The Pen is Mightier than the...Rage-Quit?
February 24, 2014 9:54 AM   Subscribe

For a number of reasons, my work environment has become particularly stressful, to the point where it has visibly impacted my well-being. Do I quit, or stay and defend myself?

I'm a (female, 23-year-old) supervisor in a city pharmaceutical retail chain.

1) Scheduling: In my year of working at this store, I can count the number of requested days off on one hand. I always give 2-weeks' advanced notice, although all of my notices end up trashed or otherwise missing. I end up having to cancel doctor's visits, pest exterminations...etc. When my SO and I planned a short Valentine's day trip, I gave several advanced written and oral notices as early as January 30th; when I asked why I was scheduled to work through that weekend despite giving notice, he shrugged and said "I gave myself off on that day." I note bitterly that my female associates have had multiple confrontations with him about their shifts, because he frequently ignores their posted class schedules or advanced notices. This does not happen with male employees. The store manager also schedules me to open when he becomes aware of a snowstorm, and has frequently forced me to switch with him if the schedule was already finalized. He does this despite knowing that I lack transportation, cabs refuse to run that early in snowstorms (or charge more than I can afford), and have managed to injure my back (from falling on ice) every single time I had to open.

2) Gender Bias: The store manager has demonstrated gender biases, and acts on them. He frequently refers to women as "dramatic," "hysterical" and "drama-queens;" in a recent confrontation with him, he lamented the fact that there weren't more male employees. He frequently keeps male employees close to him and gives them assignments. This has directly impacted my ability to manage, because they only take instructions from him - and he's given them assignments, by text message while he's at home, that directly contradict the needs of my shift. Multiple associates, including one male associate, have privately informed me that one male associate in particular is supposed to "watch" me and the female assistant manager while the store manager is absent. Those that have the store manager's favor have been known to do the following: show up 2-3 hours late without calling to give notice, appear in the store while heavily intoxicated (the store manager shrugged it off because "he wasn't on the clock, so it doesn't matter"), take unsanctioned breaks without notifying the assistant manager or myself, and take phone calls while ringing up customers or while in aisles. The assistant manager, the new supervisor and I have all repeatedly brought this up, but nothing has changed. I requested to be shown how to write employees up - which I supposedly had the ability to do - but he refused, and simply told me to say "I'll tell [the store manager]."

3) Racial Bias: The store manager has, on numerous occasions, been nasty and unyielding with Latino/a customers, to the point where several customer complaints were lodged against him. He frequently expresses distrust towards Black customers, and is not anywhere near as conciliatory towards them as he is with white customers in the same scenarios. Frequent customers of color usually ask for me personally when they need to settle issues with purchases, because the store manager has been known to snatch receipts, grumble, etc.

4) Additional Workplace Drama (you're welcome to just skip to the bottom at this point): During the last snowstorm here in NJ (during which I opened and closed the store), each of my associates nearly called out, deciding ultimately to come in as a personal favor. The store was dead, so I chose not to be strict about the dress code. And to my peril: the Loss Prevention head chose that day to tap into our security cameras and watch me. She called and chastised me, and then sent an email longer than our phone conversation to the store manager, district manager, and HR. I have since been singled out for misconduct. More recently, I received an email accusing me of misconduct for not opening her emails. Conversations with the assistant manager and new shift supervisor indicate that I am the only one currently under scrutiny - despite the fact that I am the ONLY member of management who is thorough in their paperwork, and consistently leaves notes and documentation of issues.

5) Insult over Injury: I recently injured myself on my way to work, and was rushed to the hospital. The store manager texted me shortly after: "what time r u supposed to be in????????" and I had someone else in the ER (because it was a hand injury) type my response. To which he said: "just an excuse to be late." When I was discharged, I gave him the doctor's note excusing me from work for several days, but not before he demanded that I clock in. The only reason he backed off was because of the blood still splattered on my work pants. When I reminded him the next day of the ER note and offered to help find someone to compensate for my absence, he replied with "let's do this. you come in at 4 [instead of 1pm], you [do a bunch of tasks not possible at that point because my hand was still messed up]." When I firmly asserted that it would be inappropriate to go against the note, he did not respond. But when I came back on Saturday, my ER note was gone, not anywhere in the office or my personnel file, and my hours for this current week had been slashed by 10. He also scheduled me for this past Sunday, which due to the tasks of that day I have NEVER been scheduled for without four or more days' advanced notice, and also scheduled me for a day that I had requested off, repeatedly, starting in the last week of January.

Everyone has told me not to quit, but I'm shaking even in writing all of this out with more I haven't mentioned. I started taking Clonazepam in October to deal with working at my particular store, and even my primary doctor recommended that I just leave that job and find another. More recently, the dosage of Clonazepam I'm taking isn't as effective; I've started having panic attacks at work, I'm rapidly losing chunks of my hair, and find it difficult to focus even when at home. But I can't afford to quit: the store manager tends to cut hours as a form of punishment when he's irritated with people, and not working a consistent 40-hour week has put me behind on rent and utilities. If I try to file for unemployment, the store manager will probably fight my claim.

Do I take that risk and quit, or file a report with HR and see if the fallout actually changes things?
posted by Ashen to Work & Money (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What's preventing you from looking for another job somewhere else? I know jobs aren't exactly throwing themselves at people, but with retail management skills I bet you've got at least some options.

Look for the new job while you're working, then quit when you've accepted an offer. Life's way too short.
posted by Madamina at 9:58 AM on February 24, 2014 [11 favorites]

Why has "everyone" been telling you not to quit? Sounds like a situation you should extract yourself from as soon as humanly possible.
posted by kaspen at 10:00 AM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do I take that risk and quit, or file a report with HR and see if the fallout actually changes things?

None of the above. Find a new job. Now.
posted by saeculorum at 10:01 AM on February 24, 2014

New job ASAP. Then quit.
posted by epanalepsis at 10:03 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Look for a new job - NOW. "Everyone" has been giving you bad advice. Once you get a new job, quit, without the courtesy of an explanation or two weeks' notice. (If you can afford to not have a job for a bit, quit now.)

If it's a large drugstore chain (a la CVS, Walgreen's, Duane Reade), you can probably also file an anonymous discrimination complaint with HR -- do that, and quit anyway. If it's a small chain or an independent drugstore you might not have that option.

IANAL and TINLA, but it sounds like you might be able to initiate a discrimination lawsuit against this manager.
posted by tckma at 10:06 AM on February 24, 2014

To add: I haven't already quit because I haven't been able to secure a job that didn't require a commute by car (which I don't have), and my references are screwy: my strongest professional reference was recently forced out of retirement before I could get her personal email address, I DEFINITELY can't ask my boss or assistant manager (who has her own issues, and I don't trust her) for a reference. The rest can confirm that I worked there, but not much else.

Even the burger joints are hired up in this area, and I don't have enough money saved up to commute to another city. I'm going to visit the bar I want to work in (despite not having any bartending experience), because they seemed moderately interested and I have a good shot at selling myself there. Administrative jobs at Rutgers are impossible to obtain, and everyone I know [edit: who is moderately connected to] the university either graduated, moved to another university, or has no connection to my departments of interest.

The strategy of shooting multiple online applications hasn't been working. Since I was (bizarrely) given today and Tuesday off, should I change strategies and just start directly calling/emailing people?

ALSO: I have reason to believe that the District Manager and Loss Prevention head started forwarding their emails to me to HR because they're planning on firing me for misconduct (rather than any other formal reason), which would immediately disqualify me from unemployment. I'm worried that if I either stall in quitting or don't quickly file a counter-complaint with HR, they will fire me first.
posted by Ashen at 10:11 AM on February 24, 2014

Find a new job ASAP. If you can afford to, quit now.

This sounds awful, but pretty typical of retail.

There are great jobs out there, go get one.

If you feel that you have a legitimate grievance, see an employment lawyer and/or file a claim with the EEO department in NJ.

If you have documentation for days off, etc, hang onto it as evidence. If you can, go into the store.

I wouldn't bother with HR. HR is there to keep the employees in line, not to help them.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:12 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'll justify my statement a bit more to be helpful:
  1. Don't quit - it's a lot harder to get unemployment when voluntarily leaving your job than when you are terminated by your employer. It is certainly possible to get employment when voluntarily leaving your job, but the state's unemployment board will put the onus on you to show that you were leaving due to extraordinary circumstances. On the other hand, if you are terminated by your employer, the state's unemployment board will put the onus on the employer to show you were terminated due to misconduct (which is not just "doing your job badly" - it's deliberately attempting to do the employer harm).
  2. Don't go to HR - they do not exist to help you, and they are bound to help your employer. There's no such thing as anonymity with HR, and there's almost no chance HR would be able to help you. From your description, to fix your issues with your workplace, HR would either have to fire multiple people (the manager and Loss Prevention) or fire you. I'll let you guess which is easier.
  3. Don't go to a lawyer - Mefites have this odd idea that lawyers make everything better and that future employers will realize that you were just "fighting the good fight". This is not the case. You can't sue an employer without future employers suspecting your loyalty. The legality of your employer's actions is completely irrelevant - laws are not self-enforcing and require action on your part for anything to happen. If this action is in you suing your employer, your future employability is at stake. If this action is via the state employment/discrimination officials, the chance of success is almost zero and your future employability is still at stake.
  4. Don't focus on what's happened - the past is behind you, and despite the fact that your employer has done a horrible job of managing your work, it's already happened. The only thing you can do now is work on the future, which is to find a new job.
On preview:

they're planning on firing me for misconduct (rather than any other formal reason

Misconduct is a formal reason, and it's not what you think it is. Misconduct is not incompetence or "not fitting in". It is deliberate action on your part to harm your employer. It's things like burning down the store you work in out of spite, not spilling a jug of cleaner on the floor. Further, your employer doesn't get to disqualify you from employment - the state unemployment commission makes that call, and they tend to disbelieve employers and favor employees.

Do not quit. It will not help you.
posted by saeculorum at 10:15 AM on February 24, 2014 [10 favorites]

To follow up with your update, don't worry about recommendations most of the time they're just calling to determine that you have worked there.

As for being fired, you can still fight it with unemployement if there was no due process. If you want, file with EEO NOW, it makes you look like a target if they try to fire you, and can be an excellent explanation, "I was fired because I filed a complaint with EEO," when you appeal with unemployment.

Also, whatever else you do, get a car and learn to drive. Or move.

You CAN'T be at the mercy of places you can walk to! You just can't~!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:17 AM on February 24, 2014 [6 favorites]

I always love the threads that hate on my profession so vehemently. sigh.

I would absolutely tell HR, this guy is a walking liability even if your HR doesn't care about you personally and only cares about protecting the company they will still need to deal with this guy.

Document EVERYTHING. Even if you do quit and want unemployment, you are going to need some documentation showing it was a hostile environment. Keep a running document of all interactions and paperwork and don't delete any text messages / emails.
posted by magnetsphere at 10:33 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

I vote look for a new job and just walk out of this one. That bar, go to it and lie and say you made drinks for catered parties or some crap. There are no genius mixologists working at the likes of the Knight Club, you'll be fine.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:37 AM on February 24, 2014

saeculorum: Do not quit. It will not help you.

I can't emphasize this enough. If they are planning on firing you, that is probably very good news for you indeed, as I would be shocked to find that they have interest or evidence to successfully dispute your Unemployment claim. It sounds like you really want us to tell you it is OK to just quit, but it is really not in your best interest, in a number of ways. Do whatever the bare minimum is at your job, and keep hitting the bricks to find a new job. Apply online for every job you are qualified for in your area (especially at the University) and go in person to every business you can walk to with a copy of your resume and a cover letter. Even if they are fully staffed right now, they might remember that polished young go-getter who came in a week ago when someone gives their notice tomorrow.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:37 AM on February 24, 2014 [7 favorites]

I know how tough it is to get an administrative job at a university, but APPLY ANYWAY. You'll get better by going through the process, and if you get a limited-term or even low-level job you'll get your foot in the door and get people to start recognizing you.

You can't get a job unless you apply.
posted by Madamina at 10:41 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

To which he said: "just an excuse to be late."

Unless you would literally be homeless, quit today. Never go back. Nothing is worth the stress of dealing with "people" like this.

If you think you are going to be laid off soon, then *maybe* try to hold out for that. But it is definitely ok to quit. Don't let subhuman garbage ruin your mental health. I've been in a similar situation and it was scary to quit, but I found another job within a month. And this was at the height of the crash in 2008.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:57 AM on February 24, 2014

For starters I would say you should be documenting the crap out of everything. If this guy is doing even half of what you say, and you have documentation to prove it, then you'll have plenty of ammo for showing that he was in the wrong and you weren't. Get as much in writing as possible, save all of your texts and emails, make copies of every doctor's note and time-off request you give him, keep a running list of times when you observe him failing to follow the rules or being discriminatory to employees or customers, and if possible have him sign off on your time-off requests at the time you submit them and keep that paperwork on file. I'd also be inclined to keep copies or scans of the paperwork you submit so you can present a paper trail of you doing your job properly.

Is there anyone above your manager that you can go to if he won't cooperate? If the company has established protocols for things like scheduling and requesting time off, and you're doing your best to abide by them but he's being shifty, then it would be nice to have someone higher up to whom you can demonstrate that you're following the rules.

And yeah, do whatever you can to find a new job.
posted by Starling at 11:03 AM on February 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

Until you do find another job - communicate everything via email to your manager. Documentation of you following proper procedures will provide a great defense to being railroaded when you apply for unemployment.

Need a day off? email him, then print it out and hand it to him if he requests hard copies. It's a lot harder to "lose" something that you also have a digital copy of.
Doctor's note? Scan and email, before you hand over the original.
If he does or says something to you that seems wrong or inappropriate, send him an email, "just to recap the conversation" and to make sure you "fully understood what he was saying to you or asking of you" - again, this gets his own behavior in writing.
Even for things like "how do I write someone up?" - email him asking for the training/directions, and email again with the confirmation of his response that, despite being in your job description and company policy, he's using his own discretion and asking you to orally report employee behavior to him instead.

Also - get the direct number to HR, then call anonymously from a payphone or a friend's phone whose number is not associated with you in their systems. Claim to be a concerned frequent customer who has noticed racial and gender bias, and (if plausible from a customer's point of view) have witnessed direct confrontations where the manager has said or done inappropriate things.

The only thing companies hate more than internal complaints are external complaints. They do not want the public at large catching wind of anything that could turn into a scandal.

If you do end up talking non-anonymously to someone in HR who seems sympathetic to your situation, BCC them on every email you have with your manager in the future. If they truly care about removing this bad apple from the company, they will use those emails to build a convincing case file against him, no matter what he's already done to move against you.

You mention that your boss might be in cahoots with someone in loss prevention - but is there another layer of management, like a regional manager, who you might be able to speak with? That person certainly doesn't want the headache of multiple store employees and customers complaining, and might take swift action with your manager.
posted by trivia genius at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was in this situation and job searching madly and one day, after lunch, I just spontaneously quit. I had been utterly consumed by how much I hated that job and a couple of co-workers in particular, and I unexpectedly reached the end of my tolerance. I could barely hold a conversation with a friend without obsessing about how much I hated that job. I don't think the managers at the office cared at all why I quit (that would have been nice), and I was professional about the whole thing, but I did just quit without a new job lined up. It was risky, and reckless to quit without another job lined up and it could have worked out differently for me.

But it was the most glorious feeling in the world. I agreed to stay there for 4 weeks instead of the normal 2 so that they could hire a replacement, but I didn't mind it at all because I knew I was leaving. (I also found out that a steady stream of people had quit before me.) I found another job surprisingly quickly (though the new job was being a cocktail waitress on a boat and wasn't the greatest job either, it helped me get to the next phase in my life (back to school)). I never looked back. My anger and stress literally were eliminated in a matter of minutes. It was a great life lesson: sometimes you can take one really significant action and completely and permanently improve your life.

Good luck.
posted by semacd at 11:20 AM on February 24, 2014

To answer you, trivia genius: the District Manager - the one who hired me - is the same person who demurred when discussing my pay (which I didn't learn until the first day of work), proposed a .10 cent raise when I threatened to quit if they didn't raise my hourly from $9 to $10, and has been consistently tactless and nasty, via email and phone. The managers within our district hate him, but he and my store manager are very close. I realized this when the store manager decided to (after the Loss Prevention manager's email about me) hold a "store meeting" to reprimand the associates on March 2nd, and I found out that the District Manager and Loss Prevention Manager - but NOT HR - would be in attendance.
posted by Ashen at 11:24 AM on February 24, 2014

So sorry that you're going through this - your additional comment indicates that the cards are really stacked against you here. If all the other store managers hate him, then the enemy of your enemy is your friend. Is there another store within walking distance or on a nearby bus route that you can transfer to?

Also - noting your last line of the OP - the store manager himself will probably not even see your unemployment claim. It will go directly to HR, and unless the company fires you for gross misconduct (which you can still fight with all of your own documentation) they probably won't even choose to fight the claim.
posted by trivia genius at 11:31 AM on February 24, 2014

There seem to be a lot of these types of interpersonal issues in your life - a couple of different job environments, parents, roommates. It's certainly is possible that you have bad luck and find yourself in bad situations through no fault of your own, but maybe you can find a way to move through life in a smoother, more-diplomatic way. Like smoothing over other's inadequacies rather than exacerbating them?

It's a lesson that I am still learning - when to fight, when to let it go. I think giving people the benefit of the doubt, being slow to take offense, doing my job with the utmost calm has always served me better than the alternative.

And rage-quitting is never a good idea. Rage-anything isn't a good idea. Get a plan in place and implement it.
posted by valeries at 11:33 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

One last thought - if all the female employees, as well as non-white employees, feel the same way as you - you might be able to collect some concrete examples from each of them (off the clock and outside the store, of course) of the manager exhibiting the same discriminatory behaviors toward them.

When (if?) you are let go, speak with HR and present this information to them. You may very well be able to negotiate a nice severance package in exchange for waiving your right to sue them for gender discrimination. If you do that, please make sure you don't give away all your rights. For example - agree not to initiate your own lawsuit, but don't let them prevent you from testifying in another employee's suit or from joining a class action.

Note - it doesn't matter whether you actually have an actionable case, or one that would win. They will likely be willing to throw a little money at you just to avoid the bad press a lawsuit like that would bring.
posted by trivia genius at 11:38 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Administrative jobs at Rutgers are impossible to obtain, and everyone I know [edit: who is moderately connected to] the university either graduated, moved to another university, or has no connection to my departments of interest.

Just checking: are you under the impression that connections are of primary importance in getting a job? They aren't. Just apply for all the administrative positions advertised at Rutgers. If you don't get any of them, you'll be no worse off than you are now.

I would strongly discourage you from quitting without another job lined up.

I think your next move should be learning to drive, frankly.
posted by tel3path at 11:50 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

p.s. Also take copies of all documentation. If they've reached the point of tampering with documentation you give them, you have to document circles around them.
posted by tel3path at 11:52 AM on February 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't give them any original documents. Photocopies only. Keep a copy of every piece of documentation for your own records. Yes, I mean ER notes, time-off requests, every single piece of written or emailed documentation. You should probably start printing out the emails you get sent and saving them in a binder at home for your records (in case you're locked out if they fire you). Or forward them to yourself if you won't get in trouble.

Gather everything, save everything. Write all of this down every time it happens. Write down everything he says to you. Keep a log book of every single incident.
posted by i feel possessed at 1:13 AM on February 27, 2014

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