It was hard not to notice the fear in her eyes. Mary and I started at the same time in this department. It was quite a small team, just six people (5 men and Mary) and our meeting looked a bit out of place in the huge meeting room. The work was very specialised, quite difficult and just as important for the company.
Our manager Andy made a suggestion. "In my teams it is customary that we go to the sauna together on a regular basis. That way we get to know each other perfectly."
I reacted: "I have been in quite a lot of teams, never had problems getting to know my colleagues and never had complaints about it. Furthermore I did not read anything about this in the job description. I would pass on this one. If I want to go to the sauna I rather go with my wife. Sorry if I hurt anybody with this, but this is where I stand on this matter."
Mary sighed with relief and said that she agreed with me. I thought I had made a friend and also made an enemy.
Time passed and we had our regular meetings, nothing special happened. Until that meeting:
Mary pointed out that she really regretted this, but she had noticed I had made a terrible mistake that had cost the company dearly. She showed the others copies of the case and gave me a copy too.
I told the group that in my opinion we were just human, we all make mistakes. It was more important to learn from these than point a finger to the culprit. And I could tell them that it was not my mistake, but that the signature of Fred was under the thing. The discussion went on a bit, Fred admitted his mistake and was just as quick forgiven.
A few months later Mary had found another mistake, it was not very significant, but it was very obvious that it was mine. This time nothing was forgiven, the mood in the meeting was very negative. Randy Andy told me he was going to ask for me to get the sack. The next day I was invited to a meeting with the top management and got fired. Thanks to my union representative and his threatening with a court case I got the payment of two years salary to make it easier for me to find a new job. I was fired under the pretence of incompatible characters with other members of the team.
About two years later I unexpectantly bumped into Mary in a supermarket. She tried to be invisible, but I greeted her in a very loud manner, so she could not get away that easy. She asked me how I was and I told her my new salary was now twice as much as in the days when I worked with her. And I was working in a very good team with some great people. I could not help myself but ask: "Did you have a nice visit to the sauna lately?" Her face got red and she mumbled something I could not understand. Then she turned around and left the supermarket without any shopping.