In 2008 when the market tanked & massive downsizing was sweeping the nation, my sweet client Penelope’s husband was laid off from his factory job. That made her salary all the more vital while he waited to be rehired or transferred to one of their sister factories out of state. It took almost a year, but his transfer finally came thru, so he moved to get started on his new job while Penelope stayed behind to pack & keep the house on the market until it sold.
Penelope worked for a local, well-known orthodontist here in town who had a lucrative business keeping teenagers in braces. To his patients, he was the fantastic “Dr. Jekyll” & they loved him. But behind closed doors he became “Mr. Hyde” & treated his staff like he owned slaves. He probably would’ve whipped them if he thought he wouldn’t be arrested.
He was extremely verbally abusive & insulting on a daily basis, to both the men & the women who worked in his office, but everyone was too afraid to quit for fear they wouldn’t get another job due to the Great Recession. I soon saw a pattern in Penelope when she’d come in after work to get her nails done & it was not good. She was visibly upset, near tears, flustered & obviously not her normal happy self.
She’d confide that 24/7 she was a nervous wreck, her stomach was in knots & her bowels were in an uproar all the time, plus in addition to being away from her husband, the stress of trying to pack an entire household & get it sold in the depleted real estate market was killing her. Add all that on top of being verbally abused by her boss had made her life a living hell.
3 incidents Penelope told me have stuck with me all these years. Incident #1 was when she asked her boss a work related question & he told her that she was a “nosy old woman” in front of other staff! She had to go find the answer from another source because he wouldn’t respond & she was too afraid to ask again. The 2nd incident involved the boss calling the staff into the back break room one day where he proceeded to scream & use profanities at them! He pounded his fist on the table while he was yelling at them, causing 1 woman to start crying.
When I asked what did the male employees do when this happened, she said they did nothing. Nobody did anything except stand there looking scared. Everyone just took it because their fear of losing their paycheck was greater than their need to stand up for their rights. During this “meeting” while he was having a verbal meltdown & pounding on the table, there came a knock at the back door which was situated a few feet behind him.
Her boss stopped in mid tirade, turned & yelled at the door “God Damnit, who IS it?”! The back door opened a few inches & a man’s hand with a brown sleeve reached thru holding a clipboard with a paper & pen. The boss snatched the clipboard from the hand, scribbled his signature on the paper & thrust the clipboard with pen back into the man’s hand.
The hand retracted with the pen attached to the clipboard & then reappeared holding a small box. The boss grabbed the box & the hand quickly disappeared outside the door again, after which the boss kicked the door shut with great force & continued “the meeting” where he berated each of his employees one by one in turn, calling them out for various & sundry infractions.
Penelope said nobody ever saw the UPS man’s face, but she was sure the guy had to have heard the loud screaming & cursing before he knocked. The poor guy probably squealed tires out of the parking lot & once back at the UPS facility asked to be assigned to a different route after that. He probably went home extremely thankful for his job & the fact that he didn’t work for that big bully.
I was beyond shocked & morally outraged. I could feel my face flushing with anger at how she & the others had been treated. This man had taken advantage of their fear caused by the most devastating financial crisis of our lifetime to abuse his power. He took his power trip out on those who depended on him for their survival & knowing jobs were scarce, he went over the top to create a hostile work environment. Too bad nobody secretly videoed him during his scream fest. That would’ve made an epic YouTube video & been a key piece of evidence in a massive lawsuit.
I told Penelope that the last he’d have seen of me was when I told him to fuck off & waved goodby with my middle finger flying high. Then I’d have walked out of there with my dignity intact singing “Take This Job & Shove It” as I drove 2 blocks down to McDonald’s where I’d have filled out an application. I’d freaking pick up cans out of ditches beside roads to recycle for money before I’d work at that hell hole.
I remember thinking “Thank GOD I do nails for a living & am self employed”! No paycheck is worth what she went thru & the indignities she suffered, of that I am certain. It makes me mad to this day when I think about it because he’s still got a thriving business here in town where most likely he’s abusing an entirely new staff.
The 3rd incident happened at Christmas, when his whole staff was required to work a half day on Christmas Eve. When quitting time came, the boss gave each employee $100 with instructions to go to the mall & purchase something for themselves. Can you imagine the hell that is Christmas Eve at a mall with last minute shoppers scurrying everywhere, harried clerks not in the most festive mood & bare shelves with remaining items torn asunder?
Their orders were as such: they could NOT use the money for groceries or to pay bills (even if they were facing bankruptcy or their cars were about to be repo’d). They HAD to spend all of the $100 AND bring the receipt with the remaining change left over to his house that night so they could all “celebrate” the business’s Christmas party.
At this ‘party’ on Christmas Eve (never mind that they wanted to spend it with their own families), the boss made each of them stand up & show all the others exactly what they had purchased thanks to his generosity, then give him the receipts (no doubt for a tax write off), plus whatever leftover change in bills & coins.
I can’t recall what she said she bought for herself, but it wasn’t something she really wanted or needed. She just bought anything to get the ordeal over with as soon as possible. But it was a fact that nobody enjoyed the command performance that evening except for the boss & possibly his wife. To add insult to injury, they had to all stay to eat dinner with him, too!
Upon her concluding this story at my nail table, I know my mouth was agape & my hand had stopped filing. I swear to God, she wasn’t kidding. And she was too upset for it to be a lie. It’s mind boggling how that man had the utter disregard for another person’s life & it became evident that this reputable orthodontist is undoubtedly a raging narcissist with sociopathic tendencies.
How it ended was when her house finally sold & they took a big loss just to get out of it. Penelope packed up & was finally free to give notice before moving away. We still keep in touch from time to time thanks to Facebook & my life was made better just by knowing her. The same cannot be said about the orthodontist.