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Bullied at work - more a WWYD

(15 Posts)
HPonEverything Fri 15-Jul-11 11:18:04

I have to work in a team of 3 - one other woman and a man. They've known each other for years and are very cosy together, and I am constantly socially excluded, and (I feel) bullied. Other people in our department pity me for having to share an office with the woman and she is renowned for putting the knife into people behind their backs. The man will openly ignore me and I have always felt he hates me, although I know I haven't done anything wrong to him because we've barely had much to do with each other til recently - I feel that the woman is behind this and has badmouthed me in some way to him, he follows her about like a lapdog. She's very difficult and I know has no friends on the outside world, and doesn't speak to most of her family including her mum and daughter. Last year she was removed from a project because she didn't get on with the programme manager, and he has subsequently been promoted into our top management, so there must be some knowledge at management level of what she is like. I feel like I've had her dumped with me and been abandoned, perhaps because I'm not the type to kick up a fuss.

I try to get on with everyone, and I don't go to work to be best friends with anyone (I wouldn't choose to be friends with either of these people) but I don't want to dread every day. My management and other colleagues seem to like me and have respect for the work I do, and I've enjoyed working in pretty much every office I've ever worked in and enjoyed banter with colleagues.

This woman in my office will openly laugh at me for doing something that is perfectly normal, subtley undermine me in meetings in front of people (including our boss), and also put me down when it's just the two of us. I hate confrontation and I will try to justify myself a little but end up just giving in and putting myself down because it's easier. There are no witnesses as it is just the two of us most of the time, and I end up doubting myself as a result of all this. She will question my movements and be disapproving over things I do, but I don't work for her and I don't question what she does (because I don't care). It all seems to be part of trying to be Queen Bee. I believe she may be a little threatened by me although we do quite different jobs and have different skillsets, it's just unfortunate we've been thrown together like we have. She gets bitter if I take it upon myself to learn a new skill, or I take something on that is 'above and beyond', but won't do the same herself. She'll just be disparaging about the fact that I have.

Both these colleagues are 20 years older than me. This woman seems to need the attention of men, and she flirts with our male management which is sickening but up to her I suppose, however that also implies to me that she's threatened by the fact that I get on with the management. Our boss is fairly new so either hasn't sussed her out yet, or just doesn't and won't ever see it, or just can't be bothered with any hassle. I haven't raised it with management because I don't want to come across as petty or difficult, but I've never had this type of treatment before and I know I'm not dealing with it.

The office arrangement is that I share with the woman, and the man is next door on his own. I didn't want this - it was them who had the say in it and I just had to go along with it. There was some "thinking" behind it along the lines of needing to bag 2 offices and me going on mat leave but that was just a handy excuse. I'd prefer it if they shared and I was on my own because I'm excluded anyway. I'd prefer to work from home every day to be honest.

I have reached the point where I dread every day I spend in the office and go home and cry in the evening. I am 28 weeks pregnant so only have 10 weeks left but I am considering going on mat leave earlier just because of these 2 people, it feels like all this dread/crying/stress isn't any good for the baby apart from anything else. I am also considering not returning to work after mat leave because the thought of having to come back to this behaviour is too much to bear, but then I think why should I let them make me feel like this when it would suit me and my family better if I returned at least part-time. I also think that perhaps they deliberately want me to feel like this because they want me out of the picture so either 1) they can be more cosy together or 2) she really will be Queen Bee, or 3) both.

Yesterday I bravely took the man (because he's the easiest to communicate with without becoming aggressive) to one side and asked if there was an issue because I'd like to sort it out. He denied it, but it's obvious there is. I don't feel there's any point in speaking to the woman about how I feel because she would also deny it and get aggressive and nasty. I tested the water a few weeks back about this and they ganged up on me, so the same would happen again. I have no idea where to go from here and would appreciate any advice or wise words even if it's just to tell me to suck it up and ride it out.

cookcleanerchaufferetc Fri 15-Jul-11 11:55:12

The problem is evidencing the issues. You have 10 weeks to go which will fly by. Is there someone in HR who you could talk to off the record about it?

In the meantime, stick a scan photo of your baby on your desk to cheer you up!

HPonEverything Fri 15-Jul-11 12:03:50

What a lovely idea about the pic - I will do that smile

It's hard to evidence, it's all stuff you "can't quite put your finger on" IYKWIM

At the moment the only thing I want to talk to HR about is bringing my leave date forward sad but an off-record chat is also a great idea. Thanks.

MumblingRagDoll Fri 15-Jul-11 12:58:02

I had one of those and reported her...turned out she had been making loads of other women unhappy. Same kind of thing...constant belittling. Write it all down and hand it in.

knittedbreast Fri 15-Jul-11 13:01:49

bring it up at the next meeting while shes there in front of everyone with evidence. shel probebly crumble.

fuzzywuzzy Fri 15-Jul-11 13:06:35

I had this, in the end I was told by a senior member of management to keep a log of my day, and to try and keep a written record of covnersations that took place, so the evidence could be built up.

It's not nice havign to work in an atmosphere which makes you dread going into work.

Speak to HR, maybe they will have helpful strategies.

aquafunf Fri 15-Jul-11 13:13:34

i was in a really similar position, but without the pregnancy. i compiled a comprehensive greivance against my woman, as i knew that i was in a no-win situation. sorry to say that things didnt improve really and like you i dreaded going into work. eventually i left. however, i did so with the satisfaction that my comprehensive greivance is on her permanent file so if she tries it on with anybody else, it has already been raised and action can be taken.

if i were you, i would go to HR, explain the issues and tell them that this is causing you stress. then they will have to act, or you could get your gp to sign you off sick with stress.

Scholes34 Fri 15-Jul-11 13:27:17

It's hard for you, but it sounds like she's the one with the issues. Try to rise above it and tell yourself that you're not in the wrong if you're belittled. It is only another 10 weeks to put up with it. Perhaps you could find a soulmate outside the office you can offload to and fume now and again. Just remember that you don't go to work to be loved and liked, but that you're loved and liked immensely at home. Be kind to her and it will probably unnerve her.

Angel786 Fri 15-Jul-11 13:41:49

Tough one, to take it to senior management or HR means it could become almost impossible to work there long term as tension could become unbearable.

Is it possible to have a coffee with your boss' boss or someone else more senior and say you don't want to raise a grievance etc. But respect them and would like to know what they suggest?

If not what has worked for me previously is being sneaky or nasty back. It's not easy to do but sometimes bullies need to be shouted down, just make sure if you do that it's always one on one so they can't pin anything on you later [embarrassed]. It need not be nasty, you can undermine them by 'helpfully' pointing out her flaws In meetings etc. Then if challenged by her later say you were just being helpful and doing your job as it's a team effort...

HPonEverything Fri 15-Jul-11 14:21:23

Some great advice here, thank you.

I know it's only 10 weeks (and in fact 2 of them are leave) but it's a bad enough place to work as it is for various reasons so I'll be very sad about coming back, leaving the baby etc. I just don't want this to deal with as well and I just KNOW it'll be even worse when I return as I'll have had 9 months off or whatever and won't get any help from them in terms of learning new processes/systems (it's a fast moving organisation), and in fact I suspect they'll actively put blockers in the way to make me look incompetent.

Maybe this whole thing is just the push I need to go do something else instead, but at the same time I don't want them to 'win' and get what they want if you know what I mean.

I do know though that if I did decide to leave I wouldn't keep the reasons why quiet. I don't know if I have enough time now to gather evidence to start a grievance procedure, and I don't want to start making things awkward (unbearable tension as mentioned above) for me to just then go off and have a baby and everything be dropped anyway.

I guess I could discuss other options on my return like moving to do something else (expressing why I want to move, obviously!), but there's not a lot else within the company that I want to do, and my brain will be so addled I think I'd rather stick with what I know for a while.

My other colleagues are begging me to bring my mat leave forward for the sake of my own sanity and the baby's health etc but why should I? sad

IWishIWasAFrog Fri 15-Jul-11 15:04:32

What an awful situation to be in sad

Don't take your mat leave early, much nicer to spend your time with your new baby than to pander to two bullies.

Do you have an Occ Health Dept? Or H&S officer? Or who ever did your maternity risk assessment? Could your raise it with them?

Def talk to HR. Also check your company bullying policy.

Your HAVE to raise this with your manager, esp the stuff about not being kept up to date about proccesses/systems/ making you look incompetent. Pre-empt them, ask your manager to get them to keep a short diary about new things/ have regular checking-in phone calls.Your are also entitled to contact days.

You HAVE TO KEEP A DIARY of everything. This is sooooooo important. single events could seem petty, but a diary will establish a pattern of events. This will help you in case of something like a grievance, or, worst case scenario, something like a constructive dismassal claim.

Do you belong to a union? Could you get some help there?

Good luck OP, enoy the rest of your pregnancy!

WineAndPizza Fri 15-Jul-11 15:30:27

Poor you OP - sounds like a nightmare. You seem to be happy at the company in general and get on with others - is it possible for you to look at moving to a different team?

SinicalSal Fri 15-Jul-11 15:43:02

the bright side to this is that management rate you and your work, and have a clear enough picture of what she is like also. So it's not like you're up against a powerful enemy who could ruin your career.
So, she's irrelevant in a way, and you need to show management that you are the bigger person, and deal with this in a professional way. So use this as an opportunity to polish your halo for the next few weeks, with a view to being looked favourably upon when you request a new team/office/formal complaint or whatever strategy you decide to employ when you come back.
Definitely keep the log of all incidents. I would say these next few weeks will fly by, so make them productive in more ways than one. You will be much happier on your return from mat leave knowing you hve prepared the groundwork well in case you need to make move.

I know I haven't given any practical tips, but i just wanted you to know that it's not an even fight. You have the upper hand because the truth is it's not you, it's her,and the people that count know that.

garlicbutter Fri 15-Jul-11 15:54:55

Really good advice from Frog and Sal. I wish I'd known it before.
Extended stress DOES affect your baby. While a loving, safe environment can counteract this after s/he's born, it would be better to help yourself develop a safe feeling in the current environment. I agree, it's worth optimising your relationships with management, keeping a log of the "niggles" and talking to HR, occupational health and any union. That way you'll feel supported and also give you back a feeling of control

Hope it goes well. Good luck with the baby smile

zipzap Fri 15-Jul-11 16:08:31

Talk to hr and see if you can come up with them with a sentence that you can use whenever this woman is doing anything to belittle etc you. Kind of the workplace equivalent of the MN 'did you really mean that to be as horrible as it sounds?' type phrase. Maybe something like 'please explain why you feel the need to undermine me this time' - sure other posters will come up with much better.

If hr agree with and agree that it is not a nasty thing for you to say (don't want any counter claims coming back at you!) then just start to use it every time she says something horrid (might need a couple of phrases). Then whenever you say it, bring out your notebook or e-notetaking-gadget and document time and reasons.

Having one key phrase for you to say will make it easier to say something to her as you won't have to think of anything to say at the time when all you want to do is punch her be anywhere else. She will start getting paranoid when you keep writing things down after she hears this phrase.

You will then be able to go back to hr with a list of all the times you have needed to use your phrase and hopefully that will make it easier than just reporting shat she said as she should give you reasons and a framework too that you will be able to discuss.

Also if your other colleagues seem to be supportive then see if any of them would be willing to interject with your phrase when they hear her being nasty to you or about you, all helps to show that you are not the unreasonable one.

Good luck and hopefully these next few weeks will fly by for you.

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