toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

June 02, 2012

pre-interview signs of trouble ahead

All dressed up in her best interview outfit, perfectly groomed and mentally prepared for a job interview with a large law firm, Merrily, 47, pressed the button for the elevator in the foyer of the prestigious city building and waited patiently for a ride that would take her up to what could very well be her dream job.

"When the elevator doors opened, a big man inside the elevator stood there glaring at me," says Merrily. "I was standing at the left side of the elevator and he had plenty of room on the right side to get out, but instead of proceeding he just glared at me."

"Finally, he boomed at me to 'get out of my way, woman' and, utterly speechless at this totally uncalled for rudeness, I stepped further to my left and nearly missed catching the elevator up after he had moved off."

"He was considerably younger than myself -- about 35," says Merrily, "and -- being more accustomed to men of his age admiring me than despising me -- the experience, ridiculously, I can't quite explain why, made me feel very vulnerable as a woman."

"It was the derogatory way he used the word 'woman' that angered me," explains Merrily. "His verbal attack was deliberately aimed at my gender -- and no, he wasn't gay, gay men are courteous -- he was a big, fat, angry misogynist."

"I suppose the incident could have been worse -- he could have called me an 'old woman', a 'bitch' or something even worse than that," says Merrily, "but the misplaced sense of importance of this man -- wanting the entire breadth of a huge elevator opening for himself was something I had never experienced before."

"Even so, would not a courteous 'excuse me please, I need a bit more room to get out' have been more appropriate?" asks Merrily. "Had I been at some sleazy bar I might have expected that sort of behavior and language, but I most certainly did not expect it at this end of town!"

"I was not in his way at all," explains Merrily, "and he was not that fat that he needed any more room than he already had."

"As you can imagine, I was totally rattled by this incident and when I reached my destination and sat waiting to be called for the job interview I chatted with the receptionist."

"When I described to her the man who had spoken to me so rudely she actually knew who he was and commiserated with me -- saying that he behaved like that with everyone -- and tried to put me at ease by saying I wouldn't be working with him."

"Far from putting me at ease," sighs Merrily, "this only rattled me further because it most certainly wouldn't be a dream job to have to face a man like that in the elevator every day, let alone work in the same office as him."

"At that point, I knew that this wasn't going to be the right job for me," says Merrily. "It was a warning sign, and even though the actual interview went okay I called them later and told them that I was no longer available."

"Working in law offices can be extremely stressful at times -- there are always deadlines to meet and some lawyers can get very bad tempered when they're stressed," says Merrily, "but I have never, ever come across a male lawyer who was blatantly rude to women in the manner of the elevator man and I most certainly was not going to put up with that sort of treatment -- or see other women treated that way -- no manner how good the job might have been otherwise."

"He obviously had problems of self-importance -- and issues with women -- that nobody at that place had ever addressed with him before," says Merrily, "and that, in itself, is another problem."

"As bad as the experience at the elevator was," says Merrily, "it was very lucky that I had 'met' that man sooner rather than later, wasn't it?"

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