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Moving on from workplace bullying?

(19 Posts)
Dodadodaday Mon 14-Nov-16 20:43:41

Hi, after advice from anyone on this. And sorry it's long.

At the beginning of this year while I had a gap in my team and so highly overwhelmed I was bullied by one of the directors I business partner. I wasn't the first person, one person left and when I took over my role I had to intervene as he was bullying someone in my team. I didn't report that incident, I didn't realise it was endemic. I believe the person who left put in a formal complaint. I took a week off with stress, and reported the individual to HR and his manager. It was hard, lots of tears.

Anyway, 9mos on I'm struggling to get over it. I still work with this person who is clearly uncomfortable around me, and frankly I'm pretty uncomfortable with him. On Tuesday he and another director grabbed me for a chat which left me feeling really weird. So today I grabbed the second guy and asked what it was all about...

And in the course of the conversation he raised my relationship with the guy who bullied me and I basically burst into tears. So clearly I'm not over it.

How can I work with this guy again? I need to be professional but I cannot seem to get over this. Any advice or experience shared appreciated. Unfortunately I can't leave, the company is funding my MBA and also it's a great company with all kinds of great things... But I just have no clue where to go on this.

daisychain01 Mon 14-Nov-16 21:34:10

What did he actually do to bully you?

You need to find a way to toughen up so you don't make yourself into the victim. Unfortunately bursting into tears in the workplace tends to have the effect of the person losing credibility and appearing unable to cope with stress.

Best thing to do, I find, is to rationalise everything, to get on and show them that you're better than them and aren't going to let them grind you down

I've had a year of it and only just coming out the other side so I do understand but if you plan to make a career in that company you need to build up your inner reserves. Can you go on a resilience training course?

Dodadodaday Mon 14-Nov-16 21:51:25

Hi Daisy. Ok thanks. I'm going to say: that is not good advice. If there is a bully it's not the victims fault, and no one else during this year has ever said I should "toughen up". I've worked for the company for 10 years. I'm a tough cookie running a big and important team, and the tears are rare and private. No one thinks I'm weak, quite the opposite frankly. That's not the company I work for.

That being said, his behaviour has been dealt with. Now I need to figure out how to work with him on an even keel again.

Advice on that?

Dodadodaday Mon 14-Nov-16 21:53:39

And Daisy, if you've been told to toughen up in your situation, question a culture that says bullying is the victims fault...

daisychain01 Mon 14-Nov-16 22:25:53

And in the course of the conversation he raised my relationship with the guy who bullied me and I basically burst into tears. So clearly I'm not over it

OK so I based my advice on what you said in your OP.

I'm not unsympathetic, I have myself been subjected to workplace bullying, horrendously, this year. Nobody has told me to toughen up, but I have told myself to! I would be doing you a disservice if I didn't highlight that bullies like to reduce their prey to a victim status.

I'm suggesting that to work with this person, if you have to, you need to elevate your 'image' to someone who can handle pressure, and can deal with them on a professional level, otherwise what's to stop them from continuing to bully you ?

Dodadodaday Tue 15-Nov-16 08:43:07

Hey. What's stopped him is the clear communication from people including HR, his boss, my boss and me that his behaviour is not acceptable. He joined us from a different country and clearly didn't understand the cultural change. He's also very in self-aware so he didn't realise the impact he was having until it was pointed out to him as a pattern of inappropriate behaviour.

daisychain01 Tue 15-Nov-16 13:53:24

OK so he's been reigned in and things are under control. So what is actually stopping you from interacting with him?

Do you have to work closely with him, or can you limit your communications to the essentials?. I need a bit more information tbh, because you started by wanting to know how to deal with him, but if he's under control now, and it's 9 months down the line, can you give more of a clue about where you need support, it isn't clear. Sorry.

daisychain01 Tue 15-Nov-16 13:55:45

On Tuesday he and another director grabbed me for a chat which left me feeling really weird

I'm guessing not literally "grabbed" as in physically grabbed.... But why was this a problem for them to have a chat with you. Are you having difficulty being anywhere near him?

Dodadodaday Tue 15-Nov-16 18:55:51

Essentially he and I are key business partners who have teams that need to interact. At the moment I feel uncomfortable working with him, like he doesn't trust me to have his (business) best interests at heart. So he seems to avoid having conversations with me and instead has them through intermediaries or emails me or, more often, just avoids consulting me. This isn't a problem per se, he's in his right to do that but it means his work isn't as appropriate/robust/operational as it could be with my input. It also means on occassion he writes cheques my team can't cash to quote top gun.

Secondly, he seems to see issues with things I do raise to him/shadows that aren't there - again not trusting what I say to be not biased by what happened between us. So when he and the other guy had a chat with me and I asked later about the background to the conversation my other director said that this first guy (MR X from now on!) had raised issues with him about me, and in reflection that had been the source of the need for the conversation.

Things I've tried to do to fix this include purposefully sitting near him (he will some times actually not acknowledge me all day); proposed a team night out together so our teams get to know each other which was rejected as not needed; suggested we do a ways of working session with our two teams to understand how better to communicate, also rejected because he said he didn't want to do it (the suggestion from me came from feedback from his team about the need to communicate). This last one was literally rejected out of hand "well no I really don't feel we don't need that" and he walked away. Could have been worse, he could have shouted it at me! Sign of improvement...

The best solution would be for us to just sit down and hash it out. Which I've done with other people I've felt we had a gulf to close. We both sat down and talked about how we made each other feel and how we wanted to feel instead, and the relationship significantly improved after that.

However I don't feel (a) safe doing that because of what has happened in the past or (b) that the result would be anything other than him telling me I'm the problem. I could be wrong on that, but that was the sum of all the feedback I've ever given him face-to-face to me: "you are the problem". And because of (a) I'm scared to try. But this is probably the best solution. I'm just not sure I've got enough emotional distance to do that in a reasonable way. It would need to be a calm conversation where I was able to give good examples of where he's shutting me off and how I could work better with him in the future if he changed his approach, and was able to listen to how I make him feel with an interest in changing it/receiving it calmly.

It's all slightly shaking/sensitive in my mind because (a) he 100% knows I'm the one who reported his bullying and (b) because at almost the same time he made a major clock up with confidential information that I had to report and he got in trouble for. I think he probably thinks they are connected (I did b because of a) but they aren't, I'd have had to report him for b irrespective. But he called me out publicly and almost had another row at me on b (saw him visibly controlling himself) so I rightly or wrongly believe he's still pretty resentful.

In summary: I feel safe bridging the gap in public, but not in private. In public I feel him pulling back from me or cutting me out. What we need to do to fix this, I think, is private. But I'm not sure how to get myself to that place where I can do it successfully.

Dodadodaday Tue 15-Nov-16 18:56:25

And thank you if you stuck with it!

Kittyshopping Tue 15-Nov-16 19:24:11

Been there and done it. It's horrible. I ended up in counselling which I would strongly recommend. Although the victim is definitely not to blame, you need to look at what this experience has triggered from your past Exploring that angle really helped me. It's not the short answer you may be looking for.

Also, Bullying is always about power imo.

daisychain01 Tue 15-Nov-16 20:44:39

Well yes, kitty, that's what I feel, too and I've experienced it in spades this year. One thing's for sure, there are situations like this playing out in organisations the world over. The key thing is that one mustn't ever give the, the upper hand or display the least sign of weakness because I it's like the thin end of a very pointy wedge.

The bully is all about belittling, minimising contribution, patronising and closing down opportunities to fix the problem and work in a partnership.

im not sure if any of the above is at all familiar, doda? Sounds like there is a breakdown of trust, and I sense from your perspective it is very high stakes, because you are personally invested in a career in the company. So you have a lot to be gained by trying to build bridges and heal the rift, whereas Mr X doesn't sound as if he could give a flying 4x, there is nothing in it for him to fix this problem.

Can you try to pull back, keep a lowing profile and let the dust settle on the situation. In other words don't try too hard, or give him the impression you're doing all the running. Maybe stay available, professional and receptive to him but not go out of your way to change the current status quo.

My situation wasn't dissimilar (I was going to say, you could have been working in my organisation!), it has been a vile 6 months but I've held my nerve, done all the right things and yes, gradually the person has had no alternative but to back off. In fact, we are now seeing each other as human beings each trying to do our jobs, not simply put on earth to destroy each other!

daisychain01 Tue 15-Nov-16 20:45:47

one mustn't ever give the person the upper hand that should say

daisychain01 Tue 15-Nov-16 20:46:56

Sorry keep a low profile

Dodadodaday Wed 16-Nov-16 15:05:31

Hey, sorry thought I posted a reply but clearly didn't! Re: low profile/avoidance, that's basically been my strategy to date. But given last week's incident I'm concerned its allowed him to get the high ground (Doda's a problem) because I'm not in the conversation so much. And how to deliver profile/targets/ progress career when hiding? That's an issue too. I need to operate in this matrix he's a part of, without him constantly undermining my confidence

daisychain01 Wed 16-Nov-16 16:14:42

Hiya, re your comment

And how to deliver profile/targets/ progress career when hiding?

If it gets to the point where this situation is compromising your ability to deliver to your agreed objectives, because Mr X is preventing you from working across boundaries between your team and his, I'd be very concerned. Which you obviously are. I just don't know how you can fix things, if he's that obstructive.

Do you have common ground and reasonably strong networks to the people in his team, so you can get informal updates thru them? If you can get evidence that he is purposefully omitting you from emails, meetings etc, isn't that a good case to take the matter back to management?

I can't see how you can resolve this single handed.

Also do you have a different reporting line to Mr X? Iow can't you take this ongoing situation back to your Line Manager ? Presumably after the fracas when HR got involves, everyone walked away thinking it was Job Done and resolves, but clearly it hasn't gone away, it's festering like a wound and not improving.

daisychain01 Wed 16-Nov-16 16:16:27

Sorry for the typos, I'm on a bus between sites!

Dodadodaday Wed 16-Nov-16 20:22:34

Thanks guys. How do you access/find counselling?

daisychain01 Wed 16-Nov-16 22:29:15

I'd try starting with your GP or if you have an Occ Health dept at work they may be able to refer you. Hope you get things sorted out.

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