Conversations at brunch: Did you hear? Jess got fired | Part 7.2
I had hit rock bottom. So I did what any sane person would do: I ordered a cake.
A new personal blog series exploring the highs and lows of the conversations you have at brunch.
This is Part 7.2 of a series. For a recap of Part 1, click here.
No-one knows who spoke to Phil (and other offensive comments)
I was in the final month of probation of a job that was going really well... until suddenly, it wasn't.
The day after being told I wasn't 'where I need to be', I decided to just concentrate 110% on work and nothing else. I needed this job. I needed security for a mortgage and maternity leave the down track, and needed to stay somewhere longer than a three month contract so people wouldn't think I was nuts.
At the office, I was working on a report that required input on data for 'audience segmentation.' (Sidenote: in any other marketing organisation, this would be the role of a data analyst, not a copywriter with zero experience in data analytics, but I digress).
And this is where it got really, really weird.
Barb (the senior manager who video called me unannounced to ask why my dad's cancer affected my work), also in the office, was going over the report on her computer.
Now, this is tedious, I apologise. But that's the point.
Barb wanted more info. She asked me to contact a woman in marketing about her 'conversations with Phil' and 'how they came to this decision' for the report. Fine, no worries.
I emailed the woman, who responded saying she had never spoken to Phil.
I told Barb as such, who didn't seem to understand this, and kept going around in circles asking me about their conversation. After a while of her asking over and over for info around their conversation, I said, politely,
"[The woman's name] seems to say she didn't speak with Phil, I'm not sure who spoke to Phil, no one knows, but it's okay, [#GirlBoss name] has some other information I can use to get that report ready for you shortly, no worries." I mean... nothing. Whatever. Right? I then sat down and continued my work. I might have completely forgotten about it considering how mundane the chat was, except that a few minutes later, Barb wheeled her chair over to my desk, right into my face, and started an extremely confrontational conversation: B: Jess. I'd like to have a chat. J: Oh yep, sure. How can I help? B: That comment you made. J: [I probably appeared confused, unsure what she was referring to] B: I found that to be REALLY off-hand! J: Oh...I...I'm a bit confused...what comment? B: When you said 'no-one knows' - I found that to be VERY off-hand. It was really off-hand! J: [I remain confused] I think there has been a miscommunication here - you mentioned you would like some more information in the report, and I could get this information from the woman, who spoke with Phil. The woman said she never spoke to Phil. I don't know who did, all three of us were unsure who did, but it's okay, my manager found a workaround so I can still put the information in the report, so it's all okay! B: I just found that off-hand, for you to say like no-one knows what they're doing around here! J: [Heart pounding] That is NOT what I said. I said no-one knows who spoke to Phil. I did not say that. I would not say that. That's not how I speak, and that's not what I think. B: So, I suppose I just misheard you, then, did I? J: I don't know? B: So, I must just have it wrong then? [in an accusatory manner] J: ...Okay. Like... what the actual f*ck??
She left my desk. I instinctively wanted to cry, as I was so confused as to what had happened, but tried my best to hold it in as I didn't want to be crying at my desk, again, in the space of two days. It may sound silly now reading it, but the mood was just so tense and awkward and I just couldn't understand it at all.
After about 20 or 30 minutes of my heart throbbing while sitting in dead silence, Barb's eyes piercing into me from behind, I couldn't hold it in anymore. I went downstairs and ran outside, and just started balling my eyes out sobbing, again. I called my mum to try to reconcile about what on earth had just happened, not understanding what I missed, and how on earth stating a fact as innocuous as 'no-one knows who spoke to Phil' was perceived as derogatory or 'off-hand' (which I think was meant to mean offensive?)
My Mum just told me to get the f*ck out of there. I should have listened, but I just felt despair. I already was just made redundant, I needed a role to get maternity leave in the future, and how could I face my friends and family for leaving yet ANOTHER job? What would I tell my partner? Who would believe that it was something as little or stupid as this? The pressure was just too much. I remained outside for 25 or so minutes to try to calm myself down from crying uncontrollably, again. I just couldn't understand what I had done wrong or what had changed from getting along with everyone to making me persona non grata all of a sudden. When I eventually returned to my desk, my #GirlBoss came over for a 'chat' about my 'altercation' with Barb, and that she hoped Barb didn't hear the 'comment under my breath'.
Again, I said I was extremely confused, as all I said was no one had spoken to Phil, and this wasn't a 'hidden' or derogatory comment. Still visibly upset and frankly, exasperated with what I felt was a totally insane reaction, I said I just didn't understand this or what had changed in the last week, that at my review a month prior everything had been fine, even when I pushed for more feedback.
A lot of this was met with silence. Looking back, it was gaslighting of the highest order. I literally felt like I was going crazy. That night, once again, I cried and cried, not understanding at all what was happening. I didn't want to tell my dad, who had his own stresses, but I spoke with my husband, friends and colleagues, and everyone appeared very perplexed, they were waiting for me to get to what the 'actual' issue was, or what it is I had actually done - but I couldn't answer. After a long night of feeling extremely upset, I prepared myself for wrath the next morning. Over what, I still wasn't quite sure.
Let them eat cake
At 8:30am, I went into the office, put away my lunch, and chatted with colleagues. HR told me to come to a room with a woman younger than me, who greeted me by saying the conversation was not going to be positive. Cool, good morning to you too. I sat in silence while she stood and stared out of a window.
Sometimes I wish I was a brickie. Surely they don't have to deal with this kind of corporate shit.
#Girlboss arrived late, and then proceeded to pull out a bunch of hand written pages that she started reading from, outlining why they would not be continuing my probation. She said she had hoped I was coming in as a '2IC' (not what I applied for) and that 'we quickly realised you were not up to standard/this was not you', and neither was my writing. She spoke of 'feedback' from the last week, which I can only assume is Barb saying, GET RID OF HER because I dared to say no-one knows who spoke to Phil.
I know I was not perfect in the role. I definitely made mistakes in my first three months. I had forgotten some information. I had work that needed to be edited. This was definitely an area of improvement I was working on, and I had made that clear in my feedback and action plans. That said... every single bit of copy I had written was published, whether it was on the website, socials, flyers, portfolios, banners or billboards - so it couldn't have been that bad.
I also have a Masters in Communication, had worked in a content capacity for eight years, and had never in my life been critiqued to this level on my writing and personality. In my previous job, I was met by overwhelmingly positive feedback my copy and innovations. At the risk of sounding obnoxious, I had 10 or 15 colleagues message me after my redundancy, dismayed at the decision because they loved the flair I was bringing to the team and overall communications.
The HR girl had the paperwork ready for me to GTFO. And if you're asking if they can do this, the answer is yes - on probation, 'not a good fit' is reason enough to dismiss someone, whereas to fire them, they pretty much have to get their d*ck out in the CEO's office, multiple times.
I was one week shy of being on-going.
I really, still, don't know what it was that was so incredibly bad that I should be fired. Maybe it was one too many mistakes on an analytics report. Maybe I just never 'got' the company. Maybe they just didn't like my personality, and were looking for a way to get rid of me because they found me annoying. Maybe one day, Barb just decided she didn't like the look of me. I really don't know.
What I do know, is that I was to leave the building, effective immediately. I wasn't allowed to say goodbye, or even get my lunch. I actually laughed in their faces at the ridiculousness of it all - I was being treated like a sex criminal.
I was escorted out of the building at 9:00am in the middle of the CBD. Dressed in my full head to toe corporate gear, I walked silently over the road, past the shops, into a café, got on the phone to call my partner and then, I broke down, crying so much, again, that I was literally shaking.
I really had no idea what on earth had just happened. It took me two hours to walk around the city to calm down before I felt safe enough to drive home. Once I finally got back, I was still in total shock.
Except this time, I was out of tears.
I was angry.
I was angry about the man at my university job in 2017, who shouted into the ether, 'This is HER job! Why isn't SHE doing it?' about me to anyone in earshot, and the men who sat next to him and said nothing.
I was angry about my job in 2018, when I joined a company for a huge pay cut thinking it was my dream job, only to be bullied out by a woman who it turned out had multiple HR reports against her, and many other women who had quit the very position I was in that year.
I was angry about the 250 applications I had made to land a job that made me redundant nine months later, and angry that they made me fight against another woman for a job I was never going to get.
I was angry about lockdown and Covid and not seeing my friends and family and being constantly panicked about my parents' health.
I was angry that out of anyone, it was my job that had to be made redundant, it was my wedding that got cancelled, it was my best friend I hadn't seen in five years who couldn't come from overseas, it was my honeymoon that was not going to happen, it was my auntie that had to die, it was my dad that was slowly dying right in front of me.
I was angry that I was going to have to job search AGAIN, tell all my family and friends that I had lost another job AGAIN, that I was going to have to pick myself up AGAIN.
I was angry that yet again, some toxic female manager who was bored decided that instead of being part of the sisterhood, she was going to make it her week's mission to destroy me and my career for no feasible reason, and to make me think that I was literally going insane.
So you know what, I thought. If they wanted to treat me like I was insane, well fine. I would be.
I was angry, I was frustrated, I was sad, I was enraged, I had time, and I had had it.
And then, reader... I snapped.
I don't know how it entered my head, I don't even remember who I booked it with. But all I know is, I was clearly having a mental breakdown, because the next day, this cake arrived at the corporate head office of the people who had fired me:
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