I have a friend who is a screenwriter, and he has asked me to identify the ‘inciting incident’ to by bosses bullying (film speak for the moment when things changed, point of no return). I wish life was so clear-cut that you could divide events up into a three act hero’s journey structure (sorry more film jargon!) with a clear protagonist, antagonist, storyline, theme, and resolution. But life is more muddled. Unfortunately I can’t help but think that if life were a movie I would just be an ‘extra’ in someone else’s film.
I can’t pick a clear ‘inciting incident’, however there were hints amongst the honeymoon period that all was not so glorious. The Office Co-ordinator, Naomi, is one of those people who wears a permanent sunny smile and is happy to help out in any way she can. Yet my boss would make snide comments about her, roll her eyes, insinuate that she was incompetent. I am ashamed to admit that while I noticed this with a sense of unease, I never spoke up. I didn’t want to see the negatives, I wanted to love my job, part of me knew it was wrong for my boss to behave like this, and another part of me wondered if there was a history there of Naomi indeed being bad at her job.
We would have team meetings with all present except Naomi. One day when Barry wondered if we could get Naomi in to take meeting notes my boss rolled her eyes and said she really wouldn’t be capable of it. My boss would blame Naomi if the meeting room wasn’t booked properly, if refreshments hadn’t been ordered in preparation of meeting guests, if Naomi was not at her desk to answer a phone call, she would say that Naomi had access to a file or information that I needed and to get it from her – yet Naomi would tell me that she had no knowledge of what our boss was referring to.
At the time I thought that Naomi was a lovely person but perhaps not particularly skilled or good at her job.
Later when I found myself on the receiving end of our bosses bullying behaviour, I realised that Naomi was in fact set up to fail. She couldn’t book a room for a meeting our boss hadn’t told her about. She couldn’t give me a file she had no access to. She was doing the best she could, with a boss who had fired two Office Co-ordinators in a matter of months before hiring Naomi in the role. Naomi is a bloody hero for being able to put up with my boss for as long as she has, and do it with a smile.
I, on the other hand, do not find my own behaviour befitting the ‘hero’s journey’. I feel like a coward. And even when I do imagine standing up and making a difference, it is only in my own head. Writing this blog, with the bold proclamation to be about ‘beating the bully boss’, when in real life I don’t see much likelihood of that happening. Life is not a movie. The good guys don’t triumph. The only thing we can hope to do is minimise the damage.