“Toughen Up, Little Lady” – And Other Advice That Never Helps At The Time

15 Oct

At school, I was a total teachers pet. I did all the extra reading, I turned my papers in before they were due and I absorbed every last bit of information, like a sponge, lusting for advice on how to learn more and be better.so much so that my A level English teacher took my (then) new boyfriend aside at our leavers ball and told him that he had better treat me well or she would hunt him down. Ouch. There went any semblance of what cool I might have. But anyway…

A few years ago, I worked in a company with a girl who became a very close friend of mine. We worked to some strict lettings targets, and were targeted 10 lets per month (we worked in rentals) which was easy if the houses were on the books, but when you had 6 houses between three of you and all needing to make the targets, it became difficult. This particular girl was really good at her job, but you cant let what you don’t have. So when she told them in an appraisal that she may have to look for a new job if the properties weren’t there, as without the commission she simply wasn’t making the money, she expected a solution.

She didn’t expect to be fired for gross misconduct.

I was proud of how brave she was, coming into work each day while taking it through a tribunal and smiling at the senior manager, a man who in his thirties wouldn’t even make eye contact with her, let alone conduct himself in a professional manner. I was horrified, as, working in the other office, I heard lots of things that I shouldn’t, and was taken aside at one point and told to not repeat anything I had heard, or make it known to anyone that I was friends with her. I couldn’t believe the blatant unprofessionalism of such a large corporation, and eventually found another job. I was so pleased to hand in my notice.

And then, two years later, it happened to me.

I’m not going to go into details of when it was or who I worked for; I feel comfortable enough to tell this story now but still slightly unnerved, for no discernible reason. I work in a fantastic company now who are the most supportive and understanding, but a little part of me still feels like I should remain quiet, which is I guess what people in these kind of situations want you to do.

I was off sick, and the following week I went back and was called into a meeting, where I was told they didn’t believe I had been ill; I think they thought I had been to a job interview or something, as when they had tried to call I had been sleeping it off, and they couldn’t get through. I left the meeting in tears, but wasn’t told it was a verbal warning or anything that you would expect from that kind of meeting. I went back to my desk, and was told that would be the end of it.

I knew a friend within the company was unhappy, but on the Friday when she emailed me to see if I was going out for lunch and if she could come, I agreed. That wasn’t unusual and as the supermarket was a drive away from the office, we regularly tag teamed and shared a car. When we were there she told me she had handed in her notice, and was trying to negotiate a leaving date. No problems. I went back to work, and that afternoon was told the company was trying a new working from home policy, and did I want to do that. I remember commenting that I had a lot that needed doing with the printer and the screens, and the CEO ‘jokingly’ saying that if I didn’t take the opportunity then I would be escorted from the building. Hahah, very funny. One of those jokes that makes you feel a bit sick, but you don’t know why.

On the Sunday night I received a really blasé call from my direct manager, telling me to work from home on the Monday, as he was out of the office. On the Monday night when I received another message I emailed both my manager and the CEO, stating that it wasn’t productive me working from home, I was unsure as to why, and to state my position on the meeting we had where I had been accused of not being ill.

The response I got was pretty definite. I was told that due to my blatant gross misconduct, I wasn’t trusted to be in the office while senior management weren’t there, and it was suggested I should work from home and work hard to redeem myself. From a person who has rarely got into trouble for anything, I felt sick. Luckily, I know a lot of people in HR, as well as having the luck to be very good friends with a lawyer. I drafted a letter stating the implications of gross misconduct (accessing porn at work, being drunk on the job) and asked to be informed of which I had committed. I stated the events as I had seen them, and asked for a definition of my actions, and why,if I was being investigated for gross misconduct, I had not been dismissed temporarily. I was still doing 8 hours a day at home. The response was clear. I was, from that minute, on leave for the investigation of gross misconduct, pending a review the following week. I spent the rest of the day in tears, wondering where I had gone wrong. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep and I was a mess of nerves, mainly because I couldn’t put my finger on what had occurred. I felt so let down by the people I thought I had forged relationships with, until my lawyer friend informed me, with no tact or subtlety, that I was replaceable, it was business, and I needed to toughen the fuck up. I cried a bit more.

The following day, I sent an email to my CEO, returning some documents he had asked for. I sent the email from my personal address, which has my blog address at the bottom and forgot to remove it. I got a call that evening, inviting me for an informal chat the next day. Apparently, my blog had led through to my Twitter account, and there was a tweet on the day I had called in sick, in the evening, asking anyone if they had any migraine tips as the tablets weren’t working. Apparently, this ‘saved my skin’ not my words. Honestly, I didn’t want to go for the chat. I didn’t want to go back into the office having been accused of something I wasn’t sure about. The chat was interested. Apparently, because I went for lunch (which I don’t get paid for, and is therefore my own time) with a friend who had handed in her notice, I was “a bad seed” and it was vitally important that I was removed from an office where I could poison anyone else. It was inferred that it was me who had persuaded the girl to give her notice, as she had left the meeting saying she would think about staying, but after speaking with her boyfriend at lunch and being told to stand her ground, she had gone back in in the afternoon and said she was definitely taking the new job. My influence.

After this chat, I was told I could return to the office and resume my position. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to go back, but having a job is better than no job, so I did.I felt that had I stood my ground I would have come out on top, but despite being urged not to from my loved ones, it was something I felt I couldn’t do. I spent the following months losing weight at a rate of knots, second guessing what everyone was saying behind my back and dreading going into work every morning. I had bags under my eyes and was a shadow of my former self. I had fallen into a rut of wanting to leave but not valuing my worth enough, and just sticking.

What a difference a day makes, as they say. I look back at the person I was then and I simply can’t believe that I stayed in that environment for so long. Now, I work somewhere that I look forward to going in. I work hard, and people appreciate it. There are jobs where you will be happy and feel fulfilled, so go out there and find them, and don’t let anyone keep you down. Playground bullies should remain in their rightful place, the playground.

As Eleanor Roosevelt so wisely said “A woman is like a tea bag. You never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water”.

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11 Responses to ““Toughen Up, Little Lady” – And Other Advice That Never Helps At The Time”

  1. prenin October 15, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    I had a bad employer who didn’t want to pay me a working wage, just using me to write software that netted him £52,000 each system, yet he kept me on the dole and scared me half to death to make sure I worked for him.

    When I was offered a job he had his secretary phone the company claiming to be my agent and tell them I was already under contract for £28,000 per year.

    When I finally stood up to him the tax man was after his ass, so he showed up demanding all my files and that I be included as a company asset in the deal he was making to sell his business.

    When I refused he demanded his disks back, but his son had them as I’d given them to him with a bunch of freeware games on them as they were scavenged from God knows where and were unfit for use!

    With every dirty trick foiled he did what all bullies do when their tricks and bullying no longer works – he broke down and cried…

    After that the tax man put him out of business and I haven’t worked since, but at least I can look myself in the mirror of a morning… 🙂

    Love and hugs!

    Prenin.

  2. meesha October 15, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    Well done, you. Glad to hear you have a job now that gives you pleasure and satisfaction

  3. 1smiles October 15, 2012 at 9:02 pm #

    Exactly what I needed to hear today! Thank you so much.

  4. Sharvil October 16, 2012 at 6:02 am #

    Life is so tough. Everyone thinks what they think is always right, no one wants to talk it out and listen to other people’s thoughts. I am sorry for what happened earlier with you but I am glad you accepted change in life, and that is exactly what I need to do now. This post was inspiring to me. Thank you very much =]

  5. Richard Wiseman October 16, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    It’s the same in the state sector in the UK. I used to be a teacher. A good one. I never lied, I stood up for what I believed in and I did a good job. For 10 years in Kent I worked for a good school and was given the tough classes, because I’m good at that, but boy did my old boss support me; I’m still in touch and his wife says he still misses me, 8 years later. Sadly I got a job in a badly run school, with violent corridors, a lazy immediate boss and a coward for a head teacher. Three and half years I was a good man in a bad place. I didn’t run and I didn’t hide, but they loaded my timetable with every bad kid. Then I rescued a first year deaf kid from a darkened toilet, fought my way in, literally, and rescued him from being toilet flushed in the dark, CCTV toilet cameras can’t see in the dark. The school tried to brush it under the carpet, I had a break down, too much stress and I got ill. I got to a new school before I imploded with stress and tried to kill myself in August 2008. New school had me off for 6 months, I cleared all medical trials, including 5, count them, 5 psychiatrists, who all declared me sane,(I have to be sanest person you’ve ever had comment here!), but having suffered from immense stress. New school stitched me up and the union helped them. These people lied, cheated and behaved unprofessionally, but had me sent down as incompetent. I look back on the miracle that I’m alive, (34 co-codamol tablets and a bottle of wine and not one bit of damage!), I look back on the ‘stand’ I made for young people scared to walk school corridors and I look back on having actually taught a timetable that a supply teacher who took it over after I left described as a tour of duty that no supply teacher was willing to take on, (I heard they had to break my timetable up and reorganize the groups I’d taught as no-one could cope with them, yet they did work with me), and I look back on the way the lazy middle class scum at the new school stitched me up and I laugh. I’d rather be me than them any day. To be them is to be spineless, lacking integrity, lacking humanity and emotion and lacking the ability to do the job as well as I did. Their punishment is being them, that’s all, but it’s bad enough. I do cleaning jobs now, temporary work, and I write books for Kindle and one day my ship will come in, I know it. It’s out there Tink, that three mast schooner that’ll take you or me or any hard working, humane and decent person to the destination that they have drawn the map of themselves. Business or Public/ state sector both are chock a block with people whose parents didn’t give them any hugs so they take it out on other people. I pity them and all like them. I’d rather be me any day and as for you I taught A level English and I’ve read enough of your writing top say that if I had been your A level teacher I’d have said the same to your boyfriend… let me in on the narrative ending there… did your teacher have to hunt him down? Take care Tinkerbelle and thanks for the insight and the fairy dust magic of how good your blog makes me feel.

    • prenin October 16, 2012 at 10:02 pm #

      You are a good and brave man my friend.

      I was wrecked by the Police, Press and media because I was a man looking after children, a job I did well, and I had the neighbour from Hell who wired my home with microphones and sold me to whoever would pay him.

      I suffered sixteen years of persecution by the investigative journalists even though the Police cleared me and I passed the CRB advanced check with a pristine record.

      All because there was money on offer and the people around me jumped at the chance of a taste.

      My last friend, Darren, showed up last month boasting he was now a gangster and carrying a message from my tormentors that we are now quits.

      Today I am terrified of children and a paranoid schizophrenic, but nobody has had the guts to apologise, preferring to blame what happened on my illness and claiming I imagined it.

      Today I helped a school girl at the medical centre and got her help when she needed it and nobody else realised that there was anything wrong until I got the nurse.

      It scared me to stand up for her, but I could do no less…

      May you one day find peace my friend! 🙂

      God Bless!

      Prenin.

      • Richard Wiseman October 17, 2012 at 12:03 pm #

        That sounds frightening. Nobody’s ever accused me of anything like that. I was just labelled as incompetent by bosses who wanted to get rid of me.
        What with being used by that man to make money for him writing computer programs, against your will, being publicly persecuted and having paranoid schizophrenia you seem to be having a truly awful time. Do you get help for the schizophrenia?

        • prenin October 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

          Hi Richard! 🙂

          Yes I did get help, I’m on Olanzapine and have been for about fifteen years.

          I was accused of many crimes including trying to tie me into four child murders in Denmark because I once visited the country one Christmas and then tried to tie me into material made by a Scottish pornographer on the grounds I once told a joke in a Scottish accent, but I had not committed any, so they got into my childhood in a desperate effort to discredit me only to find I had told the truth about certain events so to find proof they poisoned my water supply to force me to go to hospital so I could be examined for the injuries I suffered when I was raped aged eleven.

          With undeniable proof they apologised and walked away, but the investigative journalists continued to persecute me via my God daughter’s family until last the month or so.

          I literally have no-one around me who I can trust because even my mother and retired cop stepfather took an active part in my persecution and I am supposed to rely on them as my next of kin.

          Needless to say I get rather lonely, but it’s better than letting my betrayers back into my life…

          God Bless!

          Prenin.

    • tinkerbelle86 October 17, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

      thanks for your story Richard, I’m sorry to hear it but at the same time glad you feel you can tell it. As for the boyfriend, he remained my boyfriend for 5 years, so no hunting down was needed 🙂 and thanks for being one of my biggest fans 🙂

  6. Felicia C. October 17, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    What a great post at the expense of such a terrible experience….now you will have me second guessing everything once I’m in the workplace too!

  7. Caitlin Kobrak November 15, 2012 at 10:53 pm #

    I am really glad you wrote this post.

    I’m sorry you had to go through it but now if a situation like this were to ever happen to me I would know how to act.

    Thank you for sharing this 🙂

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