I had a phone call yesterday from a former client of mine. It was exactly one year ago less a single day that she accepted an offer of employment through a job seeking workshop I ran. She’s out of work as of yesterday, and while she’s in shock, I’m just livid.
Now you have to understand this particular woman was one of those who truly impressed me. I mean she listened, put into practice the new skills she was exposed to, and while she questioned things she didn’t immediately grasp, she always did so respectfully and worked hard to earn her success. So it was that when she called me right out the blue yesterday, I could immediately recall her to mind.
It turns out that for the last year she’s not only found work, made enough to exit from the social services system that once provided her with food and rent funds, but she had rekindled her self-confidence in the process. Employment does that; so much more than just working for a living.
So the problem? Her boss. Her boss as it turned out was the son of the owner of the business, and the father is the one who had hired her. The son is a tragic example of all that is bad in people who have a taste of power and authority. She provided me with examples of how he would yell, curse, verbally abuse, belittle and demean not only her but others. Apparently there have been 5 people call in and report this person’s behaviour to the local Labour Relations Board in the past year alone.
When I spoke on the phone yesterday, she had just hours before taken all she could and things came to a climax. As she reports it, he ran out to her car and met her in the parking lot where he proceeded to tear a strip off her verbally. He yelled at her, telling her what she needed to do the second she got inside. Sure there was no one else in the parking lot, but what a start to your day. I mean who does that?
Once inside, she started to do the things he told her to do and then he kept on at her only this time in front of others. Up until yesterday she had taken all this verbal abuse because she needed the job and the income it provided her with. Yesterday however, she’d had enough and asked him not to speak to her that way. Well, not used to someone having a bit of a backbone, he told her loudly so that all could hear that he could talk to her anyway he pleased and added a few choice words to emphasize the point.
This intimidating, bullying behaviour continued and she then asked him to leave her alone to do the work, and that’s when he told her she was done and to get out; she was gone. Now in shock, publicly abused yet still clinging to some semblance of clarity, she went to the payroll person and asked for her ROE to be prepared for pick up or mailing and her last cheque. He came after her and told her she’d get it when he wanted her to get it and not before and if she didn’t leave he was calling the police. So she left.
And it was at that point she went home and not having any idea of what to really do, called me. Now it’s been a year as I say since I last spoke with her. I give her credit for having saved my contact information. By the time I’d called her back a few hours had passed. She told me she’d already got out all the handouts she’d been given by me a year ago and had started to re-read them to re-familiarize herself with good job search principles and actions. I was impressed anew.
She was still shaking, still in shock, crying a little, and it will be in the coming days that the full impact of things hits home. I shared with her what to do immediately, like call the Labour Board herself and make a report, file for Employment Insurance. I also told her that there’s two general things she could do for the next week; get right back into a job search or take a week off to mentally recover, compose herself and then set a target of next Monday to start looking for work. Depending on the person, either choice is the right one.
I made sure that she knew she had done the right thing, and that in no way should that kind of behaviour be tolerated in any workplace. Do you know the father who originally hired her actually called her to plead with her to come back to work? She had enough self-worth to decline this despite her financial worries. And she’d already called back to speak privately with the person in payroll to make sure if a reference called she could be assured that her employment dates would be verified.
She’s strong, resilient, deserves better and will succeed again. She’s going to stay in touch now, even though she’s no longer a client. And she needs a good answer to the future question, “Why did you leave your last job?” But I am dismayed this kind of person is still in a position of authority. No job is worth that kind of abuse.