"They Were Setting Me Up to Fail", a Guest Post

Kymie is originally from Kingston, Jamaica and has been living in the U.S since she was four years of age. She is a recent graduate of the George Washington University where she received a B.B.A in Finance. She is currently taking French lessons and hope to take her GMATs next year for a fall semester enrollment in a Master's program. She does not own a TV, but she does own all the seasons of ALF, Dinosaurs, and Fraggle Rock. The following is from a conversation we recently had; I'm publishing it here with her permission.
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*Deep breath*

This is quite long but only about 75% of the things I went through....

I started working as an auditor at a non-profit. I am still considering whether or not to sue so I won't explicitly say the same but, you can probably take a guess: Religious org. which is generally recognized by its red trademark. Everything started out "perfect." I began in May a few weeks after graduation and everyone was really warm and receptive to me. I thought this was the perfect place to start my financial career as it was non-profit and I would, theoretically, miss the corporate bs that is the private sector. I should have been concerned from the start when the day I came in to finish signing my contract, my supervisor kept introducing me to everyone as the "part-time" auditor. When I sat down with him in his office, I asked him what he meant by "part-time" as it was agreed that the position was full-time. He merely shrugged and said "Oh, well, there's a 90 day probationary period..." I didn't think much of this until later on when things got weird.

Three weeks after my start date and working on irrelevant spreadsheets, my supervisor decides that its time for me to go on audits on my own. This was perfectly fine, except they forgot to tell me when I signed on for the job that the majority of the audits that I would be going on every week 9 months out of the years were in locations 3-7 hours away from our HQ in DC and that I would be staying in hotels in the backwoods of Virginia by myself for the entire week until the audit was complete. All they told me was that I would be required to, and I quote "do a little driving around the Virginia area to go to our multiple locations for audits." I even told them on DAY 1 that I had not been driving AT ALL for the past 4 years because I went to school in DC. They completely dismissed this and said that I would be fine. I was not fine. I was t-boned at an intersection 5 days after my first lone audit. The next day I was supposed to be driving to another location for an audit, but of course the car was not in any shape to drive. (The damage wasn't bad but it wasn't safe to drive long distance) Ankhesen, I KID YOU NOT, my supervisor was GRINNING EAR TO EAR as I walked into the office shaking that morning. Trust me, his behavior wasn't just weird because he was smiling at my pain and fear, this man NEVER ever smiled at me and I mean NEVER. The entire time I was working there he would scowl at me and he didn't even look up from his desk when I greeted him in the morning. Anyway, I am sitting at my desk in my office holding back tears expecting to work from HQ, when he comes up to me with another set of keys and says "The audit needs to be completed at the location. Here are the keys to the IT van. You should leave in the next 30 minutes to beat traffic." And then he walks away still smiling.

Note: I am barely 120 pounds wet and he put me in a Dodge Caravan to drive 4.5 hours by myself to Suffolk, Va during NOVA rush hour after I was just in a car accident the previous day.

I return Thursday morning from the Suffolk audit and as I get off the elevator and see him walking towards me, he stops in his tracks and his face DROPS. He just stares at me. It was as if he was hoping that I got into another accident. Now, my alarms are sounding and are sounding loud. The next day, I asked to speak with him and he complied. I asked him if my performance so far was acceptable because I felt as if I wasn't meeting his standards. He says VERBATIM "You are a hard worker, Kymie. Very task oriented, and we like that." Slightly satisfied, I thanked him for his time and left his office and went to finish whatever bs project I had to BEG to work on.

Fast forward a week later to Friday, July 30. My supervisor comes to my office grinning to tell me that I would be having my 60 day review that day at 2:30 and to meet him in my boss’ office. I don't know what it was but I KNEW that something wasn't right. Two thirty comes and goes and my boss’ office is closed. Then it becomes 3:30 and then 3:45 and the door is STILL closed. Finally at 4:00 my supervisor comes to my office smiling even bigger and says that they are ready for me. I sit down in the open seat and wait. He gets up to shut the door and then it starts:

“Kymie, we feel that you are not doing enough here as an auditor. While its fine and dandy to not find any issues on an audit, how does that help us help management? We aren’t on a witch hunt, but…you know…how can we help management if we don’t find anything wrong? Moreover, you don't have that hunger that we are looking for in an auditor. You don't ask for feedback nor do you ask for mentoring in developing your career as an auditor (didn't I just go to him last week asking for feed back and him telling me everything was a-ok?!). We want you to have initiative and worst yet, you have made comments in which you state that you prefer going on straighter paths, wanting to avoid obstacles. How will you ever succeed if you always want to take the easy route? If you don't clean up your act in the next 30 days, we will have to sever your relationship with us.” Then he looks up at me, gets angry and says " DO YOU UNDERSTAND ME?!" I am in SHOCK at this point. I just sat there fighting back tears in silence to which he repeats even more coolly "Do you understand ME?" I finally say yes, and ask if I could leave given that it was now 4:30 and our office was now closed. He starts smiling again and says "of course!"

(Note: I made ONE comment concerning the safest and clearest route from here in DC to Pulaski, VA where I would be on an audit the following week. He suggested me taking back routes in the southern parts of VA over me taking I-81 which is a DIRECT shot. I merely told him that I would prefer to go on more direct roads as I had not been driving for a long and would be by myself. I said that I would be more comfortable with marked highways.)

I leave the office and the moment I step outside the door I am bawling. I just could not believe that they were threatening to fire me over complete BULLSHIT. Not asking for feedback? Not finding issues on audits? Not needing to essentially suck up to the manager?! This is how you get fired in today’s world. I called my mom and I am just a blubbering idiot. Her suggestion to me “Fuck them. Drop off the company van and send in your resignation Monday morning. DO NOT go on that audit. You can not kill yourself over these people.” I stupidly ignored her and went on the audit thinking that this was my chance to shine and show them that I am worthy. I drive 7 hours to Pulaski, VA to the address my supervisor gave me. I get there, and its nothing but demolished buildings. I start to flip. This is my first test after a terrible review, and I am already fucking up. I call my supervisor to find out if I am at the right place. No answer. His voicemail says that he’s on vacation. I call my boss. No answer. His voicemail also says that he’s on vacation. I call one of the other auditors that I trusted (the only other black professional in the ENTIRE finance dept.) who was scheduled to help me with the audit and ask her if she had arrived yet. She was still in DC. She tells me that after I left Friday, my supervisor told her that she couldn’t go to the Pulaski audit because she needed to finish some tax packages and thus sent the other auditor (white) and his partner in crime in her place. She asks me where I am and I tell her. She says, “Why are you all the way over in Pulaski? That location has been shut down for three years. The new location is in Christiansburg, VA.” Christiansburg is 25 miles North of Pulaski. My supervisor had given me the wrong address. I finally get to the location, and the other auditor is sour. She’s going off on me telling me that I am an hour late and that this was unprofessional behavior, etc. I tell her that I was given the wrong address and was at the Pulaski location. She snaps at me and tells me that I am lying and asks for my disposition book. (The disposition book has all the addresses of the locations) I go and get it and she looks at the cover and goes “This book is from 2007, why do you have a three year old disposition book?” I tell her that it was the one my supervisor gave me. She looks in it to see that, yes, the address listed in that book for this location is in fact in Pulaski. She throws the book back on the table and says “Well, at least you are here.”

As the week goes by, she continues to snap at me and dismiss my questions in regards to the audit as I am TRYING to "ask for feedback" and "get some guidance on the auditing process." Things get worse as the days went by and finally I just snapped. They were setting me up to fail. I wasn’t going to make it through the last 30 days of my probation and they were going to fire me with extreme prejudice (pun not intended). I finished my portion of the audit early and just gunned it home. I make it back to the HQ in DC in 5 hours, parked the van in the garage, dropped off the key at the front desk and taped my resignation letter to my boss’ door. That was August 5th.

August 12th I am expecting my final paycheck in my savings account by 12am that morning. I signed up for direct deposit and I was itching to be done with these people. I checked my account at 10:00am. There was no deposit. I checked it again at 2:00pm. There was still no deposit. I decide to call up Wachovia and ask if there was anything wrong with my account. They told me no, and that it was strange because there was nothing in the system saying that I was going to receive a deposit as I normally did every other Thursday. Now, I am nervous. I call payroll and ask where my final paycheck was, they said that I should have received it. They put me on hold to see what went wrong and when they finally get back on on the phone with me I could tell that something was wrong. The accountant started whispering and said “I think you need to speak to your supervisor…” I ask her why, and she says “you just need to speak with him, Ill transfer you.” She transfers me and my supervisor picks up the phone. I tell him who it is and he goes, “Oh, Hi there Kymie! Good to hear from you. Well, I just wanted to let you know that I have your final check right here in my hands.” I go, “Excuse me?” He continues, “I heard that you received a parking ticket while you were on one of your audits. Until you send me confirmation that you paid for it, I’ll be holding on to your check.” I told him that I paid for the ticket weeks ago. He merely says, “Like I said, I want confirmation or no check” and then hangs up. I immediately send the email confirmation I saved in my inbox to him and call him back. All he says is “Oh... good…” and then hangs up.

Yes, he withheld my paycheck illegally over a parking ticket… I didn’t receive all my money until August 23, two weeks after my resignation.

I lost a total of 10 pounds while I was there. I am just now gaining the weight back, my hair is no longer falling out and I know suffer with GERD.

Comments

  1. Thank you for this Ankhesen!

    Upfront apologies for my atrocious comma usage and grammar! I am always and forever a Math girl...English, not so much.

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  2. Yeahhhhhh, I would sue.

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  3. I don't think my last comment went through.
    Dear Kymie: It is wise to follow your first instinct and your mother's intuition. It could have prevented heartache. Hindsight is always 20/20. I'm sorry to hear that you went through so much mental anguish. That being said, should you put yourself through this again by sueing? Do you feel that you have a good case against the non-profit? Maybe you will. But is it worth it to your mental and physical health? I speak from experience. I've been through a law suit where I did not win. However, it may appear that you have more evidence. Just a word to the wise, tread carefully here. I think you have many more years of work ahead of you. So, think of your future.

    Just a suggestion. You definitely don't have to follow my advice. Just think your future plans through.

    Peace

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  4. Girl, I'd say sue their asses off, but you can only do that if you've documented the hell out of things and even then, depending on whether it's a "right to work" or "at will" state, you still may not have a case since they fired you during your probationary period.

    But I'll let you know this type of shyt has happened to a LOT of BW over the years. It happened to me several times. It's one of the main reasons I don't work now. I developed a sort of "work phobia." I'm sick of Whites, especially WW, being mad and pissy that I am not some unintelligent, uneducated hood rat that they can feel superior to.

    That's what got you fired. You were too GOOD at that job to be a Black woman. When they found out you actually knew your stuff they got pissy. I've gotten reviews like yours too where they twist all your positives into negatives. Basically, that's when you know you're done. And I wouldn't suggest going to HR because companies' HR departments are there to protect the COMPANY, not the employees.

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  5. If there's sufficient evidence, I'd totally sue.

    However, Ms. Love makes a very good point about the stress.

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  6. Holly Steel9/26/10, 9:00 PM

    What a load of crap! I am so sorry that you had to go through that. I offer my sincerest condolences. That is ridiculous and I swear I would have cried in your situation.

    As for suing, I wouldn't know... there definitely has to be something for giving an employee the wrong materials, then trying to send said employee somewhere "off the beaten track" (in a bad way) and then illegally withholding a check. The stress would be a big deal, though. I guess it's up to you. Perhaps you could consult a lawyer and see how they feel about it.

    In any case, I wish you good luck. What happened to you was ridiculous and horrible.

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  7. wow...this is some mess. Its like how dare you not be the stereotype that they're comfortable with.

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  8. I'm sorry you had to go through this. I've been in situations where supervisors were micro managers that talked bad about me and my coworkers to the department head. There really isn't much protection for us in the work place. You should at least try to file a complaint for illegally withholding your pay check.

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  9. Thanks for all the kind words! I did actually consult with a lawyer (my auntie)and the only thing I can really sue them on is them not giving me my final check on the next pay period or within 7 days of my resignation, whichever is sooner (DC law).

    @bwoutofthebox & Ankhesen: This is exactly what has been keeping me from pushing forward with a lawsuit. I don't think suing would be worth the added stress if my lawsuit is merely going to get them a slap on the wrist for not sending me my check on time. Everything else would be hard to prove. (They very much look out for their own there, especially if the employees are part of their church) I am just so angry and I feel so powerless.


    @Witchsista: I fortunately wasn't fired. I resigned before they could fire me. I knew they had a weak case against me which is why they had to issue a "warning" so that by the end of my probation came around if I didn't change up to their standards they would have real grounds to fire me on. I knew that if they were to fire me it would be hell to find work afterwards. Already, in the interviews that I've had in the past few weeks I've already been questioned as to why I don't have references from them...

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  10. Ahh..the antics of white people. Surely, none of you are surprised. Now, take this behavior and times it exponentially without the restraint of "modern" civility and imagine a people subject to that for over 400 years.

    My people are a strong people. Strong enough to survive the belly of the Beast. You SHOULD sue. Not just because it is just...but because it would be an apt deterrent should they want to treat another melanin endowed human being that way. That man sounds like a particularly "wonderful" human being. Grinning like a jackal after you've been in an accident. How pleasant.

    Sue. Sue because you are strong enough to withstand it and sue because you'll be damned if they get away treating someone else like that. Sue for the damned principle of the matter. I always let smarmy curs know when they're being smarmy. Silence will only eat you up with could've's and wouldn've's. Silence speaks of acceptance.

    ..and remember, when things start to get dicey...
    Document
    Document
    Document
    Everything you can. Keep your head up, sister.

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  11. Kymie,

    I totally know what you are feeling with your situation but (and I don't want to discourage you) that is pretty much the norm in the corporate world. There is always going to be bullshyt and dealing with assholes who want nothing more than to break you emotionally and professionally. Working for white folks as a competent black person ain't a picnic. You have to know what it is you will not accept and stick with it because there will be many evolutions in your work career especially if you are working for other people.

    I've had more than one work situation similar to yours where nothing I did in my supervisor's opinion (because I did it too well), seemed to warrant any positive feedback. The worst work environment ever was the mortgage industry and it was either leave or set fire to the offices with the white folks handcuffed to their desks. I chose to leave their employ and stop working for others all together.

    I wish you well and hope that things work out for you.

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  12. Damn Kymie,

    If you can, move to another country. There are still people out there who actually appreciate professional competence and MATH skills. Bless you for lasting as long as you did. **shakes head**

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  13. Hateya,

    That is shaping up to be the best advice to American Blacks.

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  14. Sam Cacas on Facebook says:

    "If you can deal with the stress, you may consider retaining an attorney who can evaluate the evidence you have available and give you your legal options. This sounds like a typical case where the employer illegally changed the terms and con...ditions of your contract and maybe if there is evidence of it - differential treatment based on race and gender. At the very least, the former makes this a strong case assuming you have a copy of the original contract and you have not signed any subsequent agreement changing the original terms. Good luck."

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  15. Holy shit. "I'm sorry" seems like such a completely inadequate response, but it's all I got. I'm sorry and very angry, that you've had to go through this. I wish you luck, whether you decide to pursue a legal suit or not.

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  16. Thank you SO much again Ankhesen! This really has been empowering to have so much support, especially from the outside.

    @Hateya: I actually have seriously considered going back to the West Indies. I never got American citizenship so I still have my Green Card and am a Jamaican citizen. Something always kept me from following through with the process. While life back in the Caribbean would be much more modest, I'll take spiritual and mental health over material wealth any day.

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  17. I never got American citizenship so I still have my Green Card and am a Jamaican citizen. ...While life back in the Caribbean would be much more modest, I'll take spiritual and mental health over material wealth any day.

    And this is something all POC should keep in mind. You're lucky, Kymie, because the lil sis and I were born on US soil. When we are finally able to return home, our American citizenship is going to cause complications for us.

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  18. At least you all have somewhere else to go thanks to your foreign citizenship or having family in another country you can stay with till you get your ish together over there. Black Americans are pretty much stuck here.

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  19. Horrific. I don't even have words.

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  20. Welcome to the good ol' US of A folks...

    Any black woman who is reading this today please understand with this election the chickens have come home...Please document EVERYTHING!!!! You all have good instincts, no you are not being oversensitive and when in doubt seek a LAWYER for advice don't go to HR UNLESS you have all your ducks in a row!

    GOOD LUCK OUT THERE LADIES.

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  21. @Kymie
    I wish you the best in whatever steps you take next. Sometimes, an experience like this is a wake-up call. We deserve to live life to the fullest, not just survive it.

    @Withsistah

    I'm a Black American woman and when I first went abroad, I went alone and I took care of myself. It was a risky decision; however, I have no regrets. I could not continuing tolerating an environment in which people were fighting a war of attrition to put chains on my mind.

    There is one thing I have here, I didn't have there: Money. Some of you will be be surprised at just how much humanity money can buy for the people you love. The only reason I work is to help protect my family. If Kymie were my sister, I'd buy her a damned good lawyer: a snake of a "white" guy whose only interest is winning.

    If I had Oprah's loot, I would help Kymie, too, because we all know that suing is costly. They only give in when they know we can afford to fight them.

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  22. @ Hateya,

    Before I was all like, "I don't see why American BW have to go overseas to get a man" but now, I'm rethinking the position. It's no longer about being able to find a decent man. It's now about BW being able to have a decent LIFE. And America has BEEN showin' that it ain't the place for that.

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  23. @Witchsistah

    I was only 18 when I realized they were holding us back. They weren't just withholding the American dream, they were attempting to lock us out of everything life had to offer. Although it's hard, there is a world out there waiting for us. There are places we can go, start a new life and not struggle to breathe. We are not disposable!!!

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  24. Scandinavia is particularly attractive to me, especially as an introvert. Sweden has a lot of smart, polite, good-looking guys (unless those are the only ones they export). Norway pays its artists. Unsure about Finland.

    And I hear Black women are pretty popular with the men there, and not for the sketchy ass reasons they are here in the US.

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  25. RVCBard,

    If I'd known THEN what I know NOW, I'd have tried to make my way to Scandinavia and STAY there somehow.

    Y'all need to read this article in the Village Voice. It's long as hell, but extremely relevant and true:

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2010-09-29/news/white-america-has-lost-its-mind/

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  26. While I can understand why you tried to stick with it, your mother was absolutely right.

    Your supervisor was beyond malicious. You could have been seriously injured or killed in that accident, or injured/killed someone else - or both. What kind of human being worthy of being deemed a 'person' grins from ear to ear and derives satisfaction from that?

    As for people extolling other countries to live in outside of the States?

    Since the belief in white 'superiority' and an attendant, converse belief in black 'inferiority' is wide-spread across the globe (thanks to the US and Western media going into propaganda overdrive), you have to choose which variants/expressions of racism you're prepared to combat and choose wisely where you're going to live - particularly if it's yet another colonised country or a country that is adverse to immigrants...

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  27. don't read the comments!

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  28. lol @ caridad - I know, right? But there is *one( comment on there (that talks about white insanity, and that's posted fairly early on so you don't have to wade too far to get to it) that sounded a little like something out the 'drapto files' vault.

    Clueless comments aside, the article was worth the read. (Thanks for the link witchsistah.

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  29. The huge difference between the choices I had as a young, Black American woman and the choices young Black American women TODAY have is the internet. Just 20 years ago, if you wanted to investigate a country you were thinking of moving to, you had to do a lot of book reading and a trip to said country was a MUST. The former could be taken care of via the local library and the latter was often cost-prohibitive.

    Now, you can go online, look up myriad info and even TALK to peeps who live there, the natives AND the transplants and ask them all sorts of questions. I think you'd still need to take a trip there, preferably during their tourist off-season when the weather is not so inviting to see if you'd be able to handle living there all year around.

    And you'd be able to research if you could find a job there. Even if you're husband hunting, you're going to have to support yourself till you bag one.

    If I had the resources THEN that young BW have NOW, I don't think I'd be here in the States. I'd be married to some Norwegian, Swede or Dane.

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