• Eva Favreau

Testimonial #5: Denied an Exit Interview

The following testimony comes in the form of a email sent to HR representative Elizabeth upon the resignation of an employee. This employee outlines the reasons they left GV after only two months and sent this letter when they were denied an exit interview. SECSE has also received a scan of the typed manager review mentioned in this testimonial. Due to the difficulty of redacting the employee name from the scanned review, we have opted not the share the images with you at this time.

Dear Elizabeth,

My name is Anonymous Worker and I recently left my post as a SESA at Good

Vibrations Polk Street. I began working for GV on March 2nd and resigned on Friday,

April 28th . (In lieu of notice, I offered to help fill out shifts at Polk Street for the

following two weeks, but was told by my manager, Felicia Ramirez, that this was

unnecessary.) I was not given an exit-interview, so instead I am writing to give you

my account of why I left, so that hopefully, future new-hires will have a better

experience. I have no desire to be further involved in this matter; rather, my

intention is to bring to your attention harmful management techniques experienced

by new-hires at Polk Street, and potentially at other GV locations.

For the majority of my two months at GV, I found that as an aspiring sex-educator, it

was a magical job! I loved the store, the mission, the education, and most of all, my

coworkers and manager.

But, during my 30-day review on April 23, and in other discussions with my

manager, Felicia, I was told I asked too many questions during training, and various

lighthearted comments I had made to co-workers were repeated back to me in the

most negative light. I was told I couldn’t have opinions (even expressed in private)

about products, couldn’t question company policy in any way and that I would be

denied SESA training for all of my apparent missteps. The handling of the review left

me feeling unsafe, ignored and distrusted. It induced immense stress on my mental

health, causing anxiety and insomnia as I spent several nights poring over my

performance, over the conversations I had had with my coworkers, over whether or

not I had done anything truly wrong.

Here are the details:

My 30-day review was held on Sunday, April 23rd . Felicia started out by saying that

she was “on my team” and only wanted to support me and my success at GV. The

first three paragraphs of the review were generally positive; Felicia acknowledged

my good work and customer service skills.

But then, I was met accusations that I have questioned company policy and product;

Felicia had “received multiple complaints” from many of my coworkers as her

evidence. When I pressed her on what the complaints were regarding, Felicia read

quotations off a sheet of paper. For example, it was reported that while cleaning

lube testers I had complained, “Maybe this isn’t the best use of our time...” This is

true, but I was joking about the fact that the lube dispensers are constantly

becoming covered in gunk. It was also reported that I “questioned the bag

policy”—no direct quote was given, but in fact as I remember it, I was merely

expressing surprise that customers were unfazed by our strict bag policy and

wondering whether it might one day get us into trouble with unhappy customers. (It

did. As you may know, SESAs at the Berkeley store became fed up with being called

racist and in April, the bag policy was changed.)

Listed below are elements of my review and subsequent conversations with Felicia

that contributed to my decision to leave GV.

1. On Monday, 4/24, the day after the review, Felicia and I returned to the

training packet that is supposed to be completed within a new-hires first two

weeks at the company. I had been working on the packet very slowly over the

last two months, but had not yet reached the end. On this day, 4/24, we went

over a section in the packet about “internal communications and language”

that we had no previously trained on. Felicia seemed confused and admitted

that she did not really know what the section meant – as she put it, the

section was full of “confusing verbage.” I agree with her – it was a vague and

poorly written section. However, it seems likely to me that a section on

“internal communication and language” is related to the issues I had in my

review – evidently, my communications with coworkers and during training

were not up to GV’s standards. From my perspective, it is inappropriate (and

nonsensical!) to penalize and berate a new-hire for miscommunication while

never having reviewed company policy surrounding communication! When I

brought the above point up with Felicia, at the end of that day, she reiterated

that the section was confusing, and then completely dismissed what I had

just said.

2. In this same second conversation on 4/24, Felicia went on to lecture me

about “asking too many questions” during training. This would be

appropriate she said, while training with Andy, but given that the SESAs

training me the majority of the time are “not professional educators”, it was

not appropriate. I find this baffling and alarming. This is a major reason I

left: I actually received a lecture for asking too many questions. In my

review, I am explicitly commended for “asking good questions” but implicitly

criticized for asking too many. I believe the accusations of “questioning”,

“judging “and “declining to believe” facts about products during training is

totally off-base and a distortion of my actual demeanor.

The only thing I can think of that could have been misinterpreted as

“declining to believe” something is this: When Felicia trained me on offering a

particular product as the perfect solution to the frequent customer request

for something to “spice things up,” I was skeptical because as a consumer, I

don’t think I’d have really bought the pitch. In this situation and throughout

training I sought clarification and to dig deeper. From my perspective, I was

expressing curiosity and critical thinking in an effort to learn and grow and

understand more, since I want to be a professional sex educator and I am

passionate about the products we sell and the impact they can have on our


I strongly believe that berating employees for asking too many questions

inhibits the learning process and is counter-productive to Good Vibrations’

mission of employing well-trained, knowledgeable, sensitive SESAs.

3. During this second conversation on 4/24, Felicia returned to the subject of

having opinions on products. She acknowledged that she has opinions on

certain products; however, she said, I as a new-hire was not entitled to have

opinions. Not being entitled to personal opinion is yet another reason

that I left Good Vibrations.

One of the quotes that Felicia read to me was a remark I made to a

coworker about the dress code. I said I was “offended” by the no-

legging policy. This is true. I have believed for about a decade now

that the anti-legging movement which is rampant in schools and work

places across the United States is insulting and sexist, as it is a form of

policing women’s bodies.

I am entitled to my opinions and to my feelings. However, I can

understand that I perhaps should not have voiced this particular

opinion at work. There could have been a considerate way for Felicia

to ask me not to voice such opinions to my coworkers while on the

floor, but instead she simply accused me of inappropriate behavior.

The message I received from this conversation was that I was subject

to strict censorship and that I was being penalized for my feelings and


To be clear, I had no desire to actually enact a protest against this

legging policy. I was simply chatting with a coworker. I know this is all

hard to defend since the situation is not recorded and it’s a subjective

matter; I am very, very sorry if I made my coworker uncomfortable.

That was not my intent. Regardless, this goes back to the thought-

policing and intensive peer-surveillance that contributed to my

decision to leave GV.

4. After the review on 4/23, Felicia informed me that as a result of my review I

would not be allowed to attend SESA training. She was not explicit that this

was a punishment, and it was not included in the written review; instead

while she and I were alone on the sales floor, she said, “This is sad, but we’re

not going to do SESA training.” From my perspective, it appeared that I was

being punished for asking too many questions and having too many ideas,

feelings and opinions by having a key educational opportunity taken away. I

found this strange for two reasons: 1) SESA training would have given me the

opportunity to ask my many questions so that I can stop asking them of the

other SESAs, and 2) the decision to withhold my SESA training seems

seriously counter to the company’s mission and commitment to have

professionally trained staff.

5. From the review it was clear that the majority of staff members were

reporting anything I (as a new-hire) said that was remotely critical of Good

Vibrations to Felicia. From my perspective, this is a divisive and damaging

strategy. After realizing this was happening, I felt uncomfortable and unsafe

in the store. I felt betrayed, devastated and totally misunderstood --- nothing

I had said to my coworkers was meant with malevolence or ill-will towards

them or the company. I understand that impact is as or more important than

intent, but basically the effect of this strategy — having my coworkers

reporting on me—was to make me want to quit, immediately.

6. Although Felicia framed the reports as “complaints” in my review, she also

said during our review that my coworkers were “training” me. One co-

worker also confirmed that Felicia asks for staff reviews.

7. After the review, I burst into tears in Felicia’s office. I was in shock. She gave

me a box of tissues and patiently allowed me cry and splutter. I told her I

thought that the complaints were distorted. “Don’t you want to hear my side

of the story?” I asked. She said she was “sorry” that I thought the complaints

were distorted, but expressed disinterest in hearing my side of the story. I

can’t remember her precise response, but the very clear messaging I

received from Felicia was that I had no voice, and that my perspective

was irrelevant!

a. Throughout my time at GV and throughout the review, Felicia

emphasized that I was more than welcome to speak with her about

any questions or comments I might have. However, I was not

supposed to speak about such things with my coworkers. Yet, her

insistence on me “going to her and not to them” was beside the point:

I never felt any need to change or question a policy or product – I was

simply making observations and remarks to coworkers.

Additionally, the result of my review was that, going forward, I did

not and would not have felt comfortable going to Felicia about a

matter of gravity (another reason that I decided to leave GV).

Relatedly, my response to my review was a mix of spluttering about

my confusion and also acceptance and promises to do better. I also

sent Felicia a follow-up email immediately after the review, thanking

her for the feedback and reiterating my intention to do better. This

initial response was largely a result of being momentarily blind-sided

into believing that I was misbehaving, although I soon came to realize

I was not in the wrong (at least, in my opinion). It was also due to fear

of saying anything else for which I might be fired.

8. Amidst my tears, Felicia had me sign the review. I absolutely would not have

signed had I not been in a state of shock and distress, since I do not believe

that any of the “complaints” launched against me were reprehensible.

9. I also want to note that not only was my 30 day review given later than 30

days after I started working there, I also had to explicitly ask for a review. In

mid-April, Felicia asked me on the floor, while numerous customers were

within earshot, how I felt I was adjusting to work at GV. I felt uncomfortable,

answered vaguely, and asked whether or not I would have a review, during

which time I could address the question. Although Felicia contended she

thought I would only have a 90-Day review, she soon thereafter scheduled

30-Day review.

10. I believe that this experience is not unique to me, but that it has happened

before. A conversation with a co-worker confirmed that this is Felicia’s

general management strategy. Furthermore, I have heard of similar

experiences from both previous and current Good Vibrations employees both

at Polk Street and at other locations.

Again, I have no desire to have Felicia penalized – I only hope that this particular

aspect of the management style can be addressed so that future new-hires will not

be so shocked and dismayed by the surprise of reviews. Something that could have

been really helpful for me as a new-hire would have been to have an expedited

training process so that expectations were clearer, etc. Additionally, I think the

company itself needs to have a clearer standard of appropriate internal

communications. From my perspective, Employees should be free to have opinions

and questions and ideas, but if Good Vibrations is really so concerned about

freedom of thought, at least let their new-hires know ahead of time!

Generally, I think Felicia is a good manager, as I told Laura when she asked for a

staff review. (Felicia recommended to Laura that the entire Polk staff, even me—the

new-hire—give feedback on her performance. Unfortunately, that review

opportunity was prior to my “30-day” review, and thus prior to my deeper

understanding of Felicia’s management strategies.) However, my ultimate takeaway

from GV is that the management did not value my personhood and did not trust me

as an employee. I felt censored. I felt penalized for having very human thoughts and

feelings. This penalization came in two forms: 1) Threat of being fired (The review

concluded: “Management must see improvement immediately if Anon wants to

successfully pass her introduction period” —a clear euphemism) and 2) being

denied proper education and training, a tactic which would surely not contribute to

my success as a GV employee, despite Felicia’s insistence otherwise.

To my face, Felicia handled my resignation with amazing grace and professionalism.

I admire her greatly in so many ways and have many wonderful things to say about

her. Again, I do not wish to be further involved in this matter, but I do hope that this

peer-surveillance tactic (both at Polk and elsewhere) will change.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Anonymous Worker

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