What makes some companies a great place to work? Company culture? Generous bonus scheme? Shared values? Yes, maybe all these make sense. But before all, in my opinion, is treating people fairly, equally and with respect. Would you work at a place where you received an email “Fuck off, wench” and “Suck my bl” out of nowhere? Would you work at a place where you were sent this and were expected to carry on working with the person who sent this in the same department, on the same floor? Well, I couldn’t… And here’s my story.
I’m a former Gamesys employee, a company I had great respect for, where I met some amazing people and had a job I loved. It took me months to decide whether to share my story, because I wanted to avoid the negativity that will inevitably follow. I didn’t want to alienate the friends I made there, I didn’t want Google to tie me to this story forever, I didn’t want to answer the questions some of you might have. However, now, when working on my first start-up and trying to build a company myself, I truly believe that these things should be shared, discussed and made public. Because companies and corporations are not greater than people. They are made of people and they should always put them first. Because humiliation and harassment is not something that women or men should ever accept and “just let it go”.
Sorry that this story is a bit long, but I wanted to make sure the facts are clearly explained. So arm yourself with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee.
In the beginning of this year I was tasked to project manage a technical project which was supposed to deliver great results for our main brand and more specifically our social media department. My role was to brief, liaise and coordinate all parties involved and make sure we delivered the best possible product. All was going well (long meetings, endless emails kind of thing), until one evening, during Friday drinks at the office, three of the people involved (one of them actually developing the product; the other one his line manager and Head of the department; and the third one their colleague and friend) came to see me and started apologising that they’d done something very wrong. They said they had sent me a very rude email by mistake and even though they tried to retrieve it with the help of IT, the email was still in my inbox and I was going to see it. In the end, after successfully hacking my email and deleting the emails, followed by an hour of negotiations and a number of lies, I finally managed to see what was sent to me (and about me).
On the screenshots below you can see what the content of the emails was. The three of them were by my side when I read it and kept apologising for sending, deleting and then lying to me. The excuse was that they were drunk, stressed and just mocking around, they didn’t mean to send these emails. I asked them to leave me alone and went back to my team.
By the time I got back home, I had convinced myself this was a stupid joke, we were all very stressed and busy, and I’d forget it by Monday. However, when I opened to see the emails again, I noticed that the first email “Fuck off, wench” wasn’t actually sent to me, it was sent from the Head of X Department to his entire team. At 3.15pm in the afternoon. During working hours, most probably sober. It seemed that the second flattering message “Desi you suck my bl” was really sent by mistake while they were drunk and mocking around. What a pity!
In my head at this moment: “How bad is that? It must be really bad! How can a senior manager behave like this! Do I need to tell anyone? Is this common? It might be, I’m probably taking it too personally. Why do they call me a “wench”? This is like high school!”
After having some doubts, I finally contacted our HR department and my manager, forwarding them the messages and saying that I’d expect actions to be taken. And actions were taken. There was a “formal investigation” which included 1 interview with the person in question and 1 interview with me, conducted by a girl from the technical department of Gamesys (?!). This resulted in a disciplinary decision, details of which weren’t clearly communicated to me. I was only told it was “severe” – they’d cut his bonus and make him apologise to his team for not behaving as a “good manager”. He remained on his position, leading the same team, doing the same job. He even kept his title.
In my head at this moment: “That’s shocking! How is it possible someone who harasses employees to be kept as a Head of Department?! Is this normal?! Maybe that’s the procedure they should follow. It’s probably not a big deal, it must be me. Maybe I’m too sensitive, it’s probably my ego. It’s unprofessional to waste people’s time with this story, I should focus on my work. Hang on, that’s it?! End of story?! Now we all carry on working the same way and I should keep working with these people a few meters away from me? Just like that, happily, quietly… What if all managers could get away with something like this?!”
During all this time I met with Head of People just once to explain what had happened. I wasn’t given the chance to feedback what I think about their decision. I was advised that if more people were going to get involved in the process, this could impact me negatively because people usually assume that it was the “victim’s” fault (and I have this advice recorded on my phone quite illegally). When I asked weren’t they interested to find out if this is the first time this is happening and was this person suitable to head a department in a large company like Gamesys, they told me they could only work with what they had and it’s not the purpose of this investigation to find out more information about previous incidents. They were going to investigate more only if I insisted. I said that this wasn’t my company and my decision, but having great respect for Gamesys I’d expect them to act more rigorously and take appropriate actions. I told them that cutting someone’s bonus for something like this is sending the wrong message not only to him but his team and other people involved.
I even had a meeting with him to apologise officially. I felt sorry for both of us. It was ridiculous. He tried to convince me it’s not personal and it was all because of the immense pressure they were under. Funnily, I even believed him, we had great communication before this happened. I have zero respect left for this person, but we all make mistakes and I hope he has realised how stupid and immature this was. I’ll never reveal who he is, because he and I are not important here. What’s really important is how the company dealt with the situation. That’s what this post is about.
This person still works at Gamesys and is still the Head of the same department. I left. My only regret is that I didn’t leave straight away due to my personal circumstances. I had to actually pretend I was OK with the situation and work a few more months.
I can only thank Gamesys for teaching me a thing or two how not to treat people and handle situations like this. As I asked many times – would their decision be the same if the same messages were sent to some of the directors? This question was usually met by a raised eyebrow and sympathetic smile. No, I haven’t lost my mind, I know I’m not that important in their little world there. But as people and employees we all should have the same rights and be treated equally, especially in an environment that prides itself with such a glorious “DNA”.
It’s not my job to judge or influence people’s opinion, I don’t hold a grudge. I just felt it was my responsibility to share this story because with every decision we make we build the world around us. I refuse to accept this is normal. Employees spent their lives building someone else’s dreams and the least they should expect is respect and positive working environment. I’m off to build my own dream now and I’m glad for the lesson. Write your own conclusion here, you can guess mine.
Thanks for reading.