Seeing as I’ve failed to identify the one ‘inciting incident‘ to my workplace bullying ordeal, I’ve decided I will instead write about the series of incidents that led to it – and perhaps one of you who has the benefit of perspective will be able to pinpoint it for me.
The first time my boss unfairly reprimanded me:
I’d been on the job for about two and a half months. I work in a communications role and it’s my job to oversee the blog and social media (amongst other things). We had an item to promote to get some people involved in our project. I took the information given to me (which had already been emailed to various people) and posted it to the blog and social media. My boss asked me to repeat this process for another item, and forwarded the information to me (which had already been emailed out to other key people). I did just that. So far so good, right?
That evening after work I had an email conversation going back and forward with her because she noted there was something incorrect in the blog post. We were offering flights to people to take part. I assured her I would correct it on the blog and mentioned she might like to let the rest of the team know about it too as this was the information they were communicating in their email out. She said she didn’t know what email I referred to, so I forwarded on the email that she had earlier sent me (including her instruction to put it on the blog). Silence from her after that…
…Until the next morning at the office. She pulled up a chair by my desk, and said we needed to talk. She told me off for putting the wrong information on the blog. She said it was my job to make sure the information was correct, and I should have known better – that we would never under any circumstances have offered to pay for flights. Someone higher up had seen it, and it made us look bad, like we were throwing money away. The email with the information that my boss had forwarded on to me had been written by someone else (Tom), had apparently not been signed off by her, and Tom was also in trouble.
I approach things with a problem-solving framework: I work out the best solution going forward (blog post corrected) and analyse the steps leading to the problem to work out what went wrong, identify how we can change things to ensure the problem doesn’t occur again, and take necessary steps.
So, I spoke to my boss about the steps that led to this incorrect information getting onto the blog post. I mentioned I’d overheard her and Tom talking a couple weeks earlier about this EOI and that my boss had seemed to agree to pay for flights. She countered that this was a different situation, and things had changed, and Tom should have known that. I suggested that this could be where the confusion arose, an innocent misunderstanding. But my boss didn’t accept that, she said we needed to take responsibility for this mistake. I said I could only work with the information given to me, and I didn’t see how I could have done anything differently given the circumstances (overheard Tom and my boss talking about flights, my boss forwarded an email with this information to me and asked me to put it on the blog, and I did exactly as requested). She didn’t accept that.
Ultimately she just wanted me to accept the blame. It was stand off, there was nothing more I could say, other than apologise and promise to do better next time. I did just this.
I felt relieved when she then eased off, softened up, and confided in me the challenges she was having now that Barry had left – that no-one was helping her with her work. I nodded sympathetically, feeling kind of odd that she was now reaching out to me in this way. She seemed kind of needy and helpless, and it was kind of flattering that she was confiding in me in this way. My boss said we should talk more often as she realised I was working by myself (while others had their ‘teams’), and she set into our schedule a weekly one on one meeting. It felt like a barrier had been broken, and while I was still confused about the incident (being blamed for something that clearly wasn’t my fault), I thought that working closer with her would ensure that we didn’t have a repeat of this incident.
FYI, those weekly one-on-one meetings that were meant to bring us closer together: lasted total of 2 weeks before she went back to being ‘too busy’ for such things and became her usual distant, hard-to-talk-to boss.
- I think I’m in a bad place, and I’m afraid to leave. Why? (ask.metafilter.com)
- Keep the Boss Happy: 8 Rules (inc.com)