Whole Foods Market
Finishing work one evening I noticed that the morning crew had left several utensils in the sink. This had been an on going problem in our department and after several attempts to correct the situation by bringing up the matter in team meetings I was at the point of complete frustration. That night I left the items in the sink wrapped up in paper with a note attached: "To whom it may concern. Morning shifts, please clean up after yourself." The following day I came in to work. I felt bad vibes the moment I approached Specialty. I was being completely ignored by the morning crew. I presumed that they were annoyed with me because of the note. I understood that but I wish they would also be able to understand the frustration on behalf of the closing crew to have extra work left by the morning staff. A couple of hours into my shift Ken paged me to come to Mark's office. I walked to the office and sat down in front of Mark. In front of me on the table were the wrapped up utensils that I had left from the night before .Ken, once again was red with anger. I completely understood why he was upset and admit that my actions were not the best way to handle the situation. So, I listened to what he had to say. Then I listened to what Mark had to say. Both men had very valid points. Yes, I agree it was against health codes and my job is to clean up after my shift. After patiently taking in everything that they had to say, it was my turn. I hadn't said ten words when already Ken interrupted me. Just like the two previous experiences he was not giving me a chance to say what I needed to say. So once again I sat there until he was finished. Then I said, "going back to where we was before you interrupted..." and within a sentence he was cutting me off again. For the first time I looked at him and said, "Ken, this is the third sit down that I've had with you now in a month. I've always listened to what you have had to say, I've listened to what others have had to say, yet every time when it comes to my turn to speak, you rudely interrupt and give me no chance to speak whatsoever. Can I speak for once?" Mark was understanding and tried to see my point of view. He could reason with me to an extent and agreed that people should clean up after themselves. "It's annoying" he said and added that although it was wrong in the way that I went about it, I should have brought it up to Ken." I stated that Greg had bought this to Ken's attention twice now in two separate store meetings without any improvement. I was then written up for the incident. I accepted the write up as I had violated policy. But why was I the only one being punished. Had the people on the morning shift not violated policy as well? What if the health inspector had walked in while they were there?
This last incident was the force that drove me to quit as I was unable to work under the conditions I was being put under any longer. Around 5:30 p.m. Jay brought 23 blocks of cheese into Specialty and then barked "Come on, come on, start to cut cheese," At that time in the evening, especially a Sunday, one of the busiest days that we have, it is not a great idea to start on such a project. A couple of blocks I would not have minded but he piled 23 blocks of cheese on the counter for us to cut. He has been told about this at store meetings before. It is very stressful to see blocks of cheese sitting there that you know need to be cut. Especially of that magnitude! I have no problems with cutting any cheese, but he has been told to leave them in refrigeration and to only bring out a couple each time for cutting. It was busy at the time and I knew it would be virtually impossible to get this done. During my lunch break I drank a liter of water, as we are not allowed to drink any liquids in Specialty and I got very thirsty. As you can imagine I had to visit the restroom several times after my break. In the space of the next hour I went to the rest room four separate times. A very rare thing for me to do. Some employee's love to get some quick five-minute breaks out of doing this or going out for a cigarette. That's not me! I had to genuinely use the restroom.
We were rather busy serving customers, cutting cheeses and cleaning up for the rest of the evening. I served customers until 9.00pm and then decided to take my last 15 minute break. I asked Jay if this was OK and his remark was, "I thought you already had all of your breaks. Four times to the restroom, five minutes each, that's 20 minutes." That hurt me a lot. I've never in my life taken advantage of any restroom break. That's not my nature and his statement was way out of line. When we are not allowed to drink any liquid while we work it forces me to drink large quantities at one time. Like my situation with my hip before, I saw again that Jay could care less about my well being. I returned at 9.15pm. I started to close down the department. Might I add that this was the first time I had closed with Jay and I know that he was not familiar with the time it takes to close down properly. Jay was still cutting cheeses as I began to cover the olive bar. He then proceeded to barrage me with questions. "So what is your problem then Johnny?" "Did you have problems with you other job Johnny?" "Why are you such a trouble maker Johnny?" "When I came here I thought you and I were going to be a team?" "What is your problem?" "Why did you argue with me earlier?" "How old are you, you aren't getting any younger Johnny?" "Do you enjoy coming to work?" "Why do you make it so difficult for everyone?" "Have you always been this much trouble?" "Two write ups already, what is wrong with you?" With each question, I knew he was tying to aggravate me more and more. And with each question I simply said, "I'd rather not talk about it now Jay." I never gave him any other answer apart from saying that I did enjoy coming to work and that I was 32 years of age. All he did was push me and push me and push me to my limits. He was totally out of line. I do not find that acceptable behavior for an co-worker, let alone an associate team leader. Not getting the results that he wanted he walked away at 9.40pm saying, "I'm going to lunch." It was such a relief to have him gone for a while. It was apparent to me at that point that Jay was purposefully trying to start a fight between us and I'm glad he gave up when he did. I decided right then and there I could no longer work in these conditions.
He returned around 10.10p.m. There wasn't anything to say between us, I just wanted to get out of his space. I was near to crying if you must know the truth. Someone hadn't pushed me this hard in such a stress-related way for a very, very long time. How dare he interrogate me and defiantly push me with personal questions with the intention that I would explode and react back in a violent way. I'm a loyal, hard worker and always have been! Many of my co-workers had told me I was a joy to work with and a very efficient employee. What did I ever do to this guy to make him act this way to me?
When I left Whole Foods that night I walked out to my wife who was waiting in the car. I got in and with tears in my eyes, "I don't ever want to go back in that store again. I can't take that man any longer." With that I was totally silent and just closed my eyes as my wife drove us home.
That was one of the worst days of my working career. I never, ever thought that I would quit anything. I traveled the world for ten years and have seen things and have been to places that some can only imagine for the rest of their lives. I love life; I've always enjoyed my work place and sharing time with those that I work with. But the combined managerial skills of Ken and Jay put together have pushed me to my limits.
I'm sorry for the length of this letter but like I said at the beginning, I feel that as a person high up in this establishment, you cannot always be in touch with everything that goes on in the hundred or so stores that are below you. Also, I would like to stress that I did not write this with the intention of getting anyone in trouble. I would just like to know that it does not happen to any body else. No one deserves to be treated with such disrespect. I am sure that you would like to know how badly an employee of yours had been treated. I believe in my heart that this is not what Whole Foods Market stands for and knowing this I felt that I had to tell my story. I'll be the first to admit that I had made some bad choices. I am only human but that clearly was not good enough. This is my story and this is why I quit the job at Whole Foods. A job that I used to love going to every day. A job that I strove to move ahead in and make my lifelong career.
Of course there are always two sides to every story and I'm sure that Ken and Jay will have an answer for every single thing that I have put in front of you here. And sadly most people don't question these situations. I just hope that you will take my story into consideration when I have been ignored for so long. Thank you for your time and thoughtfulness.
CC: Chris Hitt, Rich Cundiff
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