1. Tim

    I had a great job with my last employer. I was a key and efficient player in a great team in a great corporation. I was reviewed regularly as going an excellent job. There was no indication in reviews that I had any need to do anything except to continue to deliver more of the same, which included improving the delivery of the service I provided to the team and corporation as a whole. Indeed, an annual review should be exactly that, something which gives you no surprises. Any underperformance should be handled now, at once, and without awaiting annual appraisal.

    A new manager arrived, hired from outside, with a different ethos. We met, spoke, chatted, and all was fine.

    Then, a few months in, the appraisal happened.

    I had gone into the meeting expecting to negotiate a pay rise and was presented with an unsatisfactory rating on my review.

    I was an experienced manager, I’d been a CEO in a prior role. This went against everything I had ever been taught about good management. I weathered the storm, or so I thought. I reasoned that the new manager had decided things had to work differently, so I would work differently. This is the art of being a good subordinate.

    A couple of months later I made a simple and small forgivable error. The corporate culture was then to report such things to the manager in order to receive help in solving the issue. The help I received was a disciplinary hearing with a view to summary dismissal. But worse, during the sunup to the hearing I was made to travel to the USA in the company of the hostile manager, who rode my ‘case’ all the way to the hearing, making me unwell to the extent that I had to visit my doctor for treatment for stress.

    That visit saved my job, because I was able to present evidence that I was being treated formally for depression. I suffered from short term acute depression, caused by my abusive manager, and this was the doorway to my not being dismissed out of hand. I did, however, receive a formal and final written warning. This meant that any minor shortfall would mean dismissal.

    While I can produce no evidence that the process was instigated by my manager, who was an extreme bully, nor that it was rigged by her, nor that the subsequent appeal was rigged by her, I had to use all means at my disposal to defend myself. This included the depression and also coming out in the workplace as a gay man. These items made it possible for me to claim discrimination on the basis of sexuality and of (limited) disability had they fired me.

    After the appeal the manager exhibited her unpleasant tendencies for a couple more months, making my life unbearable to the extent that all my colleagues noticed. She set me impossible tasks, and claimed that my job involved things that it had never involved, that I had received no instructions on, and that were not expected of me in the normal course of things.

    I was lucky. I lasted until they made me redundant, and came away paid off to go away quietly.

    The point I am making is that bullies can be in unassailable positions and can use their position to bully the worker by using the corporate processes. At that point the employee has no choice but to work out how to weather the storm.

    I’d hoped she would be fired for both her behaviour and lack of competence before I was. I had to go anyway once I had the written warning and was looking for a new role, one I walked into straight away as a freelancer. She was fired 18 months later for all of her behaviour.

    Ah, reach out to the boss… I did. The boss apologised for hiring her, but said that they had no influence over the proceedings

    One cannot survive a bully in a senior position. One can just rejoice when they get their come uppance.

    • Robert Brotchie

      Thank you for sharing, Tim.
      I think your story will resonate with many. I agree that it is seemingly impossible to ‘win’, when the antagonist is holding a senior position. However, I have also witnessed on more than one occasion, how when victims do fight back, usually at the cost of their role, change can occur. It’s less than ideal of course that someone has to suffer further for this to occur.
      It has to be a cultural change in companies who are responsible enough to need HR administration. How we come about that change is unclear.

      • Tim

        HR is the key. Human ‘resources’ manage the resources of the corporation that happen to be human. The old Personnel Department worked far better on behalf of the corporation and the employee together. HR are a provider of units of Full Time Equivalent Staff Members, and the team who dispose of them.

        The disciplinary process is also based for the employer. Justice is unimportant to the process. The right corporate outcome is what is required.

        I managed to get rid of my nemesis by insisting on a termination interview six months after I left. And, most important, I am now happy and retired. She, by contrast, is not the type of person ever to find contentment. I like that. I like that a lot

  2. Jibron Kazi

    Regrettably, I have to agree with Tim. A bully in a senior position can be VERY challenging to bring down. The best thing to do in this situation is to find another place. After all, you deserve to be happy, productive and bottom line, you are worth it. One thing is for sure, karma will get them sooner or later. Hopefully we’ll get to watch 🙂 As far as fighting back goes, you should always fight back and stand up for yourself. It triggers ‘self growth’. Uncertainty is part of life and we should accept it and move forward like warriors.

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