A Team Leader (TL) and a Development Manager (DM) are stranded on a large island far out in the ocean. The island is inhabited by monkeys. The DM lives deep in the jungle and has learned to arrange herself with the monkeys. The TL has built her hut close to the water and provides the monkeys with fish to eat. The DM and the TL speak the same language that the monkeys don’t understand. DM and TL don’t know each other and that there is someone on this island who speaks the same language. Only the monkeys know about them.
The TL by the water is stomping on the island too much, she is too noisy because no-one understands her language and pain. She is constantly placed under monkeys who give her a hard time on top of her ordeal. The monkeys scheme and plan on how to get rid of TL, as she refuses to be like them and conform to being a monkey. TL’s bereavement is an inconvenience, or as one higher monkey complained twice in writing that TL’s situation (bereavement) was “imposed” on him. Imagine a leader complaining that a physically disabled person, or a person of another skin tone or religion or sexual orientation… is “imposed” on him. Phew! Would the monkeys go coconuts and there’d be trouble in the jungle! But all TL just wants to do is to fish and go back to her hut to come to terms and grieve in peace, after the unclear cause of death of her brother far away from the island.
But deep in the jungle there is a group called Monkey Resources (MR), and after many tricks and traps and substantiating grievance hearings a little bit here and a little bit there, to make it look like they care and to not get in trouble with the gorillas (law), MR has the ultimate brilliant foolproof idea! Never underestimate a monkey, they are clever feisty little things!
TL just won’t stop to raise issues of discrimination and unfairness by the monkeys, not realizing that MR is in the monkey business. Stupid TL! TL is alone in her struggle and keeps approaching MR for help and to raise issues of bad treatment during bereavement. TL is protecting the other Team Members from her turmoil and puts on a brave face not wanting to burden her team and not wanting to involve anyone as they would be intimidated by fear management of the monkeys anyway.
Unfortunately her approach which was informal and peaceful in the beginning turned into painful and ill approach in time, fueled by post traumatic issues and helplessness. The monkeys tried everything, from bullying and targeting, fear management, counseling after TL sent a message to King Kong of the island, trying to pay her out peanuts if she leaves the island… Nothing worked, because the immediate monkeys that were over TL kept mistreating her, often very subtle if open mistreatment was caught out. It never stopped. TL was too exhausted in grief to find another island and couldn’t afford to take a longer break away, as fishing wasn’t the most lucrative work for her. She kept being hysterical in her grief and pain. The ocean itself was hard to cross and the countless tears added to that ocean.
But monkeys have sleeves, too, where they hide their Ace. And DM was that Ace in place. They approached DM who has arranged herself well with the monkeys, and tasked her to go down to the beach where the rebel TL is rocking the boat too much. Actually she wasn’t going down to the beach, TL had to go deep into the jungle to meet DM.
When TL met DM to get a sanction for stomping the ground too much, DM started speaking the language TL understood, and silly TL started to believe that the monkeys really care now! Wow, there is a person on this island who speaks my language??!!!
What TL did not know was that DM wasn’t supposed to speak the same language (officially). DM was supposed to speak in secret with TL to calm her down. But TL kept getting confused why DM was so secretive, giving mixed messages and coming across manipulative, as DM happens to also be a Hypnotherapist and NLP practitioner, able to use those tools very well. Until six months later after MR started to investigate why TL has started to stomp the ground again, that’s when DM finally admitted to TL that she wasn’t “technically” allowed to speak the same language with TL. Aaahh! Now you’re talking! Now TL understood why she was often so confused and frustrated, even lashing out in anger when drunk in the hut!
This and TL’s father submitted into intensive care in a coma, seeing him so ill, thrust TL in a new ill behaviour rocking the boat so much. Losing the hut on the beach, TL was thrown from the island of Pret A Monkey into the ocean while TL’s father was in hospital, by that time just out of the coma across the ocean far away. TL “swam” over the ocean to her father, made peace with him for whatever was outstanding, stood by his side as best as possible. TL’s dad has died now and TL is still swimming in the ocean, but out of reach of the monkeys. At least.
TL is swimming in a pool of loss. Being introduced to a person who speaks the same language just to be given a sanction by that person, is inconceivable. And it is scary what else the monkeys are capable of.
Dear Andrea Wareham, Director of HR,
I am sorry to be writing a third open letter to you and so bluntly, but once you have read the first two letters, you most probably won’t be going back to them after I edited some things I forgot to mention. So, I write a third letter, and it can be seen as a bottle post I have thrown into the ocean, in the hopes this reaches you well.
It is still very painful for me what your HR department under the Head of HR has done to me and how they have dealt with my trauma from the beginning. I made the mistake to stay too long and try too hard to change work conditions internally. I know you have taken some things on board, even used some of my suggestions and ideas, thank you for that. But you take the credit for it while I suffered and remained under difficult management. I know I was loud, I did everything wrong I could have done wrong. I was in a lot of pain.
All I needed was management who were confident, skilled, and plain normal while remaining respectful. At the end I found such a manager, or rather he found me! I even worked with him a few days, helping him out in his shop, or actually he was more helping me to get in more hours since my hours at my shop were radically cut to zero during the Christmas period, and me having to find a shop to get hours. And I felt for the first time in a very long time really valued and respected at work. This manager is not “Pret-entious”, he is as organic as they come. Even just having met him a few times, it was clear in my gut that he is an honest soul, respecting his staff. But again, it wasn’t meant to be! Another higher manager (OPs) snatched me away from this great GM into this OPs’ new area because of the way I work, raising the standard and with it the success of every shop I worked in.
But that aside, what was the most painful and disrespectful thing the HR department has done to me, that absolutely crossed the line, was to use the development manager, Lila Tighilt Warren, who supposedly has a very similar loss than I have. But instead of putting us in contact to support each other in our common bereavement, she was used to sanction me. I’d like to explain why I called this in my second note to you “perverse”. And again, I’m sorry to be using such a strong word, but this is the only word I can find for this. And I will continue to search for a better word to redefine how I feel. Certainly a Tribunal Judge found better words to describe the HR process of hearings when he called it “fundamentally flawed” (page 9 top). That was 8 years ago, and I can confirm that it still is this way today. And something that is “fundamentally” flawed will not change so quick, as the foundation always takes the longest to build and rebuild.
Only since recently have I learned and realised that what your HR department has done to me, especially via “DM”, was gaslighting me. That’s why this felt so, and why I can only describe this as perverse.
I know you are busy in the background with what legal action you can take against my public outcry once that email confirmation from the Employment Tribunal has been received. And you certainly will give me a bad reference for any future employment. That is your prerogative. My prerogative is, that after I almost lost my life, certainly my mental health and job, having given so much to Pret in my 10 years even during the most excruciating bereavement while being mistreated, I will use whatever freedom I have to speak about my ordeal after having tried for three years to speak with you internally. I always played with open cards which was to my disadvantage. And I have certainly done everything wrong with all the terrible emailing to Pret and others. I will always be ashamed for this and I cannot describe the pain and trauma I was in, and still am in. I have found that I am not the only “crazy” person out there in the ocean of mental illness. And I continue to play with open cards, no matter what unfair and dishonest tricks anyone throws at me. I am willing to lose even more, but I will not stop to speak up.
How HR has dealt with my situation and ultimately how they dealt with my bereavement as explained in the metaphor above, is so painful to me, as if someone died again. This was too much and crossed a line that was better not crossed. It may sound funny to you, but I have been much more patient with Pret, than you with me. I was alone and made that mistake to put myself into the shoes of a multi million pound company, a company the same judge above calls “highly sophisticated” and shouldn’t be making errors like they have.
Being introduced to “DM” just to get a sanction from her for my emailing, who then entered into solely “electronic” communication with me, where in reality we were not allowed to openly speak with each other even though we have similar loss. The disciplinary which became not valid because of our contact and me subsequently getting dismissed for emailing, while she is safe and protected in her job. This support being taken away again, is like having to bury a person again. Do you know what emotional torture this is?
It is like holding a glass of fresh, cold water in front of a person who just crawled through a torching desert, just to take that glass away again and thrust that person back into the desert! It is unspeakably painful, and the only way I go on is to speak about it, no matter what you do against me. I am intrigued about the next tricks I am being served with after my public outcry here.
I never claimed that I’m “doing the right thing naturally”. That is your claim.
Late Night Girl
I worked at Pret A Manger and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the now “retired” former CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
An incomplete list on what other Pret staff say about Pret’s bullying environment: Caught in the Act Bullying at Pret.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote two articles in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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