This is the very true, very ridiculous, and somewhat disturbing account as to how I became “terminated” from my position as an auditor at Hatfield & Associates in Memphis, TN.
I’m posting this from my viewpoint and memory, and my purpose in doing so is to let folks know exactly how that company operates, in case they, as an entity, should approach you (Medtronic, you’re on their list of hopefuls, as are the lovely people of Servicemaster) and try to solicit your business.
You should know with whom, and what, you’re dealing. For legal purposes, let me state again that this is MY viewpoint, MY wording, and MY experience. This is not, legally-speaking, slander or libel. It’s the truth as I know it.
When I was hired, it was communicated to me that there was an open door policy on complaints, and that if anything should happen, we were a “family” of a sort. It being a small business, there were no secrets, anyway, but I was encouraged to bring up issues. Now, when someone says that to you, it’s taken with a grain of salt – no one really likes a tattletale or a brown-noser, and in a smaller company, if you’re known as a snitch, you’re ostracized. When you work primarily with women (who, as T, who acted as the sort of HR manager, was fond of saying, “gossip, you know, not to be sexist or anything, but it’s true”), this is an even bigger issue.
Me being me, I didn’t really speak up when one employee (for whom I have a very unflattering nickname, but which I will refrain from using, instead just using her first initial, W) chose to spend her on-the-clock time having sexual relations with a guy in the parking garage, under the guise of taking “trips to Starbucks” (which is located directly across Poplar Avenue from Clark Tower, where H&A is located) which would last upwards of 90 minutes. Essentially, she was/is being paid company money to (bonus!) cheat on her boyfriend, with whom she lives in Millington. W doesn’t need this job – she uses it for play money, and as such, she doesn’t take it very seriously at all. No one will call her on her behavior, but trust me when I say that everyone has plenty to say about it behind her back, including the folks who are supposedly in charge.
However, when another co-worker (for whom I also have an unflattering nickname, but the other girls in auditing call her “Dragon Lady”, which I will shorten to “DL”) continuously chose to take out her frustrations on not only me, but the other girls working in the auditing room, I began to have some serious issues. W’s indiscretions were annoying, at best, and only really affected me because we worked on the same accounts, leaving me with more paperwork to do in her absences. DL’s behavior bordered on psychotic.
Her method of “fixing” problems is to enter the auditing room, slam papers on your desk, and demand that you look up the bills in question and tell her what’s wrong with them. When you don’t have an immediate answer for her, she snottily tells you what’s wrong, and says to fix it, in that lip-curling tone reserved for those you truly despise, while turning on her heel and exiting the room.
Now, to be fair, a few times, DL was nice to me when correcting mistakes. However, not knowing what day she would be pleasant and what day she would choose to be abusive was, to say the least, stressful. I didn’t dread working there for solely the reason that the job itself was dull – I’ve worked in worse places, and I needed a job, so I did mine the best I could. I dreaded working there because of DR. I would spend my hours in which I wasn’t working thinking about what she’d said or done, and what she might yell at me for in the future. The stress affected my health, as I’ve documented here.
I should also note that I was warned of her behavior by the other auditors when I began working there. They’d become used to it, even though occasionally she would still make one of them cry, while they covered their feelings with profanity-laced threats about how DL would get hers some day, acting the way she did. None of them, however, decided to actually approach anyone about this behavior.
The management witnessed this behavior, and treated it quite chauvinistically, actually, blaming it on her personality, saying that that was “just the kind of woman” she was, with the emphasis on it being a “woman thing”. The men at H&A, you see, are, at their core, misogynists. Their behavior and their language both proved that on a weekly basis.
Anyway, DL was allowed to go on tirades, and no one was standing in her way.
After she came to my desk on Thursday afternoon and had a hissy fit over a minor mistake, I’d decided it was time to deal with the situation. I brought up the issue on Friday morning (yesterday) with my direct supervisor, J. He called T into the room, I suppose for “witness” purposes.
Now, before I went into my boss’s office, I asked the other girls what they thought about DL and her fits. W said, and this is the closest approximation to a direct quote that I can replicate, given various factors, “Well, that’s just her personality, and she does a LOT, and we’ve been dealing with it for over a year, so you can either deal with it, or leave.” There were other comments from the other girls about how some women had quit because of DL’s behavior, and more sentiments regarding my leaving as opposed to the issue being addressed. It was just accepted that DL was, for lack of a better term, a bitch (a term which was also used liberally during that short conversation to describe DL), and that I needed to shut up and deal or leave.
I printed up the EEOC guidelines on Harassment (highlighting the section on “fostering a hostile work environment”), went into J’s office, T was called in, and I proceeded to tell them what had occurred the day before, while also stressing that it had happened before, and that the other girls acknowledged it and had advised me that I’d have to quit, because it would never be dealt with.
T’s response was to point out that, with my medical insurance (which would have begun on November 1), I could call a counselor to talk about my feelings regarding the situation.
I pointed out that fostering a hostile work environment wasn’t a great thing, and politely informed them that it was a little insulting for them to tell me to get therapy when the issue could be dealt with directly simply by disciplining the person causing the issues.
T then told me that one time, he had a boss tell him to do something he didn’t want to do, so he quit. I believe T has a form of Asperger’s, and he wasn’t exactly tactful about this comment.
I asked if he was suggesting that I quit my job. He waffled, saying that sometimes people don’t get along, and that’s okay, etc.
J intervened at that point and said, essentially, the same thing, just re-wording it to make it sound less like an invitation to quit and more like an invitation to just sit there and do nothing.
T told me that they’d only fired one person in the entire time that they’d been a business. With the previous comments, I should have had some idea of what was to come, but I was too annoyed by their dismissal of my concerns to think about anything else.
They both then said they were investigating several employees because of some recent issues, and that they’d let me know what they decided as soon as they could. I was sent back to my desk after basically wasting an hour of my time trying to convince two people that women really aren’t supposed to be bitchy all the time.
While I was in there, I told them that interviewing the other girls would yield mixed results, as most of them were afraid that if they spoke up, they would be fired. This is important to note, because I was right.
Later that afternoon, each other auditor was called into the conference room in the office down the hall to allegedly have a talk about their language and, basically, get “sensitivity training”. I say “allegedly”, because there were hints that other things were discussed by one co-worker, C. W and D (another auditor) joked about how much they cussed and how they were reprimanded and asked who the biggest “cusser” was, lacing their language, of course, with curse words. It was a loud and raucous discussion, and upon reflection, seemed forced. C’s one deviation from the language aspect was that her work hours were called into question (more on that later).
The funny part, now, is that even the way they talked about the language aspect differed…they chose not to throw anyone under the bus for their language, instead each claiming to either be the worst, or saying that no one was. This solidified my earlier theory that interviewing them wouldn’t get anything conclusive about office morale and conduct. When you’re afraid to complain about someone else, or you throw yourself under the bus, you’re projecting an image of imperfection and ignorance, and you’re playing into the hands of someone who wants to believe that you are, in fact, imperfect and ignorant. The ignorance is the important part, here – to someone who feels that you’re inferior, being ignorant is the best possible outcome for them to be able to control you. You know what they call that? Terror management.
When it came my time to be called into the room, I was asked no questions. I was told that I was being terminated for…wait for it…company theft.
Apparently, my not clocking in (using fingerprint technology – which, considering how low-tech the rest of their operation is, is pretty hilarious) at EXACTLY 8:30am on some days, and not clocking out at EXACTLY 5:30pm on other days, despite my cutting lunches short or skipping them altogether in order to get in at least 8 hours during a work day, constituted theft through breach of contract (i.e. a verbal agreement about my hours). The situation was exacerbated when I worked last Saturday, and my numbers weren’t very productive despite my having entered bills and sorted the mail with a co-worker (N, who will likely be fired Monday – she’s the other “newbie”, and allegedly engaged in the same “deviant” behavior I did). I worked my hours, but because their electronic system doesn’t record sorting mail and separating bills by hand, I was assumed to have been just screwing around.
W, on the other hand, has been literally stealing company time/money for a year without being called on it. D is actually owed money because she comes in to work at 7, even though she’s not supposed to be there until 8, and will work an hour off the clock before clocking in at 8am and working until 5pm. C is going to school, had to adjust her schedule in a very weird way, and has been working her ass off while getting shit from DL and one or two others about missing ONE hour of work per week…even though she works 10-hour days 3 days per week to make up for leaving 4 hours early on the two other days.
I returned to the office to get my things, and turned in my badge and key.
During the termination meeting, I was told that D had also worked Saturday morning, and had done a very large amount of bills. D left when N and I arrived, and we chatted for a few minutes before she clocked out, which accounts for a bit of time not working. However, when they asked her about Saturday, D said that N and I didn’t do any work at all…even though she wasn’t there but for maybe the first 10 minutes we were.
D has seniority, and because I stuck my neck out to try to create a more pleasant working environment, and also chose Saturday to organize paperwork (and help with mail, which actually isn’t my job, but I was actually doing D a favor – oh, irony, how you never fail me), they looked at her production numbers (she doesn’t pre-sort her papers, just grabs a stack and starts entering), then looked at mine, and decided that I was lying.
They suggested on Friday morning that I quit. Subtly, but it was there.
When I didn’t quit, and cited legal examples of why I shouldn’t have to (via the EEOC), I was fired due to nitpicking and favoritism. They actually spent a few hours researching me before calling the other girls into the office to interview them, and told me as much. Should I feel flattered that they spent that much time and effort looking for a reason to get rid of me?
The wages paid at that job were low, the environment was hostile, and the management turned a blind eye to actual issues while focusing more on trying to find ways to cut corners to make more money while still maintaining a very small staff of auditors (who do the bulk of the work in a business like transportation brokering). More clients were seduced, some were brought in while others decided to take their business elsewhere, and all the time, we were told that it would just be a little while longer that we would have to be overworked, and more folks would be brought in. I personally handed in two resumes for folks looking for work, and they were effectively ignored.
The response to change was brutal – the only “change” they saw in anything was when I came in stirring up shit by actually having the gall to want to work in a pleasant environment. I don’t want perfection, and I know it’s not possible. I just want to not be afraid to go to work for fear of verbal abuse. Apparently, that’s unacceptable.
In conclusion, I would like to say that, among the other jobs I’ve held in my life (and I’ve held quite a few), and all of the other bullshit I’ve encountered, never in my life have I had the misfortune of working for a company that places so little value on people, and so much on trying to make themselves look good through elimination of outliers. They are the pharmaceutical research data of transportation brokerage firms (and if that reference went over your head, look up actual results of medical research studies – if only a couple of people experience a side effect, they attribute it to something else and remove that participant’s results from the final paperwork, thus streamlining the results into something more easily digestible/marketable).
I would strongly advise against doing business with these folks in any way. These are not the words of merely a disgruntled, recently-fired employee – these are the words of someone who has a lot of experience in the matters of morale and the study of terror management (helloooooo, BA in Psychology!). These are the words of a psychologist who, due to unfortunate financial circumstances, has not been able to continue research into the very situation that is occurring in that office building. They’re also the words of someone who was underestimated and under-valued at that company, and who was outright ignored unless doing something wrong.
That is no way to run a business. It’s no way to expand a business.
To tie this into current events, working at H&A was like being in a live-action dramatic interpretation of OWS (Occupy Wall Street) – T, J, the owner, and at least one other person working there are being paid extremely well to do nothing more than write poorly-worded emails to people, maybe write a few lines of code every so often, make phone calls, take expensive lunches to woo clients, and occasionally come down the hall and reprimand those of us being paid extremely poorly for not being perfect. The dissonance between work done and compensation provided was extreme to the point of being ridiculous.
Oh, and? W, D, and C regularly throw away bills that they just don’t feel like dealing with at that particular time. If it requires more effort on their part than they feel is necessary, they File 13 it and just keep going. One of the reasons I was slower than them was that I tried to do my job properly by looking at the bills closely to see if there was a way for me to figure out any issues with them before sending them to someone else to fix. I never threw a bill away – that is, strictly speaking, illegal.
The moral I take from this, if you can call it that, is that working hard and trying to keep organized when you’re surrounded by hive-minded, corner-cutting, gossiping misogynists will only end poorly.
Yes, even the women were misogynists, playing into the stereotype in order to maintain their own security at the job. I mean, do what you feel you have to do, but thanks for pushing the glass ceiling a little lower, ladies. I wish I could say it was a pleasure working with you, but honestly, the only person I felt any affinity with was N, and she will likely be unemployed come next week, as well. If she isn’t, there will be more interesting updates to come, as I will most certainly be bringing up discrimination and favoritism (the only reason N wouldn’t be fired is because she’s a lesbian, and the EEOC would be very interested in taking her case over mine…not to mention the ACLU). This was not the weekend to piss me off, if any of you recall what happened last year at this time.
So there you have it. Nearly 4 months of being very close to a slave…ended because of a concern for decent working conditions. What century is this, again?
On the plus side, I don’t work there, any more. My only regret is not having something else lined up so that I could have quit. Que sera, sera.
We’ll see what the future holds. If there’s karmic justice in this world, Hatfield & Associates will be no more within 2 years.