Mismanaging Employee Mental Health

, , , , , , | Working | July 28, 2020

I used to work for a mental health charity. My first location was amazing, but after moving home, I had to move to a store closer. Unfortunately, the manager there and her way of managing the store made my life h***, along with the customers and the lack of volunteers. Here’s just a few of the choicest things said to me during my almost-year working with her. 

After telling her I needed a Wellness Action Plan with regards to how to deal with my mental health at work, she said, “What’s that?” All managers are trained to know what a WAP is. Then, every time I brought it up, she would brush it off as she was “too busy” and say that we’d do it the next time we worked together. 

I usually wear dark, comfy clothing. When I told her I wasn’t feeling mentally great, she said, “Maybe if you wore brighter colours you’d feel better?”

She also later said something similar: “If you smile, you won’t be so depressed.”

She and her favourite volunteer — who didn’t like me very much — made constant comments about my weight and appearance, and it got so bad I would actually fake being sick on days that I worked with her so I could go home early because I simply couldn’t face working with her. 

However, I mostly worked alone. I would still have panic attacks on my way to work, though. Working alone, with a skeleton crew of volunteers, some of whom couldn’t operate the till, I had to start making the choice to close the shop for lunch or not take my break at all. After a week of this, I decided for my mental and physical wellbeing I simply could not go without my break anymore and would close for exactly one hour. People made complaints about me closing the shop; one customer, referring to my short hair and rather butch attire, called me a “ladyboy”. 

Working alone also meant that I couldn’t follow health and safety procedures as much as we were supposed to. Policy clearly stated that a person must stay on the shop floor at all times. However, when donations kept coming in, I would have to make the choice between working in the back and getting them sorted — risking shoplifters and customers’ ire — or staying on the till and letting the piles of bags get to dangerous standards.

For one day only, I made the executive decision to stop donations coming through the door at around three in the afternoon, after I faced a pile of them almost as tall as myself. It got so bad that I would almost start crying with stress every time the door opened, just in case it was someone with more donations. Of course, we all know what customers are like, and several people complained about refusing donations. Of course, charity shops rely on donations, but when it came to a fire and/or trip hazard, I felt I made the right call. 

That’s when things got even worse if you can believe it.

I was summoned, very unexpectedly, to a hearing. Put against me were accusations of closing the shop and refusing donations. I was so panicked that I didn’t make a very good defense for myself, and I spent almost three months in a state of high-strung anxiety where I was afraid I would be fired. I even contemplated suicide. I would like to remind you that this was a mental health charity shop. 

My manager, who had brought this concerns against me to the regional manager, kept acting in a sickly sweet manner, and one friend who volunteered there on a day I wasn’t in told me she overheard the manager’s favourite volunteer say, “I’d run [My Name] over if I could get her job.” 

Nice.

Eventually, the second hearing came around, a friend coming with me for support. This time, I had time to prepare, and I explained my side of things: that I was working in unsafe conditions and my mental and physical health suffered when I was unable to take my break. Legally, we’re allowed twenty minutes of uninterrupted break if we work for more than six hours, and by working through my break, not only was there some sort of legal problem involved, but I also wasn’t getting paid for it. I guess they realised they could get in some trouble if they fired me on such a basis? Either way, I was given a final warning. 

However, despite a Wellness Action Plan being devised for me, my manager and her favourite volunteer — who was then hired as a Sunday manager, and was incredibly incompetent, but that’s another story! — kept making remarks about my brush with being fired.

Eventually, in November, I handed in my resignation.

I still get petty glee over leaving that job just before Christmas; my manager had planned to take holiday from mid-December until mid-January. This left the incompetent manager in charge of the shop over Christmas. “You’ve really left us in a bit of trouble here; it’s not really fair,” he said. All I said was, “Yup,” and I got back to work.

The day I left, I headed straight to the pub with friends and, even with the current health crisis making it hard to find a new job, I really, really, really, don’t regret leaving. I made some great friends from my first location and a great friend with the same mental health problem that I have at the second, and it’s also taught me that, in the future, I will not take any s*** anymore!

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Unfiltered Story #201579

, , | Unfiltered | July 26, 2020

i work in IT for a food company, part of my duties include giving inductions to new starters, showing them the laptop and phones and all the specific addons my company uses.
Standard practice is that we do not set up mobile phones, but we do have handholding instructions that we give to a new starter so that they can accomplish this.

me: so read the instructions and they will tell you how to setup your phone they are very easy and step by step.
New starter: i don’t have any instructions yet how do i get them
me: its ok i will email them to you. if you really do get stuck after reading the instructions, and cannot figure it out come and talk to me and i’ll help you.

several hours go by and towards the end of the day the users comes back to me.

new starter: i cannot figure this phone out at all.
me: ok, did you receive the instructions i emailed?
new starter: yeah, they came through all ok.
me: and how far did you get through them?
new starter: i haven’t yet.
me: you haven’t read them?
new starter: No.
me: what did i tell you to do when i was talking through the induction about your phone?
new starter: read the instructions
me:…..
new starter: i’ll go read through them now.

i honestly don’t know what went through their head or what they thought would happen.

Will Get Your Blood Boiling

, , , , | Right | July 24, 2020

Our phone number has apparently been misprinted in the phone book as a heating repair company. My coworker has a very thick accent, so it is sometimes hard to understand him.

Coworker: “We just had a phone call from a guy looking for a pipe for his boiler.”

Me: “Okay, I’ll answer the phone in case it happens again.”

The phone rings.

Me: “Hello, [Bookshop].”

Caller: “Hi, can I speak to someone who can give me a quote for a part for my boiler?”

Me: “Did you just call a second ago?”

Caller: “Yeah, I got some man but I couldn’t understand him. Can you help me with my boiler?”

Me: “We’re a bookshop; I’ve been told that our number has been misprinted. You’ll have to try another company.”

Caller: *Click*

The phone rings again.

Me: “Hello, [Bookshop], can I help?”

Caller: “Yeah, I’m looking for [specific boiler part].”

Me: “I don’t know what that is; I could maybe look for a book on it.”

The caller explains what it is.

Me: “Sir, I told you earlier that we are a bookshop.”

Caller: “Oh.” *Click*

The phone rings again.

Me: “Hello!”

I say the name of the bookshop, very loudly.

Caller: “Can I speak to someone who can get me [boiler part]?”

Me: “No.” *Hangs up*

He didn’t call again.

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This Speaker Is Canceled

, , , , | Legal | July 24, 2020

I run a writing group which organises talks, workshops, and other writing-related events for its members. Most events go off smoothly and the speakers and workshop leaders are a delight to work with. However, there have been a few that were less pleasant to work with.

A few days before a scheduled talk, the speaker calls and cancels, saying that something has come up. This is less than ideal since this gives us no time to organise a replacement, but I thank him for letting us know and then frantically try to notify members and organise something else.

Thankfully, we end up having a free-writing session and everyone rallies together to bring snacks and drinks and we have a wonderful evening.

A few days later, the speaker calls me.

Speaker: “I don’t seem to have been paid.”

Me: “Paid?”

Speaker: “Yeah, you agreed to pay me.”

Me: *Long pause* “You cancelled and never actually did the talk, so we didn’t pay you.”

Speaker: “Well, the contract says if the talk was cancelled with less than forty-eight hours’ notice I would be paid anyway.”

Me: “Yes… if we have to cancel the meeting with less than forty-eight hours’ notice. If you cancel, you don’t get paid, regardless of how much notice you give.”

Speaker: “Why should that make a difference? The talk was cancelled at the last minute, so I want the money.”

Me: “We’re not going to pay you for a talk you never gave that we didn’t cancel.”

Speaker: “Well, I guess I’m just going to have to sue you, then, aren’t I?”

Me: “You’re welcome to take legal advice if you want, but our contract is clear. You aren’t owed any money.”

After a few choice words, the speaker hangs up. A few weeks go by and he calls again.

Speaker: “I spoke to a solicitor and he says you have to pay me.”

Me: “We haven’t received any kind of correspondence from your solicitor.”

Speaker: “Well, he said you have to pay me, so I want my money.”

Me: “You cancelled your talk with less than forty-eight hours’ notice even though the contract asks for five days. The contract very specifically says you will only be paid for last-minute cancellations we make. You cancelled. That means you have no legal claim.”

Speaker: “Well, that’s not what my solicitor says.”

Me: “I suggest you get your solicitor to send us a letter.”

Speaker: “And then you’ll pay me?”

Me: “No. But then you can take it to court where a judge will throw it out because you have no case and are being ridiculous.”

Speaker: “How dare you?! This is so unprofessional!”

Me: “So is cancelling with less than forty-eight hours’ notice and expecting to be paid.”

The speaker shouted some profanities at me and hung up. Thankfully, I have not heard from him since.


This story is part of our July 2020 Roundup – the best stories of the month!

Read the next July 2020 Roundup story!

Read the July 2020 Roundup!

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Unfiltered Story #201401

, , , | Unfiltered | July 24, 2020

I work in a busy central London train station. Two young Italians come up to me.

Male Italian: Liverpool?

(A common mistake people make is to ask for a station by just one name – Oxford for Oxford Street, Tottenham for Tottenham Court Road. Sending them to where they ask for could be very different to where they actually want to go.)

Me: Do you mean Liverpool Street Station?

Female Italian: No, Liverpool football club!

Me: Well, that would be in Liverpool. About 200 miles north.

Male Italian: Not here, no?

Me: Not even in this city.

Male Italian: Oh. Arsenal football club?