Mishandling And Manhandling

, , , , , | Working | May 18, 2020

At my work, we have what is called ‘80s Friday, which is when a local dementia charity arranges a gettogether on the last Friday of every month for their more elderly participants. They meet up in the supermarket next to us and do a big shop together for everyone.

This invariably leads to some of the group coming to our store, as well, which sells clothes. Due to the nature of dementia, these days can be a bit demanding, so naturally, those who are more sympathetic to the condition — such as me, with several members of my family currently suffering from Alzheimer’s — tend to work these days

A manager has recently died and his funeral is on the next ‘80s Friday. Because the rest of management wants to go to the funeral, human resources decides to bring in what we call a “jump starter,” which is essentially a manager from a smaller store who wants to get ahead of the process and trial working in a larger store like ours. The manager is made fully aware of the demand and she agrees to do it.

The day comes and I am working the closing shift. I step into the staff-only area to get ready and find the new manager crying and babbling about it being too difficult. As a supervisor, and feeling rather sympathetic to how difficult these days can be, I offer to cover the rest of her shift. It’s unconventional, but I have done it before. She leaves in good spirits and the rest of the day is largely uneventful.

When I come in for my next shift, I discover a complaint has been made by the charity lambasting the new manager for her treatment of one customer. It’s quite serious and is escalated to HR. The other staff fill me in that when a dementia sufferer accidentally spilled some orange juice, the manager threw a literal children’s tantrum — kicking and screaming on the floor — before physically pushing the customer out of the store.

We all think she is going to be fired but are shocked to find that HR actually takes her side and pretty much commends her for her actions, blaming the incident solely on the customer, saying she should have known drinks weren’t allowed in store, and outright banning her. They also appoint the manager as the new replacement for the one that died.

Half of us, including two managers, hand in our resignations in protest, and after the charity finds out, they decide to move their monthly event elsewhere, which reflects badly on us from the perspective of our supermarket neighbour. Rumours also spread and our reputation plummets, resulting in severely dropped performance over the next month.

It’s eventually agreed that the new manager might need a bit more time working where she originally was, and she agrees to leave us; we agree, as well, to withdraw our resignations if she leaves. We also get permission to work more closely with the charity after HR sends them a formal apology and compensation.

Everything is now more or less back to normal, except we have just recently learned that the new manager had actually only been working in retail for about a month before coming here. She was also admin staff who had never worked with customers, and her store was one of the smallest clearance stores in our cluster, employing about thirty people; we employ over two hundred. We have no idea why she thought she could suddenly step into a management role, or why HR believed in her. We all suspect something is amiss, or there is bias somewhere, as manhandling a customer has never been tolerated prior to her.

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