Newport State of Mind
Newport, South Wales 2011-2013
After leaving the awful job in Newport and spending a summer mostly unemployed I gained a job working in Cardiff.
It was my first, and to date only, full time permanent job.
When I applied for the job I only had two references that were recent. One was the awful job, the other was the a coffee shop job I had worked alongside the awful job in my last year of University.
About a week before I was due to start the new job I heard from my new employer that they hadn’t received either of my references, and could I contact my referees.
The coffee shop manager was a complete incompetent person and didn’t respond to any of my calls or messages, and I didn’t have an email address for him and I even contacted his daughter for his address with no luck.
So he was a no go.
The manager I had put down at the awful job was the more sympathetic of the two managers we had, so I was not sure why she hadn’t written a reference. When I plucked up the courage to contact the old job it turned out her father had passed away and she was on leave. So I put down the other manager.
To give some context as to how I feel about this manager I will say this. She joined us in early 2012 and came to our Christmas party in 2011. I am not joking or exaggerating that these are the first words she said to us.
‘Merry Christmas everyone, as you know there will be some redundancies next year….’
So I did not like her. To be honest I always thought from the way she treated people that she was a see you next Tuesday.
I suspected then that something would go wrong.
I started working that September in 2013. I loved it instantly. In just one day I was given more responsibility then I had in the last 18 months of the awful job.
I worked one week, then on the Tuesday of the second week I was called to a meeting with my new boss.
He said that my reference had come through.
It was unsatisfactory and they were letting me go due to their policy.
He said it was absolutely no reflection on my work but something they had to do.
He even said he would be my new reference for me.
I walked home in a daze and burst into tears, utterly devastated. Worse than devastated, I felt that the world had come crashing down.
I tried to call my boyfriend. I couldn’t get through. I sent him a text. He left work early to take care of me.
I would have had a good reference from my other coffee shop job if the manager hadn’t of been so rubbish. Maybe I would have kept the job.
I had no real debt at this point.
I had to pay my recent employers Human Resources department to release my reference. It said.
- I did not follow procedure.
- I had received the odd customer complaint.
- I was unreliable.
I sent a letter to my old manager being all WTF?
She called me and I had one of the most excruciating phone calls of my life. It’s no wonder I have a phobia of talking to people on the phone.
The trouble with this manager was she was like Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter, in that she had a sing song voice and never shouted or acted irrationally, but she was cruel.
I asked her what she meant by me not following procedure.
Her: ‘Oh well you used the spray and not the wipes when cleaning the tables’
Ok, now I know here you have my word against hers, and I obviously have an agenda to say good things about myself but I WAS THE ONLY PERSON WHO CLEANED THE TABLES CORRECTLY!
You may be thinking ‘What’s the big deal about cleaning the tables a certain way?’ And I would agree, say I was doing it incorrectly, is that really enough to write a damning personal reference about a person.
The fact is we had one way of cleaning the tables, then it changed. I cleaned them correctly after that, but the other members of staff didn’t and they didn’t listen to me when I told them they were doing it wrong because I was a casual member of staff (and therefore literally did not have rights) and they were contract members of staff.
So I told her she was utterly wrong about that and she said ‘Oh, well I’ll make a note in your file’
I asked her about the odd customer service complaint and she mentioned it was about THE MISTAKE incident.
Which is fair enough, but that was one incident, it was a genuine mistake, a human error, it’s not like I maimed anyone or back chatted. Also I wasn’t disciplined, I just had a chat about it, and odd implies there were more than one incidents but there weren’t.
To remind you, in my three years I worked there I had 0 (zero) feedback sessions.
I’m not an idiot. If I did something wrong, you know, TELL ME, and I won’t do it again.
By my mind that incident had been dealt with.
Finally the unreliable statement related to all the times I had called in sick. The job had a policy that it you vomited (which I was doing through stress) you couldn’t work for 24 hours. Also I told them about my Mental Health, so there was a reason behind everything and in most cases I WAS FOLLOWING PROCEDURE!!!!!
I told her about this and she said ‘We thought you were doing it to catch up on your University work.
I had approximately one day off sick as a student.
I was only still a student for 6 months after she joined.
She had got the dates wrong and thought I was still a student.
In fact during the course of the phone call she showed clear bias towards me, which backs up the fact I was bullied in that job.
I could have easily have a case to have sued her for ‘negligent misstatement’
Many people when they hear this story say ‘I thought it was illegal to give a bad reference’
It’s not, but most people don’t because they can be sued for negligent misstatement.
Only I had no money as a result of being UNEMPLOYED and my family are a dirt poor working class family. They haven’t been able to lend me so much as a tenner in my life. Let alone significant legal costs.
So that was that. I was unemployed. It was their word against mine.
I felt tarnished. I may not have been completely innocent, I was sick an awful lot, I did make THE MISTAKE but I was by no means the terrible employee they made out I was.
I still feel extreme anger about it to this day. Just writing this has made me unbelievably angry.
I AM NOT PERFECT.
I have worked jobs were I could have been better.
I have let people down.
I have been unreliable.
I have also worked jobs where my colleagues rewarded me with extra break times as they couldn’t pay me more, I have had glowing feedback session after feedback session, I have worked catering jobs where my colleagues noticed how much effort I put in and wrote customer feedback forms about me, I worked one job where a supervisor was so incensed that I didn’t get a full time position that she told the interviewer off and that they had made a mistake.
Again, I know it’s my word, and I have an agenda to make you guys like me. All I can hope is you believe me when I tell you I have flaws and that I am not perfect, but also that I am not truly terrible and I have worked hard.
In a perverse way, and I am very reluctant to admit this, it all turned out for the best.
Because I got a job a few months later, a job that I loved and that loved me, where most of the above good things happened. I ended up making my first professional film (and it made me realise that I’m not destined to be a filmmaker, thus making my degree almost invalid, but oh well) and I probably would not have escaped the clutches of catering if I had stayed in that job.
I would not have the job I have now if these events hadn’t transpired.
I would also not have got into debt, but then I would not have realised I want to study economics and find something that makes me feel alive.
Could the Universe have found a better way for me to realise my dreams? Probably, but life is what it is.
I have had to put that time in my life behind me. There have been lasting effects from it.
I am terrified of making mistakes, to the point I don’t think I will ever rise above an entry level position in a job.
Whenever I am sick off work I get into a state of panic and my boyfriend has now forbidden from me saying more than once a day of illness ‘Am I going to get fired?’ (I was saying it pretty much every ten minutes at one stage)
Due to a truly terrible bitch of an ex best friend I used to have (who was a pathological liar) who would always let me down, and ruin countless social plans and really bugger up my life I take being reliable very seriously.
Which is why hearing a job condemn me for it was so shocking.
I feel nothing but hate towards the people I used to work with as I see them as all being complicit in my downfall. I wouldn’t go as far to say I wish harm to befall them, but I certainly don’t wish good things to happen to them either.
I know I should forget, I know some would recommend forgiving, but I can’t do either at the moment, even now after all these years.
It is what it is.