HeRo Boss Pia Meier – Colleagues Donate Overtime

 

Interview:

 

 

Adam

 

Above interview is with Adam from The Adam Paradox podcast on my experience in Pret A Manger.

We spoke about gaslighting, “shadow banning” and censorship on social media, as well as bereavement, trauma and mental health in general. I further talked about the significant timing of Pret CEO’s announcement of the £1000 Tweet for all staff. I also talked about a regular day in Pret and how staff have to cut corners, in order to fulfill the immense workload under constant pressure.

It is hard to squeeze my traumatic experience into a podcast segment, but we covered enough to get a good picture of today’s systemic stress environment for profit driven global companies.

Please visit his Podcast and Twitter @1AdamParadox.

 

 


 

 

2 Video Reports and 1 Article with English translations:

 

 

 

Extended Interview with HR boss Pia Meier:

 

 

Donating overtime? Not possible say legal experts. Indeed possible says HR Director Pia Meier – and prevailed.

An interview
Seidel Gi Zeitung

 

 

herMoney: Mrs. Meier, as the HR Director of Seidel GmbH & Co KG you found yourself in the headlines. Are you surprised by this immense media attention?

Pia Meier: Yes, I never expected that what is so natural to me would be of great interest to so many people…

 

herMoney: “Natural” doesn’t seem natural these days. Your employees donated 3300 hours of overtime for one colleague so he can care for his son who was diagnosed with leukemia. How did this campaign come about?

Pia Meier: A colleague from the production department approached me and asked if I knew about the child of a colleague that has become gravely ill. I didn’t know about this and phoned this employee to inquire about it myself. He already used all of his annual leave and at once submitted his resignation to continue to care for his son, as his son was his priority. But for me this wasn’t an option, a resignation was completely out of the question. So I liaised with my boss and the leadership of our works committee, and we came up with a plan.

 

What did the plan look like?

Initially the company supported his family financially. And then we wrote to each of the 700 employees explaining the situation and asked if anyone would be willing to donate overtime. Within two weeks we accumulated 3300 hours in total.

 

Did all employees participate?

Yes, including the leadership who gave each 100 hours towards this campaign. This touched so many co-workers, including myself, and welded us closer together as colleagues. More or less we managed to get so many hours together that this colleague could take the better part of 1.5 years paid leave to be with his ill son – while receiving his entire salary including Christmas bonus, without fear of losing his job.

 

Does your employer support this project?

(laughs) Dr. Andreas Ritzenhoff, CEO and owner of Seidel isn’t actually a business economist, but a medical doctor. He inherited the company from his father and it was always his desire to lead the company with this approach. So we, as well as the works committee believe in and live the same values and pull together under these principles.

 

Your CEO studied medicine, you at first worked as a practice nurse and later became a multilingual secretary. It seems an unusual leadership duo…

If I was a legal professional I would not have considered such an option. Legal professionals think different, legal questions and ramifications are paramount to them. And as a legal professional I would probably have thought first of all the implications regarding taxes. Even law professors wrote to me and asked me how I managed to get away with this, as by law it isn’t allowed to transfer overtime between employees.

 

And what was your response?

That employment contracts are individual agreements. The transfer of overtime though is complicated for the tax office. We might still face some consequences regarding this, but we take this upon us for the sake of a good outcome for this colleague. On the other hand the finance secretary of the state of Hessen, Thomas Schäfer personally presented us with the „Menschen des Respekts“ (People of Respect) award on behalf of the regional government. In case his finance office embarks on penalizing us for “monetary benefits”, he would then have to explain himself!

 

pia-meier-titel-2-1

Pia Meier

 

Back to you: You have had a remarkable career. How does one go from a practice nurse and later multilingual secretary to becoming the Director of HR in a company with 700 employees?

That’s a long story. After my graduation as a multilingual secretary I worked as the assistant to the CEO. When the previous Director of HR left the company, my boss asked me if I could fill the spot temporarily to liaise with the works committee. Apparently I did my job very well. After a few months the leadership of the committee approached Dr. Ritzenhoff and suggested to promote me to be the new Director of HR.

 

Were you apprehensive to fulfill this job-role?

Of course I was. My first reaction was, “Oh goodness, how on earth can I fill these shoes”. “I am not a lawyer.” But I soon realized that this isn’t even important. Vital for this job is the interpersonal skills and the sense for people. If I do need some legal advise I would employ professionals. Heart and compassion are central in relation to working with people, you cannot buy emotional intelligence.

 

Apart from the campaign with the overtime donations, you have also helped others in unique ways. Is professional and private life inseparable for you?

Absolutely, you can’t cut off the private person from the professional. When someone has personal problems it will always affect their work. That is why I offer every employee support, but I don’t force it upon them. My colleagues know about this opportunity for help and are not shy either to approach me if they need to. For example one time two colleagues stood at my doorstep with their young child. They showed me an eviction note and were very distraught. The date of the eviction was the following day…

 


Were you able to help?

I immediately phoned the mayor of the city of Marburg whom I know is a member of the executive council of the Housing Association to plead with him to halt the eviction. And then I negotiated with the creditors. In the end we were able to reduce the debt from 25,000€ to 9,000€. Before the credit investigation office was satisfied to close the case, our company bridged the gap financially. Today these employees repay this through a borrowing rate of 3.3% interest from the bank and are paying it off in small instalments. They were able to keep their apartment and jobs.

 

Is your social activity not taken advantage of at times?

Of course you have to be careful, but it doesn’t happen. Maybe because I know our employees very well and am really interested in their well-being. But I also would not recommend for anyone to mislead me – I have a zero tolerance for dishonesty. Commitment is very important to us. Everyone deserves a chance, but if anyone plays foul they will have to leave the company.

 

You say that you take a strong interest in the well-being and life of your colleagues, do you think this is particularly a female attribute? Or to rephrase: do women lead differently than men?

Yes, I think so. Maybe it is the maternal instinct that we bring to the table. We women don’t just see the worker, but the human behind it. In recent years the number of leading women has risen. Since the foundation of the company in 1830 a woman has taken on the leadership of production now. And even in the product development and project management women are leading the departments.

 

In the global competitive market, can a company afford to be “human” in all its forms, strengths as well as weaknesses?

With all the developments and changes that are happening, we cannot remove the heart and the core of a person. And in the long-run the contest of skilled and specialist workers in the selection process will separate the wheat from the chaff. I experience again and again that skilled specialists choose to work with us, even when they would receive a higher salary in another company. If staff is not seen and respected as human beings, they will in the long-run burn out. I am absolutely convinced of that. And our approach seems to be paying off. In 2017 we had the best results to date in the history of our company.

 

Seidel Gi Zeitung2

Presentation of “People of Respect” Award, from left to right: CEO Dr. Ritzenhoff, Andreas Graf father of Julius, Finance Minister Thomas Schäfer, Head of Works Committee Kai Deuker and HR Director Pia Meier.

 

 

Pia Meier is the Director of HR since seven years and is a member of the executive leadership team of Seidel GmbH & Co KG [Inc.] ( www.seidel.de/en ). Established in 1830, the company with its 700 employees is the global leader in aluminum design products, specialising in packaging and containers for the cosmetic industry. In the spring of 2018 the personnel of Seidel was presented the “People of Respect” award from the State of Hessen for their unparalleled support towards their colleague Andreas Graf.

 

Seidel Gi Zeitung3

Andreas and Julius Graf

 

Translated from the German interview: Führen mit Herz und Verstand – Leading with heart (compassion) and mind (common sense). In other words, in an organisation with a healthy HR department and management to lead with heart/compassion in corporation with the practical mind/common sense excecuting what the heart prompts, it’s a “no-brainer” and win-win for all, employer AND employee alike. 

Translated by expret.org aka LateNightGirl.org aka poetrasblok.com

 

My additional comments: I really love the clear and strong message on their website regarding their core values and what they stand for in relation to their employees and work ethics. It is unmistakably clear what policy they have in place, and this in turn is visible in their support as well as success of their workforce.

Their leadership guidelines are like music to my ears, something I always deeply believed in and tried to implement with the teams I worked with, no matter how hard the company was I worked under. A clear stance from the company leadership is paramount for the protection, growth and success of any workplace.

I particularly love the last sentence and cannot stop tearing up when reading this: “Leadership through Perspective: Our managers are to put themselves into their colleagues’ place in order to see the situation through the employee’s eyes and instruct the employee based on this perspective. This encourages the employee to carefully re-think their impulses for the future and to modify towards the instructed approach.”

Leadership Guidelines

 


 

For an overview of important blog entries of my experience in Pret A Manger, please visit My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The arrow next to each heading will lead directly to the post. Thank you for reading.

 

©2019 expret.org

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.

©2017 – Present: expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org, unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.

 

The Cost of Systemic Workplace Bullying

 

There are always numbers floating around in the news on the economical costs for work-related illnesses caused by stress and bullying. Those numbers go into the millions and billions each year. But I want to stay away from quoting any numbers, as I don’t know for sure how high the financial cost for this is or where the media gets these statistics from. And handling abstract numbers like this doesn’t really magnify the cause and true human cost behind it. I can speak only from my experience first hand and also from my observation and conversations on how colleagues are/were treated. The cost I am concentrating on, apart from mental illness and personal financial loss, is the cost of life itself.

Workplace bullying costs lives, and on that no amount or number is adequate enough to cover the costs as a life lost cannot be recovered. Once life is gone, it is gone. Health can be regained, financial loss can be won again, but once life is gone, that’s it, point of no return. Keep your numbers, keep counting your money, and keep hiding the consequences of workplace bullying under the carpet.

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My aim is not just to raise awareness of workplace bullying, as so many do already, and to find ways to stop it as best as I can in my sphere of influence, and make companies rethink their approach and value their employees and understand true leadership. My aim is to really take a closer look at a system in this day and age that is epidemic worldwide in this globalization we find ourselves in where huge companies imitate and apply what made other companies rich or what is so commonly called “successful”.

If I look at the conflicts in the world, the big ones and the small ones, wars, unrest, uprisings, legal battles, cyber attacks, workplace inequality etc. etc. It all has a common thread running through its core: class war and the struggle for dominance. Ian Hodson, a person who represents true leadership, points this out in one of his speeches. And to me, having worked with too many poor “leaders” that I don’t even want to call leaders and just put them in “quotation marks” for the poor management they display, the problem with greed is that it is never satisfied as it is a bottomless pit where no amount is ever enough, like Mahatma Gandhi so poetically and poignantly said that “There is enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” And paradoxically or amazingly, whichever way you want to look at it, he “landed” not only on stamps but on money as well! I wonder how many top executives, bankers, CEOs and anyone who makes their wealth on the backs of regular working people while being responsible for the misery of many an employee, will have their image imprinted on money or a stamp! Hardly any to none.

Ganhi pexels-photo-164636

The majority of people just want to live a normal, content life, work hard, pay their bills, raise their kids and see them thrive. They don’t cause any trouble, are reliable at work, care about their surroundings, but they find themselves in situations like I have found myself in and have collected here, unnecessary bulls**t that regular hard working, decent people with integrity have to deal with on a daily basis. Lives that are hurt and even destroyed by incompetence and carelessness of the top. I just about survived having come out on the other side bruised and damaged internally to speak about it. And if this happened to me even during the darkest time of my life, how many people have a similar story happen to them, but they crumbled under the mental strain and aren’t so lucky to happen to have a passion in writing and speaking out.

Because people everywhere and throughout history selfishly tend to just think from 12 to noon, not looking at the long-term effects and only in the long-run seeing the costs and consequences of bullying, but by then being way over the hill far away and gone from the consequences of their deeds. They pressure the very people who make this greedy wealth happen for them, they prefer to turn the blind eye repeatedly until they indeed become blinded to the difference of right and wrong. They twist and turn, cheat and lie so much they start to believe their own lies. They will by then have become so skilled in selling this lie to the next generation of “leaders”, who don’t have a clue what leadership means, even at its simple base of the definition. They mistake leadership with tyranny and loading it over the very workforce they should be taking care of by valuing and furthering them, if they don’t want these employees to one day turn around and bite them back in the butt! Fear management, prolonged fear in general leads to anger, and repeated mistreatment will not go “unpunished” in the long-run.

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The next generation of “leaders” will have taken up on the corrupt ways they learned and were subjected under, they continue to move in and even grow this toxic culture in the workplace and everywhere at that. It is a swim or drown situation of deciding to either become this kind of “leadership” to escape being at the receiving end of unjust treatment or stay under oppression and when the time comes, leave. Survival of the fittest at its best. This is of course in politics, schools, at home, everywhere, the struggle to dominate to not be dominated, but this is especially rampant in today’s multi-national companies that elbow their way through the high-streets with a smile and good PR.

And yes, I have received some support after almost a year of approaching the HR dept. being sent to into all directions and the support I then received came only after I contacted Pret’s CEO. A lot of the “support” was also for Pret-ense, but the core problem remained: suppressive leadership, bullying, exclusion, being shouted at, threats of job loss, tricked and trapped, not being given vital information needed to do the job, even weeks before I was dismissed with my dad in intensive care my last line manager did not invite me to the leadership Christmas dinner, it never ended. And then ultimately having been tricked and trapped again being dismissed while my dad just came out of a coma! This is Pret “doing the right thing naturally“.

It is so common with slogans like this that when an organization advertises something like this, it is a dead giveaway that it is the opposite. I had a complacent line manager once telling me what a hard worker he is, I laughed to myself thinking that, oh well, if he was such a hard worker he would be too busy working hard bringing the results than speaking about it!

So, what is the cost of workplace bullying? I survived to say that it has almost cost my life! And this is taking lives of many people everywhere in the world who didn’t have the strength to come full circle to talk about it. For anyone who survived or went through or even didn’t survive workplace bullying and unfair dismissals, and for their loved ones I speak out.

 

man-320273__340

 

What to me is very disheartening but does not come as a surprise is, that Pret’s leadership hasn’t even gotten the courage to respond to my public outcry yet. They have the “courage” to stress, suppress and mistreat staff, even while going through bereavement! But they can’t stand up to my public outcry. When they are contacted by customers about my blog, they sweet talk their way out of it as usual. Sure, they were probably instructed by their legal team to remain silent and let me rant and rave, and hopefully make mistakes which they can then use against me. Go ahead, I’m not going anywhere.

And it certainly is difficult and a sheer embarrassment for them as the top leadership has gotten involved. In Pret the common tactic to “motivate” their managers and shop teams to do better when they fail, is to name and shame them in front of the whole company. When a shop fails in a certain way like Health & Safety check-ups for example, all the shops are emailed with the poor results of that shop and where they failed, really shaming the manager. It’s a simple tactic to scare all shops to overwork for good results so Pret can show-off what a wonderful company they are. Of course they also brag on shops that bring amazing numbers and results, but it is also a tactic to make shops jealous so-to-speak, again to work even harder in this stressful environment. But I prefer a hidden agenda in praise anytime, to naming those who fail. And yet, here is Pret’s leadership being caught out failing their staff, and this is my turn to name their failings in the hopes they will improve in how they treat their staff, as this has almost cost my life and is hurting people who make Pret’s growth happen. What a shame:

  • The CEO belittling me as his “late night girl” in front of the Director of HR due to my ill late night emails which I extensively explain in my blog what happened to me; him minimizing my conduct that I tried so hard to overcome, and which to my surprise didn’t only happen to me in a workplace!
  • The Head of HR & Recruitment wanting me to stroke his ego by telling him on a scale of 1 to 10 how it was for me meeting with him, while I really needed to meet with my line managers who were at a loss… Uhm, sorry I still can’t answered that weird and self-serving question. The Head of HR missed my almost year long effort to bring suggestions on how to improve and support bereaved employees before I then finally contacted the CEO for help (stupid mistake as they were just having a laugh!)
  • Most managers who were out of their league in how to deal with me while I always gave them help and suggestions what would help me, but their refusal just made this mess worse.
  • OPs managers who were like a flag in the wind back and forth, stuck and stumbling between pleasing HR and having gotten to know me, not as this crazy person everyone was told about, but as someone who actually has a lot to share and bring to the table, even while being lost in grief and trauma… Well, they snooze, they lose!
  • A Development Manager having been used to give me a disciplinary for my emailing because she supposedly lost her brother very similarly to how I lost mine. But then her unallowed entering into solely electronic communication with me which with all the other emails gotten me dismissed while my dad was in intensive care, just out of a coma! Using her and her allowing for her tragedy to be used like this was a clever plan but the most disrespectful thing they have done, hoping to get to me via this “friendly fire” by stepping on bereaved people’s dignity like this. But this crossed a line and it only backfired.

This shows how incompetent and careless they are, and I cannot stop concluding how incredibly arrogant the conduct of an elite group is, that are at the top of a company. A company that was made big by regular working people, of which many of them have degrees and education from their home countries, but happen to not speak English as best yet, ending up working in Pret. Professionals with PhD’s whose degrees are not accepted in the UK and who are forced to study further to get the adequate degree as they cannot find work in their home country with what they specialize in. I worked with a colleague who back in his small Brazilian town was the secretary to the town’s mayor! I worked with a lady, also from a small Brazilian town having been a bank manager at the local bank there. I worked with talented IT people and artists, with a lawyer from Spain who has her degree in law etc. etc. These people were often patronized and treated like complete idiots, just because they didn’t speak English very well having the managers assume they can just discriminate highly intelligent and educated people who are forced to make sandwiches and coffee for some of the most snobbiest customers, just because their English isn’t quite there yet.

But back to my ordeal, what Pret did by using the Development Manager, and her allowing this was then the main push for me to go public while licking my wounds and after burying my dad, almost needing to be buried myself.

The heart of Pret gotten involved and messed up bigger than anyone on the shop floor could ever mess up. They have presented themselves as a “leadership” with their conduct and style that is trickled down, and reflected on the shop floor with shop after shop having extremely poor management with countless complaints about this.

Here is a company that is next to nothing when it comes to PR and how they present this nice facade to the public, while people internally are suffering. Yes, there are many good things in place like helping the homeless get back into work (while making other employees homeless by unfair dismissals!), the apprenticeship scheme (young people are cheaper in labour and easily fooled not having had enough experience in life yet, not knowing their rights), giving left over food each night to charities etc. And I don’t want to question the motif behind those schemes while still acknowledging that this makes excellent PR.

But the trouble with PR(et) always is that it is only one-sided. And in time the truth always comes to light. It always takes just one person to kick-start a true view of the company and stand up with the message, that this time they picked on the wrong person and especially at the wrong time! When a company as wealthy, sophisticated and rich in resources like Pret crosses a line by not even stopping to mistreat an employee who has been thrust into bereavement and trauma, and this company trying so hard to get rid of this “inconvenient” employee, even though this employee is still working extremely well under traumatic circumstances, helping the company succeed, it just shows how indifferent and plainly arrogant a company like this is for believing itself invincible.

I have been told by several people that I make them grow, well I hate to be the one making a now multi-billion company grow up!

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So, Pret will continue their PR and will find tricks and traps again in their own way how to get back at me for speaking out. And who knows what leadership changes will come in place after the JAB takeover as some people in HQ have already been made redundant. And silence might just be their tactic in the hopes this will just go away in time. No, it won’t! Important people are picking up on it, and it is time.

And this is the important thing that more and more people have become aware of how it really looks behind the scenes, and hopefully this will help that not more employees become ill and suicidal. My aim is NOT to hurt anyone, but to help that not more people are getting hurt! In the “return-to-work” interview sheet for employees who were off sick and returned to work, there is one question regarding the symptoms of the illness, one question that asks if the employee has anxiety issues related to work. There is a reason why this is asked as the main “motivating” factor in Pret is fear management and pressure resulting in bullying the very people they need to be treating well, but fail to.
I have had countless threats to my job security in my almost 10 years in Pret. I was an extremely good Team Leader and employee, I don’t say this to float my boat, because I am crap in other things, but I know how good I was at my job and received many many compliments from my teams and customers. And yet I was often in sheer fear to lose my job for no valid reason! And when this even intensified during bereavement and trauma where they still continued in this tactic, they crossed a line.

When I have a good moment I write more creatively and with a good pinch of humour and sarcasm I write things like my “IMAGINARY but Honest Interview with Pret A Manger” to highlight the ridiculousness of their efforts to hide the work conditions and staff treatment. It is my way of having a laugh at Pret for a change after them having a laugh about me becoming ill after trauma in bereavement and bullying at work.

What happened to me and all the Staff Complaints I have compiled unto one page just shows how unprofessional and indifferent Pret is. In time more people will come out and tell their stories. I know Pret is working hard in the background on some things. I am sure as they are many and as a huge company they should be able to handle ONE person. I for my part have sent a clear message as direct and also as creative as possible, that has drawn the line where after all I have been through, giving Pret the benefit of the doubt again and again, I have decided for good to not drink anyone’s dirty water no more! The CEO is not following his own advise to deal with issues fast. I’m still waiting, and so are others.

With a Pret A Manger smile!

Strong woman smudge smiley

 


 

I worked at Pret A Manger for almost 10 years and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the CEO. 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. I also tell my story for the first time verbally in this >>> podcast interview based in California. Thank you for reading/listening.

Interview:

©2018/2019 expret.org

Unless otherwise stated or linked to, this website and all writings within this site are the property of expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org and are protected by copyright and other intellectual property laws. Reproduction and distribution of my writings without written permission is prohibited.

©2017 – Present: expret.org, poetrasblok.com, LateNightGirl.org unless otherwise stated. All Rights reserved. Disclaimer.