The "Shhh!!! No Talking" Sign Has Been Turned Off
Today our team, us rug sales guys, our manager, you'll remember "Theresa," and the manager from another store, whom we shall refer to as "Pat," had a meeting. This was a meeting long time coming, and felt like Festivus. Mostly because I took full-advantage of the Airing of Grievances. The meeting started with the political, corporate mumbo-jumbo you know and expect. Including touching on the change in our working schedule which was a hot-button item for all of us, and I will get to that.
Pat is completely aware of the problems our team, hell, the entire store has with Theresa. Pat is the visitor who got a lot of balls rolling...straight over Theresa it would seem. Pat understands that some bitterness and contempt has arisen in the past few weeks and offered up the floor, stating that sometimes people want to be polite and hold their tongue, Theresa jumped in saying she wanted a team bonding experience, that she was sorry for some of the negative things that had transpired over the last few weeks, but then guilt-tripped us on offering us breakfast for this meeting (with a nudge and a wink, one of the sales guys and I had denied the offer knowing we weren't going to be in an eating mood for this meeting). I jumped in right there, capitalizing on this witty attempt at guilt tripping.
Now, before I start paraphrasing, I knew this meeting was coming. Pat had asked me in a previous conversation to write notes about my or anyone's concerns. I did. I made sure it wasn't emotional or overly negative either. I tried to write an observational editorial on instances and occurrences I had witnessed. Three topics I wrote about. I had intended to read straight from the script, but with how this meeting was unfolding, I was going to have to fly off the cuff, but wanted to hit some of my major bullet points. Presented here for the discriminating public are my notes. In bold are the points I directly brought up.
"In what I can only discern as an effort at character assassination, (Theresa) has on multiple occasions gossiped about members of (Redacted) Brothers employees, including her own teammates and staff. She has talked to me about suspicions she has about A and N, opinions about A2's private/family life, accusations of immaturity and laziness in the flippers, and most damning, personal details revealed in a negative light concerning (Pat). In hindsight, this appears to be in an effort to raise her virtuous status and cloud (Pat's) character. It is hardly worth noting or discussing someone's background, relationships, or personal business, let alone revealing private photos with someone who has not met nor works with the individual. Yet (Theresa) misses no opportunity to speak at length concerning her opinions of people, especially when they are not present or able to defend themselves. I am aware that I also am a victim of (Theresa's) machinations though I have done nothing but be myself to or for anyone."
I began with Theresa's guilt tripping habits, noting instances where she had done so, especially concerning the day previous and our lack of desire to participate in breakfast. I quickly segued to the gossiping, however. I did use the phrase character assassination, which took Theresa by surprise, it really set the tone for the rest of what I had to say. After explaining that it always looked like she was trying to make herself look better through this negative talk, she attempted to explain that she and the other guys had talked like that for a while, stress, lackadaisical comfort, melancholy, whatever, she knew she should reconsider what she says about people. I retorted with "there's a difference between talking behind someone's back, venting, getting rid of stress, and prefacing your statement with 'don't tell anyone I said this...'" Which seemed to shut her up beyond defense. This was like a killing blow, I felt like I had punched her in the face. It was radical. That doesn't even need an exclamation point, it is merely a statement of fact. I was rad.
The air still wasn't clear, after discussing a need to be more aware of her statements, I managed to work in my views on her leadership skills (or lack thereof). Here are the notes:
"(Theresa's) attempts at management are akin to an over-bearing obsessive. Examples would include instructing me to act and speak in a certain way, including on specific ways I should answer questions (Note: I had discussed this with Pat previously). She insists on ordering a more positive attitude out of her team without offering correspondent incentive. She regularly blows menial issues out of proportion and has attempted to gloss the situation by apologizing for her outburst, but not to the individual she blew up at. This seems to me that she is more concerned with keeping up appearances rather than genuinely being concerned with how she may have affected others. This desire to control everyone and thing around her make her seem more controlling than supervisory. Coupled with her negative gossip and routing of blame in an effort to bolster her status has fostered an unhappy work environment. I in no way mean to inspire contempt but am stating issues I have concerning the confidence I have in this group's leadership abilities."
The idea I wanted to get across here permeated the meeting, coming back up towards the end of our nearly two hour discussion. The other sales guys corroborated my sentiments, illustrating their issues and examples as well. I made mention of her apologies at the beginning of the meeting and how this sounded like more of the same. She was more concerned with how she appeared rather than how she was affecting people. Time would tell if she was sincere, but even the other guys didn't miss the opportunity to say they had heard apologies before, only to see Theresa return to "normal."
Towards the end of the meeting Theresa, naturally, went on the defensive, saying that I was the new guy, I didn't know her well enough to be saying these things, that where she was disappointed in me was in my lack of desire to really close deals (totally off topic and I said I knew what she was talking about and had a response. Here, Pat said she wanted to hear my response, but Theresa kept talking a mile a minute trying to break off my chance. It is worth noting that I did get back to this issue, and it was the instance I described in my Megalomania entry). I told Theresa that we were trying to discuss what our issues were, and that her taking the defensive was turning this into an argument. I told her that I thought she was a nice lady, but some things were concerning, and we were just trying to get them out in the open so that all of us could work through them.
Thankfully, Pat had my back. She said I was right in what I was saying, that Theresa did indeed need to be listening right now and that this was an effort to heal wounds, not exacerbate them.
Finally, the big issue, the schedule change. For the last two weeks, Theresa had been claiming it wasn't her idea, that "they" wanted her to change it, that she was trying to fight for us...blah, fucking, blah. The problem is, we've all been used to, and working well with, working every third Sunday. We have families and like to have at least one weekend day with them as much as possible. Now we were going to be expected to work Sundays and only get every third Sunday off. The notes:
"(Theresa's) desire to change the schedule appears to be the result of trying to pass blame for poor sales. She insists she has been ordered by "them" to make these changes with veiled explanations concerning any validity of these claims. By copying OKC's schedule it appears she intends to create a similar environment to our sister store in hopes of generating income. The problem is, however we do not have the customer base to justify such a schedule. In the event sales continue to suffer despite the change in schedule, it appears (Theresa) hopes to sidestep the blame by suggesting she copied OKC's model and that it is then the model's or team's fault, not her own. This is tantamount to watering your lawn during the rainy season. Saturating the environment does not lead to growth, instead it is stifling and degrading. (Theresa) is destroying the very team she is in charge of, and the failures that result from her actions she seeks to blame others for (Note: this point was pretty much self evident throughout the meeting). Her unwillingness to accept blame, admit failure, or practice honesty regarding the sudden desire to change the schedule is only creating further derision."
Pat actually rose to Theresa's defense in this instance, but not for Theresa's sake. The main guy, head-honcho, owner of the business, had declared a square-one reset, everyone work the same, everyone on every weekend day. But after hearing our complaints and concerns, Pat understood where we were coming from and saw that taking the Sunday from us was going to do more harm than good. She conceded the point. The schedule is stuck for now, there's this big rug sale thing called "Rug Fair" (the AmberLynn giggles at this) that may very well require our more dedicated attention. But from the sounds of it, we should go back to the schedule everyone is accustomed to and expects. I was tickled that I could get the importance of this one issue across.
Everyone laying into Theresa may or may not change her. We'll see, that's a "time will tell" kind of deal. But in just under two months working at this place I have seen a place mired in contempt and loathing, I'm looking for another job, I didn't want retail in the first place. But if by my coming along I make a better work environment through my actions, I'd say that's a pretty bitching accomplishment.
I stuck it to the (wo)man today, I stood up for myself and for a team. Pat commended me on my eloquence and cool-control despite the potential to become emotionally charged. Theresa even thanked me for my honesty.
Hey, bitch...that's what I'm here for.