Who is More Destructive? Gossipy Gal or Bipolar Beautiful?

My husband and I have a favourite restaurant. We don’t go often, but coincidentally, the past 3 times we had the same server – Jennifer. She was pleasant, courteous, and always had some friendly chit-chat during our dining experience.

On this recent visit, we asked the hostess to seat us in Jennifer’s section. However, we were told that she was on sick leave, but someone else would be pleased to serve us.

1. Customer Service Fail: Server reveals that her colleague has Bipolar.

Our server Samantha (whom we also found out was part of the management team), was very friendly. She greeted us, gave us menus, and then said, “I heard you ask about Jennifer. She’s probably not coming back.”

At this point, Samantha went into a rapid, verbal avalanche – with a smile. “Jennifer has been saying some odd things – didn’t think much of it. Then a few weeks ago, she started to make large mistakes with customers. Then last week, she went crazy angry on a customer, made a huge scene, and we couldn’t calm her down.”

Samantha then announced with a “gossipy” smile, “She’s bipolar. She went off her meds.”

LESSON: The human variable

We can have all the legalities, policies, and intentions in place, but we have to calculate for the human variable.

Employers need to have a plan. We need to protect our employees, and the customer experience from ALL types of destructive gossip. Employees at all levels need to have top-of-mind understanding regarding health concerns. If this company had a plan in place, this ignorant gossip should never have happened.

2. Customer Service Fail: Server reveals that her colleague could be a hazard.

After Samantha revealed our previous server’s personal information, she then stated that Jennifer could be a danger to customers. She made it clear that there are many items at the establishment that could be used to harm customers.

LESSON: Unsubstantiated claims can hurt everyone!
Samantha’s claims are not only unsubstantiated, they are also destructive.

  • Destructive to Jennifer:How many people has Samantha told this claim to? She told me, and I am a perfect stranger.
  • Destructive to customers: I sincerely hope Jennifer comes back, and I certainly would sit in her section. However, I wonder how many will avoid her section due to Samantha’s claims?
  • Destructive to the company: Employers need to realize the impact that all of this can have on the bottom line. Employees and customers alike need to be protected.

Education is the key. Training on policies, ethics, law, and mental health issues are essential for a safe workplace.

3. Customer Service Fail: Server displays irritation and insult.

Samantha’s tone could not be mistaken. She sounded irritated and insulted. Her comments added to my beliefs:

  • “She didn’t tell anyone about her Bipolar.”
  • “She didn’t say that she went off her meds.”
  • “She hasn’t even contacted us since the day it happened.”

LESSON: Be in the “know” and add some empathy.

The lesson is simple. People don’t need to tell. As well, those with mental health issues don’t want to disclose for fear of discrimination or dismissal.

Also, it is understandable that Jennifer might want to “lay low” for a while. She could be trying to heal, and/or she could be dealing with embarrassment. Compassion and empathy are absolutely needed.

Some employers may have concerns with having someone like Jennifer return to work. However, it is important to know the legalities of the situation.

The Legal Deal:

I am not a legal expert by any means, but I did some research. In Ontario, Canada:

Does an employee have to tell?

According to “Accommodating Mental Illness in the Workplace, a Practical Guide”:

  • If a person is able to work, then the employee isn’t obligated to tell an employer if he/she has a mental illness.
  • If the disability impacts time on the job, the employee may need to provide a medical note, but they don’t need to be specific in the reason for their absence (or potential absence).

As an employer, what do I do if I suspect a mental health issue and/or I am told about a mental disability?

According to “Accommodating Mental Illness in the Workplace, a Practical Guide”:

  • If an employee shows signs of a mental illness and/or discloses a disability, then it is an employer’s duty to accommodate (like any other disability).
  • There is no set formula for accommodation.
  • Employers need to pay attention to signs that their employee may be suffering from a mental health concern. Legally, the perception of a disability alone could result in “human rights law protection”.

Lane v. ADGA Group Consultants Inc.

In Lane v. ADGA Group Consultants Inc., Paul Lane complained that the Ontario company discriminated against him on the ground of his Bipolar disability.

Some details of the case:

    • Lane didn’t tell the company that he had Bipolar prior to hiring.
    • Lane did tell his supervisor within the first week. This was during his probationary period.
    • His supervisor had a conversation with a higher authority. The result was that there was concern over Lane’s ability to do the job.
    • The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal concluded that Lane had been fired as a result of his disability.
    • The adjudicator ordered ADGA to pay over $79,000 to Lane.

Final Words:

Jennifer has been dragged through the gossipy, destructive mud. I did defend Jennifer and her disability that evening, but I am embarrassed that I didn’t tell Samantha to stop talking.

Would any employer want their customer experience to be like the one I had? My customer experience was not a relaxing one, and I actually left the establishment in a bit of a daze.

It is not okay for one employee to treat another in this way. Hopefully, we can all learn from this horrible experience.

Some details have been modified to protect the employees discussed in this blog.

6 Comments on Who is More Destructive? Gossipy Gal or Bipolar Beautiful?

  1. I’ve been the employee who’se both had to leave work due to mental unhealth, as well as the one being gossiped and trashed afterwards.. it is a horrible experience that I cannot even begin to describe. Good for you for standing up , good for you for writing these words..and I would VERY much like for you to send this (even anonymously) to the restaurant’s OWNERS – as you said this second woman was “management” in question. This is so shameful. Good for you though!


    • Hello “AModernUkrainian”. Thank you for your comments. I am so sorry you had a horrible experience. It isn’t fair, it isn’t right. I have also had to leave a traditional type of working environment for mental health reasons. I know what it feels like to walk out the door, and I have known many who have done the same thing. Over the years I have seen many people treated unfairly by gossip, and ignorance.

      Stigma is all around us, but I also know there are A LOT of good people out there. I don’t want the good people to be tarnished by the bad ones. I try to remind myself of that.

      In answer to your question: I actually informed the Home Office because I wasn’t sure how they would handle it since the woman was in Management.

      All the best, The Anxious Butterfly

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ya I am just finally coming to terms with the event that I will soon be contacting my company’s Home Office, because I asked for help from the then “manager” and she did nothing…. Ended up unemployed and with PTSD for months before changing job sectors all together….

    ” but I am embarrassed that I didn’t tell Samantha to stop talking.”

    There are 20 other people that worked in that restaurant with me and saw the constant sexual, physical, verbal, & psychological harrassment of MANY employees. I’m one of the few who it got that bad with, but again it was because I was not staying silent to the 24/7 attitude of harassment in my workplace.. so I became a target. And I’m a bit of a loud mouth so I guess most felt I could just hold my own….

    I’m not sure…


    • Sounds like you have gone through a lot. I wish you all the best on your difficult road.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thank you, sorry for the tmi- ing. Your post really touched something that I had been holding onto for a while. Even just typing it out as a comment was.. cathartic. 🙂

        But now that I have regained myself, I wanted to come back and just touch on your post.. in a way that is about you and not me.. hehe

        Thank you for being so upfront about the legalities of this. That is the scariest part as the employee. and Ya leaving work due to mental health issues can be hard but it doesn’t have to be torturous. Fighting ignorance the way you did takes courage to say “hey what I’m hearing sounds .. aweful.. ” and then even more courage and motivation to get up and do something after hearing it. I’m sure many people along the process saw that you complained and I hope that it encouraged even one of them to think about what it is we hear from each other a bit mroe closely.

        Thanks again 🙂


      • Thanks so much for your kind words!


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