I was excited to work cooking healthy and good food for people living on limited incomes. Centre is in poverty stricken area. When I started, noticed that there was a lot of gossip and fighting amongst staff. The person in charge of kitchen had no kitchen training and very little experience. The centre originally served soup and sandwiches when opened but kitchen was remodelled and more cooking made possible. She mostly worked in office and did not know how to organise or direct staff.
Some of the cooks were very passionate about delivering good food and contributed their recipes as well as infrastructure tools to organise kitchen. As this is a union site and she had already been there several years, it seemed the only way to create an organised work environment to facilitate good food was to do it ourselves as she did not have the neccessary skills. Because we cook for people who are in desperate need of the service some of us were willing to do this and the centre has received much praise since this time for its high quality food.
The place runs with volunteers and staff. One person was always on the hit list, being criticised and ridiculed by her. She bonded with other staff by focussing on her perceived shortcomings of a target. She talked about people in front of volunteers. She took credit for any developments and contributions of others in the kitchen. A cook who was hired later, and is also a bully, became her major supporter, confidante and spy. He was eventually hired as her assistant. No one else bothered to apply because they knew that she would undermine them.
Her bosses response to complaints about her include: that professional kitchens are tough places and there is nothing out of the ordinary about our kitchen. (Well we sympathise that kitchens are tough places but what can we do? That's just the way it is.) Or the cooks here are lucky to get the wage they make and they know it! Recently I went to her boss when she was going to serve cake that had been chewed on by mice and told him that I would call the health inspector if she did this. He blamed me for not telling her instead of going to him and also said it was not her fault, but the fault of the cooks for not putting the cake away!
Management will protect everything she does and blame the kitchen staff. Essentially they will not listen to or acknowledge anything that challenges the concept that management and supervisors are the more skilled, are responsible for the accomplishments of the centre, and that problems and unfortunate incidents (like the one above) are due to lack of training or attitude problems of the front line staff. And they use the language of nonprofits to protect and promote themselves while beating the crap out of the more vulnerable workers. (What they say they value and strive for is inclusion, respectful work environment, empowerment, etc., etc.) I started there with passion and excitement to apply my skills in this job and was so happy to contribute. Now I hate going to work. I do not want to give more than my job specs require because I know that my boss will take credit. The only feedback is criticism. It is a soul destroying place and no one wins.
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