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awful experience at work

(112 Posts)
springymater Fri 17-May-13 14:25:59

Took part in a volunteer's 'reflective practise' yesterday and two colleagues tore me to shreds. Along the lines of: you are up yourself, think you're wonderful, who do you think you are; that I talk down to people, am lazy, don't do any work, wander about. Those are the accusations I remember, anyway. I don't recognise any of it - I work hard, got my eye on the ball, am generally friendly and chatty in a non-obtrusive way. Ordinary, basically.

This came out of the blue. We work with the homeless and a lot - though not all - of my colleagues are ex-homeless/ex-offenders/recovering addicts etc and the two who laid into me come into these categories.

I have been working with these two men in a reception capacity and relationships were becoming very frosty - not on my part, but theirs. It was becoming increasingly awkward to work with them as I appeared to be frozen out of working practise, let alone conversation. But I didn't particularly notice iyswim! We are very busy and I suppose I assumed in that vague way that people are stressed, tired, whatever. I have a generally good professional sense and have good experience of the professional environment - though this environment is more relaxed in one sense (though more boundaried in others). it is generally a 'friendly' environment - it has to be because of the dire straits/vulnerability of the clients.

The discussion with my colleagues was initiated because I was trying to flag up that I was being left out of working practise - I addressed this by suggesting the issue of team work, are we working as a team. I didn't directly confront but kept it general. A lot of ex-homeless etc find it very difficult to engage with teamwork eg and I wasn't about to be pointing fingers.

I was thoroughly attacked - a character assassination; shouted at (red face/neck, bulging veins), accused of being 'fucking patronising' etc etc. It went on and on - about half an hour. I began to shake (I wish I'd got out then) but kept professional, asked them to clarify, give examples. The examples were bizarre and there was no way I could respond, though I tried. I don't know what has happened to cause this but I do think I've had the 'white, middle-class do-gooder' tag put on me (when, as it happens, the only one of those I am is white - I am, for instance, in recovery). I eventually left as the unremitting assault wasn't abating at all. The situation wasn't resolved, my presence only encouraged them to continue.

the whole experience was horrifying and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say I went into shock and burst into floods of tears in a cafe about half an hour later, completely unable to control it. I had a very bad night and cried and cried. I feel beaten up.

I have a bit of clarity today - though still tearful. I spoke to my line manager, saying I wouldn't be working in that capacity again because of a very bad experience in reflective practise. He said reflective practise is confidential and he can't know anything about it, so there is no support there.

So where does that leave me? Is it ok to tear a colleague to shreds under the auspices of 'reflective practise'? The psychotherapist who ran the group basically allowed the thing to continue. She was reluctant to 'let' me leave (though we are all of course free to leave when we want). I felt like a lamb led to the slaughter.

Sorry long sad. Any advice (hand-holding, hugs!) etc gratefully received. I realise the people I work with can have very significant issues - I have a fair few of my own tbf - but I don't accept I can be torn to shreds in this way.

How long have you worked there?. I would speak in the first instance to HR about this or even ACAS.

3littlefrogs Fri 17-May-13 14:32:26

That sounds horrendous.

From what you have said, the psychotherapist sounds very unprofessional.

Is this a voluntary post? If so, if I were you I would walk away. I am sure there are plenty of other voluntary jobs you could do.

Your line manager sounds hopeless too. sad.

I am so sorry you went through that. It is possible to offer constructive criticism, but what you were subjected to sounds like verbal assault and bullying.

HormonalHousewife Fri 17-May-13 14:32:52

God that sounds beyond awful.

And totally not right.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 17-May-13 14:34:12

I've seen 360 appraisals or whatever they are called go very bad in the past myself. One company I worked for actually had trained counsellors on hand to deal with the fall-out... If it was a psychotherapist leading the group she wants shooting because the whole point of reflective sessions is to provide constructive criticism and not be a vent for out and out bullying. I would be making a formal complaint about her competence & professionalism because what you experienced was unacceptable.

foolonthehill Fri 17-May-13 14:35:19

I am truly shocked at the psychotherapist running the session.

In my opinion you underwent a total personal character assassination that could in no way be seen as "reflective practice"
I would be reporting the supervisor

foolonthehill Fri 17-May-13 14:41:43

these are some of the basic tenets for Supervising reflective practice: I have highlighted the points not adhered to by your supervisor.

Set regularly scheduled meetings that protect against interruptions
Put away distractions, turn off phone, Note on door
Create an agreed upon an agenda
Model reflective process in group and individual setting
Reflect on process in preparation for next meeting
Be accessible with intentional communication about how students can access supervisory support
Be available in crisis
Create a safe environment
Support development of worker’s observation and listening skills
Encourage exploration of thoughts/feelings
Invite sharing of details
Listen for worker’s emotions
Invite worker to talk about feelings
Respond with empathy
Attend to how reactions to the content affect the process
Check in with worker about personal comfort with reflective processes
Model openness, curiosity and emotional availability
Listen more, talk less
Ally with worker strengths
Maintain balance of attention to case and student
Provide supportive feedback
Open environment to share and explore challenges and mistakes
Foster ownership of experiences
Facilitate student’s awareness of need for encouragement and support
Communicate clear expectations
Assess where the student is and start there
Respect needs and abilities of students to process and reflect
Strategically ask reflective questions
Use reflective tools – journaling and process recording

you may have no comeback with your colleagues due to the setting. but you definitely have the right to challenge the supervisor's competence.

wordyBird Fri 17-May-13 14:42:59

oh springy, that sounds awful.

Frankly, I don't think that is a good environment for you to be working in.

I don't see any connection between reflective practice and being abused at work. The people working with you, all of them who didn't support you - they should be ashamed.

You need to be somewhere much more supportive.

Lemonylemon Fri 17-May-13 14:47:42

This came out of the blue. We work with the homeless and a lot - though not all - of my colleagues are ex-homeless/ex-offenders/recovering addicts etc and the two who laid into me come into these categories.

You know, that doesn't surprise me. They more than likely have a chip on their shoulder..... Am I allowed to say that?

springymater Fri 17-May-13 15:07:17

Not quite chip but yes, issues, shall we say.

though as I said, I'm not clean and tidy in the upstairs dept either. I haven't been able to work for over a year (until recently), hence volunteering. I don't want to sound pathetic but up until recently I couldn't get dressed - getting into 'work' has been a major achievement.

I wonder if they sensed the broken bird thing? Don't want to get paranoid though!

I don't know if I can take this further - at least not effectively (ie will I be heard?) - and the stress of 'making observations' may not be worth it iyswim.

I have really enjoyed working there but perhaps it's time to call it a day.

springymater Fri 17-May-13 15:09:46

One of the things that hurt was that I have been so fond of one of them - a young lad who has come so far, apparently. I really liked him - and it was reciprocated. It was an added sting that I felt hurt by him and his thorough attack.

Doyouthinktheysaurus Fri 17-May-13 15:30:00

That is an absolute disgrace on the part of the psychotherapist!

They should have put a stop to it immediately if they couldn't keep it on track. Why the hell should anyone sit and listen to themselves being ripped to shreds!

It's sad that you feel you may have to walk away, really unfair on you. I think you should try again with your manager, make it clear that the session essentially turned into bullying and you expect them to deal with it!

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 17-May-13 15:36:13

I think, even if you aren't 'heard' exactly, you owe it to yourself to complain forcefully, in writing, about the person leading the session. If you do nothing and walk away from your job I think you will be more damaged by the experience than if you articulate your anger ... even if you subsequently go on to leave. Your manger, by the way, is a spineless git...

quietlysuggests Fri 17-May-13 15:37:47

I think living on the streets people do become wild. The strong beat on the weak. The bully boys rule over the women. I think 2 pricks tore you apart because you are a woman and they wanted to. I bet their is a lead one filling the other's head with rubbish of the white patronising dogooder variety just as you say.
Complain in writing. Complain about the facilitator. Complain about your line manager. And then leave the job.
But know this - this was NOT about you. You were the victim of an unreasonable attack.
If it is not a charity, sue them.
If it is a charity write a stinking letter to as high up as you can.
I am so sorry.
You WILL get over this, it will be raw for a few weeks, you will get flash backs for months, but you WILL get over this.

dontyouwantmebaby Fri 17-May-13 15:39:13

springy I'm so sorry this happened to you, it really isn't on for your colleagues to use these sessions in this way and sounds like the session wasn't properly managed either.

Well done for making it back into work btw, I totally 'get' that this is a major achievement if you've been unable to get out the door/get dressed etc. Had similar myself after a long absence from work, its daunting setting a foot outside the door and going back to it. Please try not to let this incident set you back whatever you do!

Your line manager doesn't sound particularly helpful but I'm wondering whether the issue of being left out of working practise/team work is something that your line manager should be addressing anyway rather than you? I can understand why you didn't want to confront it and sensibly kept things on a more general basis, esp with your knowledge & experience in dealing with the ex-homeless.

As for feeling stung by the person you were fond of, I hate to say it, but sometimes its the people we've helped most who end up stinging us in the workplace. I don't think much of people who will easily label others (eg do-gooder, middle-class etc) in order to attack them.

You may hurt now but I hope you will come out of this feeling stronger and if its better for you to find something else then do so, you shouldn't have to put up with this kind of thing at all. Otherwise stay and tackle it, starting with your line manager.

springymater Fri 17-May-13 15:55:02

The last time I spoke to my line manager about something (outrageous!) he said I had to learn to be more tolerant....... <hopeless emoticon>

It is a charity. The guy I liked is my colleague, so I have not in any way 'helped' him or worked with him on his recovery/rehabilitation. Just a colleague I liked and was very fond of. Not that it was obvious, iyswim. He was the shouty guy and, I think, has definitely been put up to this by the other guy (or am I thinking that to ease the hurt?). the other guy, I could have nightmares about him tbh - cold, clinical, heartless, spiteful. brrrrrr.

My managers are not part of reflective sessions/teamwork because that suits them tbh. One thing they can delegate and not get involved in.

To be fair, they are busy, beleaguered, under-funded etc etc etc.

UptheChimney Fri 17-May-13 16:17:04

The psychotherapist should be dismissed without a reference! < flog 'em & hang 'em emoticon >

But seriusly, I think the very least you are owed is a one to one session with the psychotherapist to debrief. S/he may not be able to counteract that horrible attack, but they should be duty bound honour-bound to help you process it and move past the shock.

Branleuse Fri 17-May-13 16:25:16

dont go easy on them just because its a charity.
theres no point in being wonderful to clients in recovery whilst assassinating their volunteers.
this needs putting a stop to.
I wish I could give you a big hug. You didnt deserve that. It wasnt about you. this was about THEM. they have projected all their anger with the system onto you

Branleuse Fri 17-May-13 16:26:36

and it was allowed to happen under supervision. That's the scariest thing.
I think you need to speak to head office and take this further

dontyouwantmebaby Fri 17-May-13 16:26:59

How long have you been there springy?

Being busy/beleagured/under-funded is a poor excuse for turning a blind eye to colleagues ganging up on you at a reflective practise session which in itself sounds like it was a waste of time & money.

eminemmerdale Fri 17-May-13 16:31:43

horrible sad I totally sympathise - having worked with the homeless myself myself, I know what a stressful environment it can be and yes, ex addicts/rough sleepers etc can be very sensitive and push boundares - sometimes that's acceptable. this is totally not though. You must take it higher. Did you get the role through a volunteer centre? If so, go and speak to them as they would not want to send volunters into such an environment for a start, and if you get no joy from your managers, go to the trustees. I'm so sorry sad

springymater Fri 17-May-13 16:37:56

I have just realised there is more to this story - apologies for drip feed (not intentional, as you will see).

I have made the decision to make an official complaint about a member of staff who is, wait for it, one of the counsellors (to the homeless clients). For some reason I have not been able to fathom at all, this woman has had it in for me and repeatedly berated me (in public), harassed me, chided me on my work (as a chef) etc etc. I have been astonished by this and, again, paid little attention (until later) because I am so fucking busy! However, the last incident had her shouting my name like she was calling a dog: enough was enough. I have talked to my line manager throughout these incidents - another line manager, who has been supportive (my line manager has just changed - I've been awarded the ineffectual one). Afaik no-one but my (previous) line manager knows I have the paperwork to issue a complaint; though I assume his line manager (and his line manager) does??

It could be that psychotherapist and counsellor are buddies in some way - though afaik they are from two separate orgs and don't work from the same office.

and yes, I am aware that it looks like I come in for a fair bit of bullying. I have a significant history of being bullied and continue to work on that in therapy.

(Please don't give up saying 'she must be a nutcase'. I thought so too but therapy has convinced me otherwise. Thankfully.)

BOF Fri 17-May-13 16:38:20

Quietlysuggests is spot on. How awful for you sad

AgentFelix Fri 17-May-13 16:40:43

sad I feel gutted for you springy

If you were spoken to like that by a neighbour or stranger on the street you'd be wise to call the police. Therefore it should never have happened in a supervised environment at work.

I hope this awful experience doesn't harm your recovery. You sound like you've done so well. (Been there and not done as well as you have)

x

eminemmerdale Fri 17-May-13 16:43:20

Quick question - is it a day centre or a residential shelter/supported housing?

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