• taylor

On Harassment and Bullying - Part 1: Prelude

Updated: Apr 21

  • This story is based on facts, however, for legal reasons, all the names here (except mine and my wife’s) as well as companies names, as well as places, have been changed. It may be a long blog, but there are a lot of things to explain, so please stay until the end.

  • This story relates cases of bullying and harassment happening in the workplace. If this happens to you, if you are bullied at work, please contact in the first place the HR department of your company to raise a complaint.

  • Whatever form of harassment you are passing through, or bullying, IS NOT ACCEPTABLE AND YOU MUST SPEAK OF IT. YOU CANNOT LET YOUR BULLIES GET AWAY WITH IT. It may take a toll on you and severely affect your life. If you’re a victim of it, please contact your GP for more guidance as well as your lawyer (UK residents, Citizen Advice may be a great resource), in case no agreement has been found between your company and you. Keep in mind that harassment is a criminal offence and such a case can end up in court.

  • If you’re bullying or harassing someone, you’re a piece of shit. Keep that in mind. In addition to committing a criminal offence and possibly exposing yourself to be fired for gross misconduct as well as a potential big fine, you’re a genuine piece of trash.

  • Since there is a lot to say, this blog will be published in two parts. This part is the “initial situation”, and the second part, to be published later this month, will be me taking my revenge. Stay tuned on my Instagram Page, I will upload some bits from time to time on how and when the second part is to be published.

To Marina, because at least you tried.

I think, in the past two years, one of the funniest sentences I’ve heard was, “yeah, but, come on, I am sorry, I just thought that harassment was only happening at school.” And, yes, in case you’re wondering, it’s a manager that said that sentence. Yes, a manager.

So for those who have read He Fell from Venus, you may know how this took such a toll on me. But for those who read the events depicted in Day 29 (for those who haven’t read it… well, I won’t make a summary here, it’s only $2.99 on Amazon, we even have it in our store here, so do something and take out the credit card of your wallet, you know, take action, support your favourite author and blogger, for God’s sake!), I decided to move back to London with Saveria to, let’s say, take control back of my life and, you know, bounce back on my feet. It was by the end of 2018, and, well, water flowed under the bridge, so I don’t think it’s useful to tell you my entire employment story.

The fact is, given the fact that I ran a business at some point in my life, (and I sold that business to come to the UK), I slowly graduated to look for a supervisor position. In addition to working on Free Expensive Lies, you know, I still have rent to pay, and everything. In December 2019, I was working for a famous coffee shop branch in London, near Soho, and I have been really happy working there. My manager was nice, we used to have a good team, (there were ups and downs of course, but overall it was an excellent company, company for which I am now working for again), but arrived the period of Christmas. The problem was, late shifts, late nights, and if Soho is a nice place during the daytime in London, by night, it’s another story. Gangs, homeless people seeking trouble with you… but regarding the “homeless” problem, when I was hired for the job, my manager warned me. “You will have problems with homeless people at some point.” At first, I played down the issue. But during an incident that occurred to me with Saveria in December, whilst taking the bus to go back home, I truly had enough.

So, as a result of this, I started looking for a new job. And I explained the situation to my manager, to which he understood. And, I heard about a company, that we will call “Salmon” here, was hiring. At first, when I went to the window of their store, there was a small ad promoting positions there. Salary seemed to be interesting, £9.50 to £10.50 an hour (which for 2019 was fairly acceptable for this kind of job, albeit some companies pay their supervisors much, much better), so I was like, hey, nice, you know.

Regarding jobs, although I ran my business, I’ve always been working in restaurants and fast-food chains. I am one of those few people that love the action at work, that love getting busy and work under pressure, so this is why I’ve always been working for such companies. I cannot work in an office. I did, and I never liked it. Anyway, this Salmon company was a small fast-food chain, promoting healthy food, across London. So I entered one of their stores, dropped a CV, but the manager explained to me that I needed to apply online since this is the only way they were processing recruitments. So, I said, okay. I didn’t give my notice to my previous job yet, so, by night, when I was in the toilets (now that I think about it… it was probably meaningful), I went through their website, and I applied.

Two days later, I receive a phone call as I was ready to go back to work, asking me to come for an interview. I said, okay. Initially, I applied there for a barista position. I was interested in the supervisor position, but… I needed to see what it was before considering it. At least I needed to be explained what it would be looking like. But, deep down, I said, being supervisor there, then why not?

So I went through the interview, and the next day, they offered me a trial shift. The thing is, as this seemed to be a big company, the interviews were by then carried out at the head office, and in the ad, as the manager told me when I dropped my CV, he said that “they would find a position as close as possible for your home”. As I came with my CV, the nice woman I had in front of me truly examined it, and after a short time, she said, “wait, you can be supervisor straight away, I mean, why waiting?”. After I asked her details and it seemed fairly interesting, I said okay. She offered me a trial shift. Far, far away from home. In a big, busy station. The second busiest train station in London.

On the day I went for my trial shift, I was okay, I mean, just like all the time, this trial shift was not my first one, so I knew what to expect pretty much. And, believe it or not, but for the two hours that occurred during my trial shift, I’ve never heard so many people complaining about the company. Complaining about training, complaining about procedures, complaining about other supervisors and management… everything. What was in the balance was a supervision position, so I was like, okay, it’s probably because they are busy or something… so, it’s maybe nothing. I know, I already hear you thinking, “why the fuck did she take the job then?”. Well, everybody makes mistakes, no? Of course, this trial shift went successfully, the manager loved the fact that I seemed confident and relaxed even during the rush, and she said, “for me, it’s a yes!”. So, I was really happy, I had a new job, and now… I had to give notice in the coffee chain. Which I did the following day.

And then, the notice period in the coffee shop. Well, I was sad to leave my manager, but I explained to him, this homeless situation was distressing to me. Which he understood. Even, a day after my notice was over (I had two weeks notice to give), my manager called me in emergency asking me, “l have a problem with my supervisor, could you come and do an emergency cover for me?”, which I accepted. I didn’t have to, but, when you are a nice manager and have leadership, that’s the least I could do. And my employment in this coffee shop ended up there… I mean, ended up… yes, technically, it ended up there, for the moment.

So, I started at the Salmon company in mid-December 2019. In the meantime, something came up on the other side of the globe, a mysterious pneumonia disease appeared in the Wuhan region. Okay. As I started in my new job, I discovered, during my first shift, that I was in training with an assistant manager, who was a lovely person. But even she asked me, “why did you take the job?”. During my first shift, I was showed how to make smoothies, and how to make them as fast a possible because we had a rush and we needed to be as fast as possible. Like I said, pressure, okay. I can work with that. But when you are new and let on a position where you don’t know anything and when you have just a few explanations, then… it’s hard. Very hard.

I was to be in training for my very first month before my first shift “as a supervisor in charge”. Truly, the training was botched. I heard about the official training the head office issued for a supervisor, but nothing was respected. On the other hand, I am used to those kinds of shops, we were making a shitload of money weekly, so I understand that things couldn’t be done “by the book”. But still, I was to be shown every section for being able to run the shop before my first shift and be in charge. I was to be shown the production section, the food preparation section (one section makes products, the second serves product, they have two different names but for obvious reasons, I cannot mention any of them), the barista section, the cashier section and the till handling, as well as all the management stuff, such as counting the cash, processing food waste in the system and carry over the food for the next day, cleaning duties and everything.

On the first shift I was in charge, my training was spotless: I didn’t know anything about production and food preparation, I didn’t know how to serve their stuff, I knew how to make coffees and processing cash… but regarding the management, well. I knew how to count the cash (you need to be truly stupid not to be able to do that), I didn’t know their wastage procedures and which products I had to waste because obviously… they had their system and since I never did any food production, I didn’t know where to waste what, well, long story short, it was a disaster. So although I didn’t know anything, my manager told me, “don’t worry, you’re doing fine.” So I thought that I was doing fine. Hopefully, I have the absolute memory, which helps. I was doing processes, I didn’t know why I was doing them, but, I was doing them. If I had any single problem during that evening, and hopefully I did not have any, I was just fucked. For most of the procedures that were issued by the company, I didn’t know anything, I have been trained for nothing. Hopefully, I had my past experiences.

In the meantime, funny pneumonia in Wuhan became an epidemic and was to become a pandemic. February 2020, the world was fearing that the newly called COVID-19 was to severely screw up the business. And, in the meantime, I took my holidays. I had two weeks off, and during my two first months in the Salmon company, well, it was time for a summary: when I was in the coffee shop, everybody called me she or her and was respectful, whilst, in this company, even though I talked about my manager, everybody kept calling me “he” or “him”, even though everybody was transgender, I already raised complaints about my fellow transphobic supervisor who made seriously displaced comments about me, and yet it was ignored. And… yes, in the past two months… I’ve never heard so many employees complaining about their company, and complaints were on all grounds: life/work balance, poor payslips, poor management, poor quality of products, no consideration for their staff, supervisors… and, yeah, regarding payslips. Do you remember the ad, saying £9.50 an hour? Well, this was including the bonus. Because my hourly rate was nine bloody quid, and the fifty pence were a bonus if we passed the mystery shopper. And, guess what. In January, we didn’t pass the mystery shopper even once.

As I went back to work after my holidays, it was already March. In Europe, the COVID pandemic started, and Italy was already in lockdown. France followed, as well as many countries in Europe. The big question was, “how long are we gonna stay like this?” Until the 18th of March, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson issued the order for everybody to stay at home and close all businesses until further notice.
So you may say, at this point, “okay Taylor, you’re funny, you already wrote three damn pages for telling us that, you encountered some problems at work…”, yeah, well, this is here that the fun starts. The first lockdown occurred for two months, April and May. In the meantime, I decided to restart my book, this time to publish it. To bring Free Expensive Lies: Prologue this time to an end. Hopefully, during the lockdown, I had plenty of time to do that. I was finally enjoying life, thus, now on the payroll of a company paid by the government. I was placed on “furlough”. And the fact that we had to remain at home for a long time was more beneficial for me than everything, I had time to focus on Charlotte, bring a new end to the first opus, and extend my work.

But, since all the good things in life have an end, my furlough period ended on the 1st of June 2020. By this time, I had no idea what was to come. Days before I was called off furlough, my manager called me. “Hey Taylor, listen, I resigned from my position, and from now on, you’re gonna have Lucy, she’s a manager from another store, she’s taking the store over.” (Lucy is indeed a fake name). By the time I had no idea who this Lucy was. I heard a few things about her, such as she’s been in the company for a while, she’s quite tough to deal with, but other than this, nothing.

She told me not to tell anyone, which I did. Until, she did herself the announcement, and… well, let’s say that we were all fed up to remain at home. But when she officially announced to the team that Lucy was taking over, everybody was like, “oh, no…”. Whilst everybody was willingly happy to come back from the furlough, they suddenly changed their minds. Later, I learned the true reason why everybody “feared” Lucy. From what I learned about her, she has made more than 50 team members or supervisors either fired, whether pushed to resignation. And, it turns out that the Salmon company brought us for our shop the nec plus ultra of its shittiest management, the cream of the cream: she was with two assistant managers, two people from Spaniard's origins, Aurelia and Marco. To summarise on them, Aurelia was… let’s imagine you make everything correctly, you make a perfect closing, you do everything correctly, the small thing, the little thing you accidentally forgot, she would immediately notice it and blame you for it. Marco, regarding him, was deeply influenced by the two of them. Use Marco with a good manager, he will be good. Use Marco with the two devils-in-training, and he would be a jerk.

The other problem was, (and those living in the UK remember that), by then, uncertainty was there. We didn’t have any vaccine nor treatment for that shitty virus, and companies across the UK made redundant shitloads of staff. There was no possibility of changing company, finding a new job, nothing. I have been at two opportunities during that summer under the threat of being made redundant myself, although, for the second time, I requested myself to be made redundant and it has been denied. Long story short, we couldn’t have everybody back at work due to COVID restrictions, and we had over 50 per cent of our workforce still on furlough. Most of them would never be back at work. And… yes.

So the summer happened, and… well. During the first week, Lucy seemed nice to me. Aurelia seemed to me like a bitch, but I heard she was like this. It was Aurelia. Regarding Marco, well, no comments. During the first month, well, I felt like my workplace was turned into a Soviet gulag or a Prison. Lucy was everywhere, spying on us, and as soon as we were not making things “according to Salmon’s standards”, then… gosh, she would be explaining to us OVER AND OVER again the standards. Like, we were all five years old kids. Production was to be done throughout the day, and even though I didn’t know most of the things given the fact that my training has been botched, then I had to learn the things another way. No fucking way to find a new job. Because there was just nothing. I remember, during the first month, as I saw in different companies other employees, I felt like, “they’re lucky to be there!”. Between constant pressure, between the fact that she was stressed and unfit for her position, it had quickly a toll on me and my fellow supervisor, working with me. A lovely Italian guy, with whom it was a pleasure to work with. I swear, the favourite word of the staff by then was “resignation”, the big problem was, resigning for having nothing behind was taking a serious risk, a risk we couldn’t take. So instead, we had to undergo Lucy’s behaviour. Suffer in silence and shut the hell up.

There was also another problem, that surged two months after we restarted working: the fact that we were in a station and relatively isolated from the platforms, there was no air circulating there. And given the fact that the temperature was sky-rocketing (to give you an example, by the end of one of the shifts I was in charge, I placed a temperature probe in the middle of the room, and it was displaying, after two minutes once the temperature was stabilised, almost 30 degree Celsius – Making something like 86 Fahrenheit… and yes, we were working in the middle of it), the air-con broke. Although we raised many complaints to the Head Office, it took them more than a month before we would have it repaired or even a reaction from their part. Obviously, under those conditions, frequent were the occasions that the several display fridges we had in store crashed and were shutting down by themselves. But, in addition to having had a hot summer, tough shifts because of the high temperature and her being incompetent because unable to deal with her stress, more pressure because we were understaffed and still quite busy, imagine the pleasure it was. It didn’t take long before spirits would turn berserk and the dramas to explode.

Now that you know all the new conditions in my working place, in the meantime, on my rotas, Lucy was making me several days a week without any day off. I was doing six days a week and was truly exhausted. Six days a week, when you work in a fast-food, is challenging, trust me, especially when your manager is a twat. It happened that, out of exhaustion, and because this is human, I was making mistakes. Forgetting things, and the fact that she was constantly taking me for a five years old kid did not help me to get better. It had a toll on me until I started forgetting expired food in the fridges, something that in normal time never happens to me because I am a meticulous person. Some processes weren’t done in due time, and given the huge pressure, I just couldn’t resist. When I was back home, I was crying and Saveria always asked me why and understood after I told her the umpteenth incident that happened to me at work. I was even crying during my shifts because I had enough. What I ignored was that it was just the beginning.

Three months later, three months after we reopened the shop, Lucy took some holiday. And, it was… yeah, Lucifer is gone, now… guess who was acting as a manager? Yeah, Aurelia, you get it right! So let the nightmare going.

So, when you make someone working seven days in a row, with all the conditions listed above, the pressure and all that, guess what happens? He makes mistakes. And I knew that for several days, they were watching closely at “if I would forget something expired in the fridge”, so I knew where they would hit. The problem was, like I said, seven days in a row, even though on my last closing I checked, double-checked, triple-checked the fridge, with all the dates, with myself being profoundly altered by tiredness… then guess what? Something expired popped up in the fridge the next day. How did I learn this? The assistant manager Marco sent me a text on the first day off I had after those seven days – asking for an explanation –, and (I still have a copy of those texts) texted me until I would finally give him an answer. On my day off. After seven days of hard work. So since I got those texts and the only thing I wanted to do was to genuinely hurt him, my wife saw me that even on my day off, the pressure kept going, it was an endless pressure and it started taking a toll on me since this was now cumulated with my tiredness. I still went to the shop and explained myself to him, ensuring my wife wouldn’t be far away and would listen to us. So, at least, I have a witness. I told her, “make sure he does not see you”.

Two weeks passed. It was still Guantanamo there, but during those two weeks, he kept calling me, “Hey Taylor, do you mind coming today, someone called in sick and I need a cover for this evening.” And since I am dumb and loves to help, I said, okay, fair enough. All this to end up this fantastic week: on a Monday, as I started my shift – shift when I was to be in charge – as I arrived, I saw Marco irritated. And embarrassed. Why? I learned that an hour later. I was to be on shift with a colleague that did not show up because he had a heatstroke. The big problem was, he was calling everyone but since they were pissing off everybody, they tried to get a cover but no one answered their damn phones. For closing this shop, three people are necessary. One to close the front, one to close the back, and the supervisor to carry out supervision duty. And, yes. It was just my fantastic supervisor colleague and myself. Just the two of us.

So this was an amazing shift, we received texts from our two “acting managers” to praise us for the outstanding job we did on that evening, and then, when I arrived at work on Tuesday… (I’d say the timing was perfect)… you remember the fact that something expired popped up in the fridge when I was there, two weeks ago? Well, guess what, I received an investigation for that, that would potentially lead to a disciplinary. I just had one word that came to my mind when I saw them on that day, it was “you sons of bitches”. After the investigation hearing, when I felt immensely humiliated, when emotion took over and I was just literally exhausted from the past events… I just wanted to blow everything up. I think I described that feeling in a recent chapter in my book, “you reach the point when you want to bomb everything beautiful”.

Do you remember when I told you that the air conditioner was not working? Add to this the intense dose of stress that I passed through, and you finally have the explosive cocktail: as I came back home from work on Wednesday, whilst taking the tube, I was not feeling well. Like, very hot, and cold at the same time, but I was feeling so hot that it was uncomfortable, I had a headache, and the furious envy to throw up. I called my wife as I was on my way back home, to come and pick me up at the station, as I didn’t think I could make it through. On Wednesday, before leaving my shift, I placed the thermometer probe in the middle of the room in the sales area. It showed, after a few minutes, 29.6 degrees. As a result of this, as a result of the stress because of the total incompetence of management that stabbed me in the back a few days earlier, well, I had a heatstroke. A severe heatstroke.

Hopefully, I was off the next day, and when I came back home, my situation worsened. I also started called 999 that evening. But on the next day, I was feeling “better”. For a heat stroke, the first half-hour matters, because basically if you do not treat it as fast as possible, then you’re gonna go to more severe problems. But, a heatstroke started triggering constipation, and as I haven’t had this for a while, I just ignored the symptoms. I was just feeling bloated and didn’t eat, but I was like, this will pass. I was not angry, and, yeah. Just like when I am sick, I tend to ignore the symptoms until it gets better, but in that case, it worsened so fast, the envy of throwing up nothing was just so strong that, on Sunday, although I called in sick for the rest of the week when I was almost lying down in front of a pharmacy, that I needed more time to walk down the street because I was feeling exhausted when even drinking an apple juice was impossible to swallow. Then… I went to the hospital. The guy thought at first that I had gastroenteritis. But… no.

So, long story short, from the Thursday, that I left work due to my recent sickness that worsened during the Saturday/Sunday night when I started deciding to go to the hospital the next day, and to the next Saturday, I couldn’t eat anything. I think, for the entire week, besides the fact that I got dehydrated, I couldn’t eat anything, as the heatstroke turned into huge constipation that even a few laxatives were unable to cure, and for an entire week, the only thing I had in my maw was just an apple juice. I was melting, losing kilos, (in one week I lost pretty much seven kilos… one kilo a day), so you may say, this could be enough? The next Thursday, 7 days after I fell sick, whilst I started to have a hint of health regain, I got, early on the morning, a call from France. “Taylor, your grandfather committed suicide last night”.

To be continued…
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