Monday, November 17, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: Serial Bullying - where it all began


In the beginning .....

Which, by the way are the words the first chapter of Genesis in the Bible begin with, is an appropriate way to start today's blog.

Because workplace bullying does have a beginning.

The problem is that it is so minute, so little, in the scheme of things that no one is going to be able to see it for what it is.

That is what happened to me.

I'd already had the experience with the person I'm calling person #1 where I had accidentally said something in jest that offended her so deeply that she never forgave me and started a vendetta which lasted four years until I finally "resigned" (under duress).  I'm calling her person #1 partly to keep her identity private and also because I don't believe that at this point it really is in anyone's best interest to identify specific people.  I feel that it is better to identify types of people to be able to open my readers' eyes to the bully at the desk next to them, in the room with them, even in a different office entirely.

My biggest mistake was to assume that because this person, person #1, was in a different office altogether that she posed no threat to me.

Oops!  There go those dratted "assumptions" and "perceptions" again.

I've already mentioned that when person #2 came into our office, we were in quite a state of change.  I was embarking on a different position altogether, although still in our office, to get a "separation" from a co-worker who was driving me nuts.  She constantly left 2-4 hours worth of catch up work for me to do and was constantly criticizing me and bringing "mistakes" to my attention in emails, etc.  In addition, we had two new workers, one part-time to work weekends and one full-time to take over my position on a "temporary" basis, starting on the same day.  I was expected to train both of them - at the same time.  (Try it.  It's not doable.)  Also, the manager who had hired me for my new position and who had hired these two new workers and assigned me to train them at the same time left suddenly.  Very suddenly.  As in walked out suddenly.

We had a woman who was in a manager trainee program already on board who was being groomed to take on our supervision a bit later in her term with us.  She was suddenly thrust into that role without the opportunity to ask any questions of the man she was replacing.

That was the same day the person I was getting a separation from decided to bring up verbally in front of my new trainee an issue she had.  It was the same old, same old pattern with this woman. Quite frankly, I was both quite tired of it and frustrated with it.   She made an accusation which was not true - which was normally the case.  In front of my new trainee - which I do not think was appropriate.  A trainee I was deliberately not advising of my problems/conflict with this woman - because I didn't think it was appropriate to give her my baggage.  I wanted her to be able to think for herself.  In hindsight, that was a bad idea.

I defended myself that day in front of my trainee - which turned out badly.  As in verbally badly.  As in an argument badly.

The next thing I knew, the manager trainee came over to ask me what she could do to help me take "constructive criticism" better.

???????

Other than the fact that there is nothing constructive about criticism?

Other than the fact that it had not been announced that she was our new supervisor?  Talk about being blind-sided.

This one day when everything seemed to hit the fan at the same time was, in hindsight, the catalyst for what happened.  It set the stage for all the dynamics, alliances, etc. that followed.

In and of itself, it appeared to be nothing to get up in the middle of the night and write home about.

Yet, it created several different dynamics.  One was that it brought me to the attention of the brand new supervisor in a negative light.  As one who couldn't accepted "constructive criticism".  Not as one who was in a tough situation being negatively accused constantly and devalued constantly.

Also, once the problem regarding me trying to train two people at once was brought to her attention, she decided to have the problem child on the shift before me train the person who was going to be taking over my position "temporarily" while I was pursuing other adventures in the office.

This action, I believe set the stage for the years of bullying that followed.  I have no proof.  Just a suspicion.

When I resumed training this woman, person #2, after the part-time worker was trained issues arose which hadn't risen before.

Why?

I never had the guts to ask, but I always wondered if the problem child on the shift before me gossiped about me while the two were together.

As I said, I don't know. And I'll never know.  But one thing I do know, is that person #2's attitude had changed by the time she came back to me.  We no longer had the same relationship, the same camaraderie.  Training person #2 became a battle.  A battle I was totally unprepared for.

More of the story tomorrow....

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