September 20, 2012

Yesterday, I went to work for Labor Ready.  I drove cars through an auction.

Before I got to the auction, though, a lot happened.  I don’t have a car, so I was sent with another employee who does have one.  She drove.  We were given directions off the Internet by the woman who works at the desk at Labor Ready, whom I didn’t find out until later that afternoon is the manager of that branch.

I had the directions and started to read them all to the woman who was driving.  She didn’t want to hear them all at once; she said “Tell them to me as I drive.”

I had thought that it would be a good idea to read them through before we drove very far, but I did what she asked.

We got lost a number of times.  While that was happening, I called Labor Ready and twice put the other employee on the phone with the manager.  Both times, the woman listened to what the manager said, then said “OK,” and ended the conversation, and then said “I have no idea what she meant; I’m ready to forget it and drive back.”

She said, first to me and then on the phone to the manager, “Next time I’m going to take a guy with me.  Guys know how to get where they’re going.”

She first said that to me when we were about to park in a gas station where I had suggested we stop so that we could ask for directions.

We got directions at the gas station, and when we had followed them until we were about to take a turn, I asked the drive to stop so that we could call Labor Ready and try to make sure that we were going the right way.  The manager got angrier and angrier while we were asking for her help, throughout the entire process when the driver would drive a long way somewhere and neither of us would know where we were.

I looked on the ticket that I’d been given to take to the work site; the line under where it said who the contact at the work site was supposed to be, there was a phone number.  I thought that perhaps that was the phone number at the work site, and for that person, and that if I called that perhaps he could make sure that we got there.  When I called the number, the person who answered said that I had called another Labor Ready office.  He put me on hold, and then he transferred me to the Labor Ready in Waltham, and the next thing that I heard was the manager yelling at me “Why are you calling another Labor Ready office?”

I finally told her that the driver had twice said “OK” to her and then ended the phone conversation, and that both times after she’d ended the conversation that way, she’d then said “I have no idea where we’re going; I’m ready to give up and go home.”  I also said to the manager, about the driver “And now she’s refusing to go to the work site at all.”

While I was saying this, the driver was saying “Hang up the phone” over and over again.

I let the woman talk to the manager, and the woman started saying things to the manager about me, about how terrible it was to have me in her car.  I said “Give me back my phone,” and she did.  I was angry by then, and I said to the manager “If she’s going to bitch about me, she can use her own phone to do that.”  The driver didn’t have her phone with her, which was why she hadn’t used it.  The manager then yelled at me, saying “You’re acting like a 2-year-old,” which it doesn’t seem to me that I was doing.  She continued to yell at me, and wouldn’t even let me talk after that.  She said “I’m done” a number of times, and while she was still yelling I shut the phone.

The driver started to drive, saying that she wasn’t going to the work site.  She called me a “strange duck” a few times, and I said “I’m not.”  She drove for a while, without either of us talking.

We drove past the street that I had seen on the directions was the one where we were supposed to be going.

In the midst of turning around to get to that street, we both started laughing and she apologized to me.

We got to the work site.  There were other Labor Ready employees there.  That was when she rubbed her nose for the first time around me, I guess to make sure that nobody thought that she liked having me around.

I turned around and looked out the window for a while after she did that.  It didn’t seem like a good time or place to confront her or try to talk to someone about her having done that.

I don’t know that I saw any women at the car auction.  A few men rubbed their noses at me and did some coughing.  A guy walked by with a broom and dustpan once, while I was trying to drive one of the cars through.  That was distracting.

When the woman and I got back to the Labor Ready office, I asked the manager if she would please photocopy the directions that she had given us so that both I and the driver could have a copy.  I thought that would be helpful if I went out with another driver or if the driver in whose car I’d been that morning needed them.  The manager took the directions and threw them away, saying “If you go again, you’re going with a driver.” She said a man’s name for who would be driving next time and then said “I’m not going through what I went through this morning again, with you fighting and yelling like that.”  I said “We worked it out, though; it’s fine now.”

The other female employee was next to me at the counter.  I said to her “Tell her.  Tell her that it’s fine now.”  The other woman smiled and said to me “Let it go.  Let it go, my friend,” and then she walked away.

I wasn’t that surprised that she wouldn’t corroborate what I’d said, but it was disappointing. The manager had already yelled at me a lot, and I know that it’s important for employers to think of an employee as someone who can work though conflict and who isn’t fighting with people all the time.

The manager was getting my check ready for me and told me to sit down and wait for that.  I went to sit on the other side of the room, away from the employee who had refused to say what had happened.

She said “What’s wrong,” and I said “She’s blaming me for what happened, and it would be helpful if you tell her that we got along ok later.”  She still wouldn’t do it.

I saw the guy who I had thought was the manager at the desk and I went up to him to tell him what had happened.   I said “You’re the manager, right?”  and I started to tell him what happened.  He said “She’s the manager,” at the same time that she started yelling “I’m the manager, and I’m telling you that it’s done!  It’s over!”

I said “Am I still going to be working on the other day this week that you wanted me to work?”

She said “Yes, Friday.”

I left after I got the check.

Before I knew that she was the manager, I had more tolerance for the fact that I had heard and seen her yell a lot at other employees.  If someone is the manager and behaves that way, it sets a hostile tone for the entire place.  If someone is the assistant or the assistant manager, it’s not as serious for him or her to behave that way, although it’s still not good.  I had thought that the man whom I’d first met there was the manager; he seemed older than she did, to me, he had given me an appointment time to show up and fill out more paperwork, and he also had never said that he wasn’t the manager or that she was.

I called the Labor Ready number that you’re supposed to call to talk about employee concerns.  After the man got my name and had listened to me talk for a few minutes, he said “Can you go a tad more slowly?”  Most of the time, it seems to me that people whom I talk to can understand me, and it also seems to me that people who show that they are interested in helping me when I call them for help don’t tend to ask me to speak more slowly or speak to me in a condescending way.  As far as his tone of voice went, I’ve talked to other people who have been more condescending than he has, but, to be honest, I think that probably a lot more women get condescended to on the phone than men do, as soon as the person whom they call hear that a woman is the person calling.

I told him that what had happened, and that the manager seemed to be someone who yelled at a lot of people and who abused her power somewhat.   I also told him that I thought it was important that the employee hadn’t corroborated what I’d said about how we’d resolved our conflict.  I said that, although I thought that Labor Ready provided an important service both for employees and people who temporarily hired the employees, I also realized that the fact that Labor Ready does have the employees that it tends to have, for mostly what’s called blue collar work, that there is a high percentage of people who work for it who have social skills that aren’t particularly developed and that there would probably be conflict between me and another employee at another time.  I said that it’s important that I not be thought of as someone who can’t get along with people at work.

He gave me a reference number for the phone call.

None of what’s happening would be happening if the conglomerate hadn’t happened, and if I weren’t being persecuted by it the way that I am.  Maybe the manager of Labor Ready would still be abusive, but I’m sure that I wouldn’t be getting as much of her abuse and abuse from others there as I am, and I wouldn’t be getting sexually harassed.  The first thing that she had done in the morning when I’d gotten there by 6:00 a.m. the way that she’d asked me to be was give a loud, fake sneeze from across the room and say “Thank you for being here.”

Some of the male employees had coughed and sneezed at me, or rubbed their noses at me, while we were all waiting to leave that morning.   When I went into the restroom, someone did some coughing.

Copyright L. Kochman, September 20, 2012 @ 3:48 p.m.