Episode 3 Things are tense.
On the one hand the Company is trying to be as thoughtful as possible in accommodating the needs of staff over this protracted period, and on the other hand there's the iron fist of enforcement - all bundled up into a brand new bloke, Greg, the Workplace Wellness Facilitator.
His job is to routinely 'touch base' with each person on staff via Zoom calls and in the process of these calls put you in contact with appropriate support services, give you some advice on the good ways to streamline your return to the physical workplace and - the kicker - introduce you to the recent changes to your employment contract.
He's not a popular man.
"...and then you verbally assaulted him," I hear as my call connects.
"Yes," the PFY said.
"In my client's defence, he was provoked," I say.
"What?" the Boss asks, scanning his screen after realising there was someone else on the call.
"He was provoked," I repeat.
"This is a private call," the Boss says.
"Yes, but my client is contractually entitled to have a representative in any matters which may be considered disciplinary."
"Yes but I think..." the Boss says.
"ADDITIONALLY, my client is entitled to confer in private." I say, disconnecting the Boss from the call.
3 minutes later the Boss is back.
"I take it you've conferred with your client now," he seethes.
"Yes we have indeed. And I... oh, wait a minute..."
Another incoming call connection comes through and I answer. A fluffy pink unicorn appears on the screen.
"What's that?" the Boss asks.
"Uh, that's my client's emotional support animal - another of his new contractual entitlements."
"That's just ridiculous."
"No, the new contract states that the company values its employees and their needs in trying times and that they are entitled to emotional support animals in meetings."
"It's not a real animal!"
"The contract doesn't limit the support process to real animals, it simply says animals."
"I see." the Boss says, just wanting to get this over with. "Rather than debate this with you, I..."
Another incoming call comes onto the screen.
"Who's that?" the Boss asks, as the new addition's on-screen picture lurches around the place.
"That's my emotional support animal," I say. "As I'd mentioned, our new contract entitles us to emotional support animals in meetings."
"IT'S NOT YOUR MEETING!"
"Again, the contract doesn't clarify who is entitled, it just says meetings."
"I see," the Boss says. "Well regardless, there's no animal there and the camera is broken."
"No, the camera's fine - my emotional support animal is a housefly. Anyway, if we can crack on with the issue at hand, I believe that the issue was that you were working through the sequence of events that led to..."
"A verbal assault," the Boss snaps.
"An alleged verbal assault, yes."
"There's nothing 'alleged' about it!"
"As I said before, my assistant was provoked."
"How was he provoked?!"
"I believe that the bloke in question introduced himself as a Workplace Wellness Facilitator.”
"Look, if you want a nebulous position description that requires no real credentials, is devoid of accountability and offers carte blanche to make thinly researched changes to an organisation you may as well become an HR Consultant."
“I...” the boss blathers.
“...But to leverage a job position out of a global pandemic then imply that it gives you a mandate to implement compulsory employment contract changes in the name of workplace morale – BEFORE the PFY has his morning lagers – well that’s just asking for it.”
“He called him a P...” the Boss gasps.
“It’s irrelevant what he called him – he provoked the PFY. That’s like workplace bullying – and the policy he was telling the PFY about that very morning identifies bullying as a disciplinary offence.”
“He wasn’t bullying him, he just asked him to sign the con...”
“The new contract has very clear guidelines about dealing with staff who have been under a lot of pressure over the past year,” I interrupt.
“It also says something about dismissing legitimate staff concerns out of hand like you did just then.” I sniffle. "I'm quite hurt. I may need some time to process this."
“That still doesn’t give him the right to...”
"You know this, uhm, passive-aggressive attitude of yours is, uh, undermining my, uh, feelings of self-worth and workplace autonomy," I say, reading my carefully made notes. "I feel that your negativity is, uhm, limiting my, uh, ability to act in a self-determining manner and, uh, robbing me of my opportunity to make a valuable contribution to the, uh, cooperative nature of the workplace."
"Me too," the PFY echoes.
"You realise that part of your new contract notes that the company may vary the terms of the contract from time to time," the Boss says, "And that the clauses you mentioned just now could very easily be removed."
"Not without write access to the HR archive they can't!" I snap back.
"You think you're so..." the Boss starts, stopping mid sneer as a huge red surface enters my support animal's screen image.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “It appears my emotional support animal has just died and I’m going to need some time to grieve as noted in my contract under death of spouse or significant other. I'm thinking 3 days should do it.”
"Me too," the PFY says, as a lighter-fluid soaked unicorn spontaneously combusts.