Finally, I touched on the low morale that I’d encountered and the company’s vulnerability that resulted from York’s unwillingness to delegate. No decisions were allowed without his personal agreement. That meant that managers took few risks with their proposals to avoid criticism. I pointed out that if he were ill or needed to be away from the company for a protracted period, his managers would be badly prepared to make effective decisions or to delegate well. At shopfloor level, I’d encountered poor motivation despite the company paying premium rates. The wages appeared to be seen by many as golden handcuffs – merely a reason for turning up and clocking in. Few workers felt that their contribution was valued. They seldom received positive feedback, perceived that there was little job-security, poor attention to health and safety and few opportunities for training towards personal growth. On the Monday morning, when York walked into my office his face was grim. He had read my report and his initial reaction had been to dismiss me as insubordinate. He’d mellowed in retrospect having re-read and thought about it. I was right, he said, that what I’d done was probably exactly what an external consultant would have concluded. He didn’t agree with everything I’d written (I hadn’t expected him to do so).
What happened next was an eye-opener. He picked up my phone and summoned Mrs Wilson and his employee ‘directors’ to my office. He told Mrs Wilson to produce four printed copies of my report. She left to do as he’d said, and the three ‘directors’ were told to read my report when their copies had been printed. He advised them to consult me about any aspects of implementation they needed advice about, but he wanted them to report back to him with action plans by the end of the week.
The sales ‘director’ of one of the companies protested at having a new, untried manager dictating what he should be doing. York’s reaction shocked me.
“Listen fella,” he said, “Your title as a director is honorary. You are just another salaried employee. You own no shares. Think of this company as a game of cricket. It’s my bat, my ball, my stumps, my pitch, my pavilion and I’m the ****ing umpire. If you don’t like it **** off to a job you like better.”
There was a stunned silence before he instructed them to get back to work. He left my office just ahead of them. I received dirty looks all round from the others as they left. I considered what to do next. I’d worked there for just over three weeks. I could still leave with only one week’s notice under the terms of the company’s offer letter. I certainly wasn’t sure that I wanted to work there for another month. In any case, that would be a week less to do some of the things that I could do to help get our joint initiative underway.
Two days later my opportunity came. The Sales Manager of the point-of-sale materials company had been to see me in the morning. His director had sent him. We’d discussed the company website, its posters and logo. He’d been particularly interested in my ideas about pricing. That afternoon I had a meeting with the Director of the large box company. He was clearly annoyed by some of the things I’d said in my report. We’d just about got as far as we were likely to get ,when I received a call from Mrs Wilson asking me to go and see her as soon as I’d finished in my meeting.
When I reached her office, I saw through her window that York was with her. He waved me in. He said that he’d been thinking about my report. He said that I’d done a good job, but he felt that the impetus for implementing my proposals could now be done by existing staff. He couldn’t see what benefit there would be to the company if I stayed in my job. He referred to my conclusions about morale as an example and told me that my further involvement might damage morale further – particularly among senior managers and directors. He felt that he would be able to work with them to execute my recommendations.
Mrs Wilson took over at this point. She said that I’d be aware that, contractually, I was entitled to one week’s notice. The implications of York’s indirect summary were now becoming concrete. Given what I’d already been thinking, I felt that I would be saved the embarrassment of having to justify handing in my notice. I listened carefully, waiting to hear the guillotine fall. I’m glad I stayed rather than walked out in anger. She continued, “We think that you have a lot to offer, if not with us – and we don’t want to part on bad terms. I’ve written you a testimonial and if any future employer approaches us directly for a reference, it will be favourable.” She passed me a letter typed on A4 headed paper and signed. She asked me to read it. It was the testimonial she’d promised and it praised me for the contribution I’d made to the future of the company. I looked first at York, then back to her and thanked her.
She said that she hadn’t quite finished.
“If you are satisfied with what you’ve read,” she said, “On condition that you sign a non-disclosure agreement and indemnify us against any redress for terminating your employment, Mr York has agreed that you will be given three months payment in lieu of notice.”
I sat back, trying to take in what I had heard. I remembered what Beverly had said about some employers doctoring personnel records to protect them against legal action. I felt that I’d be stupid not to agree.
She passed me another two-page typed document to read – the NDA she’d mentioned.
I gathered that it was mainly financial information that it sought to protect. I’d have to return any copies of company information that I still had in my possession and agree to delete all electronic copies on my personal IT equipment. Along with that was a requirement not to pursue any type of claim for unfair dismissal. I really didn’t see how I could make such a claim anyway considering what I’d already planned to do.
I signed in the space provided and told them that all my written copies were in my desk – I had none at home. I’d leave it to them to delete my user identity and files from the company server. I assured them that I’d never transferred any company information onto my personal devices and had never made any copies via media cards or pen drives. I checked that I could regard this as my last day of working there and thanked them for their generous offer of pay-in-lieu.
Mrs Wilson said that she hoped that I’d understand if she asked the Security Manager to accompany me to my office and ensure that I took no company property away: it was standard procedure when staff left their employment for any reason. Once more I agreed and, when he arrived, I left with him and then left the building – three months tax-free pay better off. There was a spring in my step until I got in my car. There I realised that I’d be going home to an empty house and no-one to share my good news with.
Today’s photo is another that I took in January 2020 when I enjoyed a weekend of photography in London. This shot was another I took from the South Bank of the Thames, this time while walking from Tower Bridge towards London Bridge, at night on my first day.
The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-1 36 MP full-frame camera with a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens at 30 mm and f/18. The shutter speed was 30 secs and the ISO 100. The shot was tripod mounted, without filters and post processing in Lightroom Classic.