Preface: I sent this letter to the HR director of California First National Bancorp (CalFirst Leasing Corp for short) after being suspended with pay for (and I’m dead serious here -) taking too many bathroom breaks. Upon my return, I promptly handled a very important conference call with the CFO of a very powerful Chicago construction firm, which should yield the company around $11.5M ($27,750 in commission AFTER taxes for me.) But rather than taking me out for a scotch, patting me on the back with an “Atta boy!” and paying me my commission once the deal cleared, they simply terminated me in the most callous fashion imaginable once the deal was in a stage that all but guaranteed it was going to fund.
Basically, CalFirst fired me because they didn’t want to pay me commission (a practice that happens more than you would believe.) Can I prove this? Of course not. Did it happen? Oh yes. Will it continue to happen? As long as unemployment is 14.6% in CA and desperate college grads with tons of talent are willing to bust their asses for this company – you better believe it. I wonder what shareholders would think of this shady policy? Hell, I doubt they care as long as the company is turning a profit.
[Also note that the names of all employees have been changed to “protect” their identities – a courtesy I do not believe this classless organization would ever reciprocate.]
Dear VP of HR,
I really want to apologize to you, but I just cannot come up with a valid reason as to why I should. I’ve given this about four hours thought, and my head is still spinning. I was suspended from work by a sadistic manager who (and let’s be honest with ourselves here) derives hedonistic pleasure from tormenting (see: bullying) me. And then, in good faith might I add, I contacted the company and vowed that I would do everything in my power to ensure you (CalFirst) closed (or came close to closing) all the deals in my pipeline that I thought were the most probable to be approved. On Friday, you and I discussed the idea of transferring me to another team, to work for another manager. So when you called me yesterday and didn’t tell me my position at CalFirst was terminated, but “we still had some things to work out”, I naturally assumed it was simply the formality of finding a manager who didn’t get his jollies by doing his best impersonation of the older brother from Wonder Years to my Kevin Arnold. Of course, that was my fault. Excuse my naivete. How dare I expect a company such as CalFirst, which has the highest turnover of any organization since the Red Army of WWII to operate in good faith? Shame on me.
And allow me to understand this correctly: You have just terminated someone that, despite being with the company for only 90 days led his team in call time. Someone who had more leads generated than anyone else in my training class (that I am aware of), someone who is naturally gifted at communicating, someone with a finance degree and an intimate understanding of exactly what it is the company does, someone who has been receiving financial statements on a routine basis for the last several weeks (and by the way – I do apologize that most of those companies were insolvent – that was simply out of my hands), someone that comes to work 15-30 minutes early every day to get extra work done (and doesn’t ask to be paid for it), and someone who often stays late to finish up on work (and again – does not expect compensation.) And why? Let’s review:
I. I was caught checking the score of the United States – Algeria world cup game on my phone. I admit, I violated company policy. Yes, I broke a rule. Does this warrant termination? Hardly.
II. I had a 9 minute personal call during company time. To whom was I speaking? My mother. Why? Because my grandmother, who helped raise me for the first eight years of my life died that morning. Did I bring this up in our meeting? No. Why? Because I don’t believe in making excuses. But when you look at people (and I won’t name names) who have Orange County in their territory, and have 40+ minute conversations with their boyfriend, roommates, or friends – my transgression pales in comparison. Again, I do not believe this warranted termination. If anything, shame on you for scolding me because – God forbid – I needed to console my mother at the news that her mother had just passed away.
III. “Visiting with other teams.” To the best of my knowledge, the only two people I have ever “visited” during work hours were Josh Francis (someone I carpool with), and Kathryn Scully. And if my memory serves me correct, I socialized with Kathryn while both of us were still on our lunch breaks. Were we in the office? Yes. Were we on lunch? Yes. Does this warrant termination? Please.
IV. As Toad will have you believe (through a wonderfully scripted piece of hyperbole), I was “sleeping” during a meeting. In fact, I had arrived home late from a vacation the night before – due to heavy traffic on the I-15 and yawned several times. To add insult to injury, I suffer from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which causes syncope, otherwise known as “fainting.” Had I been terminated for having early adult-onset diabetes, I’m certain an attorney would have eaten that right up. But sadly, no. I did not “fall asleep” in this meeting, I simply yawned several times (which was enough for Toad to explode on me in a profanity-filled tirade behind close doors and thoroughly terrify me.)
V. I took too many bathroom breaks. Again, let’s be honest with ourselves. When someone says “stop taking short and frequent breaks” it’s a euphemism for “stop taking so many bathroom breaks.” I won’t even dignify this one. If anything, it should highlight Toad’s aforementioned (sadistic) fixation with bullying, harassing, berating and insulting me. Have you noticed that NO ONE else on my team is ever brought into your office for discipline. A certain team member (who I will not name) decided last Monday that they didn’t “feel like making calls that day”, and instead spent the day mailing out packets to random clients. Had I done that? You better believe Toad would have had me down in your office faster than you can say “favoritism.” Just saying. And then there was the infamous “Toad is gone – let’s PARTY!!!” email that was sent to all Toad team members when he took three days off (that was accidentally sent to Toad.) If I did that? You better believe my tenure with the company would have been shorter than FDR’s fourth term.
So when we look at my transgressions individually, do any of them warrant termination? Heavens no. When we add them up, do they cumulatively warrant termination? Not at company (public or private) that I have ever worked. Clearly CalFirst is the exception. The reason why will haunt me for a very long time.
How about Toad’s profanity-laced tirades? Do they warrant termination? Apparently not. Does calling one of his employees (me) a “fucking pussy” warrant termination? According to you, no. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. My only regret is not bringing a tape recorder into work to capture some of Toad’s more lewd, sexist, and despicable outbursts. Had I ever imagined my job was at stake (I didn’t), I certainly would have though. Unfortunately, (and I’ll cite my naivete again here) I had more faith in CalFirst than this. I thought the company had class. Shame on me. How you continue to employ a closet sexist with a dirtier mouth than Andrew Dice Clay is beyond me. Especially one who seems to take his personal problems out in the most aggressive way possible on people he sees as weak (me.) He is a despicable man, and I think you already know that. I would accuse you of being devoid of compassion, but the fact that Toad is still in your employ is clear evidence that you apparently do have a heart (even though I’ve yet to meet a director of HR whose job description required one.)
One has to ask themselves, why is turnover so brutally high? Is it Obama’s recent passing of the HIRE Act? I don’t know. Are CalFirst employees truly that inept? If so, I’m surprised Cathy still has a job. Perhaps all of your managers suffer from projection, and would rather fire people they feel are “under-performing” or “aren’t the right fit” in order to distract Mr. Bag from their own ineptitude. But again, that begs the question – if Cathy is hiring such great talent (from such a large pool), that you personally praise as “the best training class I’ve ever had”, then how do you explain people like Greg Christie who lasted all of three weeks. Or Alex Littleger who was fired essentially on a whim? Or the fact that a three month tenure at CalFirst is tantamount to a “seasoned veteran”? Clearly something is broken, and it needs to be fixed.
Thank goodness I’m not a CalFirst shareholder, because god forbid I was, I would be alarmed at what is clearly a fractured system. Have you ever asked yourselves what the company would do if Robbie Gato left you? According to his own boasting, he did two-thirds of the company’s business last year. When a single employee is that effective, is it a testament to his talent? Or an alarming red flag at the complete and utter failure of management as a whole to properly motivate, reward and compensate their employees?
I’ll end this diatribe by saying what you and Jack did today was completely despicable and without class. Rationalize it however you want Leslie – but what you did to me today was humiliating and, I’ll say it again – callous. Shame on you. To call me back under the guise that my job was (at least temporarily) secure, call my biggest clients, request financials, and do my best to bring in as much revenue as possible in the six hours I was there, only to then turn around and stab me in the back was disgusting and shameful. But hey, c’est la vie, right?
ps) I’ve been told never to write – and send – a letter such as this while steeped in emotion. And I’ll have you know I take that advise seriously. This was the benign version. You should have seen the first draft. By the way, should Toad ever treat any women the way he did me – expect one heckuva sexual harassment lawsuit (although, according to what I’ve heard – you may already have a few managers on your hands that are in the process of creating that nightmare for you as we speak.)
Despite my recent departure from CalFirst, I hold no ill will towards those who treated me fairly and with respect. I want to thank you for the wonderful opportunity I was given to flourish at CalFirst. Unfortunately, politics caused my early departure, and it’s a shame, because I know you – above perhaps anyone else – are well aware of what I could have done for the company. I was hoping you might be aware of any other openings at another employer that has a similar payscale to CalFirst. As you know, I was always early to work, and would routinely stay late (never once asking to be reimbursed for arriving early or staying late – unless, of course, Toad offered.) Additionally, you know I was always on the lookout to refer quality candidates to your office, as turnover is incredibly high. Also, if you take a look at my performance (leading the team – and sometimes all Account Executives in call time, leads, and financial statements) is a testament to my talent.
Again, it is a shame that my manager used me as a whipping boy for his personal frustrations – something that will undoubtedly scar me for quite some time (as I do not believe any human is capable of absorbing the verbal abuse that Toad would dish out on an almost daily basis.) Although my confidence has not been eroded, I feel a certain amount of fear as a direct result of some of the more offensive and shocking comments Toad hurled at me behind closed doors, and away from the watchful eye of human resources. I am telling you this because, as an employee of HR, I believe it is your duty to be an advocate to employees – both current and former.
So I ask you this: I would love to use you as a referral in future endeavors, and I want your permission to do so. Also, I seek your advice in dealing with the situation at hand. Because of some of the certain threats levied against me, I was always terrified to bring Toad’s actions to anyone’s attentions. He knew I was planning on purchasing a new vehicle and moving into a new apartment, and threatened to fire me and “destroy my career to the best of [his] God-given ability” were I to ever “tattle-tale on him like the little [expletive] I was.” So unfortunately I never went to you, Jack or Leslie about his relentless verbal abuse. I feared for my job – and at one point my safety – and was literally mortified of “blowing the whistle” on him. I now know that I should have brought a tape recorder into work to expose some of his more violent, offensive, racist, homophobic and sexist remarks, but I never knew it would get to the point where that would be necessary. He did a good job in intimidating me, and making it a personal mission to record every single “transgression” I committed in order to have “ammunition” against me should I ever attempt to do what I am doing now.
Any objective human can take a look at the situation and see what was going on. I do not believe that any other employee during my tenure was EVER brought down into Leslie’s office and “documented.” Does this mean they were all model employees? Hardly. He simply saw weakness in me, and took it upon himself to make me his personal (verbal) punching bag, and assured me I would lose my job should I ever report him. In all, he “wrote me up” for: Checking the score to the United States-Algeria World Cup game on my cell phone. Having a 9-minute conversation with my mother on the morning that her mother (my grandmother) died after a long battle with cancer. According to him, “socializing with other teams” (something I freely admit I did – on my lunch breaks), and finally “sleeping” in a meeting (which is not only hyperbolic), but completely and utterly false. I do concede, however, that I suffer from syncope (fainting spells) as a result of my hypoglycemia. Should I have been terminated for this, I do not think it would have went over well. The proverbial “straw” that broke the camel’s back occurred last Friday when I took two (2) bathroom breaks before 11:00am (one at 8:00am, and one at 9:00am), only to return to my desk and discover an email instructing me to “stop taking so many short, and frequent breaks.” Which, let’s be honest, is a clear euphemism for “stop going to the bathroom.” So when I asked him at 10:00am if I could please use the restroom, he went absolutely ballistic on me. Although he didn’t hurl his usual homophobic, expletive-laced and hurtful comments at me – he did attempt to terminate me.
And when you look at my performance – personal issues aside – I do not believe anything I did warranted termination. I cite my friend Robbie Gato, who, because of his success, is allowed to come and go as he pleases, take long lunches, have poor call time and take multiple cigarette breaks an hour. What precedent does this set for the team? I am not suggesting I am even close to Mr. Gato in terms of performance (yet) – he is in another stratosphere, but I am demonstrating the blatant double-standard and confusing sets of ambiguous rules applied by Toad. I recall two weeks ago when a certain team member of mine (who averages about 320 minutes of call time a week) decided to not make any calls on a random Monday. I asked why this person didn’t make any calls (instead choosing to send out mailers all day to random clients), and they responded with “Umm, I just don’t feel like it.” Had I done that? Please believe I would have been terminated. But, it is my belief, that because this employee is female and Toad (foolishly) made open comments about “tapping that HOPA” (google the acronym for an explanation) and so on, that her job was safe no matter how poor her performance. Now – tell me – how is this fair?
So the question I have for you, and excuse my prior verbosity, is this: What would you have done were you in my position?
Thank you Cathy, it was a pleasure and an honor to work for someone like yourself, and again I thank you for the excellent opportunity I was given to succeed with – what I still consider – a great company (albeit a company with deeply flawed management in need of a major overhaul.)
Update (9/10/10): I ran into one of my former team members last night at a restaurant and he informed me that he was quitting today. I asked him why… his response? Our manager (the one I call “Toad”) apparently called him “Gay-Tarded” and used the word “faggot” and “Fag” openly to describe team members. This particularly offended him because his best friend (and fellow CalFirst employee) is a lesbian. He instructed me he would be bringing this up to HR. But it certainly begs the question – what the FUCK is Toad still doing in this company’s employ?? He’s clearly a homophobic, ex-military sadist who has made it very clear that he wants to have sex with several of his female employees. In fact, I remember a conversation he had with some of my team members when I first started over who he would rather “bang” – Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie. I’m certain this made some of our female employees very uncomfortable because of the way he described Mrs. Jolie’s “DSL’s”, and Miss Aniston’s “great tits and ass.” But hey, they never reported him for it – so his position as douchebag, sexist, homophobic manager de jour remains!