Yesterday's traipse round Tesco I had my head down muttering about being there and alternating my route at frequent intervals to avoid screaming children. Whilst nonchalantly looking at the food label for something or other, I was tapped on the shoulder and turned round to see a sight which caused a deep and lasting chill to my heart. There standing in front of me and making all the 'ooh how lovely to see you's' was my ex-boss. The woman who for the last two years of my previous career in the IT industry systematically ensured my working life was to be endured rather than enjoyed. I hadn't seen this lady for five years after myself and another female colleague walked out of work arm in arm vowing never to return. We had both taken voluntary redundancy - a choice of some regret having both worked in the same environment for over twenty years and both facing an uncertain future ahead of us. The choice however was made a little easier knowing that we would never have to put up with working for Cruella DeVille ever again.
Some years earlier, my colleague and I worked for a company which were outsourced to a global giant. Although both used to working in project management and knew our way around huge revenue and business plans, we were given new jobs in the new regime and it was pretty plain from day one that the posts did not carry the same gravitas as they once did. Cruella inexplicably saw to it that our areas of responsibility were slowly chipped away and our inclusion and participation in training and meetings became more and more infrequent. Eventually, my confidence dwindled away as quickly as my job role and during one Friday afternoon showdown, she branded me 'unmanagable and histrionic'. Funny that because I recalled branding her 'a crap manager and an arsehole'. Complaints to those higher was futile as even they were scared of her and backed her up without question. Her patience finally ran out with me and I was 'requested' to move to another site and lead an admin team.
Once the redundancy cheque was safely in the bank account, I reflected on the events of the final years of my career and began rehearsing in my mind what I would say to Cruella if I ever saw her again. Although I was happy to be out of that environment and it enabled me to change career direction, I still felt I needed 'closure' by venting some anger towards the person who I thought had pushed me into making that decision.
Bumping into Cruella in Tesco's, I finally saw her in a different light. Out of the business suit and in her 'normal clothes', and in the company of her little grandson, she looked small and very ordinary. She was pleasant and seemed happy to disclose that she had kept tracks on my new career in nursing and congratulated me on finding something worthwhile. Surprises again when she said she had also taken redundancy a couple of years ago because of work pressure and that it had turned her 'into a not very nice person'. She is now working for NHS pensions and I smiled at the prospect of this woman's having some input into my retirement fund. Did I vent and let rip with both barrels? No I didn't. Although her behaviour and treatment towards her female staff was inexcusable and I daresay with a touch of some infringement to working practice, yesterday's chance meeting left me feeling that my head was held a little higher than perhaps hers was. It's in the past and it's gone, life moves on. She passed on her best wishes and hoped that we would keep in touch in the future. I somehow doubt it....