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awful experience at work

(112 Posts)
springymater Fri 17-May-13 14:25:59

Took part in a volunteer's 'reflective practise' yesterday and two colleagues tore me to shreds. Along the lines of: you are up yourself, think you're wonderful, who do you think you are; that I talk down to people, am lazy, don't do any work, wander about. Those are the accusations I remember, anyway. I don't recognise any of it - I work hard, got my eye on the ball, am generally friendly and chatty in a non-obtrusive way. Ordinary, basically.

This came out of the blue. We work with the homeless and a lot - though not all - of my colleagues are ex-homeless/ex-offenders/recovering addicts etc and the two who laid into me come into these categories.

I have been working with these two men in a reception capacity and relationships were becoming very frosty - not on my part, but theirs. It was becoming increasingly awkward to work with them as I appeared to be frozen out of working practise, let alone conversation. But I didn't particularly notice iyswim! We are very busy and I suppose I assumed in that vague way that people are stressed, tired, whatever. I have a generally good professional sense and have good experience of the professional environment - though this environment is more relaxed in one sense (though more boundaried in others). it is generally a 'friendly' environment - it has to be because of the dire straits/vulnerability of the clients.

The discussion with my colleagues was initiated because I was trying to flag up that I was being left out of working practise - I addressed this by suggesting the issue of team work, are we working as a team. I didn't directly confront but kept it general. A lot of ex-homeless etc find it very difficult to engage with teamwork eg and I wasn't about to be pointing fingers.

I was thoroughly attacked - a character assassination; shouted at (red face/neck, bulging veins), accused of being 'fucking patronising' etc etc. It went on and on - about half an hour. I began to shake (I wish I'd got out then) but kept professional, asked them to clarify, give examples. The examples were bizarre and there was no way I could respond, though I tried. I don't know what has happened to cause this but I do think I've had the 'white, middle-class do-gooder' tag put on me (when, as it happens, the only one of those I am is white - I am, for instance, in recovery). I eventually left as the unremitting assault wasn't abating at all. The situation wasn't resolved, my presence only encouraged them to continue.

the whole experience was horrifying and it wouldn't be an exaggeration to say I went into shock and burst into floods of tears in a cafe about half an hour later, completely unable to control it. I had a very bad night and cried and cried. I feel beaten up.

I have a bit of clarity today - though still tearful. I spoke to my line manager, saying I wouldn't be working in that capacity again because of a very bad experience in reflective practise. He said reflective practise is confidential and he can't know anything about it, so there is no support there.

So where does that leave me? Is it ok to tear a colleague to shreds under the auspices of 'reflective practise'? The psychotherapist who ran the group basically allowed the thing to continue. She was reluctant to 'let' me leave (though we are all of course free to leave when we want). I felt like a lamb led to the slaughter.

Sorry long sad. Any advice (hand-holding, hugs!) etc gratefully received. I realise the people I work with can have very significant issues - I have a fair few of my own tbf - but I don't accept I can be torn to shreds in this way.

buzzybee123 Fri 17-May-13 16:44:28

I think this is more likely of a reflection about themselves then you, although things needed sorting out this is hardly the way, its sounds totally unprofessional and inappropriate.

Constructive criticism is one thing a personal attack is not acceptable

agree with other report your so called supervisor

TheCrackFox Fri 17-May-13 16:54:16

Have I read this right? You are a volunteer and, therefore, not even getting paid and they are treating you like complete shit?

I'm actually shocked and very sorry that this is happening to you.

MaryQueenOfSpots Fri 17-May-13 16:56:23

Well done for having the courage to leave the "reflective practise" session - it sounds very badly managed by the psychotherapist. I find it appalling that you haven't been offered a debrief with her or another psychotherapist to help you process it. There being another unpleasant person in the organisation (counsellor) does make me think you would be better moving on to another organisation who will value you more. It sounds like a pretty dysfunctional environment.

Maybe this could be the spur to move you on to something with more responsibility and/or paid. You sound a kind, thoughtful person who another organisation would jump at the chance to employ.

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:12:33

It is both eminemmerdale - though I work in the day centre part of the building.

I have been there for 5 months. And I have made a few observations while I have been there eg lack of equipment, h&s issues etc. All done offically and through the right channels, not aggressively. Bully counsellor's approach seems to be that she thinks I need taking down a peg or two. She is not in my line management and has nothing to do with me officially. as far as my role is concerned, she is, effectively, just another customer.

I'm hoping that various personnel don't use MN (please God...!)

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Fri 17-May-13 17:16:41

springymater if your face fits, well and good. For whatever reason your card is marked. I think the line manager is spineless and the psychotherapist is an incompetent who needs reporting to her professional body. Totally not worth letting them drive you into the ground. Go before it gets nastier.

Allalonenow Fri 17-May-13 17:18:40

So sorry to be reading this Springy, you seemed to be so happy there just a few weeks ago, and to have given so much of yourself to the job in recent months.

Could you make an appointment with the leader of the session to ask them to explain why they allowed others to bully you to such an extent?

I think you should be prepared to take this matter to a higher level than your line manager, there must be a central HR department for the charity. They must have an anti bullying policy in place.

Reading an earlier post about the protocols that should have been followed, I can see how previously homeless people might misinterpret the purpose of the session. Part of the reason for them becoming homeless could be that they have problems with regulations/boundaries, so might well see the session in terms of venting personal anger, rather than constructive team building. All the more reason for the leader to be firmly in control.

Sending you thanks and courage.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 17-May-13 17:22:19

This is all voluntary, am I understanding that correctly or do you get paid? For one I wonder how they seriously expect to get more volunteers by bullying the existing ones into leaving hmm And for two, if you are classed as an employee and you felt forced to leave as a result of this appalling session you would have an excellent case for constructive dismissal. A short meeting with an employment lawyer might be on the cards if that is the case

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:26:41

I so should've left before I did, Mary - I was trembling like a leaf. See, I'm beating myself up about not leaving earlier - mad!

I could do with some help with wording of any complaint please? (if I choose to go down that path...). I am in that horrible position where I feel so arse about tit I can't work out the right words without being too emotional/dramatic. Though your list is helpful fool

Thanks for support. I'm still not in focus, as it were, but getting there.

saintlyjimjams Fri 17-May-13 17:30:17

This is voluntary? Honestly there are lovely organisations crying out for dedicated volunteers - can you see this experience as a step to something better for you? Volunteers really should not be left feeling the way you have. And it doesn't sound as if the organisation is interested in protecting or helping you. Have a brew & sympathy.

MaryQueenOfSpots Fri 17-May-13 17:33:36

springy you know you have nothing to reproach yourself for, right? <stern look>

If you made a complaint what would you like the resolution to be? Sometimes it's easier to start there, and work backwards when thinking about wording.

I do think you would be so much more valued in a different organisation though and wouldn't have to deal with these negative, energy sapping people.

grimbletart Fri 17-May-13 17:34:56

reflective practice = too often a euphemism for navel gazing self indulgence and opportunistic bullying.

springy: don't put up with this crap. Take a deep breath and put in a complaint that is a) logical b) calm and c) makes it clear you expect action to be taken to ensure this never happens again.

And remember, as a volunteer, you don't have to put up with arseholes.

TSSDNCOP Fri 17-May-13 17:43:51

Dear lord surely this was supposed to be a constructive exercise not a verbal assault. Whoever ran the session has let you down appallingly.

I'm certain that in the current climate you would get an alternative role in a not for profit organisation in a shot. I honestly couldn't and wouldn't stay where you are.

Time to ask WIFM (whats in it for me)?

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:46:16

But if I leave can I still expect the issue to be addressed if I lodge a complaint?

tbh this all happened in front of my colleagues. I can't be absolutely sure I'd get their support if I'm honest.... It could be that my relationship with my colleagues has been damaged by this. Which would make my future impossible there, anyway.

it's ironic that I've had problems with staff and volunteers (or these 2 anyway) but absolutely none from clients! They are vociferous in their thanks and praise for me and what I do. That's what counts, I suppose confused

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:47:43

I'm sounding a bit naive there!

eminemmerdale Fri 17-May-13 17:48:48

always seems to be the way in these places <bitter experience>

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:50:38

You know how when the shit hits the fan, colleagues vanish? I can't even remember the incident properly - shock - and I can't be sure my colleagues would back up what happened. If I can't remember and no-one backs me up (and the psychotherapist doesn't do the decent thing... which she didn't at the time...) it's all looking a bit hopeless.

MaryQueenOfSpots Fri 17-May-13 17:53:36

The organisation sounds dysfunctional, and if so, you being there won't make a jot of difference to whether it is actually addressed.

Be proud that you are the sort of person who cares enough to complain constructively and try and make a difference. But it only works if the organisation is functioning though. So there is no shame in looking to use your talents elsewhere and letting this go.

springymater Fri 17-May-13 17:53:55

Sorry for lots of posts - yes, eminemmerdale (love the name - arf): at the start of the session, I was the first to arrive and for about 10 minutes I was alone with the therapist. She had a book on the table, face down, called 'Trauma and Organisations' (or something like that!) re how orgs working with traumatised people often end up displaying the same chaotic way of functioning.

Jux Fri 17-May-13 17:59:04

oh springy, how awful. That is so out of order and unacceptable I can hardly believe it (though I do).

I agree that a strong official complaint is needed, and to find another place where you will be appreciated. You have so much to contribute both personally and professionally. Don't stay where you're not appreaciated.

acebaby Fri 17-May-13 18:03:16

Springymaster - this sounds awful. I would start keeping a diary of incidents. You can start off by copying out your posts here. Even if others won't back you up, this will be powerful evidence. If you decide to leave, perhaps you write a letter about your experiences to the charity managers, or even the trustees. At least that way, things might be improved for others in the future. Take care sad

springymater Fri 17-May-13 18:10:29

Trauma and Organisations

DonkeysDontRideBicycles Fri 17-May-13 18:21:45

Sorry haven't read your link yet but whole set-up sounds like a spiteful adult version of "Tig - you're it". For all that psychotherapist knew it could have been dangerously triggering.

Lavenderhoney Fri 17-May-13 18:49:27

What a dreadful thing to go through- and it actually has a name- reflective practise! I have been through 360 process but it nothing like this. Sounds one of the most mis managed meetings I have ever heard of. And your manager is just as bad.

Whoever ran it and took part in it should be ashamed of themselves and definitely reported. And they must have known it was going to happen. The fact this was done and you were left to cope alone is worse too.

Whilst its fresh in your mind write it all down. Also write down you felt unable to leave - everything.

Do you have to go back? If not leave, see a doc for stress monday morning- and see cab/ employment lawyer, plus call your hr dept direct if there is one and say why you are off. don't bother with your manager. I would personally be concerned these uncontrolled rantings would be somehow put in my file in hr and signed by the " supervisor" as legitimate.

Hs anyone else there been subjected to it? Or have they left?

DoubleLifeIsALifeHalved Fri 17-May-13 19:27:59

Ouch, that sounds like an awful experience, poor you sad

I suspect you cannot remember things as you went into shock, your colleagues may have worked out that you were being picked as the sacrifice for that session... And never under estimate the power of cowardice and wanting a quiet life as forces to make even the 'niceat' colleagues shut up and hide. That's a lesson I learnt the hard way & have realised that just because I believe in justice, kindness and speaking up for others, it doesn't mean that others will do that same. It really hurts though and I can feel your pain.

What do you want to happen now? Think about what's best for you and then work out/ talk to us about how you might get there. Other than to wind back time and it not to have happened flowers

foolonthehill Fri 17-May-13 22:38:48

In case it is of any use....

Dear Trustee/manager,

I am writing to seek your help in resolving a problem that I experienced during a reflective practice session on (date) at (place) with (people present) at work. It is a problem that is causing me some concern and that I have been unable to solve through my line manager (X). I hope you will enable the issue can be resolved quickly and appropriately with your assistance.

On (date) I attended a reflective practice session supervised by (X) also attended by (Y and Z) my colleagues. During this session, which lasted approximately (N) minutes (Y) launched a personal attack on me, in my view amounting to sustained bullying. This was backed up by Z and allowed to continue unchecked by the supervisor (X) despite my obvious distress and desire to halt the session.

I eventually left the session in a state of some distress. The bullying caused me to...............and I have been entirely left on my own to deal with my reactions with neither constructive advice nor emotional support.

My understanding of reflective practice is that it is to be used as a tool to enhance and encourage professional development, to address team and personal issues in a constructive and safe environment and to build us up as individuals to work to the best of our abilities.

There are published professional standards for the supervision of reflective practice. In my experience several of these went unobserved including (list).

I raised this matter my boss but he/she refused to talk to me about this as it was contained in a reflective practice meeting.

I was very upset about this as I have been in this job for (time) and have not had any problems, indeed i have been complemented on my work on many occasions. I enjoy my work and cannot understand why this attitude has been allowed to go unchallenged. I was so worried and upset that I have had to .....................

I would welcome the chance to talk this through with you at a convenient time and place. I would like to be accompanied to the meeting by (a supportive other)

Yours sincerely

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