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I learned to always trust my gut at work.


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https://www.linkedin.com/in/lily-veale/

 “Be weird. Be rude. Stay alive.” The motto of one of my favourite podcasts, Crime Junkie. I must have listened to hundreds of episodes over the years. I’ve always kept the motto in the back of my mind whilst on nights out or in unfamiliar places. Yet, the one time I truly needed to embrace this mantra, I was unable to. This is a reminder to everyone, especially women, to always trust your gut.

Let’s be clear: You don’t need to be polite when someone is being creepy.

I was 24 when I was made redundant from my first Marketing job. After spending three and a half years there post-graduation, I was completely lost. I was going through a break-up at the time and had just moved back in with my parents after eight years away… just to add to the calamity of my early-twenties-failing-life.

I saw a job advertised on Indeed looking for a Marketing Director at a new local restaurant. The chef/owner was well-known and had made numerous appearances on TV! I hastily sent my CV thinking that the ‘Director’ title was way out of my league. It didn’t list a salary but it surely had to be better than my previous 18k a year.

After a few days of applying for jobs, I got a call about the restaurant job. They wanted me to come in for an interview and I could even bring a friend along for a free meal afterwards. Winner!

During the interview, I spent an hour or so chatting with the restaurant owner before he opened up and brought out an incredible three-course meal on the house. Throughout the interview, my gut was telling me that something wasn’t right. He was brash, rude, and very upfront. But I brushed off my reservations thinking he just had an eccentric personality and was feeling the pressure of opening a new restaurant.

At the end of the evening, he very casually offered me the job. I quickly accepted and drove home in tears, beyond excited to tell my parents that their 21-year-old-previously-failing daughter was now the Marketing Director of a trendy new restaurant in town.

I started the job filled with optimism and enthusiasm, excited to advance my career in marketing. However, as the days unfolded, my enthusiasm blinded me and caused me to overlook red flag after red flag after red flag:

  • Meetings in the closed restaurant with just the two of us, where he insisted on sitting so close to me I could hear his breathing
  • No contract or any explanation of salary, expected hours to work, etc.
  • Promises of huge salaries and the chance to travel the world (with him)
  • Abusive, sexist, and derogatory comments about former female staff members
  • Highly inappropriate comments about my appearance and clothing

I knew something was wrong. But I needed to earn money and I couldn’t bare to tell everyone that the Marketing Director role at the snazzy new restaurant with the famous chef didn’t work out. So I ignored every red flag that presented itself. Including the biggest red flag of them all. A text that read: “I’ve got an office in my back garden. Let’s work from there today.”

With major reservations, a sick feeling in my stomach, and my live location shared with friends, I made my way to his house. I text my friends from the car: “If I don’t text every 30 minutes, send the police to this address.”

He displayed all of his usual behaviour, making derogatory comments about former employees and commenting on my appearance. I spent the entire hour at his house asking myself, ‘How did I get here?’ But I knew how.

I was too scared to say ‘no’. I was vulnerable and in need of a job. He was a well-known chef and I was a failing 24-year-old living back at her parent’s house. I’d tried to be polite and grateful for being offered such an incredible opportunity. I had been taught my whole life to show gratitude and respect, and to be hard-working and career-driven. But in my quest to be all of those things, I’d put myself in a dangerous situation. Thankfully, he got a call and had to leave the meeting early. I got in my car and sped home, knowing I never wanted to see him again.

When I got home, I began to research him and the restaurant, only to uncover a slew of tweets from the previous female employees he had told me about. They too had been promised the world, and following months of working for him, being sexually harassed, had never received a penny for the work they had done.

I sent him a message to confront him about everything. Asking if he ever intended on paying me, why he hadn’t paid previous staff, and confronting his abusive and sexual harassment of women.

He replied to say that he thought I was “better than the others, but clearly, I was just like them”, ending his text by calling me “fucking stupid.” I laughed at my phone and felt relieved I never had to see his face again.

But a few months ago, I did see his face again. He was in court, being charged with a number of offences I won’t go into.

I knew he was a bad person.

I knew the opportunity was too good to be true.

And I knew I should have trusted my gut.

 

So, this is my reminder to everyone, including women. You don’t need to be polite or sweet or respectful in these situations. You can drop all of your usual pleasantries and say no. You can refuse situations that make you uncomfortable. And you should never ignore the red flags that present themselves to you.

I’m now a Senior Marketing Executive at an employee-owned digital agency that works with charities and nonprofits. It’s funny because when I first heard about this role, it sounded too good to be true too!

Thankfully, it was all true. And I’m thriving in my Marketing career with so much to look forward to.

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We do not provide professional help to individuals in urgent crisis. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call 999 immediately. For support with suicidal thoughts, consider contacting the Samaritans UK, a trusted organisation specialising in confidential assistance during emotional distress. Your safety is paramount and there are professionals available to provide the urgent help required in such critical situations.
We do not provide professional help to individuals in urgent crisis. If you are experiencing a mental health emergency, please call 999 immediately. For support with suicidal thoughts, consider contacting the Samaritans UK, a trusted organisation specialising in confidential assistance during emotional distress. Your safety is paramount and there are professionals available to provide the urgent help required in such critical situations.