Time is money. But time is also running out. I live to tell my story.
I was called “late night girl” by the CEO of Pret A Manger after I apologized to him for sending emails to him and Pret – late at night (after being bullied at work by my bosses who were backed by HR).
Him making light and as if having a laugh, not only of my ill behaviour that I desperately tried to stop, but also knowing that I received a disciplinary for emailing, was beyond careless. I received the disciplinary by a development manager who was put on my case, because she also had very similar loss to mine. She gave me the disciplinary and then entered into personal communication (solely electronic communication for which she disciplined me! Hello?!) because of our brothers’ similar passing.
I was fired just after my father came out of his coma, for renewed emailing that I started again, after the confusion of the manager giving me a disciplinary and yet entering into personal contact. I filed a Tribunal claim, but withdrew the claim as my mental health doesn’t cope with the long and complex process, not having a lawyer.
Having had hope to meet someone who understands my bereavement, a support I assumed came from Pret, and than lose that support because it was “secret” and confusing, crushed me again. She could have chosen to decline the role of the hearing manager, to not be part of the disciplinary, but being available as a recommendation to support me as well as herself, outside the disciplinary. Someone else could have done the disciplinary, but everyone schemed again without transparency and integrity. All of these points I raised at the dismissal hearing and not surprisingly, they rejected anyway.
As it is with many words that label and are patronizing, I have adopted “late night girl” as a nickname, for this to always be a reminder to a typical company who has all the resources, finances and people power to make a positive impact in employees lives. Having chosen to not make that impact, and to those who were involved and might even laugh reading this, the nickname will be reminder on what resources are lost. Yes, that’s a bold statement, but in time it will be clear what I mean.
I wish I would be writing a blog on how amazing Pret has been in my bereavement. Yes, there has been some support after I literally cried out to the CEO. But even then, there was no change in leadership that I was under, they even laughed at my ill behaviour. I would go to town bragging about any company who goes the extra mile of not only expecting employees to go the extra mile or to strife for perfection, but who would actually live that by example and be trail blazers on Mental Health in the work place.
People suffer, people end their lives, people become ill, and they do business as usual and in my case HR wanted me to resign since 2016. The feeling that I was not just an inconvenience after having worked there for so long and having been one of the most efficient team leaders confirmed time and time again, but that this can actually really happen to people. It added trauma to trauma and grief to grief. I still don’t know how I even went through this and how I will get out on the other side. But one thing I do know, this has been my Pret experience and this is my story.
Pret doesn’t care that I lost my health or if I lose my life, whatever support they started after I emailed the CEO, seemed for show and for a potential court case. To use a manager for the disciplinary because she lost her brother in a similar way that I have, to use her tragedy against my tragedy, just because they don’t want to take care of valuable employees whose tragedy is an inconvenience to them, has topped my Pret experience. This was like employing a wheelchair user to tip another wheelchair user over the edge, because the one losing their grip would trust the other wheelchair user not to harm them. I still have no words for this, how deeply disrespectful this is.
It is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and Mental Health Month in the U.S.
Please be kind to people and extra kind to those who suffer for whatever reason. And please be authentically kind, not the double faced kindness smiling to the front and stabbing in the back. Leave that to big businesses who employ Mystery Shoppers (I call them Misery Shoppers) to pressure people to smile even in their bereavement and turmoil, just to get more customers through the door!
I am proud of people like the lady in this case, who is fortunate enough to have a lawyer and a Union representative, that may have given her the strength to see through to the hearings. I have neither, but I have a pen and paper in my little “Wikileaks” moments…..
Please sign the following petition. Issues on mental health I was suggesting to Pret since 2015. But important suggestions for improvement in supporting employees going through tragedy fell on deaf ears. If I had Mental Health First Aid and early authentic (not Pret-ense) support I would still be in a job and wouldn’t be writing this blog:
One quote, bold added by me: “[Jodie] Hill, managing director of employment boutique Thrive Law, told the Gazette: ‘We need to have a more open mind about mental health. If we can get support in place from the top then we can start to do something about this.’”
With “the top” of course she meant government and the law. The Petition
But this is always the key that works in all areas of leadership, if the top cares it will trickle down to the bottom. If a CEO does not have strong principles in place, as Pret’s CEO has in other areas where there is strong support once he is behind it, but if the head of a company doesn’t have clear guidelines, HR won’t bother and neither will the rest.