Thank you for sharing, the story really resonated with me.
I got fired for kicking back as well, which is why I ended up writing and freelancing in the first place.
But before I start talking about myself: Tossing these cupcakes takes balls!
So I worked in a facility for corrosion repair. I worked there a year before, part of the assembly/disassembly team. We’d take apart military vehicles and store the parts on shelves until they’d come back, completely repainted. Then we’d put them back together. It was a nice job with a great team.
When I rejoined the company a year later, the position in my prior team was already taken by someone else. If I’d like to rejoin the company, I’d have to work with the rust removal team. They’d spend their days in huge maintenance tunnels, where vehicles would move from the back to the front. First we’d use grinders and sandpaper to remove all paint and rust until it’s bare metal.
Then they’d be pushed into the next section, closed off from outside air and be painted with primer and camouflage. In the summer, these tunnels build up incredible heat (there was no air ventilation due to the dust and metal particles in the air) and we’d have to wear full suits with full face respirators. It was incredibly hot and added to the already huge stress of working with painfully short deadlines.
While the upper staff were almost all American, the basic workers were all Japanese.
One Japanese dude — my team leader — was an obnoxious, self-righteous ass. While he himself would hardly do any work and kiss the assess of quality assurance guys and whoever else from the upper echelon comes dropping by at times, he’d treat us like shit, push us to the brim and constantly nag that we’re not fast or diligent enough.
For example, we were waiting for a truck we worked on prior to be greenlit for the final finish. It was parked in another section of the tunnel. While our team leader was I-don’t-know-where, five of us were standing in the empty hall, waiting for him to come and instruct us on what to do next. We’d chat and joke around a little.
Out of nowhere, he comes in, looking at us with an angry expression.
“Having fun? Why are you guys not working?”
The worst for me at that point was that he was looking specifically at me, as if I was the only one standing there.
I always tried to be nice, give my best, listen to orders and all that. He doesn’t even speak English, only Japanese. So out of courtesy, I always talked in Japanese with him. Despite us working in a US facility in a US military base.
But he’d constantly scold us in front of the team. Especially one guy who always looked down, not uttering a thing other than “Sorry”. I felt pity for him.
So one day our team leader got really mad at me, started yelling at me. I yelled back. He was pointing out mistakes I didn’t make. Blaming me for something that wasn’t even in my control. So I gave hell back. I honestly hoped for him to physically attack me, to justify me answering with force. But he didn’t. He acted just like a dog, barking and gritting his teeth.
I went to the manager, filed a complaint. I even “interviewed” one of my co-workers — an American guy and ironically the former team leader of my first position in assembly/disassembly. A really nice guy, who was just as annoyed with our current team leader.
So I took his statements into my formal report — I went the full mile. Because else it would just be my statement versus the team leader’s. These odds weren’t in my favor.
The site manager called me in — a military veteran, US-marines, with the accompanying mindset.
He told me that I can take this report and put it up my a**. If I have a problem, I should come to him, not walking around playing Navy CIS. If others have a problem, it’s their job to come themselves.
But he’d agree to mediate between me and the team leader, to settle things. That sounded good enough for me. We’d both get to tell our sides and maybe come out of it shaking hands.
Turned out I was naive as always. We met inside one of these container rooms used for construction and on-site makeshift office stuff. I’d sit across from the manager, the team leader next to me, one empty chair in between.
After I made my point and recited my complaints about this annoying harassment, my manager started talking. And it wasn’t mediating. At least I don’t think that’s what mediation is supposed to be like.
He told me that the team lead is in charge, period. Everyone does what the team lead says, and as long as the work gets done, the manager doesn’t give a f**k what it is. If I don’t like that, I can get my stuff and go. He literally said he doesn’t give a f**k about what I think.
Then he gave me an ultimatum. I can either get back to work, or he makes an appointment for me with the Human Resources Office. And based on his reaction, his shocked face, I assume he thought I’d pick work. But I picked the office. If I go down, I’m gonna take them all with me.
But at this point, I already lost my job. There was no going back for me from then on. The damage is done.
I went to HR, repeated my complaints, my dissatisfaction with how the manager “mediated” and the general condition with which the lower workers are being treated, simply because they are easily replaceable.
HR asked me if I want to stick with my statement, as that would incite a formal investigation. I said yes. Then I added “I already made up my mind. I’m done with it. I quit. But you go and make that investigation for the guys who are still stuck there.”
Basically I just lost my job. But to me, it felt heroic, like martyrdom. There never was an outcome in which I’d keep my job and improve the conditions. But this way? Fighting? Sinking that ship? It felt so good. Just looking at the guys from HR who are now forced to nag at the site management.
Weeks later, I got an update from the American guy I worked with. Apparently, the team leader got a reprisal for his behavior and “got a lot more chill since then — he’s not complaining anymore. Not at all.”
So it’s a win in my book. And I now work from home, which is so much better than dealing with people like him.
Sorry, this really got a long read. If you made it all the way down to here, thank you 😁👍