When I was in my late 20s a friend of a friend was looking for someone to do data entry for a couple of weeks in the IT department of the St Kilda council. It was mainly number crunching and as I was in between jobs at the time I volunteered for the position. I ended up staying for three and a half years, becoming the girl Friday of the council. Whenever a department needed a temporary replacement for someone on holiday or sick leave I would be asked to substitute. My Gemini personality loved it. I covered for the main lobby front desk receptionist when she went to lunch. Every Tuesday I helped payroll with data entry. Every Friday I was in Human Resources covering the front desk. The IT department was the place I worked the most. Work was plentiful and there was hardly ever a day when my services weren’t used
The government decided to cut costs in public service employment so councils were forced to amalgamate. My job changed dramatically when the St Kilda council merged with South Melbourne and Port Melbourne councils. To make a long story short the following scenario will be mainly in point form.
The Port Melbourne CEO retained his position, the other two council CEO’s left with packages. The Port Melbourne CEO sought me out because of my surname to ask if I was related to a successful Port Melbourne business owner who contributed greatly to that council. A new head of the department was hired, Hannah, to help get rid of surplus staff. She was a bully and many left before packages were granted. One of the staff Hannah wore down with her relentless passive-aggressive behaviour and moved to a high position in the Union. Hannah decided to set her sights on me next. I was no longer allowed to cover for other departments. IT only and my hours were greatly reduced.
One day Hannah called me into her office to admonish me for an error that I had nothing to do with. That was the last straw for me. I called the Union to report Hannah for harassment in the workplace. The guy who moved to the Union called to tell me he’d heard of my predicament and asked if I’d be ok with him representing me. I asked if his volunteering to represent me was revenge towards Hanna or for my best interests. ‘Both’, was his honest answer.
The Union set up a meeting. Hannah and the CEO were already seated and waiting when we both entered the conference room. Hannah turned a slight shade of pink when she saw who was representing me. Hannah started off by claiming that she knew what this was all about. According to her, it’s because I had been reprimanded for receiving too many private phone calls at work.
She had underestimated me and was about to learn by how much. I interrupted her. I smiled at the CEO and told him my uncle (who was the aforementioned Port Melbourne businessman) said hello back and would like to return his kind wishes. We bantered about my uncle a little more while Hannah showed a shocked expression with my being firmly acquainted with her representative.
I continued to speak directly to the CEO of the council. “It’s true that I was receiving too many private calls but that’s not what this is about. She was right to reprimand me and those calls ceased immediately. Hannah moved my desk so that I was close enough for her to hear and see every move I made, so she knows this is true. She also stopped me from having any access to other departments other than IT. She admonished me for an error in payroll when I no longer had anything to do with that department. She insisted I fix the error knowing that task was impossible seeing as I have no access. She literally yelled at me that she’d accept no excuses and I have staff members who heard her admonishing me, she was that loud and unreasonable. If you’ve hired her to bully people to leave before they are eligible for their packages you sure got your money’s worth. I’m not the only one she’s bullied, my union representative once worked here too. I’ve also kept in contact with an employee who suffered such extreme anxiety due to Hannah’s behaviour that he refuses to return to work even to clear his desk and is now on permanent sick leave”.
As I’m expressing all this I saw Hannah’s face changing colour from pink to red to purple. It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling knowing how upset she was. Good! The CEO put both his hands up and responded, “now, now, ladies we need you to both get along”. Hannah looked like she was about to explode.
The meeting soon ended as the CEO had to be elsewhere. As soon as he left Hannah turned to me and snarled, “what do you want?”
My union representative and I looked at each other then I turned and responded. “My package, then I can leave”.
“Done” is her answer, “you can leave, here and now”.
“Not until I have that check in my hand”.
“Wait here”, she said as she stormed out of the room.
I turned to my union representative to thank him for his support. “Nothing to thank me for”, he responded. “You did it all on your own, and damn that was satisfying to watch”.
Hanna soon returned with a check for $10,000, the package offered for my time frame of employment. It was enough to pay off my credit card and car loan until I found a new job. I truly didn’t mean to leave that job with such a bang, but she started it.