Dear Miss Heather,
We’re writing to get a little more clarity about Robbie’s job as Snack Helper last week, why he was so quickly replaced (especially without a proper review), and the procedure for him to file a grievance (Robbie said there was no relevant paperwork in the Blocks Corner).
We were very excited when we heard you were starting a job training program after the holiday break. It’s been months of fingerpainting and leaf collages, and, quite frankly, we felt Robbie was ready for something a little more rigorous, with an eye toward his future. We’ve been working on his résumé and interview skills at home, so we were a little taken aback—but flattered!—that he was offered the position of Snack Helper without any sort of competitive hiring process. We’d been hearing about how much uncertainty there is in the labor market these days, so we were pleased to see that he was such a desirable candidate.
We told him to be prepared all weekend for a call to discuss salary and benefits—and when it never came, we trusted it would all be figured out in person on his first day. Robbie was hoping to ask for a hybrid arrangement where he could work from home two days a week, zooming into snack time and managing the whole process remotely, but we told him that given this was his first job, it might make sense to save that conversation for once he’d gotten a little more established in the role. He wore his best outfit to school on Monday, despite it being an outdoor play day. He wanted to make a good first impression.
As Robbie tells it, the week went well. He successfully distributed plates and napkins, guided his classmates through the tricky process of opening their backpacks, and worked to ensure as little spillage as possible. He was surprised at how little autonomy he had in the role—he reported that he was told to return to his seat repeatedly and that when he tried to innovate with a new quality-control system where he would taste some of everyone’s snack to ensure it was safe to consume, he received no support from his supervisors.
Nevertheless, with no rubric outlining how he was going to be evaluated, no goal-setting exercises, no review process, and—alarmingly—never the expected conversation about salary and benefits, FMLA, 401K matching, etc., he showed up this week to find that he had been replaced without warning. Jakey—who, it must be said, does not have nearly the experience washing his hands as Robbie does—was the new Snack Helper, and Robbie had been demoted to Door Holder #2.
We think you can understand why he got emotional over this news. Of course, tears are never acceptable in the workplace, but this was an extraordinary circumstance. And your words about how Door Holder #2 was every bit as important as Snack Helper rang hollow, especially given that there is ONLY ONE DOOR, and the doorstop does a fine job holding it by itself. There is simply no way around the idea that this is a step backward, and takes Robbie off the track toward a management position.
Even worse, the process by which this decision was made was opaque and secretive. Robbie saw the quiet shuffling in the corner, as you appeared almost arbitrarily to match student to job. At the very least, we expected that a progressive school like yours would engage in a thorough 360-degree review process before making any decisions. In that spirit, we took it upon ourselves to survey Robbie’s classmates about their opinions of his work as Snack Helper. Here is just a sampling of those responses:
Aidan: “I like pretzels.”
Charlotte B.: “I like dinosaurs.”
Charlotte S.: “Who are you?”
Harry: “Do you want to see my belly button?”
Nothing in any responses we received indicated dissatisfaction with how Robbie performed his Snack Helper duties. That said, we wish to set up a meeting with the appropriate representative from Human Resources (NOT Teddy from the stuffed animal box) and file a grievance. In the meantime, we want Robbie’s position rightfully restored. He is prepared with enough cheese sticks for the entire class, if necessary.