find that you don’t really like where it’s led you.

Finally, if dodging flying monkeys become too much for you to handle, just click your heals (preferably fabulous red pumps) together and say, “It’s time to create an exit strategy.” Get a six-month plan (one year, tops) together and get outta Oz!

Author's Bio: 

Rev. Michele McGrew is a spiritual teacher and author whose vocation is to teach ancient arts and lore to modern women in ways that are practical and meaningful in today’s demanding society.

As a Priestess, ordained minister and scholar, Michele’s greatest joy is in working with other spiritually minded individuals to honor, uplift and support them on their journey through life. Finding her passion in writing and teaching, she teaches beginner and advanced spirituality classes and practical life skills to a wide range of students near her home in South Florida.

Michele holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Florida Atlantic University and has earned certificates in Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies. She is available for private classes and readings. For more information, go to