Jack Connolly was the kind of loyal worker you don’t seem to see much of these days. He spent fifteen years of his life giving his all to a local company he’d joined in his twenties, and over time he became a crucial part of this small, ten-man team who worked out of a dingy industrial estate in Cheshire, England. Mr Connolly gave no thought to leaving the firm. In fact, if given the chance, he’d be more than happy to sign his life away and work there for the rest of his days.
Jack’s devotion was partially due to his love of the job, but mostly thanks to the strong bonds he’d forged with his co-workers after a decade and a half of service. Sadly, this sense of unity came under great strain in the spring of 2017, when the retirement of the firm’s long-serving general manager, Terry Oxley, saw an unfamiliar face placed in charge.
Terry was a kind old soul, and it was he who hired Jack Connolly way back in 2001 when nobody else seemed interested. Mr Oxley was well liked at the firm, but a slump in the company’s fortunes forced its two directors into hiring Kelly Lowton, a fierce financially-minded professional with a strong history of turning failing firms around. Ms Lowton achieved results almost instantaneously, helping the company back into the black within a matter of months. But while her methods were popular with the directors, her effects on the workforce were beginning to show.
Ms Lowton was almost draconian in the way she handled her staff, repeatedly denying requests for leave, doubling workloads on a whim, and she even forced veterans like Jack Connolly to meticulously log their hours and activities down to the very second. Yet still, Jack felt no pangs of desire to leave. This was merely a small hiccup in an otherwise enjoyable career. All he needed to do was ride it out, wait for the dust to settle, and everything would be back to normal.
Then, one cold March morning, Jack was called into Ms Lowton’s office for a chat. It was coming up to the end of the financial year, and according to the terms of Mr Connolly’s contract, he was due a 3% raise in less than a month’s time as reward for his loyalty. But Ms Lowton had other ideas. Jack was fired on the spot, albeit temporarily, and offered a new zero hours contract on the same terms as before.
Jack was told that the company could not afford to pay the terms his contract stipulated he was eligible for, and nor could they guarantee any staff full time hours for the coming year. Everyone was being treated this way, but Jack was nevertheless distraught. Back home he had a wife and two children relying on him, with another child on the way. A zero hours contract simply wouldn’t work. He needed stability. He needed to know he could provide for his family.
For the first time in fifteen years, Jack Connolly contemplated offering his resignation.
Mr Connolly spent the night browsing through job vacancies online and typing up his CV since the digital copy of his last one was long gone. Having halfheartedly put his name forward for a few mildly interesting opportunities, Jack slumped off to bed. He couldn’t sleep a wink. After an hour of tossing and turning, Jack got up to avoid waking his wife, Emily. She had work in the morning, and they couldn’t afford for both of them to lose their jobs, so Jack took a sleeping pill, slumped himself back in front of the computer and attempted to pass the time.
There was a myriad of thoughts running through Jack’s head. Should he sabotage the Company – he definitely knew ways to do so, having worked there for so long. Should he leave and not work his notice? Should he sabotage the new boss alone? All these thoughts were scheming away in his head when he finally decided on his strategy. Kill her with kindness. Not literally..
no, not literally!!
The next morning Jack woke up. It was 6:34 am; time to shower, make the kids breakfast, check his emails and head off back to work. He had decided that he loved his job, and he was going to try to make it work before giving up on it completely. He would try and befriend the boss and together come to a better arrangment for the company.
His Colleagues were confused when he arrived in what appeared to be a fantastic mood, complete with breakfast and coffee for the entire office, including Ms Lowton. She smiled but Jack could tell that she was suspicious. After a few weeks of being the best colleague he could be – working extra hours if he could and helping Ms Lowton settle in, he decided to make a big show of it. It was the Company’s 30 year anniversary so they were having a small shindig in the office and Jack decided to do a speech.
Ms Lowton was praised by Jack for her work in reducing the firm’s indebtedness. Without her efforts, there would be no company to speak of. Jack also spoke very well of all his colleagues and how hard they were working despite the recent obstacles. Ms Lowton suddenly burst into tears and although it was hard to decipher, everyone thought she said that the workload was too much for her and she couldn’t continue any more. This was not the outcome that Jack had wanted after so many works of trying to keep her on side.
However, she felt she had much to learn about people management, so stepped down and agreed to be a helping hand to the firm’s old manager Terry Oxley on a part-time basis to shadow him, smooth over the transition and come up with business savy ideas that would not affect the employees contracts. Terry also put Kelly’s contractual status to a company-wide vote, giving his former colleagues the option to keep Ms Lowton on a full time contract, or to have her terms reduced to a zero hours agreement.
Knowing full well what it felt like to be beholden to such terms, the company’s employees voted unanimously to reject the option of a zero hours contract for Ms Lowton.