Leaving Your Co-Workers In The Dust

by admin on November 14, 2011

Once upon a time I worked for a door-to-door company. I was 23 and all of my co-workers were also women in their early 20s or late teens. Our company rightly felt safety was an issue since most of us were on both the tiny and naive side. We followed a strict pattern when we were going door-to-door. It kept us close together so that if one of us yelled, we would have a partner in the area to hear us. We always worked in groups of two to three, and when we were being grouped into teams, a lot of care was given to make sure that at least one of us had a cell phone. All was well in our little family for a while, until we hired a new girl we shall call “Penny.”

Penny was in her late 20s and four years older than the next oldest member of our group. She immediately set herself up as our mother hen, both smothering us with matronly affection and routinely telling us that she knew better than any of us due to being so very much older. She was resentful that she was reporting directly to someone younger than her and ignored our seniority even though some of us had worked there for years. On the whole, it was mildly irritating at worst. But as time went on, she began breaking the company’s rules and throwing our whole order into chaos due to her “knowing better.”

Now, the pattern we hit houses in guarantees that we stay close and that we hit the most houses per group, but not the most houses per individual. We could not move onto the next street without our partner(s) and would sometimes have to wait between five and fifteen minutes if they were at a door when we finished our houses. It doesn’t sound like much, but because we worked on commission, every house we hit really counted, and waiting for your partner, while necessary, sucked.

There were many incidents in the months we worked together where Penny abandoned her coworkers to keep hitting houses. In the course of one evening with her, she cheated me and another girl out of literally hours of work by skipping ahead and leaving us to visit houses she’d already been to who were none too happy to hear the same sales pitch twice in one day. She would insist that she take her break separate from us since she smoked and we did not, then go around the corner and continue working, leaving us with the responsibility of locating her before we could even resume work.

The worst incident was when we got a call at the end of the night when the van came around to pick us up. Our group leader told us that she’d picked up Penny, but Penny’s teammate that day, a teenager (the youngest of our group) we’ll call “Tina,” was missing. Penny having the only cell phone between them, we had no way to call Tina now that they were separated. Penny’s only rather indifferent information was that she had simply lost track of Tina during the day and had no idea where she’d gone. Tina had been missing for well over an hour. We were in a state of panic. While our group leader with Penny drove up and down the streets calling our bosses back at the office to tell them we had for the very first time in the company’s history LOST a whole employee, the rest of the groups ran along the perimeter of Penny and Tina’s area, yelling for Tina.

We did find her, perfectly alright sitting on a street corner. You guessed it. Penny had bolted ahead when Tina had been stuck at a house for longer than she was willing to wait, and in the darkness had pulled so far ahead that she was out of sight. Tina, with no cell phone, and it being well after sun down, had been sitting and waiting for Penny to come get her on the corner that the pattern said they would meet up on for over an hour. Penny hadn’t even attempted to find her and hadn’t shown any concern about the matter until the end of the day when she had to stop working.

Shortly before I left for unrelated reasons, our supervisor moved away. Penny was already primping herself and ordering us around expecting to be promoted to her station as the oldest and wisest of us. I, and all the other girls, told our bosses that if they promoted her, we’d all walk. Tina was promoted. Penny was furious. I laughed.   0310-09

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathryn November 14, 2011 at 7:55 am

I’m surprised that the supervisor didn’t fire her! What horrible behaviour!

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Green123 November 14, 2011 at 8:00 am

I’m really unclear as to what your supervisor / boss was doing all this time? Why was Penny never disciplined for breaking the company’s rules when it is clear that her actions that put her own and others’ personal safety at risk? Why was she allowed to take breaks at times of her own bidding so she could smoke? Why was she allowed to take business off others by forging ahead without permission?

And even though your company felt safety was a concern, clearly they were not that bothered – were you and the team never provided with personal safety equipment like cellphones, rape alarms or self-defence training? Were you and your co-workers really expected to work in areas where you did not feel safe on your own? Sounds like a bad company that failed to empower and protect good staff like the OP and her colleagues and failed to train its supervisors to do their job properly and discipline badly behaved staff like Penny who didn’t toe the line. You’re better off out, OP!

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Anonymous November 14, 2011 at 8:18 am

As someone who worked a ton of jobs in high school/college – there is nothing worse than a coworker who thinks they can lord over you because they are older. I spent four years at the same job in college – the last two years as a supervisor. It was a difficult technical job that required a certain level of familiarity with electrical equipment. This middle-aged person came in and insisted he knew the right way of doing things. He did not like taking instruction from a 20 year-old woman. But the thing is – I knew the system, the people, and how to do everything and it was his job to listen. He would blatantly do things differently because he “knew better.”

Unfortunately, he ended up botching everything so badly that he was gone in a few months. I was trying to teach him how to do things, but he just wouldn’t listen.

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ellesee November 14, 2011 at 9:19 am

The ending of this story made me really happy–it was justice well served. I hope Penny left the company and save some other poor girl the stress of being in her group.

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Carrie November 14, 2011 at 9:41 am

Wow. She wasn’t fired for her little stunt?

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Xtina November 14, 2011 at 9:48 am

Some people are simply too selfish and uncaring to work in a team environment. I commend the OP’s employer for having some safety measures in place and following them–in this day and age, I think door-to-door sales are declining for many reasons, but safety is a big one.

Penny was selfish and worried about her own sales. However, not only did she break the safety/sales rules, she cut the other girls out of a whole lot of potential sales in the process (not that she’d care, but it’s not right!). Poor Tina, having to sit there on the street corner and wait and wait and wait in the (growing) dark while Penny hits up all the houses to make sales–not only was it unsafe, but Tina’s chances of making a sale that day were completely blown.

I have to agree–had Penny been promoted in this situation, a group walk-out would have been the only acceptable response.

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Twik November 14, 2011 at 10:17 am

Oddly, I had a cowirker named Penny who was very similar – I’d almost think they were the same person.

I had to laugh at “first time we’d lost a whole employee,” though. Had they only lost partial ones before?

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Hemi Halliwell November 14, 2011 at 10:19 am

I am glad that Tina was ok!

Penny sounds like a very selfish person. We all know what horrible things could have happened to a teenagre left alone, after dark and in an unfamiliar neighborh0od. I hope Penny was disciplined. She has no concept of what a team is supposed to be.

Like many others, I have someone like that who works in my office. She’s all sugar and love to your face but would leave you alone in the dark in a minute if it meant she would make more money or get a promotion.

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Tracy November 14, 2011 at 10:35 am

Penny sounds like a terrifying woman to work with. I’d have told the bosses that if she wasn’t fired for ignoring company policy and possibly endangering another coworkers life that we’d all walk.

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Wink-n-Smile November 14, 2011 at 10:57 am

Was Penny even disciplined at ALL for this behavior?

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--Lia November 14, 2011 at 11:12 am

1. How horrible!
2. Was there no one at the home office you could report Penny to before it came to losing an entire employee? “There were many incidents in the months we worked together where Penny abandoned her coworkers …” That wasn’t a clue that a more dramatic incident was bound to occur sooner or later?
3. In this case, I’d leave age out of it. If Penny had been younger than the others, she would have behaved in the same selfish manner only her excuse would have been “poor dumb me” instead of “I know better.”

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Ellen CA November 14, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Just the other day a teenaged boy approached me as I was leaving the house to ask if I was interested in subscribing to the local newspaper. I was not, so I continued toward my car. He asked if he could use my phone, I said no. He then said that he had no other way of contacting his supervisor to pick him up. I offered to make the call for him and told the supervisor where the young man could be picked up.
I have even less respect for that local paper now than I did before (which wasn’t much), putting young people out on the streets all by themselves with no way to contact their ride except through the kindness of strangers. Strangers aren’t always kind.

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Ashley November 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm

I don’t understand why she wasn’t fired right when all this started happening. But regardless, I’m glad she got a bit of justice flung back at her in the end.

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Snowy November 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm

Ellen, it probably wasn’t the local paper, rather a third party company who makes their money brokering subscriptions, or selling them second hand. (It’s a $20 sub, they charge you $30.) Any job where you sell door to door and have to be picked up in a van is very likely a scam–not on the consumer, but on the employees.

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Luna November 14, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Ugh, door to door is one of the worst jobs to have if your looking for a smooth running environment with thoughtful co-workers. My best friend worked door to door for a while, and luckily each team member did have a cell phone, but still, sometimes my friend would call his van leader to be picked up and have to wait for hours . . . Turned out the van leader was using the van and the vast areas of territory they covered to run a small drug ring! My friend quit shortly after this because they weren’t paying him what they should, but he probably would’ve quit anyway thanks to that van leader, my friend signed up to sell vacuums not drugs!

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Noph November 14, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Employees, even well meaning ones, should be careful about threats of a group walk out. No doubt one employee was making the rest of the teams jobs not only impossible, but dangerous. However, no boss likes it when employees try to force his/her choices with threats. If a group of my employes came to me saying “we go or she goes” or ‘we go if she’s promoted” or pretty much anything that was a “you do/don’t do this or we walk”, I’d go ahead and call the state unemployment office and give them their required advance notice of company wide lay offs. I don’t need or want a team that thinks they have that sort of control over my decision making. I’ve seen the same thing backfire in corporate retail stores, too. If you are that unhappy, try speaking to the boss. If you get no resolution, you might want to polish off your resume and start looking.

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Wink-n-Smile November 15, 2011 at 11:21 am

Noph, a friend of mine was once part of a group resignation. It was totally unplanned. Simply the entire staff had reached the point where they couldn’t take any more. Management had done nothing. Repeated complaints were ignored. Even the customers were avoiding the place, because it was too depressing. So, one day, the entire shift got in a huff (I don’t know what the last straw was, but it must have been a doozy), and they all left their posts, walked into the manager’s office, and quit, en masse.

Since then, there has been new management at that place, and it’s much nicer. The customers have come back. The employees seem reasonably happy. Sometimes, shock treatment is the only thing that works. As long as the employees stayed, management thought they could get away with treating them badly. Once they were all gone, and management had to deal with EVERYTHING themselves, for an entire shift, it got their attention. The fact that the second shift followed suit, when they showed up and saw what happened, just brought it home like a hammer to the head. The managers had to report it all to home office.

I agree with you that if you complain, and get no resolution, you should start looking elsewhere. The fact is, though, that if there is no resolution to valid and repeated complaints, and ALL the employees are polishing their resumes and looking elsewhere, upper management really does need to know. It’s not about a power play. It’s about improving the workplace, as a whole. Sometimes, the manager to whom they are complaining, is simply wrong, and is the only one who needs to go.

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Yvaine November 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Snowy wrote:
Ellen, it probably wasn’t the local paper, rather a third party company who makes their money brokering subscriptions, or selling them second hand. (It’s a $20 sub, they charge you $30.) Any job where you sell door to door and have to be picked up in a van is very likely a scam–not on the consumer, but on the employees.

Very true. It used to be hard for word to get out about these companies, but these days the info can often be found with a google search. Many of the door-to-door companies treat their employees horribly, try to trump up reasons not to pay them, and have rampant drug problems among management.

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Yvaine November 15, 2011 at 4:04 pm

(Which is not to blame anyone who was previously sucked in, just to warn anyone who might be considering a position like that in future.)

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Marli November 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm

The bit about drug problems mentioned by Yvaine does not surprise me a bit. I guess that this kind of job must be quite depressing.

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Enna November 16, 2011 at 6:02 pm

It is odd that Penny wasn’t discipliend earlier for this. Older does not always mean wiser, and the arrogrance a person has for thinking “I@m older then you therefore wiser” can set the person up for a fall. I had a relation who although 12 years older then me wasn’t wiser, she had the cheek to boss me around – okay so my ex bf made a joke about his age no biggy. Relation unlucky in life with bad health so she really didn’t have that much more expirence then me. Her “advice” was well intended but wasn’t useful.

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Linnie November 23, 2011 at 3:16 am

I have a feeling I know why Penny wasn’t fired, since so many of you are wondering..
Simply put, it costs a lot of time and money to train new employees and because of that companies are hesitant to fire people unless they absolutely have to.
Penny could’ve been a good salesperson, and because of that the management was hesitant about disciplining her or (god forbid) firing her.

Also, I’ve had many different types of jobs in many different places and let’s face it, 9 times out of 10 employers really don’t care that much about their employees. They care until something happens, and then they just don’t want to deal with anything.

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