I work as a barista at a well-known coffee company. I have about nine years of experience with the company, so coworkers often ask me for advice. I injured my knee at the beginning of August and had to go on a leave of absence for about six weeks. When I came back to work, several changes had taken place:
- The store manager had left the store (expected),
- The district manager had left the company (unexpected),
- Several new shift supervisors were transferred in,
- A former store manager was transferred in at an entry-level position, and
- The replacement store manager arrived with no prior food service experience or experience in the company.
That's the background I returned to. I immediately noticed tensions were up and individuals sniping at one another or being casually rude to less-experienced employees. The layout of product in the store changed daily for several weeks, with these changes being ascribed to "Person A". Person A is the former store manager who transferred in.
Person A adopts dominance postures (one hand tucked in the apron, raises her head to talk to speak to others) and acts outside her role (telling shift supervisors what they should do). The store manager also goes directly to Person A for advice in managing the store every day that they work together. Their talks are regular and frequent, and the store manager places considerable faith in Person A's advice.
After maybe two or three weeks and a maximum of ten shifts worked at least partly concurrently, Person A approached me while my back was turned, placed her hand on my opposing shoulder tightly, rested her elbow on my lower-mid back and said from roughly a foot from my ear, "I really love working with you. You're always smiling." Please note that I was standing with my stomach against a counter--I could not move without pushing her.
Firstly, I am consulting here as I have PTSD, and thus feel threatened easily. I wasn't sure what was happening or why. The comment itself was fine, but the context made it feel inappropriate. Had it been a male touching me, I would have felt physically threatened.
Secondly, Person A is basically in charge of the store when she is present. One of the two shift supervisors I primarily work with is comfortable with this, as they have worked together previously (and he is relatively new to his position). The store manager has medical issues and tardiness issues, so she is often late or absent. There is no assistant manager at my store. Person A also has not been a store manager for several years, and is well behind the curve on current policies and procedures.
To continue, individuals who have been at the store immediately came to me after my return from absence to express concern at Person A's level of control over the store. Since I'm not in a management position, I expressed that I'm not in a position to affect change. Suggestions of bringing it to the store manager were met with frustration and reminders of the close working relationships between Person A and the new store manager.
Lastly, I met the new district manager a few days ago. Her first words after pleasantries were to inquire how well Person A is working out. I do not know this district manager, though I recognize the name.
My Current Thinking
If Person A touches me again, I intend to try to ask her to stop doing so (it's difficult in the moment when panic hits). Beyond that, I'm kind of at a loss. My own history makes confrontation difficult for me.
- Should I be concerned about the incident? Am I overreacting?
- How do I express my concerns about the incident and her other behavior without creating additional friction/drama?
- Transferring is not my preferred course of action, as I work at this store because of the customers (there are multiple locations nearer to where I live, but I work at a very well-established store--one of the first in the area).
For clarification, I am in the USA.