The start of 2011 for my candidate started off well. She did additional training, held training sessions in the office for teams of reps who would be handling the new business being integrated into the office. The company brought in two of the national training team members to work with her. One stayed a week the other was on assignment for several months. She ran the training classes with his assistance and was told that she was doing a great job.

There was only one little glitch, a rep visited a winery brought back a case of wine and brought her a bottle. She thanked him told him she could not accept gifts and returned the wine. Later that day it was back in her office. She went immediately to her boss and told her he had given it to her, she had returned it , he had put it back in her office so would the boss like to have it or should she take it back to him and insist that he take it back. Her boss told her it was ok to keep it but to just be careful but it wasn’t a big deal since he was not on her team and he had given several other people in the office a bottle also. Of course 10 days later she was called in and told that it had been reported that she had accepted gifts from reps. My candidate reminded her boss that she had asked her about it previously but the bottle of wine was still in her office and the boss was welcome to it or she would now give it back. No not necessary, the boss had forgotten but now did remember so forget it.

My candidate was contacted about three jobs that were being posted that would enable her to live in this area but work in another division reporting to another supervisor. She was thrilled as both would be a promotion and a raise and allow her to report to supervisors that she had worked with in the past that she liked. She applied and was told that it would be six weeks to two months before interviews would be held but received calls from the other supervisors encouraging her about the jobs she was applying for being a good fit for her.

For her to be able to move into another position with the company her boss is required to release her and does have the ability even she is offered another position to say that she is not releasable due to business needs. My candidate was concerned so thinking that things had gone better for several months she went to her boss and told her that she was applying for the other jobs, she had enjoyed working for her, had learned a lot (no kidding) but wanted to advance with the company and needed as a single parent to make more money and be in a situation where she could take her kids to school and day care at a normal time instead of before 7:30 in the morning to be sure that she was in the office by 8:00 and be able to pick them up herself rather than have someone else have to pick them up as she did not get off until 6:00 with the after school program and day care closing at 6:00.

Her boss told her that she understood but she did not want her to leave. She was irreplaceable, the boss was going to retire in a couple of years and she was grooming my candidate for her job. She would change her hours so she could come in at 8:15 and leave at 5:45 if my candidate were willing to work an extra Saturday a month. My candidate said she would appreciate that and would work the extra Saturday but she wanted to move up with the company, did not  want the boss’s job and wanted to get out of the office environment that was not a fit for her as she did not feel and never felt that she fit with the management style and environment there. My candidate did not believe it was right to retaliate against people who filed a complaint. Her boss said, “I have told you we don’t retaliate if any of them file a complaint against us, it’s not legal but ,what we do is “work them out of the business , we just observe every move that they make until we have enough to work them out.” My candidate said , “yes I know and I don’t think that’s right, people make mistakes I feel like that is what has happened to me in the past and I don’t want any more of it. “Things have gotten better but I have always felt like you were going to fire me for something and I don’t want to live that way. You micro manage me, you undermine me, you tell me to fire a rep for attendance then after I do you bring them back and tell them that you saved their job so I have a problem with a rep. You make me uncomfortable talking about your sex life and talking about who is having an affair and I don’t think I can work for you.”

At this point the boss started crying and sobbing and apologizing. She went on to say that “she was not a weak manager, she was not a weak manager she was just emotional and if my candidate would just reach over and rub her arm when she stared acting that way she would get control of herself.

My candidate feeling that things were getting too bizarre and as she put it, “my stomach turned at the thought of having to rub her arm to calm her down.” , brought the meeting to a close by saying that she wanted to move forward with the other jobs and she hoped that the boss would not stand in her way. The boss dried her sloppy tears and said she would not stand in her way.

A few days later the boss came in and asked my candidate to go for a drink with her after work. Not knowing what this was about as it had never happened and not wanting to go to a bar with the woman after the arm rubbing comments she said she would but had dinner plans with family so would only be able to stay a short time. They met at a bar. The boss told her that she needed her to stay as she was handling several vital parts of the business. She would change my candidate's hours, she would be flexible with her where her kids were concerned as she was the only single parent in the management group, she would give her more vacation, she was going to get an allocation for all manager raises and she would give her the full amount that she got for all the managers if she would not move forward with other jobs.

My candidate told her she appreciated the offer but as she had discussed with her .she wanted to move into a different area of the company and she felt that if she got all of the raise allocation for all of the managers it would make the situation with her peers worse than it already was because she was not considered part of the group as it was. since her boss had taken responsibilities away from one or two of the other managers and given them to my candidate. A move that had not made my candidate a favorite with two of the other managers. My candidate made a hasty retreat from the bar and hoped that this would be the end of it. All was quiet for a week or two.

On a Friday evening at a few minutes before 5:00 without any warning my candidate received in her interoffice email containing a boarding pass and reservations for a company trip to Columbia, South America to be part of a training team who would be onsite in Columbia for two weeks. She freaked, the national trainer she had been working with still on site. She went running to him and asked if he had requested her as part of the training team. He indicated he did not know anything about it but he was scheduled to go to Columbia so not to worry about it. He would be there he spoke Spanish and the training would be held in a hotel. She explained to him that she had two small children in school and no one available to keep them for an extended period of time. It was also a dangerous country and she would terrified to go there and was not going to go. On Monday she went to her boss, told her she had received the boarding pass and reservation. The boss looked at her and said, “Yes”. My candidate told her that she was not going to go to Columbia, she had no child care available for that kind of trip and further was terrified of going to a country that the State Department discouraged as a place for Americans to travel. She would quit before she would go. She asked the boss if she would go. The boss said no she would not. My candidate said she was not going so if she needed to clean out her desk she would do it. The boss said she would see what she could do. It went away, nothing more said. My candidate thought it was strange that her boss seemed to know about it and had not said anything to her before she received a boarding pass and confirmed reservation. Just strange.

Two weeks later on May 4th my candidate checked the company site for the jobs she had applied for. She had three interview requests for the jobs and was very excited that finally she would at least have the opportunity to move on. Before she could send the acceptance her boss came in her office and said, “you need to come to the conference room, EEO in Houston wants a phone conference”. Thinking it probably had something to do with the refusal to go to Columbia off she went to talk with EEO.

The EEO rep started the conversation by telling her that EEO needed to be sure that my candidate was not recording the conversation and did not have a cell phone with her or any note taking material. Then told her that they were investigating her entire management career. When my candidate asked why she was told that the EEO rep had been advised of a number of things and had never seen anything like this and that her boss had asked that her applications for other jobs be suspended until the investigation had been completed. Here is the list.

EEO had been advised the following –My candidate's responses are in ( )

She had assisted male reps more than she assisted female reps.
(Yes and had corrected)

She had brought a fart machine to the office.
(No she did not, one of her reps did, she told him it was funny but to take it home)

She had used the children of reps to take care of her children.
(No she had been asked about it because her boss was confused due to a same name of reps daughter and it had been clarified)

She had lied to her boss about being late to work.
(No her boss had changed her hours, it was on the schedule, when she came in one day another manager had asked her if she was five minutes late. She had popped off and said, nope 10 minutes early)

She had accepted gifts from reps.
(No, she had gone to her boss about the wine and her boss told her not to worry about it but the bottle of wine was still in her office.)

EEO had received pictures from the wife or girlfriend of a male rep that the wife or girlfriend said were sent to her husband by my candidate. Several were full nudes both front and back one reflecting a tatoo and two were pictures of her with two little boys and in a car with her sunglasses on.
(Holy God, she had received an hysterical call from this woman accusing her of having an affair with her husband. She had only seen the kid outside of work once, he was drunk and had come to their table. She and her date had left the place and gone someplace else. The wife had accused her of sending pictures to him. she had not but when asked what her email address was she had told the wife so if they had any nude pictures they were not of her , she did not have a tattoo. The guy had been called in and asked if he were having an affair with her. Had come and apologized to her about his wife calling both my candidate and the boss and additionally the wife had later called and apologized. But if there were pictures she wanted to see what they were because somebody was guilty of cyber harassment as the other two pictures where the ones that had been on her facebook page that had been up for a total of three weeks only in Dec. of 2009.)

She had interfered with an investigation and had received a COBC violation.
(The now infamous Christmas Play Caper. She told eeo that she had the meeting with the boss’s boss over that whole silly mess and when she received her evaluation there was no COBC violation. She was informed that in fact it was in her file and should have been on her evaluation.)

She had made comments of a sexual nature regarding pop rocks.
(Her team was to dress up like Halloween candy, they asked about lollipops. She had said , “no then the other teams will just say that we suck so pick something else” One of the reps had said what about poprocks. She had responded , “whatever that might be cute”. She didn’t know how that could be considered making a comment of sexual nature about Poprocks. EEO declined to explain to her the sexual nature of poprocks and I didn’t think I would go there either.)


She had been losing weight in order to start a relationship.
(She had been losing weight because she had gained back up to 190’s her doctor had put her on medication for high blood pressure and told her to get the weight off.)

She had assisted a lesbian rep an inordinate amount of time to try and start a relationship with her.
(No she wasn’t a lesbian anymore that she was a femme fatal having an affair with every male in the office. The woman was struggling and needed more help than some of the others.)

She was a know it all.
(She was the Subject matter expert on fiber for the office so if that made her a know it all so be it.)

She had assisted a rep with filling out FLMA documents for claims he was filing after he had gone out.
( No, He was on her team, had back problems that required a sit down/stand up desk. He had asked to move it because he didn’t like the location. She had asked her boss if it could be moved. The boss had said, hell no ,it’s too expensive to move he can stay where he is. The guy had come to her asking what he needed to do to go out on FMLA. She had referred him to HR. He had filled out his own forms, she was his supervisor so had reviewed them signed them and he went out in Jan. She had not spoken to him since.)

She was having lunches in her office with a trainer from the national group.
(yes, she had two working lunches with the national trainer who was on site in her office. He was assisting her with training sessions so had gone out himself picked up lunch on two occasions and brought it back to the office so they could discuss any problems the reps were having with the way the training was being presented.)

In a state of total shock my candidate went back to her office after this lovely encounter of the third kind. Before she could do anything but sit in a daze her boss walked in and said , “You are being put on paid administrative leave until EEO completes their investigation. I will need your badge and key card and I will walk you out.” My candidate asked if she could get her personal things ie; bills that needed to be paid in the next few days. She was told that her boss would see if she could get those things for her but my candidate would not be allowed to remove anything from her office and would need to leave NOW. It was just before noon. As she was walked out of the office in front of 170 people her boss marched behind her swinging my candidate's badge in a circle  like she was a stripper, to make sure that everyone in the office saw that she was being walked out. When she was called by her boss later in the afternoon to find out when the boss could get some other pass key that she had at home she again asked if she could get her personal things. The boss said, “this is just administrative leave you don’t need to get all of them I will bring your bills to you.”

On May 7th my candidate filed an ethics complaint through the company for sexual harassment, hostile work environment, bullying, retaliation and related the series of events to another company EEO representative.

On May 9th my candidate filed a police report against the wife or girlfriend of the male employee for cyber harassment and sent a copy of the case number to EEO and a request for copies of the pictures they had, the dates they were sent who they were sent to and the headers of the emails from all correspondence relating to the pictures. She felt the woman was nuts and could be a danger to she or her children as she had no idea what the current status of their problems were and had not heard anything from the woman since early in 2010.

On May 17th she was returning home in the middle of the afternoon and caught her boss driving slowly past her house. She lives on a dead end street with a cul de sac where the boss turned around and drove slowly by her home on her way out of the subdivision. Nobody can figure that one out.

On May 18th my candidate was contacted by her boss to come back to work to discuss the results of the investigation. At that time she was told that she was being terminated for.

1. Releasing Proprietary Company information without a business need.
2. Creating a hostile work environment
3. Interfering with an Investigation.
4. Violating the code of business conduct in terms of honesty and integrity.
When she asked for details as to what information , how she created a hostile work environment and what misconduct she was being accused of ,she was told that her boss would not discuss it but would send her a letter. She was asked to sign a document saying that she would not use her knowledge gained while employed at any other communications company and she would not take any legal action against the company. She refused to sign it.

She asked if she could remove her personal things from her office. The boss followed her. My candidate smiled ,said hello to everyone who was calling out hello’s. Packed up her things in several boxes asked her boss to take an inventory and asked where her personal notebook and the copies of her personnel reviews were as they had been in her office. The boss denied any knowledge of either. My candidate looked at the woman and told her she was taking this to a higher level at which point the boss started crying and quit digging through things but did want to be sure that the highlighter my candidate was removing did not belong to the company. My candidate held her head up , walked out smiling at everyone told them she would miss them and good luck. As she reached the middle of the office people stood up and clapped for her. Some were crying. Two walked in and quit and walked out behind her. Five more have gone out on stress and two have quit since then. The next morning the boss received flowers with a card that said. “Congratulations, you finally got her, you must be proud”.

A few days later she received a letter in a hand written envelope. It was from her boss stating that she had been terminated for:
1. Misconduct in the office/misconduct off the job
2. Creating a hostile work environment.
3. Helping male reps more than she helped female reps.
4. Interfering with an investigation.

My candidate filed for unemployment. TWC requested information twice from the company as to the reason for termination. The company provided a copy of the employee handbook, a statement that an investigation had been done, she had exhibited a pattern of dishonesty, created a hostile work environment, helped male reps more than female reps and had interfered with an investigation. No details yet as to how she managed to do all that or what she did proximate to termination or what triggering event occurred that resulted in her termination. Her unemployment has been granted and made retroactive to the date that she was put on leave.

She is now waiting to see if the company will appeal the granting of her unemployment with some kind of detail as to what she was found guilty of that triggered her termination.

Her family has stepped up with financial assistance. She will not be able to move forward with the purchase of her home and will have to move within a month. She has enrolled in school to finish her degree. She has updated her resume and is moving forward looking for a new job. She is in fact brokenhearted at losing the opportunity to stay with the company in another position after spending all of her adult life fighting this mess to try and be a success as most of the people who worked for her and those she interacted with throughout the company felt she was. She has learned a lot. Not the least of which is to file an ethics complaint at the first sign of something like what she has been through with , in my opinion, a sick and toxic personality.

As a recruiter of many moons experience I know that all I have heard is her side of the story and there are normally two sides to every story. I have done some fact finding with other employees without her knowledge. What she tells me appears to be backed up over and over by the people who have worked with her . Realizing that this is hearsay I share it with you as I feel this is a story that should be told.

Oh, and she received a call two days ago in regard to the ethics complaints she filed. They left her a message that they were closing the complaint due to not being able to find enough evidence to substantiate her complaints. What a surprise. It is after all an employment at will state.

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Here is part IV.  Hope you didn't have anything else to do but read this madness this afternoon.  :)

Sandra, 

  I had some bad experiences with my job, but this sounds like pure hell!  It's hard to explain a situation like this to people, many would think it is an impossible scenario and not believe it.  But situations like this really do exist and it is more common than you think.  Please give this young woman my regards and tell her I wish her the best of luck in her next endeavor.  She can only go UP from this, and I'm sure she will.  At this point no matter where she goes,  it will at least seem better than where she was.  I hope you find her a good position soon.

Marcia,

I will convey your regards and understanding.  It always means something when anyone understands a situation like this where a stupid bully has any power over others in the workplace.  She has received many calls from people who worked there in the past and have told her that it is not like that in most places.  She has her first onsite with a new company on Wednesday.

Wow, this sounds like the kind of story that ends with somebody's pet rabbit boiling in a pot. Congratulations to your candidate for being able to keep her sanity and professionalism while being the target of a witch hunt.

I like that analogy.  I think that is about the way she feels about it.  My mantra to her, "Living well is the best revenge".

 

She is a trooper.  She has a third interview with another communications company next Tuesday.  She is finding out as she starts to interview that there is life outside of hell hole.  Other employees are calling her and texting her begging her to call them if she lands something and  can help them get out.  One of the texts this morning started out, "Hell Hole to Free Bird"  "Come in Free Bird"  "I just came back to work today after being out on FMLA due to my son's illness.  I was put on positive disipline so the bitch can fire me if all of my FMLA is not approved.  I hate her, on my way to file an ethics complaint."  "Please let me know if Free Bird finds a nest if there is room for a bird who wants to be free of this insanity"?

I've been looking for Part 4 all week and glad I finally found it.  Bizarre story to say the least.  I'm glad she's out of there...it was a toxic place and I wish she had left sooner.  Please find her a healthy, wonderful new place to work!
The worst thing about situations like this is that these kinds of psycho-leaders are often really great at managing up, so their bosses are blissfully ignorant about what is going on. I hope we get to read the Part V - Happy Ending episode soon.

Kathy you are right on target.  After her first interview she was blown away when they told her that the flexibiity they have in their office would allow her to run pick her kids up at school if she needed to or go to a school function without it being a big deal.  She told them upfront that she had been terminated and a very brief reason.  The first fellow she interviewed with laughed and said, "I think everybody has been fired at some time or another, it's refreshing that you addressed it and provided references without a lot of blah blah."  He went on to tell her that he had worked for one company for four months then they gave him six months severance and sent him on his way so he figured out that they just didn't like him or the way he managed.  As she interviews she is beginning to fully realize just how toxic it really was and although still anxious about no job her self confidence is coming back a bit.

 

@Karen Oh, yes they are very good at that.  This one reports to a regional manager in another city so there is no one onsite to observe her garbage on a day to day basis but based on what i am hearing from other candidates who want out of there complaints are being filed on a daily basis.  Who knows, it takes a long time for people like this to get what they deserve.  I keep telling my gal that by the time it happens she won't care.  She will be working someplace where people are sane, focused on business success instead of petty power brokering.  This manager never graduated from high school so she is intimidated by anyone with education or drive.  Most bullys operate from a position of insecurity.

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