She flushed a deeper shade of red. The voice in her head said “Give him a slap”. The mantra said, “calm, keep calm.” She turned curtly, and walked out of the staff room and into the women’s changing room. She put on her coat, picked up her handbag from her locker, and walked out through the front of the store. She made it to the edge of the car park, before the voice of her Manager stopped her.

“Charlotte, what’s wrong, where are you going?”

She stopped still and started to sob. Brian ran up to her and put a hand on her shoulder.

“What’s wrong?”

“He just sacked me!” She managed to get out between sobs and sniffs.

“Who… What…Why?”

“Jim. He wouldn’t let me take a kick-stool on the shopfloor, and when I knocked off some pickled onions on the aisle opposite, it caused a customer to be injured. He then told a lie. He said I hadn’t asked for a kick-stool, and told the customer that I was special needs. I called him a liar and he said, get your coat, you’re fired!”

“Whoa… Slow down. Come back inside. Come to my office. Only I can summarily sack someone, not Jim, not anyone else. Just me. And I am not about to sack you. You are the most conscientious worker we have.”

Brian left Charlotte in his office and asked his office staff to make her a cup of tea. He made his way down to the staff room without a clear plan of what he was going to say. He knew the nature of the beast, Jim. Yet he had put him in his supervisor’s role. So if anyone was responsible for the situation it was him.

He had ignored his jibes against Charlotte, hoping that eventually he would come around to her. He bitterly regretted telling Jim about some of Charlotte’s mental issues. He had only given him the most rudimentary details, saying that she had suffered from a long bout of depression. He had told Jim this, in the hope he would not give her hard time as she tried to acclimitize to living fully back in the community. Brian was thankful that he had not given Jim the details of her mental illness… He would have made her the laughing stock of the staff room. He knew that he had made an error of judgment in telling his supervisor anything, but even further he had not intervened when he realised that Jim was using the information to make Charlotte’s life hell. He could and should have done something about it. Several of the nightshift had told him about Jim’s jibes, but he had done nothing.

Why hadn’t he done something? He wasn’t good at confrontation. He was a little afraid of people like Jim. Hard-nosed working-class men who wore the chip on their shoulder like a medal of honour. His degree in Business Studies had given him the skills to cope with the business side of management, but not the social side. In truth, he felt less of a man, than people like Jim. He conscientiously believed in the company policy of giving opportunities to handicapped and mentally handicapped people; he believed that health and safety rules were of paramount importance to the safety of his staff… But he also knew that these liberal and safety-conscious policies were only paid scant lip-service to by most employees.

He had not got the forceful personality to impress these passions on the workforce. He had let much slide. He was at fault, and he was perfectly aware of that. So, how to right these wrongs? He needed time. He had to think things through. His first thought was to speak to Jim now… But right now he hadn’t got a clue what he was going to say. So he put the Jim quandary on hold. He walked into the Staff room to see how the customer was. Jim was bent in front of the young man who had been injured. He was holding a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. In truth, it was just a nick but the bleeding made it look worse.

” Jim, let me talk to this young man, if you don’t mind. Go back to your work and come and see me at the end of your shift.”

“Eh, Brian you usually leave before the end of my shift, you want me to come up before five?”

“No, Jim, That won’t be necessary, I will be here at ten, come and see me then.”

“Okay. Err, you now I told Charlotte she was fired?”

“Yes. I’ll talk to you later.”

Jim left the staff room. Was he smiling? Was he thinking that the college boy was a push-over? Who can tell… He had a natural in-born smirk which rarely left his face.

Brian spoke to the injured young man.

“I’m terribly sorry sir, I will have to fill in an incident report. Can you tell me what happened?”

“I was shopping, and one of your staff saw fit to smash glass jars around me. I can’t believe she was stocking a top shelf without a stool. I mean, the poor woman is barely 5’3″, and she’s trying to stock a 6ft high shelf by standing on bloody tins. She says she asked to use a kick-stool, but her supervisor said she couldn’t have one on the shopfloor during opening hours. I spoke to the guy and he says she was lying, and intermated that she was not a full shilling, as he put it.”

“I’m sorry sir, that is not company policy, the health and safety guidelines state categorically that all over-stock sheves should only be done with a kick-stool. I don’t quite now all of the circumstances of the incident, but I take it very seriously, and if there is misconduct I will be dealing with it very severely. Health and Safety at work is of the utmost importance.”

“I’m sure it is, but I’m more upset by the way the woman was treated by that idiot!”

“I will be dealing with his behaviour and his attitude, sir, you can rest assured of that.”

“Is the woman, Charlotte was it, Is she alright? She looked like she wanted to punch him!”

“She is sat in my office with a cup of tea… Don’t worry Sir, she has not been sacked. She will be looked after, don’t worry about that. I shall send her home shortly, just so she can pull herself together.”

Thanks to all the brave readers for sticking with this.


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