On Harassment and Bullying - Part 3: Battle for Supremacy
Hey, Ewa… all good? Still not fired???
It was Friday morning. And, this day, I have been expecting her all afternoon long. Precisely, Friday 11th of June. For once, I came to work with a smile, a broad smile I have never been so happy to come for once, and I couldn’t conceal it. Whatever happened, this day, my mental was unbreakable, and the joy of termination has never been so high. Even though on that day I woke up before the devil, I was utterly shattered, I think it’s the first time I’ve been thinking about her even more than I could even think about my wife. Like I said to my wife regarding her, it will be sexual, very sexual, very messy, but in the contactless version.
So, she arrived. “Hey, Nirina, what’s up?”, as we were upstairs. She was probably already pissed to see me. I could never really frame her, I have been trying to try to guess her thoughts, really, but it was always very challenging, she was good at hiding it. Unlike her, I always knew that Lucy always hated me, but her, she was the level up, very hard to guess. I don’t know what was on her mind, but since she arrived at work, seemingly pissed, I assumed that there was something. The pressure of the previous day I assume, was an utter shitty day because she had no courage to say fuck off to the head office or her boss? Maybe. She’s THE manager. I kind of started knowing her, we all had a big week, and she was tired, just like I was. Anyway, this morning, I recall that she entered through the front door, head down. Overwhelmed? “Listen, we need to talk,” I started launching the attack, and the way we looked at each other, she understood the reason why we needed to talk. Even though we had a small conversation the day before, right before I have my job interview, when I mentioned this time for the umpteenth time the word “resignation” with this time being more laconic and somewhat serious about this, I am sure, the way she looked at me, with her somehow tired eyes, I mean, I could almost read it. She was probably thinking about it in her language, but, she understood that very quickly. “If she wants to talk to me, it doesn’t mean anything good.”
Believe it or not, Nirina, even today, was someone for whom I had a certain respect and a certain admiration. No, truly, I am always very loyal to my managers, but Nirina had something that others didn’t have. What was this thing? She was human. She inspired the character of Vasara Romeka, a Lithuanian cop that will take part in Charlotte’s adventures on Free Expensive Lies Act II (to be released in 2024), and, besides, she knew how to talk to me, she understood that I wasn’t someone who cared that much about this bloody company, so dealing with me AND the business at the same time would be a perilous task. She even inspired me as a manager, as now I am assuming this responsibility. She brought me something, perhaps ignored it but she taught me a certain life lesson in her very way. I mean, the Salmon company brought me two extremes: a horrible, tyrannical manager and a kind and human manager. But like the Gravemind in Halo II would have said, “the circumstances made the two of you enemies, but this company will make you brothers”. She truly marked me and genuinely inspired me.
The thing is, before we reopened, I was extremely wary. I was doing panic attacks over panic attacks before we restart, and, eventually, I started that Citalopram prescription (that I recently stopped, I don’t need it anymore), which I still do as I write these lines. At the same time, I left victorious in this row with Lucifer, and, given the fact that I was almost untouchable within this company at this moment, I had the intention to take my revenge, and make the life of my new manager a nightmare. But, I wanted to remain cautious: since revenge is a dish best served cold, I was like, “let’s wait and see.” So, instead, I managed to do some research. I have been trying over the many contacts I had in this company, to try to figure out who this Nirina was. No one knew her, a perfect ghost. A new manager, who joined the company recently, around the same time as I did… Fine. Okay. Apart from that, nothing. And since most of the managers I heard in this company are all trained in the pure Stakhanovism/Stalin USSR style, on the day of the store reopening was finally set, I had the nuclear weapon in my hands and I had the intention to play with it. And we were all informed to come on the 9th of April, to make this store ready. So… I went there.
By then, by this time, the COVID restrictions were slowly being lifted, and life “resumed” as normal. Boris Johnson didn’t plan to bring another lockdown, as the vaccine was now deployed across the UK, so it was clear: now the economy will restart. I had views and contacts on my previous company, as I called them back, asking if they were to hire again, and all I had for answers were, “just wait a bit”. So when I restarted in this new shop with this new manager, my intention was already drawn in my mind: let’s just wait a few months or two, and, then, let’s take the French leave. But in between, as I told Lucy once when she asked me about my book and I told her it was the story of a master manipulator, I had the intention to play with Nirina. Which was why I started moving my pawns on the chess on the day before we resumed: I texted her, expressing the desire to have a meeting, as, some things need to be settled. In the meantime, I told Saveria, “she perhaps doesn’t know it yet, but I’ll make sure that I’ll put her on her knees as soon as the opportunity shows up. If she messes up with me, I’ll nuke her right away”. But, given the fact that I became a certain person of interest there, I guess she received the information that, “be very careful with Taylor.” The thing is, Lucy learned that at her expense, playing with me on who pees the farthest isn’t quite a good idea. I knew she’s been briefed, I could feel it from the very first day. Of course, pee against the wind and you're gonna fuck up your skirt.
So, on the 9th of April. I remember, the weather on this day was absolutely lovely. It was also the day when Prince Philip died. I received BBC’s notification at the very end of my shift. When I arrived, and as it wasn’t my initial shop, I went downstairs, but she wasn’t there for welcoming me. Marco arrived, as he was to work with us, welcomed us, and straight away, victorious, I said hi with a broad smile, and I remember having felt a certain embarrassment coming out from him. I heard furthermore from two different accounts that the HR department reminded him to calm down and adapt himself with me, long story short he had a very bad warning about his behaviour, and was reminded that he could have been fired for this. Luckily, (for him at least), he was a manager, hiring a manager was a difficult task. Being a manager myself now, I know that replacing a manager isn’t an easy job, so he’s been saved by this. I didn’t see Nirina yet, but I was curious about whom I’d have. Until I met her. About half an hour afterwards.
And, erm… how to start this one. Okay. She was FREAKING hot. A damn fit. I mean, as soon as I saw her, I was like, this is my challenger, but of course, if this bloody company played that game, of course, it’s not easy for me. We exchanged a few words, I asked where she was from later on, and when she said the word “Lithuanian”, I was like, for some reason, I am not even surprised. Every time I worked with a Lithuanian, she was bloody hot. I have no idea what’s up in this country. Anyway, she used more of a “friendly way” this morning, thinking that it would destabilise me, which impressed me in a way, I’ll explain why further. She knew everything about me, and I was feeling destabilised, until I realised that, we were still enemies at work. She may know everything about me, yet she still doesn’t know my intention here. And, that was precisely where I’d play my pawns here. She moved her pawns, I was already moving my bishop and my tower, pushing her to move her Queen. She seemed to me as someone who wanted to play. Second, she can be hot, and perhaps knowing she’s pretty to turn the tables, this is a card I can play at my advantage, being myself a former, erm… oh, and, very important detail, she was my age. One year older than me, but still we were the same age.
The first question, as we were making that shop ready, was, about my demotion: why? I was like as if you didn’t know why… but yet I justified myself, using a tricky way. When she asked me this as we were cleaning a fridge, I was like, stopped, thinking about three options: lying, dismissing it or being straightforward. Lying would mean I’d be dishonest but scared to speak, dismissing it would mean that I’d quit at some point, and being straightforward would mean, “I’m not scared of you”. And I wanted to terrorise her, I wanted to make terror reign in this shop, I did not want to help her or even be on her side. I wanted to be the harshest pain in the arse she’s never had in her management career. Her beautiful eyes and her good-looking face weren’t enough to soothe the revenge fury that animated me by then. We went downstairs to speak once the shirt shift ended, and… there was some, unexpected event.
Remember that Marco welcomed me? Well, during the morning, the current supervisor of that shop, who also heard about my battle with Lucy and my decisive victory on the battlefield, told me, “no, I don’t want to be a supervisor anymore, too much pressure, and everything.” She seemed determined. Nirina was downstairs when it happened, but I knew that she heard about our conversation when I was openly talking shit about Lucy. She heard me openly criticising her. What I saw was this: we were precisely eight to reopen this shop. Two managers, one supervisor, one ex-supervisor (myself), and three team members with no supervision experience and no training. Second, this supervisor showed a liability and a flexibility issue, a flexibility issue that I had because, at this time, I was focused on writing the part II of the Free Expensive Lies Act II. This was the very first problem for Nirina, and, a complete surprise for me. So, what did I do? No, I understand you have a life. Listen, if I were you, I’d send an email to Laura, at HR, and I asked for my demotion, I think it will work. I saw a huge opportunity: as I am the only one here able to react right away if her supervisor quits, it leaves me with a huge way to strike back harder. This was precisely where I started attacking. Starting creating for her a little problem.
But whilst Nirina was busy sorting the shit out of that supervisor, and knowing that, after six months on furlough, she would be determined to get what she wants and Nirina would ultimately lose this (especially since this company managed to make sure that their employees would not be willing to involve themselves into the business needs), I remained upstairs when Marco came to me. He came to talk to me, but all morning, I saw him turning around me and seeking the right moment to talk to me. And guess what? I had a tremendous apology from him. Deep down, I have never laughed so much in my life. In the space of a morning, I was like, Taylor 2 – Nirina 0. Yeah, why was it making a point from me? Because I reminded him that morning that now, he owes me his job. I could have had him fired for gross misconduct. Because, the thing is, harassment is a criminal offence and, things could have gone far, far worse for him and Lucy. But instead, I was like… let’s see how willing you are to lower your pants, darling.
Afterwards, time for Napoleon to have a meeting with Wellington, myself being Wellington for once. Let’s try diplomacy. First, I clearly explained what happened with Lucy and I said, “if it ever happens here, now you know what will happen for you”, reminding her that now, whatever happens, whatever I ask, it must be granted one way or another. Second, using all the information I had, and knowing that a supervisor was willing to win, we managed to find a compromise: listen, if you need a supervisor, I can offer my services. Long story short, whilst she securely managed to move the pawns in the middle of the board by trying to adopt a friendly attitude, I made my tower and my bishops move on each side of the board. One morning, she was already surrounded and in my trap.
Of course, in a battle, this was the first attack. Whereas I planned initially to manage to jeopardise her business and push her into worse, I decided to attack in a style she was far from expecting: making myself necessary. As we reopened on the 12th of April, I managed to show that I was the best within her team: chatty with customers, nice, and everything. Showing the utmost customer service. At the same time, I was pushing the other supervisor to go and step down, I was (not so secretly) piloting the strikes in her back, but making sure that she knew that the wolf was no longer alone in the crib. And at the same time, I think she understood that I was more than willing to take my supervisor's place again, and at least make it a pretext to start a direct frontal war with her and the company. But as I was proudly leading the war and making myself needed, showing myself as Nirina’s best friend in this newly-paradise-turned-into-hell, Saveria suggested me two things: what if you fail? How can I fail, they cannot refuse me anything. Second, she already managed to grant me management access on the tills, so it meant, it was clear to me, that she openly left the signal that, she was willing to take me. But Saveria went deeper in her analysis: what if it’s not her that stops you from taking back your supervisor position, but the head office?
In the end, one week passed, two weeks passed, and she understood that I was by far, besides her and Marco, the most experienced person in this shop. I could manage the shop myself. She was more than aware of this, but automatically was belittling me when I was showing off. I was openly talking shit about Lucy, but I was feeling something different from her, I was feeling that my victory was close. My strategy was to get my supervisor position back because I wanted to attack Marco and have him fired once and for all. Weeks were passing, and, in a way, she managed to soothe my anger against that company. I didn’t want to work for this company, but I wanted to work for her. After all, she wasn’t that bad. This company was, but she was talented, and one thing she had, unlike Lucy, was that she was charismatic. She showed that she worked for her team, and we were all okay with it. So I took another approach: I’m keeping my soldiers around, but if you start pissing me off, I will strike back. Until that day: the previous supervisor finally listened to my advice and got demoted, back as a team member. So, there was a clear opening for the position, leaving her no choice but to promote me. Why? Besides me and Marco, no one was speaking proper English. I was like, you’re fucked.
So we went to her office in the morning. “Okay, I’m gonna give you your chance, sell yourself”. I was like, excuse me, do I have to sell myself? Remember, during my shifts we were making the most money. Besides us, no one speaks English here, even the previous supervisor. I am experienced, I led my own business in the past, why should I sell myself? You know for what reason I requested my demotion, so now, I want my job back. Somewhat I felt her… perhaps not convinced, but scared, and I think she understood my plans at this moment. At the same time, a month already elapsed in the shop, and, many things were making me fed up already: I worked with the previous elements than I had in my previous shop under Lucy’s management, and, they were still all friends. They were all mostly Spanish and were most of the time speaking in their language, which I found utterly disrespectful. I complained several times to Nirina about this, and she took action, but they didn’t care. And, I was feeling like, it was time for a change. In the end, when we had that meeting, she was not aware of this, but I was not interested anymore in this battle, by getting my position back. I started getting upset for no reason, being mad, and I could see that Marco was now retaking his passive-aggressive attitude. Which led, right away, to a first incident. The honeymoon seemed to be over. My analyse of this was, she wanted to take me back, otherwise, she would never have told me to come to her office and talk with her, but when, two days later, I saw her leaving in the window of the shop an ad requesting a new supervisor, I understood that it wasn’t her who refused my promotion. But the head office.
So, I got a cold shower from HO, and a bitter defeat, both at the same time. I came home, and Saveria told me, “it’s time to get another job. You’re experienced, you’re not gonna waste your time with them!”. The thing was, at this moment, I was busy writing Free Expensive Lies, being in the middle of a crucial scene. I was like, Nirina can kiss my arse now, but, yet, I’m not quite done with them. A month elapsed, the first month, everything was perfect, and two factors were to toughen the game now: the delusional head office the Salmon Company had, the fact that we couldn’t find staff, and, in the end, the staff that started to show its real face. As I said, the honeymoon was over, and the time of the divorce was now showing its nose. Love was consumed. Perhaps ways too fast. And I realised that what I could reach in this war was now a statu quo ante bellum (things were the same before the war). I may not win, and, in the end, I don't know if am still into that battle. Yet, I was not surrendering either. Because, yes, I understood that, Nirina and I were both in the same sinking boat now. The main difference was that she was aware of this.
And the boat started sinking by a stark impact: on a Thursday, a month and a half after the reopening, Nirina informed all of us that, due to the increase in the business (the shop was busier and busier, and we were understaffed now so it was more and more pressure on us because the company had a huge turnover and no one in the head office was wondering why they just said that employees kept going on and off) the business decided that we would resume catering. Meaning, having more staff in the kitchen and just two people serving customers upstairs. One prepares the dishes and another serves everyone. I worked in restaurants, I’ve been supervising before, and I told Nirina, “just tell them to fuck off”: to what she said, “and I get fired for that?”. Nirina showed at the same time a strong affection for her team and her guys, she started showing anxiety and, separately, I started showing signs that I’d leave. I started evoking my resignation. Even once we were joking about me being fired until I looked at her in the eyes and said “yeah but you can’t do that, and you know it”. I started being more and more sarcastic with her (but nicely, I have never been mean to her), and, yeah, I must admit that I liked her. Her devotion impressed me and she was cool to work with. At the same time, I started working on He Fell from Venus, and I just realised that the pressure at work combined with my working activity was no longer compatible. We were now joking together, and yeah, I had a good time at work. But, this company was not motivating me. I did not want to get involved anymore. And the thing is, I am someone who does not work demotivated. I need a challenge, I need envy, I need a company that motivates me, as I am a hardworking person. Her beautiful eyes were not enough anymore.
Until this day. A challenging shift, when Marco was pissed to be here. Frustrated about the fact that he had no balls to say fuck off to his own head office. He sent me on break. And when I come back, I saw a handwritten note on my till, next to the coffee machine, (as I was a barista there, at least on my way to get promoted back as a barista, which was… a joke, definitely, given my experience), stating “please put labels on the tea boxes – THANKS”. Marco signed it. As a matter of fact, he was right behind me, speaking to Nirina. I immediately came to him, to both of them actually, and I said, in similar words, “the next time you guys treat me like your dog by leaving your stupid notes, you’re gonna fuck off, did I make myself clear?” I started raising my voice against Marco, who did the same, but, in the end, using rhetorical figures with me does not work… and as Nirina fled, waiting for the storm to pass, Marco came back an hour later, with another apology.
In the end, head office, following the countless complaints of the staff members to Nirina didn’t care and shrugged off. They imposed this catering thing. On a Thursday, when June began, we had a shift under intense pressure. I came back and received an email from my previous company (the coffee shop, which is still my current company – I still work for them) stating that they had jobs and were looking for people. I applied to a position in Central London, a supervisor position, (but called for us a shift leader). The next day, the area manager called me and offered me an interview for the next day. I accepted. It was the 9th. I had the interview on the 10th, and on the 10th at 3 pm, Nirina’s and the Salmon Company’s fate was sealed: I’m leaving.
As I came home, I told Saveria I had the job, and she told me that it was great news. We even opened a bottle of champagne for the occasion. Now… the hardest was to come: even though on the 10th I was joking with Nirina, stating my resignation (making that joke at 10 am, knowing I had an interview scheduled for 2.30 pm), now, it was the reality. My resignation letter was already written. I just had to write her name, the date when I’d start my notice and when my last day would be.
And, then came this day. She arrived, and we went downstairs, in the very same office I made myself a threat to her, and in the same office when we already discussed my supervisor position. The way we talked, she already understood that it was the end. But, I could see, the week has been exhausting, and she was drained. “I quit.” As I said that, I saw that, it was a coup de grace for her. I explained that it was a real honour to work with her, she was a fantastic manager, but, if I’d work in the future, it would not be for this company. I compared this company with North Korea, or a Stalinist gulag, (she was Lithuanian. But Russian speaker…) and I said, I am genuinely exhausted with this. I saw her eyes suddenly becoming red, and, I’d pay a million to get to know what happened in her head at that precise moment. This was the end. The bitter end. And… even me. I was happy to leave the company. But genuinely pissed to leave her. But… she would never offer me back my supervisor position. My ex-company would.
The battle was over now, and in the end… nobody won. I lost a good manager, she lost a devoted employee.
Just one winner: this transphobic company. Yet I'm still not quite sure about their victory.
It took me a while to finish this article, as, since the death of my father, the Salmon company and Lucy are the second-worst things that happened in my life. I wanted to write this blog to say, it's not because you're a manager that you're entitled to be transphobic, using psychological tools to push an employee who already has a lot on his mind, passing through a challenging period, to pull him/her down.
When I wrote the first part, it was a month after I resigned, and I was still bloody upset against them. I wrote the second part before stepping up as an assistant manager in my coffee shop. But, in the end, things changed in my life. I am not working with the Salmon company anymore and have no plans in returning there - I mean on the other hand I don't think they'd hire me anymore, and sadly I am no longer in touch with Nirina. Yet, I started in my coffee shop back in June 2021, and I got promoted as an assistant manager in September 2021, following my predecessor’s resignation in the position. With my new manager, we went through so many challenges, and now, I’m on my way to becoming a manager. I don’t know if she will ever read this blog, and the three parts, but, if I had to conclude this 14,000 words with a message, it would be this one:
“Nirina, since you know I only have respect for those who teach me lessons or show me leadership skills, I must admit that I owe you a massive thank you. You taught me a lot, and I improved a lot thanks to you. I still consider you as one of the best managers with whom I worked. And I sincerely wish that you managed to leave this mess. I owe you a vibrant tribute.