My 18-year-old daughter quit her job today. The vicious bullying attacks from her boss finally became more than she could bear.
Jackie* and her husband, Al, took over the business about 9 months ago. Although Al is always respectful, Jackie is the more forceful personality and has been nasty and dishonest from the start: She doesn’t allow staff to take the breaks to which they are legally entitled and forces them to work back late at night without paying them extra. She has K and others function in managers’ roles, but doesn’t give them the title or increase their pay. Indeed, until K pointed out her ‘error’, she was paying everyone significantly under the award. Even after she made the correction, she didn’t backpay the staff a penny. She’s been difficult for everyone to work with, but has provided a lot of entertainment for her mostly teenaged staff as they hate on her together when she’s not there.
However Jackie seems to have been carrying out a particular vendetta against K, continually and unreasonably finding fault and singling her out for abuse and personal criticism. She doesn’t like the way K makes sandwiches so chastises her for her incompetence and shows her a new way, only to lambast her again – and restore her to original settings – next shift. She doesn’t like K’s hair apparently (nothing unusual about it), or her earrings (just the four), her height (she’s tiny), or her clothing (it’s a uniform), or (hold me back) her face.
K is no wimp. She is a courageous survivor of anorexia nervosa – an insidious and evil disease. Three times we almost lost her. Only two years ago K spent 5 months fighting for her life in hospital on an NG tube. She continued the battle at home with me for many months and, finally, we beat the bastard dragon with the help and support of a Maudsley team. But it was one hell of a battle.
Then, because she wanted to make up for the year she had lost to the illness, last year K tackled Yrs 11 & 12 in one year, survived, got great marks and is now enjoying studying the course of her dreams at the university of her choice. I am so, so proud of her.
I knew about Jackie’s abuse and it made me angry. I offered to speak with her but K was determined she didn’t want me lobbing in and said she thought she’d be able to manage. Her strategy was to made it plain to Jackie that she wasn’t going to be bothered by her cruelties. But, typical of this kind of bully, Jackie kept looking for a barb that would really reach K in a deep place. So, for the past two weeks, at some point during every shift, Jackie has found a moment to tell K that she’s ‘really putting on the weight’. Any woman knows that comments like that are loaded with moral judgement and intended to wound, but for a recovering anorexic, they are particularly hard to take.
So, finally, K has decided that she can’t stand up under it any more. She has been brought so low by Jackie that she was literally trembling with fear as she phoned to resign. She spoke to Al and described what had been happening. She explained that she was not willing to be subject to that sort of abuse any longer. Poor Al, the abuser’s enabling husband, offered a bunch of excuses for his wife’s abominable behaviour including that she ‘would not have meant to hurt’ K. Sad, really.
Then K received an email from Jackie minimising her abuse and criticising K for not speaking to her in person yesterday. K wrote a calm reply making her position very clear and using the words ‘bully’ and ‘abuse’ and adding that her parents are now involved and are seeking advice about the options open to us.
K feels she made the right choice. Our family’s financial constraints meant that she’ll need to get another job straight away and she finds the prospect a little stressful. But she used her voice to call the abuse what it was, and used her feet to put herself in a place that feels safe. She says she feels relieved and empowered.
But I’ll be carrying out my own little one-woman boycott of Subway anyway. And writing a letter to Jackie, of course. Can hardly wait.
* Once again, names have been changed so as not to out the ratbags.