Thanks for your letter. When I spoke to Mum last week I think I said that I had lost my job, but what I really meant was that I was forced to resign. The company had given me a written warning about my "poor communication" earlier in the week (July 10), and late on Thursday (July 13) they gave me my second and final warning (also about my "poor communication"). After receiving my second warning I had two options: resign or keep working and hope that I wouldn't get fired. Since I didn't want to be fired I resigned.
I hadn't been very happy at the company for a long time and started looking for another job a few months ago. I found the people in my office rude and rather hostile. I feel that the whole business about my "poor communication" was a bit of a set-up and that, even when I was first taken on as an employee, the management had the idea that after getting me to do a few jobs around the office they would get rid of me when it suited them.
During my job interviews (I had two with the company) nobody told me that my position would be reviewed after 3 months. When I came to sign the contract I found that a 3-month review was one of the conditions. At the time I think I asked if it could be extended but I didn't push the matter because I thought it might be a good idea to have some kind of review. Another unusual thing about my contract was that it stated that only two warnings would be given before dismissal when the usual practice is to give three warnings. (I found this out later from a lawyer.)
A few weeks after starting work, I began to get worried about this review of my position so I spoke to two of the managers about it. One of them, A.H., said not to worry and that I was a "permanent staff member" and that the review was just an opportunity for me to change my mind about the job (which was a cadetship) "without losing face".
At the end of three months we had a review and I said I wanted to continue working. Even at this time I wasn't happy about my job. I had the feeling that people in the office, particularly the managing director, were starting to make comments about my work and my personality outside of the company and that I was getting a bad reputation. I never got along well with the managing director mainly because I think he expected me to be his girlfriend. (He is middle-aged and married.) I have no proof though that the managing director or anybody else in the company has spread stories about me.
After my review at the end of three months, I had many similar reviews of my position; and at each review the management became increasingly critical of my work performance. They started talking about my inability to communicate effectively with others and said everyone in the office had made complaints. Whenever I asked people in the office about this matter they never had all that much to say and gave the impression that everything was okay.
On Thursday, I had a bit of a run-in with another woman in the office. This woman had only recently started working for the company and it was the first time I had come close to having an argument with somebody in the office. We had a bit of a misunderstanding and I found that I had to raise my voice to make myself heard and to get my point across. She then started getting personal and started saying things like "You're the only person who doesn't fit in here". I actually think she was trying to pick a fight with me. After that I got my final warning and I resigned.
Since I left of my own free-will (this is actually stated in a reference letter I obtained from management when I left) I don't know if you can really ask for an explanation. Also before I left, I agreed with one of the managers that if anybody asked why I had left we were both to say that I wanted a job that required more of an understanding of chemistry and that the cadetship turned out to be more sales-oriented than I expected. So if you ring up, that is the line you will probably get.
In the end the final arrangement wasn't too bad — I was able to resign immediately, received all the pay that was owing to me plus one month's pay and a favourable reference letter. If I had resigned earlier I would have had to give notice and wouldn't have received the extra month's pay.
As for seeing a counsellor, I am still giving the matter some thought and will write to you about it some time in the future. It would be good if you could come up to Auckland — even for a bit of a holiday — because I don't see very many people these days.
Write soon and let me know what you think about my old job at Sissfill Company.
P.S. I have a job interview tomorrow. Sixth letter...
Tessa sent us this letter in July 1995, to explain the circumstances under which she lost her job at Sissfill in Auckland. At the time she got the job, I predicted she wouldn't be able to keep it for more than three months. Amazingly, in view of her mental state, she lasted for five and a half months. I went to Auckland in late September, after Tessa's mental condition worsened dramatically, and interviewed her former employers. At first, they were reluctant to reveal any information. But when I told them that Tessa was "mentally disturbed", and that anything they could tell me about her would help me to get to the bottom of her problem, they were gratifyingly forthcoming. One of the things they told me was that Tessa had appeared to be remarkably clear, in her own mind, about who she was, what she wanted, and where she was going — but that none of this had made much sense to anyone else. And that, as I have said in one of my articles, is a pretty good description of one aspect of a person with schizophrenia.