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To think the 'bully' is being bullied.... need help!!

(11 Posts)
Donutt Sat 06-Apr-19 19:20:10

I work in a quite specialised area of work where most people know each other across the country, it is a tight knit community where it is important who you know and reputation etc. I recently moved to a new organisation. I knew the team I was going to work with and had worked well with them all in the past. I'd done some work with the team leader before, but more with the others lower down in the team. Whilst I'd never had a bad experience of the team leader (We'll call her Y), I'd heard a lot of bad stuff about her as a very nasty, manipulative bully. As i was going to be her peer rather than working for her I thought I'd take the risk, however she still leads on a few projects I'm involved.
Since I started I have have two of the team daily telling me how awful she is, normally with out a real reason, just vile hatred. But as it has developed I have realised how unsubstantiated it all is. We are a small specialised team in a larger department, so spend lots of time together. I have sat in meetings where it's all been fine, only to then hear the others really slagging of Y, reinterpreting and twisting things she has said again and again - taking comments out of context and sometimes just making things up. Y is very successful, very well thought of in the industry and has been so supportive of me since I started. I do recognise she isn't a people pleaser, she will say what she thinks and be honest, but she is not mean, nasty or unkind, quite the opposite in fact. Rather than my first caution of thinking Y may be a bully, I feel I am witnessing the most awful upward bullying, led by a young man who hates Y, but the other goes along. Y cannot win, even if she tries to be extra nice it's taken in an awful way, and nasty, spiteful things are done to undermine her. The others constantly try and get me to join in bitching about Y, but as I won't play I have been quickly frozen out of the group. For example, team drinks organised am I'm not invited, a birthday gift for a colleague which only Y and I aren't invited to join in on etc. I'm kinda ok with this but I just feel the bullying I am witnessing is terrible. However I also know I'm on a temporary contract, need this job to work for career reasons and feel the management would rather turn a blind eye. How do I go forward. Y knows she can't do a thing without the rest of team attacking her, and it obviously upsets her. It is never to her face though which makes it so hard to tackle, it is always as soon as she leaves a room! I never participate in the conversation and call it out when they use specific examples, but as I say I am now frozen out. We are all very highly qualified people, but I feel I'm back in the school playground!!! What can I do?

yorkshirepud44 Sat 06-Apr-19 20:39:18

Is there any hr provision? I'd note down some examples - time, date, who's involved and what's said and raise your concerns via whatever policy or means you have.

And I know loads of people will tell you to stay out of it but for what it's worth, when I flagged something similar, people listened and action was taken. Bullying like this only carries on when people collude or turn a blind eye. It shouldn't be happening.

Merryoldgoat Sat 06-Apr-19 20:42:59

Yes - what’s the HR status? I’d be making a formal complaint. Bullies get away with their shit because no one deals with it.

AmIRightOrAMeringue Sat 06-Apr-19 20:46:13

Maybe they will actually listen to you if you're on a temporary contract, you've nothing to gain or lose really if you give feedback when you leave.

I'd keep specific examples in writing where you can so you can back up what you're saying

Also I'd make it clear for your colleague you support her, it sounds like a horrible place to work and might mean a lot to her

Donutt Sat 06-Apr-19 20:53:34

HR is there but very distant, I think it has been interpreted before by management as quarrel between two people but it is more than that now. It is deliberate and purposeful reputation damaging and undermining. I am going to at least raise it as something I am uncomfortable with. I do love my job and luckily can work rather autonomously most of the time. I have let Y know that I am supportive of her.

BabyBadger2 Sat 06-Apr-19 22:33:13

Good shout. It sounds as though you’d be able to raise it in a rational and positive way and hopefully therefore unlikely to be victimised for raising it.

I feel for you. I am in a very similar situation and it’s creating a really toxic culture, but for the moment I am just ignoring any bullying comments and changing the subject.

I do feel guilty for not calling them out properly but equally know that I would just be excluded and feel I can have more influence from within the group than from outside. It’s hard.

FullOfJellyBeans Sat 06-Apr-19 23:01:52

I think your perspective as an unbiased outside on a temp contract might be useful. You have no reason to take a particular side and presumably Y is also your boss. You pointing out that she's actually a fair boss is probably incredibly plausible.

Waveysnail Sat 06-Apr-19 23:12:59

Hmmm it's difficult. You prospective could be right. Does remind me of situation where the boss was an utter cow. Happily throw team under the bus for her mistakes. Problem was she didn't show this nasty side for about 6 months to a new start so they high she was sweetness and light. We all learned as a team to keep our mouths shut

Coffeebean76 Sat 06-Apr-19 23:19:16

Never smoke without fire with bullying allegations in my extensive experience of investigating these cases for a living.

Donutt Sun 07-Apr-19 14:06:18

I think I'd be naive to think maybe there hasn't been things in the past from Y - but certainly what I'm witnessing now is bullying, which regardless of whether as a response to previous behaviours or not, still seems wrong. Steps are taken to deliberately undermine this individual and set her up for embarrassing moments - for example the ringleader guy deliberately didn't tell her (he admitted it was deliberate - boasted in fact!) that info has changed on a major project. Y went into a meeting and was really embarrassed as had the wrong papers and not updated on situ. He also speaks very badly of her to people and contacts outside of the organisation, including those who fund our work. It is definitely a toxic environment. Most the time I stay out it but feel increasingly uncomfortable that by not actively challenging I am legitimising the behaviour. We work in a very male dominated environment so it feels all the worse that the most successful woman in this field is being dealt with like this...

rosablue Sun 07-Apr-19 14:30:50

Are meetings the sort that get minuted? If they are, if you’re able to do the minutes and record the meeting on your phone/laptop ‘just to double check you haven’t missed anything’ you may well find that you are able to record such things when they happen to provide back up if they try to gaslight you/others that they didn’t say such a thing.

With regard to the example of boasting about letting Y go into a meeting and deliberately not updating them properly, that is going to backfire with the company loosing the contract if it continues - that needs raising with more senior management and the ringleader being punished / taken down several pegs for deliberately doing something like that.

If HR are distant then maybe it’s time to pull them up and make them do their job - use your outsider status to say you have no idea what went on before but in the here and now, Y is being bullied and they run the risk of losing their industry high profile name - and when that goes, the £££ will follow... spell it out in terms of damage to their bottom line - short term and long term, which is what they care about at the end of the day, not only in terms of lost revenue but how much they could lose in money and respect terms if she took them to industrial tribunal..,

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