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.
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
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
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
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,