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Is this workplace bullying...?

(26 Posts)
LadyShirazz Wed 21-Oct-15 09:08:41

Hi all,

Sorry it's a long one - trying not to drip feed.

A month ago I posted this about my struggles six weeks in to joining a major consultancy firm, and got some excellent advice.

A month on, and I've found myself a mentor, worked on a few proposals with different people (network building), attended socials, got involved in the newsletter / developing training materials and got some positive feedback on the (very, very limited) contributions I have made. Most of these - particularly networking - I really had to force myself to do. Yet to get on a project, and still really, really struggling with the non-routine of complete boredom most days, yet total chaos on others.

But things with my director seem to be going downhill fast, to the point where I can't sleep, dread Mondays and overall just hate hate hate being here. My confidence / motivation has taken a huge knock as a result.

I don't know if I could describe it as bullying or just "insensitivity" from my director - he is a bit of a genius on a higher plane to the rest of us mere mortals, but no people skills, totally chaotic, and chronically unavailable. As a person I don't mind him, but he is really proving hard work as a colleague / boss. He has a reputation for this across the department, but - in contrast to other colleagues who've been here a while and know what they're doing - I feel I have no arsenal to defend myself with, and find myself doubting myself, unclear as to whether he is really right or just talking shit (my one friend and ally here says definitely shit).

I feel like no one is telling me the rules, and then I'm getting tripped up and set up to fail for inadvertently going against them. I also seem to be made the scapegoat for his own chaotic working manner and other failings.

Trivial stuff overall, but enough to wound when on the receiving end. Things like demanding to "borrow" some of my IT equipment (not making that mistake again!), promptly losing it, and then bawling me out for not having it the next day (I had already ordered a replacement for collection that day in anticipation). Or he delayed and delayed on a proposal bid over the course of the day so that I only had an hour to do the work before midnight submission, and then saying it wasn't formatted well enough. That's cause you spent all day spouting BS and then everyone had to rush in producing the actual work!! And I started at 11pm!!!!

He also keeps trying to square peg me into lead project roles that are aimed at higher levels than mine and require expert knowledge in XYC (which I only have a vague idea about). It is then my fault when the project manager feeds back that my profile is not the right match and I'm not at the right job grade. I didn't "sell myself" enough apparently - his favourite catchphrase to most things is "I'm not saying lie, but....".

He has also made several derogatory comments towards me on the basis of gender (male-heavy team) e.g. "If we put you on this project, you're not going to get pregnant are you?". Har bloody har.

I haven't "answered back" on any of the above as yet, and just sucked it up. Partly cause I hate confrontation at the best of times; partly cause if I started, I wouldn't trust myself at this stage out of sheer and utter frustration to stop.

There's many more similar incidents, but this post would go on forever if listed them all. I'd probably still feel uncomfortable at this stage in the role anyway, but it is this one individual (no one else seems to have such problems with me) who is pushing me over the edge here...

I've been looking for other jobs, but not a lot out there in my sector at the moment. Am keeping my fingers crossed for a second interview I have next month - would be for a bit lower pay and a very different, much smaller, organisation, but the work sounds really interesting / up my street and really, really liked my interviewer.

I want out so much - and if I didn't have a mortgage to pay, I'd be handing in my notice tomorrow.

I know I am by no means the only person to hate my job on here. But could really use a pep talk / concrete advice / a hand hold please, as am getting down to a point that is worrying both me and OH.

Alternatively, please feel free to call me an unreasonable think-skinned wuss too! Perhaps I am - but have been working for a decade, been a consistent high performer till now, and never had this kind of problem ever before.

BarbarianMum Wed 21-Oct-15 09:18:19

He sounds like a nightmare and a total arse. I suppose whether he is a bully or not depends on his intent but the way he is treating you is unprofessional and unfair, whatever he intends.

How do others in the team handle him? Do they challenge him - can you see yourself doing that? Or you could complain to HR. Or leave- but you shouldn't have to.

In your place I think id go for quietly but firmly asserting myself and working round ignoring him as much as possible. But I am old and tough now, I couldn't have done that 15 years ago but would have moved department or job.

LadyShirazz Wed 21-Oct-15 09:31:29

Thanks BM. I don't think he is deliberately being malicious.

I think he is just not on the same plane as us, is highly chaotic so loses track, and assumes everyone has the same level of knowledge as he does - even if they have only been there five minutes!

Most people try and avoid / work around him, but that's hard to do for me at the moment while I'm not on a project (another issue - so hard to get on one!).

After all, in his words "no one wants a rookie".

I'm collating all his nasty emails and also all the emails to me from others containing positive feedback.

If he was only one bad thing about working here, it would be easier. But there is really not much otherwise I like about it! I just can't bring myself to care now about the work we do, or the people, or the wider business.

And I like to care about what I do. I'm not a stupid person, but he seems to have a knack of making me feel about two inches tall...

RB68 Wed 21-Oct-15 09:33:13

I vote for nightmare and total sexist, bullying arse as well. You can go through the rigamrole of official channels, stand up for yourself and risk complete fallout or shipout. I am afraid the culture at these places is hardcore - you sell your soul to get onto projects and lie your way onto things and take the attitude of say yes and work out how to do it later. I personally would never work for them nor would I ever employ them.

This is the reality for women in this roles/situation - been there got the T shirt luckily I am pretty bolshy on the outside or was till I had a baby when I found emotions and couldn't control the so and sos.

If it helps at all I bet he has a wife or partner at home that tells him where his socks are before he asks, picks up everything he leaves everywhere, does all the housework and family stuff and is utterly pissed off with him and about to divorce him for unreasonable behaviour.

RB68 Wed 21-Oct-15 09:36:00

It is very damaging for the self esteem. Get on with the networking and get out there - what have you to loose, write down your positives and skills, sell based on those. You only need one and you won't be the rookie anymore. Its one big boys club I am afraid. The fact that they even talk about rookies and not wanting them is significant in itself - hardly a nurturing modern workplace. Take the down time to think about what you do want and hunt on that basis.

LadyShirazz Wed 21-Oct-15 09:44:08

He does have a wife just like that, and a small child - god only knows how he managed that!

Agree completely RB with all you say.

Am trying to get myself out of here (applying for anything vaguely related, and willing to take much lower pay), but only had one interview so far...

In the meantime, am going through the motions here while hating every minutes.

wickedwaterwitch Wed 21-Oct-15 10:09:52

Blimey - only read your OP but YANBU at all, his stule is at best (and being extremely generous here) quirky and eccentric and at worst bullying.

So the question is what to do? I think IIWY I'd carry on looking for another job, obviously but in the meantime I'd be setting up a meeting and preparing for it well. In that meeting I'd

State the problem, as you see it (and he can't argue with feelings)
Give concrete examples (x project, y skill set = load of pants)
Tell him what you want to do next change (professionally and constructively obvs)

"I wish I knew" is a useful technique I use, as it allows you to be very non confrontational while still stating your case. So "I didn't feel comfortable with that xxx in that meeting yesterday. I wish I knew how we could have handled that so everyone got xxx out of it" - it feels uncomfortable the first time you use it but it's worked for n

Ultimately it sounds as if he shouldn't be managing people at all tbh.

wickedwaterwitch Wed 21-Oct-15 10:15:48

You probably won't get far with HR and you've been there less than a year anyway so can't take them to tribunal. So I think you've got to do what you can to make it bearable until you find another job.

Which means dealing with it head on. Best case, he listens, says 'I didnt realise, sorry, I'll change stuff' - worst case he stays the same (do what have you got to lose?) or gets worse (but at least he'll know you have an issue)

It's horrible when you hate your job, much sympathy.

LadyShirazz Wed 21-Oct-15 10:22:06

I am keeping records, but agree ultimately HR won't give a shit. If I get a new job, I will make my feelings / emails etc known - only for my own personal satisfaction.

He is a new director, FWIW. I wonder what other people have fed back up?

I don't think confronting him is the right way to go - it will only sour things further, and he'd never take it on board.

Will try to focus instead on getting work away from him!

gandalf456 Wed 21-Oct-15 10:32:43

I think if everyone else is saying he's an arse then he is. I am in a very menial job but, even so, I can totally relate.

I had a boss like that and, on my first day, the team sat me down and, in no uncertain terms, told me the boss was a w@nker so I knew it wasn't me. I did challenge him in the beginning but it didn't really get me anywhere - I just a big row and felt like a fishwife.

However, sometimes I felt better in myself for not taking his crap. He was disorganised and chaotic. He would tell you to do something one way one day and then the next, it would be something different so you could never find a way of keeping him off your back. If you pointed this out to him, he'd deny all knowledge of the previous conversation. He would constantly follow people around nitpicking but not everyone - I was one of the lucky chosen ones. He also lost holiday forms or seem to sit on them for weeks and weeks until the time had passed and we couldn't have the holiday we wanted.

I didn't realise how bad he was until I had a new manager who was the polar opposite.

Funnily enough, though, if you had a personal problem, he was very good, very sympathetic and very amenable to any sort of family crisis so I am not sure if he was a bully or not but just someone who couldn't cope in his role so had to flex his muscles. I later learnt that his manager disliked him and was always on his back. He retired a couple of years ago and is on my Facebook and he is always commenting on my photos and posting photos of himself where he looks happy and relaxed. I think he just needed to leave and hated his job, tbh.

wickedwaterwitch Wed 21-Oct-15 10:38:36

It doesn't have to be a confrontation though - you're entitled to give constructive feedback. Hmm, if he's new he really ought to be taking irton board.

I understand if you'd rather avoid him but ultimately that won't change much if he's your boss.

wickedwaterwitch Wed 21-Oct-15 10:38:59

It on board, typo

wickedwaterwitch Wed 21-Oct-15 10:41:41

Can you find a mentor, one of his peers, and ask for advice?

Ignore any of this if it doesn't help but really you have 5 options Imo

- suck it up
- try to constructively challenge him, hope things improve
- ignore it, try to work as far away from him as possible
- get another job, which you're trying to do
- leave without a job to go to but, mortgage

fearandloathinginambridge Wed 21-Oct-15 10:47:04

I've worked with people like him. They should be kept in an office, milked for their ideas/knowledge and then parked so that everybody else can get on with the implementation, deployment, people management, delivery etc.

I do feel for you, I have been in the position of the 'rookie' and it's a Catch 22. You know that once you get on a project you are going to gain the experience and thus the confidence that will propel you forward. It's just pitching yourself to get on that project when you don't have the confidence in your abilities.

To be honest, there is an element of blagging and talking yourself up that needs to be done. I've done it, lots of people do, most people are or have been fronting it to some extent to get where they are. It's not ideal and sometimes it's scary sitting there feeling like an imposter but the pay off can be great in terms of building your skills, confidence and employ-ability.

You sound like a real asset but it does sound as though your consultancy isn't set up to support and nurture your potential. More crucially though, you say you don't believe in the work you are doing and that to me is a deal breaker. For that reason alone I would be looking for work in a setting that would inspire greater interest and commitment.

LadyShirazz Wed 21-Oct-15 10:53:42

Thanks all, and I'm glad to hear it's not just me!

Advice I've been given here is to speak to other people and try to get on a project as soon as. Which am trying to do - but (inwardly at least) quite half-heartedly, as I really just don't care anymore about anything other than getting out. Just "keeping up appearances" until then - whenever it may be...

Will try and blag more in the meantime!

Between OH and lodger's rent (I've covered us before when OH was made redundant), we could just about cover the mortgage, but it would be very tight otherwise, and probably even more stressful than being here in many ways, given that I wouldn't have any guarantees of finding anything soon.

Soooooooooooo hope I get this job next month!! I genuinely really want the role, not just an escape route. Arghh hate the suspense in waiting till the second interview rolls around....

fearandloathinginambridge Wed 21-Oct-15 10:55:41

My fingers are crossed for you!

Mistigri Wed 21-Oct-15 10:56:15

I was reading about workplace bullying the other day and there was a useful distinction made between "jerks" and "bullies".

You can (probably) work with a jerk, if you can be assertive enough, and adopt the mindset that their comments reflect their own issues and inadequacies and not yours.

You can't work with a bully. You best bet here is either attack (if you have any legal protection, which I guess you don't, or the support of other managers or HR) or retreat (gtf out).

LadyShirazz Wed 21-Oct-15 11:06:11

Getting out is the current primary aim, for sure.

This potential new job would be a perfect match, and they seemed quite impressed with my background at first interview. I usually do okay in interviews - I only hope that no one else pips me at the post in the meantime...

I'll be gutted if that happens. Nothing else on the horizon at all right now.

TiredButFineODFOJ Wed 21-Oct-15 11:20:46

Actually "you won't get pregnant will you" is direct discrimination.
Yiu probably really won't get anywhere trying to "report" him, your best bet is to leave. Hopefully the second interview will work for you- do try and get an exit interviewvwith HR when you leave.
It's crap I know but you need to get away from this fool.

AttilaTheMeerkat Wed 21-Oct-15 11:23:17

I left my first job precisely because of not too dissimilar behaviour that you describe from one of the senior people. I was only in my late teens at the time so did not tell the kind senior partner I also worked for exactly why I was going when I gave in my notice.

I noted over time that this particular alpha male type bullying individual tended only to harangue the junior staff as well; he saw us all as inferior to him and never praised anyone (unless he felt they were equal to him). His PA always was threatening to leave but did not do so (I could hear all the words, swearing and otherwise he shouted at her from the floor above me!).

I wish you the very best of luck with your second interview.

I'm an ex big-4 consultant and totally recognise so much of what you say. Heck, I'm seriously wondering if it's the same company - the push to network your way on to projects and such like really strikes a chord. And the jump between periods of utter boredom and then being run off your feet and working at midnight. Especially on bloody powerpoint formatting (which if it's my ex employers they are beyond anal about)

I'm actually going back to consulting soon but in a much more niche company and hoping to heck that they're different.

It sounds like your CV is fairly sturdy so far so I personally think one blip won't hurt you as long as you are actually fairly honest and say just "not the right environment from me, I've learned X, Y and Z about myself so it's been an interesting process but not how I want to spend my career. "

LoveAnchor Wed 21-Oct-15 11:52:14

Yikes I don't have time to contribute a lot to this discussion right now, but I've been in a situation like this with an intelligent, productive, abrasive, unavailable, offensive boss, and agree with previous posters that it's very damaging to your self-esteem and confidence. Your main goal should be to move, either to a different department, or to a different company. In theory you should politely challenge his rude/unreasonable behaviour and carry on doing great work, but it could take years before this strategy will bring some positive results, if at all! Concentrate on some self-training or other ways to do something that you can 'take away' with you in the form of published articles, blogposts, presentations,.. even building up your social media profile is better than nothing. If you will leave soon, what will you say later you have learned in this company? Start working towards that now.

Also, establish boundaries - you shouldn't be expected to work at 11pm or to be given ridiculously tight deadlines, but if you just suck it up and don't challenge it then there is no reason for your boss to change his unreasonable behaviour.

LoveAnchor Wed 21-Oct-15 11:55:06

Great post by Mistigri. Totally agree.

LadyShirazz Wed 21-Oct-15 12:02:54

intelligent, productive, abrasive, unavailable, offensive boss

Him to a tee!

amarmai Wed 21-Oct-15 12:26:24

this trial by bullyboss and you are learning a lot -as well as being stressed. Stick with it until you get another position and do not bad mouth him in interviews or afterwards. Everyone in your industry knows his rep and you being professional will be money in your rep bank. My daughter had to deal with similar twice.

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