Standing Up

Should I give up?

Give Up

'Give Up' care of dublabrat

I’m feeling really low this week. I know it’s only my third post, and I’ve barely even begun to tell my story, yet I’m already feeling disheartened. My earlier posts were full of bravado.  A naivety that if I did “the right thing” in the face of my boss’s bullying, that somehow good would triumph. Just look at the title of this blog. I had dark fantasies about confronting her with the truth, the evidence, and her quietly accepting the truth and changing for the good of me and the team. Or another one involved me giving my evidence to HR or Workcover or one of her superiors who would go about punishing her and fixing our workplace up. My change of heart comes from facing a few bitter realities.

I recently revealed the problem to few close family members and friends. And their overwhelming advice is “whistle blowers are always scape-goated”, “she’ll be protected by people higher up”,  “you can’t win against people like that”, and I should “walk away, get another job.” It’s a hopeless situation in everyone’s opinion and best thing I can do is get far away as quick as possible.

I also read a couple of self help books on the topic (I’ll give a book review of these later). One is called “Working with Mean Girls” and the other is “Snakes in Suits”. They give pretty much the same advice: that you can’t win against these people and you’re better off leaving before they totally destroy you.

So I feel really crappy, like nothing I do is going to make any difference.

And the thought of getting another job, rather than filling me with hope, scares the hell out of me because who’s to say there isn’t another crappy boss
there? Snakes in Suits is about psychopaths in the workplace, and apparently there’s 1 in 100 in the population –  not to mention all the other people who aren’t so extreme but are still horrible to work with, like my current boss. I just don’t have the energy for it.

So I’m going through my days right now feeling tired, sad, hopeless. I just don’t know what to do. I wish there were some examples of people going through this stuff and coming out with a happy ending, rather than doom and gloom warnings of being destroyed and the need to run away. Anyone?

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Finding direction in an unfair workplace

Photo care of Ramkarthikblogger

My mind has been in a whirlwind the past two weeks, with so many ups and downs, and changes in ‘strategy’ to dealing with my hostile work environment. Now that I am here documenting what has happened it all looks so clear and black and white in hindsight, so obvious that I should take this course of action, but even just one week ago it wasn’t at all so clear and I was headed in a different direction. I guess what I’m trying to say is – when you are being bullied in the workplace you might not even realise it. And when you don’t know what’s going on, you’re confused and stressed and unhappy and lost and have no clear path forward because everything you do seems to be ‘wrong’ and get you in trouble with the boss.

Identifying and defining the problem has in itself been a weight off my shoulders. Now I know it’s not me (it’s not my fault, it’s not about whether I am or am not a nice or difficult person or a good or incompetent worker) most of the emotional baggage and indecision is removed. As far as my boss goes I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t, so there’s no point me stressing so much about it.

Better yet, when I started googling and researching the issue of bullying bosses, it led me to the realisation that this is an Occupational Health & Safety (oh&s) issue. Under the workplace relations code it is your boss’s care of duty requirement to create a safe working environment, but in her creating a stressful environment she is failing this.

This means that if I want to raise a complaint I don’t have to argue “she’s being mean to me”, which is a more personal, emotional, harder to prove, and not necessarily illegal action – instead I can raise the oh&s hazard of stress she’s creating in the workplace (and failing to counteract). This is so much easier to prove, and doesn’t have to be about “me” because our dysfunctional work environment is causing stress for the whole team.

Exploring the workplace codes there are in fact several points my boss has failed on, and it is with some relief to see it in black and white of the code spelled out what our rights are knowing that she is on the wrong side of them – this gives me something concrete to base my complaints on.

And this is the breakthrough for me. When I was in the midst of it, feeling confused and miserable and helpless, I couldn’t see any path forward except to put my head down, hope to avoid my bosses wrath, and prepare to look for a new job. At the same time my self confidence was so low from being told all the time that I was doing everything wrong and that noone liked me (and without any positive references from my boss and nothing to show that felt like an “achievement” from this job) I didn’t think I’d be able to get another job as good as this one. I felt lost.

Now I have direction. I am writing down incidents I’ve observed of her bullying myself and other team members, and as I do it becomes more and more clear, with logic and reason, how she has broken her duty of care. The emotion of the situation is removed, and I am reclaiming the self confidence she stole from me. I am reading up on the codes and working out the path to making a complaint – if I choose to.

I am realising that she controls people by lying and implying incompetence, making people feel ashamed of themselves and disconnected from other team members – and that has made me start reaching out to other team members, to make sure they are alright and know it is not them, and I am determined to build better connectedness and morale amongst out team so we are all happier and stronger.

Where before I was feeling helpless and powerless and alone – a victim – now I have regained direction and strength and think I can help other team members, so that together we can creative a happier healthier united workplace. And hopefully, together, we can get rid of our bullying boss.

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What kind of person are you?

Work has been sucking big time over the last couple months, I’ve been struggling to make sense of what’s going on because it seems like nothing I do is right by my boss. I’ve only got a couple months left on my contract, so I was starting to think about job hunting, and determined to just put my head down, bite my tongue, try to stay out of trouble, and focus on getting the job done without calling attention to myself. Lay low and see it out, hopefully get an okay reference to help me move on.

But then on the weekend I read a short article in the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Weekend that made me stop and think. Adrian Vanas works at Courage to Care – a program that helps kids stand up to bullying and prejudice. During World War II Adrian Vanas helped save the lives of more than 1100 Jewish people, and one of the things he tries to communicate to kids is that to stop injustice – whether it be the holocaust or bullying – it takes bystanders to stand up and take action when they see something wrong occurring.  Adrian reveals “There’s a certain thing I developed during the war years. As soon as I meet a person, my mind goes, ‘What sort of a person is he? Can I trust him?’

This made me stop and consider: what sort of person am I, if I do nothing to stop the bullying going on in my workplace? It’s not just me who is being badly treated, I’ve seen my colleagues suffer the same treatment at the hands of our boss.

To be honest even as I write this today I still don’t know exactly what action I will take, if any. Is it worth sticking my neck out, going through the stress of confronting this issue and the people involved, when I could instead learn to let it slide,  and go get another job elsewhere?  Who will believe me over the boss and her sidekick? Standing up to them is sure to create more stress and trouble for me, why bother? Ethically I know the right thing, but personally I don’t want to fight.

At this point I am still undecided as to ‘what sort of person I am,’ whether I will or won’t stand up about this issue.

While I deliberate on the topic I am going to write down my recollections of unfair incidents to date, evidence incriminating emails, test the waters with other staff to see who else has been having the same problems with the boss, read up on workplace bullying to see what I can do to overcome these problems, and learn about my rights and what actions I can take.

And yeah, I’m blogging about it. Hopefully there are others out there who can give me some tips about dealing with bully bosses, and equally I will share whatever I learn with you.

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