Bad Employer; A Decision To Make


Roughly two months ago I was introduced to an unemployed Photographer with a long-term goal of owning her own business and studio. After 4 days of working together, she was offered and accepted a job as a Manager of a Photography studio; the kind of place you’d find in a big box store where you and the family might go for some portraits or to have your passport photos taken.

Now this job wasn’t her dream job, but it was in her field, it would put employment on her résumé, and it would certainly bring in some immediate income; albeit not the amount she’d want down the road. Setting aside some of her wages for that long-term dream studio and getting a job offer after a frustrating long job search did wonders for her self-esteem.

Well as happens occasionally, the experience has backfired; she’s feeling used and abused, the position was immediately clarified as employee not Manager, and the wages aren’t consistent with others in the same role. She’s continued to be poorly trained, she hasn’t even got one person she primarily reports to, and if you can believe it, she only interacts with these Supervisors by text; she never sees them in person and works on her own. In this odd setup, she is monitored by cameras, and is told she isn’t selling enough to hit her daily targets, but when asking for guidance and training, she’s told to phone other locations and ask for tips and tricks! Another employee told her she’s on the ‘fire’ list too.

So we sat down together face-to-face yesterday afternoon. My inclination as I listened was to tell her clearly that I believed she should quit. However, professionally, I know it would be better for her to come to her own decision. In other words, my goal was to hear her out, take what she was feeling emotionally and physically, work with that and give it back to her in such a way that she’d have the clarity to make her own choice. What she wanted I felt, was validation of her circumstances, and to understand the impact if any, on her social assistance status were she to quit.

I admired her desire to keep the job until she found a better one. It’s not in her nature to give up on a job. In was here that I drew a parallel where she had in the past been in a relationship where she didn’t want to give up on her abusive partner. Back then, she’d thought she could ‘fix’ him; make him better. That didn’t work, and she eventually removed herself from that abusive relationship and is the better for it, now with someone who treats her better. This was similar; not in her nature to quit, trying to make the situation work because she really enjoys working with customers, but at the same time, being shuffled to and from 4 locations to fill in staff absences. She’s been scheduled to work every weekend so far; despite having asked for one off to celebrate her own birthday, and the schedule changes without her being told herself until another employee calls to tell her. Oh and I saw the texts on her mobile; very inappropriate language and very poor communication.

In the end I made sure first and foremost that she knew there would be no sanctions, suspension of benefits or other penalties for quitting. Sure, we in Social Services generally want people to keep jobs until they find better ones, but this isn’t healthy; it’s someone in a position of being mentally abused. We discussed of course the pros and cons of staying and quitting, and should quitting be her decision, how to go about it a few different ways.

I think what helped her the most was realizing that this minimum wage job, while yes in her field of photography, could be easily replaced by any job with no loss in wages, but where she would likely be much better treated. Perhaps a little wiser, her mental health and self-esteem are worth more than keeping this job and trying to fix it.

By the way, if YOU are in a similar position, I empathize with you. You need the income I understand, but bad employers and being mistreated on a regular basis come with a cost. Is the income you’re getting enough to really offset the cost to your own mental and physical health?

Being August and rolling into September, we’re in the second best time for getting hired. Now – right now – is the best time to ramp up your job search and go at it with renewed energy. You’re worth more than staying in a job where you’re poorly trained and supported, make minimum wage or well below what you’re experience and education qualify you for. It’s definitely up to you and you alone whether you stay or go.

Now if you do quit a job, the worse thing an employer can do is not pay you for some of the wages you’re entitled to, which is illegal, but they might threaten that. You might fight this or just walk away and report them to the Ministry of Labour in your area. You don’t need to put a short-term job even on your résumé, so it won’t haunt you into your next job either.

Bad employer? Is it worth it to stay?

A True Story About A Bullying Boss


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.

 

What Qualities Do You Want In Your Boss?


They’re all out there; the demanding types, the ones who serve, the laid back ones and even the ones you hardly ever actually see. Some are the way the are because the job itself requires a certain kind of leader; some are good and some are poor at what they do. Have you ever really thought about the kind of boss you work best under, and if so have you done anything to really put yourself in a position to work under your ideal supervisor?

Over the course of my life I’ve worked under many different people, and each one of them has had unique qualities and personalities that either helped or hindered them as they went about their work. I’ve had some that were weak, some who by extremely productive, and some who were very memorable, but not always for being effective.

Have you ever noticed that some might enjoy working for a person and at the very same time there are others who wish the boss would either move on or change? That really shouldn’t be all that surprising. People being complex and different, the chemistry between people isn’t likely to be identical, and so if the boss has a team of 12 people, it’s normal some might be more or less appreciative of the same person.

The person I am today has a great deal to do with all the previous people under whom I’ve worked. And with each supervisor, I’ve picked up qualities that I’ve looked for or tried to avoid in the next person I worked for.

Now you might read this and believe you can’t choose your boss at all; you get assigned a boss when you get hired and you have no influence over that person so you like it or lump it. I don’t agree. If you are in a large workforce, you might be able to transfer to another team but perform the same work; part of your decision being to consider the leadership of a team and where you’ll thrive best.

I’ve been to job interviews and when asked to pose questions of my own, raised the issue of leadership and stated the style of supervision I best respond to. In two job interviews, raising this was instrumental as the employer had multiple needs and had the flexibility to place new hires under different people. In short, I described the kind of leader that I thrived under and got assigned to someone whose style of leadership put me in a place to succeed. You could say I chose my boss.

Another important reason for really knowing your bosses style and getting on board with it could arise if you are counted on at some point to represent them in their absence. If for example, your years of service and your own leadership skills are drawn on when the boss is off or out of the office, you might be wise to be consistent and make decisions that are in line with those he or she would make if present. This consistency keeps you from undermining them, provides stable leadership to other employees, and none need it more than the newest employees who require direction and guidance. Your own boss will appreciate your support in their absence and ensuring you don’t stir things up or cause disruptions that they will have to deal with upon their return.

Now some jobs call for certain kinds of leaders. A job might demand people in the role of boss make unilateral decisions while another position might lend itself to collaborative decisions based on many people’s input. If you are the kind of person who likes to get everyone’s input before making a final decision, you might work out well in some jobs but not be good at all as a Fire Chief where split-second decisions literally are life and death calls. Can you handle the stress of getting it right 96% of the time but that 4% error means injuries and possible loss of life?

Some organizations promote people to the role of boss or supervisor based on seniority. The skills that person needs as a boss aren’t necessarily the skills they needed as a worker however, and therefore without proper training and support, a newly promoted boss can be a tough person to work for because they lack the new skill set required for the job. You might find in your organization that if it is large enough, an employee that is promoted to be a boss gets shipped out to another department, a new location or different team. This is because it’s hard for some to accept the person who was their co-worker yesterday is their boss today.

Know the kind of person who will get the most out of you and do what you can to look for that kind of person in your next supervisor. How would you like them to discipline, recognize you or provide constructive feedback? As for your current boss, could you schedule a meeting and share what you appreciate in their style or possibly wish they’d change? Sometimes this knowledge will help your boss as they strive to work better with you and get more production out of you.

Unless you are self-employed, you’ll be working under someone every business day. It only seems smart then to determine what style of supervision you work best under and look for a good fit. I can tell you this, when you fit the right fit, going into work each day is much more pleasant!