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To wish people at work wouldn't ask me all the time why I look miserable.

(22 Posts)
ErpsKwerpsTwerp Sun 16-Nov-14 20:42:55

I have had an utterly shit year. In January, we lost my uncle unexpectedly, only months after he had lost his wife. The day after his funeral, my cousin was found dead in his house - no idea of cause of death, and don't think it was ever established. I've lost three other close relatives this year, all within a couple of months of each other. Earlier this year I was diagnosed with cancer - the same cancer that has killed my grandmother, a cousin, two aunts and two uncles (and my mother had it, but has been cured). The hospital, in its wisdom, didn't give me the diagnosis, merely told me that "the earliest available appointment had been made with the oncologist." I was unable to get hold of anyone who could tell me my diagnosis (what stage the cancer was, given that my relatives had all been diagnosed late). I ended up going to the hospital and waiting until someone would tell me - fortunately it was caught early, but I've just had another biopsy and am waiting for the results of this. I'm now having three monthly checks and genetic counselling, to see if I have the faulty gene.

In addition to this, I really hate my job. The job I was recruited for, is not what this job has turned out to be. I have a fancy job title, but am just the office schlepper, doing all the filing and photocopying, despite being a lot more senior (and paid a lot more) than people who should usually be doing this work. There is really no way out of this for another year at least - I have tried to move to another department, but have been told it's not possible, I just have to suck it up.

Last week, two people, who are senior to me, told me that I "look really miserable all the time" and that "it is having a bad effect on the morale of more junior staff, and I need to look more cheerful." They know about the funerals, as I've had to have time off for these, but don't know about my health issues, as I have chosen not to make this public knowledge, although the head of department knows. I really want to tell them to fuck right off to the far end of fuck. Some days I am barely holding it together, and if I look miserable, it's probably because I've spent an hour before coming into work trying to stop crying, because I'm worried about the biopsy results. I am, however, coming in and doing a good job (despite looking miserable). I don't want to tell everyone in the office about the cancer. And I also think they could have been a bit more sensitive - instead of telling me to cheer up, how about asking if there is anything wrong?

I don't particularly want to go to the doctor to get signed off, or to get anti-depressants. I am trying very hard not to let how I am feeling affect my ability to do my job (and have succeeded in this - people like working for me, and I've got very positive feedback on my work this year), but some days, I do really struggle to be cheerful. I don't walk round with a face like a smacked arse all the time, but some days are worse than others. Any ideas how I can cope better with this?

CompassionFatigue Sun 16-Nov-14 20:48:34

Blimey, you are one strong woman. I would have lost the plot by now ( as evidenced by previous similar-ish episodes in my life.) Are you really, really sure you don't need some respite from life? I think you should sign off...but if you really really can't, find the most sympathetic colleague you can and tell all. Hopefully they can explain to others what the score is for you.

ErpsKwerpsTwerp Sun 16-Nov-14 20:56:14

Thanks, CF. smile I have been tempted to send an email to the people who have been having a go at me for looking miserable, explaining exactly why, but think it might turn into an unhinged rant. I'm going to see how the next couple of weeks go (and the results of this biopsy) and if I feel I can't cope, then maybe I will go to the doctor then.

MajesticWhine Sun 16-Nov-14 20:56:45

So sorry, it sounds like you've had a dreadful time. You could still go to the doctor, there might be some other support available, eg counselling, or a support group. As for work, maybe the head of department could have a quiet word with the two people who have spoken to you. But really, try to ignore them if you can and just keep your head down. It's not part of your job description to look cheerful (I am guessing) so they can just fuck off. You are right, it would have been preferable if they had engaged their brains and asked if something was wrong first.

ErpsKwerpsTwerp Sun 16-Nov-14 20:59:54

No, nothing in my job description about having to look cheerful! I might suggest the department head speaks to the wankers people concerned - she can't do so without my say so.

skylark2 Sun 16-Nov-14 21:00:41

I was going to say YABU because they might be giving you an opening to talk if you wanted to, but that doesn't fit with them telling you you are required to be more cheerful, which is really mean.

I did have a couple of weeks when people kept asking me if I was okay - I had a burst blood vessel in my eye and I suspect they thought someone had hit me sad But nobody was ever mean about it.

flowers and I hope you get some good news soon.

ErpsKwerpsTwerp Sun 16-Nov-14 21:02:55

If they had asked with some degree of sympathy if something was wrong, I might have said. But it was the "cheer up and snap out of it because you're having a negative effect on the junior staff" that enraged me.

MomOfTwoGirls2 Sun 16-Nov-14 21:20:15

Anybody nice in your HR dept?
I had cancer last year, and HR were extremely supportive.

ErpsKwerpsTwerp Sun 16-Nov-14 21:45:41

HR were really not helpful. They told me to speak to Occupational Health, who made sympathetic noises but that was it.

DoJo Sun 16-Nov-14 22:28:47

What a shitty thing for them to do. Even if you had just won the lottery, someone blaming you for the failings of other members of staff would be completely inappropriate, so why they think that staff performance should depend on whether you are smiling or not is a mystery. Would it be worth suggesting to them that they tell these other members of staff that you are not responsible for their moods and they can stop passing the buck about how they conduct themselves in the workplace.
Either that, or could you speak to your manager and say that junior members of staff trying to dictate your facial expression is affecting your morale and you would appreciate it if they would fuck right off, mind their own business and do the job they're being paid to do.
Whatever you decide flowers for you because this is the last thing you need.

LaurieFairyCake Sun 16-Nov-14 22:36:09

I'd email them both and copy in HR/your boss saying "I have cancer and would appreciate not being told to cheer up or any other comments on how miserable you perceive me to be. If you have performance concerns feel free to raise them with senior management"

And nothing else - bet they both back the fuck off

QTPie Sun 16-Nov-14 22:43:26

I am so sorry for everything - you are an amazingly strong woman. Hope that the cancer is sorted out incredibly quickly.

I would arrange an appointment with your manager and/or HR (whatever is easier), explain things (honestly) and say that you seriously need people to get off of your case. That the stress added by these people is almost the last straw. Get your manager/HR to sort it out.

Take care of yourself. Get any help that you think might help and be kind to yourself.

Take care.

ErpsKwerpsTwerp Sun 16-Nov-14 23:31:53

Thank you for your help and support. Unfortunately my immediate boss is another one of those who has been commenting about me being miserable. She has as much empathy as a slab of concrete, and even commented that she "didn't think that sort of cancer was usually serious", despite my telling her that it was killing off my family.

I am very tempted to email the other person with what Laurie has said.

The head of department has been a bit better, but I don't think he really knew what to say. He commented that he knew my boss and the other two involved could be "difficult", but was a bit wet over the whole thing, really.

WheresMrMonkey Mon 17-Nov-14 04:11:52

What an awful time your having. I'm so sorry. Really think you should let them know what your going through

ErpsKwerpsTwerp Mon 17-Nov-14 20:23:34

I spoke to my boss today - she said "I am sympathetic" several times, while looking not remotely so. She also told me that she was very supportive several times. I am quite inclined, having been given more negative feedback on not looking more cheery, to email the whole department, saying exactly why I am not the life and soul of the party at the moment, but will do so when I can be calm about it.

DoJo Tue 18-Nov-14 11:44:56

The head of department has been a bit better, but I don't think he really knew what to say. He commented that he knew my boss and the other two involved could be "difficult", but was a bit wet over the whole thing, really.

So, he knows the others can be 'difficult', but instead of dealing with that he is taking the easy option of telling someone in the middle of a very difficult time to cheer up?! That sounds weak and pathetic, and to be honest I am amazed that you have hung on as long as you have without really giving someone both barrels. What a shower of selfish, unsympathetic dicks you have been landed with in your job. If you want help drafting an email then I would be happy to offer my assistance, although it is such a shame that it has come to this point. biscuit for all those idiots and more flowers for you, plus wine cake and anything else that helps you get through the day.

redexpat Tue 18-Nov-14 13:52:56

I would write down everything that has been said to you, as accurately as you can, who was there, times, dates etc.

Are you in a union?

I would ring ACAS for advice.

It doesn't sound as if this situation will resolve itself, and I bet the person who loses will be you.

If no one else will fight your corner, then you will have to. So you may need to send the email that Laurie suggested, bcc in your union rep or your personal email so you have a record of it.

In the meantime, I think you need coping strategies, so I would go back to the GP to ask if there are nay support groups or counselling available. I would also contact specialist cancer charitites to see if they have anything they can offer you. And then the usual advice of trying to get some exercise every day, eating enough fruit. Do you think something like yoga or mindlefulness might help?

In addition your HoD needs to man up and well, manage his staff.

FreakinScaryCaaw Tue 18-Nov-14 14:02:37

sad What an awful time you're having.

I work with a friend who's going through a rough time and she rarely looks very happy. Some staff do comment. One even told her to stand on her head so she was smiling! I was in earshot and just told him to stand on his head to make it easier for me to kick.

I hope you get some support. Redexpat talks sense.

Wishtoremainunknown Tue 18-Nov-14 14:07:06

I'd also send the email Laurier suggested.

OnlyLovers Tue 18-Nov-14 14:13:45

Gosh, OP, you're really going through the wringer. I'm very sorry for everything life is throwing at you.

I agree with the pp who says you should log all the unhelpful comments with names, dates and times (including the meetings with HR and your various management colleagues, as well as the comments in the office), and call ACAS. If the people you've spoken to cannot or will not take action to nip these comments and this attitude in the bud, ACAS may be able to tell you who to go to next. Or do you know of anyone else in your company you could escalate it to?

I'd say don't take matters into your own hands and email everyone, however calm you are, or feel you are. I mean this in the nicest possible way, but this should be treated as a professional issue and if an email containing personal health info comes from you, by definition it won't be all that professional an email.

FreeWee Tue 18-Nov-14 14:14:20

A friend at work regularly gets 'cheer up' comments. She's chosen the route of 'this is just what my face looks like' but really her mum committed suicide, her dad is an alcoholic and she's a chronic insomniac. That campaign about facial paralysis making people aware that not everyone can 'cheer up' was a good reminder that what's on the outside isn't anyone else's business.

You've had a horrific time of it flowers and I hope you get some good news soon. It's no one's business but yours as long as your performance isn't affected so deal with it in whichever way you feel most comfortable not worrying about people commenting about you not being the life and soul of the office all the time.

ErpsKwerpsTwerp Tue 18-Nov-14 20:39:12

"What a shower of selfish, unsympathetic dicks you have been landed with in your job."

That comment is spot on. Management is piss poor here, and the option seems to be to wait for people to move on, rather than take action against any inappropriate behaviour. I am going to consider contacting the union to see what they suggest. I agree re the personal email - I won't do it. I wonder if it is worthwhile saying to Wet Boss that he has my permission to speak to the senior managers (of whom I am one - oh the irony) and tell them why it might be inappropriate to tell me to cheer up. But he won't have the bottle to do it.

Re coping - I think I could cope with the issue of the cancer and deaths OR the shit job. It is the combination of the two that I can't cope with. OH said they would look into a managed move to another department, but it would have to be agreed by my department and they resolutely refuse to consider it.

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