Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Decline and Fall

A business acquaintance was interviewing last week and in amongst the usual mixed bag of no-shows and timewasters - sent along by the employment service in order to fill their quota - was a woman who would have been suitable had she not refused to say why she was leaving her current job.

Normally that's a bad sign. In this case the woman insisted that she had done nothing wrong but had been ordered not to discuss the reason for her leaving with anyone including prospective employers.

In fact, she seemed more concerned about her employer finding out she had 'talked' than the effect it would have on her search for another job.

Rather odd to say the least.

Fortunately - to use that very american phrase - I know someone, who knows someone...

And it turns out that the poor woman was telling the truth. Staff at W.H.Smiths in Dover have been told by the manager - then later 'reminded' by the supervisor - not to discuss the subject of a recent staff meeting with anyone and were warned there would be 'consequences' for anyone who did.

And what is this great 'secret' which they are going to such lengths to protect?

Some of the staff at Dover are to be made redundant at the end of March.

Yes. That really is all there is to it.

Even the background seems fairly straightforward. A recent audit showed a shortfall of nearly £30,000 which is an awful lot for a small store like Dover. So head office have decreed that staffing levels have to be reduced by a minimum of 30 hours per week.

The manager has been conducting interviews to determine who will be made redundant with predictable consequences. Staff who got along fairly well for the most part are now desperately trying to stab each other in the back.

Worst of the lot was the one who stormed into the manager’s office with her husband on the day after her second interview. His angry demand to know if his wife was going to lose her job could be clearly heard in the staff room across the hall. He became quite abusive when she refused to discuss the matter with him.

All this would be quite bad enough by itself. However it seems that in the case of the accounts clerk, the interviews are nothing more than window dressing on a decision which has already been made.

I've mentioned the investigation into missing scratch cards before. This started when the accounts clerk noticed a number of discrepancies shortly after taking up her new post and reported them to the manager.

What I did not mention for obvious reasons was that by the time I heard about it, the investigation had focused on the store's supervisor.

A fact she was apparently well aware of at the time.

What followed was a ridiculous series of clumsy attempts to 'stitch-up' the accounts clerk which eventually escalated to include the current manager and, on one occasion, the area manager who was severely reprimanded for her behaviour after it blew up in their faces.

Since that incident both the manager and the supervisor have also been reprimanded for their "unprofessional behaviour" towards the young lady in question.

That was several months ago and now it seems that the investigation into this pair of idiots might still be ongoing if the manager's most recent blunder is anything to go by.

Stealing from your employer is pretty stupid to begin with. To follow that with a clumsy and thoroughly disastrous campaign of harassment against the person who discovered the thefts is even worse.

But to then compound the whole thing by telling the young lady in question that she could keep her job if she dropped the matter simply beggars believe.

To do this is a place where they could be overheard by anyone passing nearby simply leaves me speechless in amazement.

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