Thursday, 5 November 2015

How to divert from a difficult topic

I respect my leader a lot because I can observe and learn from his behaviour to build my own leadership skills.  He is level headed, objective, emotionally intelligent and more.  In recent months I have brought up the topic of my career progression again and again, just to keep it on his radar and make sure there is no misunderstanding (bad experience I had with a previous bully boss).

So, this week I called him as he was traveling overseas to discuss this and that, including my dissatisfaction with my current situation.  I tell him as it is and then he answers, referring to my comments.  Right after that however, he diverts from the subject - and he always does it in the same way: he says what he is up to for the rest of the day, then next week and the week after, that he will be off work then but that I can always contact him by text message.  He does this on many occasions when he just wants to move away from a subject.  He gets me to move away from a frustrating, yet important for me, subject and makes me feel important and appreciated in the end just by saying I can contact him at any time, even during his holiday.

Only now after several months I can see the pattern.  On the one hand I sometimes feel fooled because he can manage any conversation very skilfully, while on the other hand I admire him for this and almost feel privileged to be able to work with him.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Becoming more aware: body language and EQ

Currently I am working on developing my soft skills, which will be useful for the type of job I am doing.  On a regular basis I need to provide a vision to several people, get them on board for my ideas, have them share their ideas, motivate them and build a mutually trustful relationship.  By nature I would appear to have a high EQ.  I noticed in my early teens that I pick up subtleties others would not, although it took me into my early 20s specify this further and come across high sensitivity and the concept of emotional intelligence.   

So, there was me and my coworker today whose background could not be any more different.  I am European, he is Chinese, none of us has English as their first language.  I tend to be direct and managed to offend people from another background in the past.  Friends have told me they were intimidated by me when we first met, so my focus was on starting today's meeting in a relaxed atmosphere, observe and adjust my voice and words accordingly.  After all this meeting was about him taking on more work and contribute to what I do and I needed him to get on board for this and wanting to work with me.

His body language was tense and he looked as though he wanted to leave this meeting.  I sensed he was worried about being overloaded with work and tried to find a way to put him at ease, say something that would help him, not interfere with my own values and still help to mutually agree our way forward.  After some time I reassured him that it is important to me the people I work with are happy and than I am happy if they can balance work and their 'other life'.  I gave him an idea as to what his focus would be on in the coming months so he got a sense of the expectations by taking on this project.  Maybe 40 minutes into this meeting I saw a sudden shift.  He relaxed in his chair and was even leaning forward.  It was as though a huge weight fell off him and he then said it would be good for him to take on this work as he can learn a lot.  I could not help but smile at this success for both of us.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Divide and conquer with the bully boss

The middle aged female bully boss likes to surround herself with young males in the early or mid 20s.  She loves the attention they give each other, while the junior colleagues cannot reach her the water in terms of achievements and have one thing I do not: a penis.  I mean it.  The bully boss does not like other women, which has become more than obvious.  I am yet to figure out what triggers this, but it is easy to tell how she reacts having other women near her: she throws them under the bus, badmouths them, intimidates them and gives them the cold shoulder.  When with other women the bully boss has to have her way and will do anything to get this.

Today she surrounded herself with four junior colleagues, three males and one female, and started gossiping about the leader. Two of them are her direct reports.  She disclosed information from a meeting with the leader and other line managers, while at the same time discounting what the leader said in that meeting.  The young colleagues all agreed with her and I wish them that one day they will be independent and strong enough to have their own opinion.

Those young people must have felt part of the club chatting about this stuff with a senior person.  What they do not know is that the recent organizational changes have, in fact, meant the demotion of the bully boss and that she has lost credibility amongst other seniors.  She excels as an individual contributor and has brought in a lot of money for the company, but the lacks situational awareness nor does she understand her responsibilities as a manager.  The be friends with her is not something I would aim for, but I may be biased here.

Monday, 7 September 2015

The bully still behave as if she was my boss.  The situation has been this:

Every monday the bully boss held a team meeting - this was started long time ago - without an agenda any kind of structure.  Sometimes she would ask me what I am working on, or would want to know some detail of my work rather than providing the big picture, the framework.  Nothing ever came out of these meetings nor did the bully boss remember anything I said.  Quite often she would ask me the same questions repeatedly in different Monday meetings.

Some weeks ago the bully boss had authority removed and the leader (her boss and now also mine) took over the monday meetings.  He would go around and give everyone the chance to speak briefly to address any concerns or burning issues.  If critical the leader would follow up on some items.  Now, sometimes the leader is not here, so he has asked the bully boss to hold these meetings on his behalf.

It is not that the bully boss has learned how to hold a constructive meeting since the leader took over.

As soon as it started she asked me:

Bully boss (BB): So, target, what are you working on at the moment?
Me: Just the usual stuff (I don't report to her after all)
BB: So, have you got your project finished?
Me: Yes, we finished last week.
BB: When does it go live?
Me: In September (how many times I have I said this before???)
BB (trying to find other munition): So, what about your trip to Brazil?
Me: Yes, I'm going to Brazil.
BB: When are you going?
Me: I am going in October.
BB: Who are you meeting?
Me: We are setting up meetings at the moment.
BB: And who are you meeting? Are you getting help from this other lady?
Me: I am working on it with 'this other lady' and the leader.  If you are interested I can share with you the agenda when it is finalised.

BB looked visibly confused not being used to boundary setting.  Instead of focusing on important things that need to be addressed rather urgently, she randomly picks subjects and wants full reporting on them.  It's not that the leader is on annual leave, he is just not in the office but working, and there just is no need for her to try and get detailed reporting from me about an upcoming business trip, especially when the leader, my boss, is available otherwise, just not physically.  This as example my seem trivial on its own, but it was a pattern until not long ago.  It is a way to control other peoples work.  How I know that?  Well, the bully boss has not been constructive in bringing up the subject and her asking.  She has not come up with any ideas or constructive feedback - she just felt she is entitled to be kept in the loop for whatever reason and that I am obliged to answer. Maybe she needed to feel in authority, I don't know, but her asking was not leading a team nor did she represent the leader in his absence.

When I gave here the final answer, she was seeking approval from two junior team members.  You know when one looks at another like 'Are you thinking what I am thinking?'.  She needed them to agree that I am acting in a weird way, apparently, because I did not oblige.

Friday, 21 August 2015

A 1 to 1 with the leader

After my first one to one with the leader today I felt energized and motivated.  The leader has understood my career ambitions and clearly stated his expectations.  He asked for my opinion and went through my objectives for the rest of the financial year.  He also suggested a weighing of the objectives, was complimentary about my strengths and gave me ideas for development opportunities.  He was totally calm which enabled me to remain calm as well.  The meeting was a positive experience and I know I can approach him anytime about anything.

Previously with the bully boss, the boss started the meeting nervously and unprepared.  I did not feel the bully boss was in tune with my achievements during the year nor that she cared.  She would spend time talking highly of her favourites in the team (all young boys right from uni or with little experience, while herself she is a middle aged woman) and how lucky we are to have hired them.  She told me how good they are and mentioned some of their objectives to me.  I would desperately try and tell her what I have done and get her to notice it because I knew it is important for my advancement.  The bully boss' mind had no time for it so it seemed and would never follow up on our discussion.  At the end of the year I would complete my self-assessment, list my achievements and tell the bully boss during the review, but the bully boss would not comment.  Instead she would sit there and just look at me, before drifting off to speaking about other people.  I felt confused, abused and demotivated.  It sucked the life out of me.

Monday, 10 August 2015

On Honeymoon with the leader

Today was day 1 with my new boss as he returned from annual leave.  It is incredibly liberating to be able to work in a safe place and it looks like I am one of the few targets that do not eventually need to leave their job due to bullying.

As a number one rule leaders need to make their direct reports look as good as possible, so the new reporting structure has been disguised as reorganisation within the business unit.  Well, I am certain some changes would have taken place anyhow, but if it ain't broken don't fix it, right?  In some way the bully boss has had responsibility removed and I consider myself lucky to have this kind of outcome for myself.

How did the bully boss react?  Well, the bully boss went into silent treatment.  I now definitely no longer exist for her.  Although we sit only three meters away, there is no eye contact, no good morning, no goodbye, nothing.  I sensed a similar behaviour towards her manager which now is also my manager.  I no longer need to care.

So, this is me on the honeymoon with the new boss and I look forward to re-assess the situation in a few months time once I get a full picture.  I am very optimistic. It cannot get worse.  Gone is the feeling of powerlessness against the manipulation of the higher ranking people, against the bad mouthing of my ability to perform the job, the isolation from the rest of the team, the pitting of team members against each other to establish winners and losers (me), the intimidation and the fault finding with anything I do.  I salute everyone who has gone through this longer than me (18 months).  It took me about six months to figure out something is not right, another six months to realise I cannot fix the situation and another six months to fight for an outcome I can live with.

I do not know how much it has helped to report the issue to HR, but I do know that I would do it again.  What did I have to lose? I had reached a stage where I was prepared to leave the company on the spot, so I thought I might as well try this route before acting on Plan B after quitting.  It has been stressful and exhausting but so is putting up with bullying and I am glad I stood up for myself.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Getting back to old self

After months of fighting I have a new boss and I am not the only one.  Two more people from the 'old' team have been moved under a different manager.  It probably is not coincidence that those two were the bully boss' favourites, while I was the least favourite unable to accomplish anything, apparently.

The dynamics will change now and it will be interesting to watch.  I believe the bully boss has been confused since the news came and has been giving me the silent treatment.  She has also snapped at her manager - the bully boss and myself now report to the same person.  I have no problem with it, but I am sure she has.  The bully boss wants exclusive access to the higher ups she desperately tried to keep me out of while I was under her.  This was one way to control me and make sure I do not look good in front of them.   She badmouthed me.

This is the most relaxed Sunday night in a long time. 

Thursday, 18 June 2015

What the bully says and what they really mean

The bully boss said the following in an important meeting:

'I do think (my name) is a good person, I want to support her and want her to progress.' - while shaking her head.


Monday, 15 June 2015

News from the HR room

Are you a people leader?

Do you think you can make your own rules in the company?

Do you tell your underlings you have seen it all?

Do you tell your underlings you want to get them to a level to do things they did not think they could do?

Welcome to an HR meeting with me, where you can learn to do things you did not think you can do.  You may be senior and close to retirement, but you are not God who truly has seen it all.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Getting ready for more abuse and putdowns

After five days away from the bully boss the business trip felt like a holiday.  We enjoyed work and laughter and I learnt that 'the shit at work does not increase proportionally'.  I am not sure this applies in my case, as the better I do and the more I accomplish the more emotional abuse I experience.  Under no circumstances does the bully boss want me to progress.  So I lower my expectations and prepare for more emotional battering, putdowns and lies.  This way I won't be as disappointed or surprised.  It's the way we operate at this place.  It's best to disengage and stop fighting for my work to get recognised or else I will drain emotionally, but use this energy elsewhere.

Friday, 5 June 2015

I sat there rock solid

Today was an important meeting: I called for HR to mediate between the bully boss and myself.  The bully boss' boss was also present. This gentleman deserves to be called leader.  The issue I brought up was that my grade etc. within the company does not reflect the work I do and the responsibility I have.  At least that is how I feel.  Another issue was work environment and I stressed that some people in the team are not wanted and that I am one of them.  That there is a divide in the team and friction.  I made it clear that this is my perception only.

The bully boss was nervous beforehand and during the meeting.  I was nervous the day before and kept wondering what the outcome would be?  However, at the start of the meeting itself a high level of confidence came over me and I sat there rock solid the whole hour.  We discussed this and that.  I spend some time defending myself, trying to make the bully boss aware of all the things I have accomplished.  She tried pushing my buttons a few times, and while I put some things right I maintained this high level of confidence just to fuck her off.  What was typical for the bully boss was that she told lies.  In particular, we had a client come in earlier this week and I told her I do not have a presentation on the shelf on one of the subjects he wanted to speak about and that it would be good if he could let us know what he's interested in.  The bully boss responded:

'I don’t think that its appropriate for us to create new presentations. If you don’t have any slides I suggest you come along and be there to answer any questions that he may have on the subject.'

And what did the bully boss do in the meeting today? Exactly.  The bully boss said I did not have any slides and that she would have made any effort to put something together, implying I did not care and was not prepared and not willing.  Of course I put things right and forwarded the email to the leader afterwards.  

What the bully boss wants is to break my confidence.

Happy weekend.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Sunday Nights

It is sunday night and I am dreading going back to work tomorrow.  Sunday nights and Monday mornings are always the worst, with discomfort increasing on my way to work.  Tomorrow two weeks ago I was terrified whilst walking to the office; it sometimes is as if I know something is going to happen and something did happen.  The bully boss once again engaged in faultfinding: I phoned another colleague in the morning and we had a chat.  Later this morning in a meeting (room) the bully boss pointed out that she heard me talk on the phone and that I said 'X' and she did not agree with it. 

Mind your own business.

Every time you pick on me you are telling me a whole lot about yourself.  What you do not know is that I can read people and I can see through you.  The truth probably is, that you envy me for my relationship building skills with colleagues across the globe and you just did not like the fact that I talked to this person about whatever.  I talked to two other overseas colleagues that morning and this may have been a bit much for you.  You probably feel that you should do the same but never get round to it, so you need to put me down to make yourself feel better.  A colleague pointed out I should go to a private office next time, but I did that when you became my boss and you thought I am not working in there.  Been there done that.  People who do not trust others cannot be trusted.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

The bully wants to control

For a long time I thought there was something wrong with the way I do my work, despite stellar reviews from previous line managers.  Ther was always some detail that was not good enough, and the bully boss made an elephant out of it.  For quite a few months I thought I just need time to adapt to the new boss, but soon realised this would proof impossible.  You cannot and must not adapt to someone's mood swings and bullying episodes but disengage.  After about six months I was sure I was being picked on and the term 'bullying' crossed my mind for the first time.  However, I dismissed these first signs as I was sure this was not the bully boss' intention and I gave her the benefit of the doubt, strongly believing that at some point in the future things would improve.

I began to see a pattern: the bully boss has mood swings which go hand in hand with shifts in confidence to insecurity.  The bully boss likes to feel superior, and she achieves that by putting down others. This is neccessary because nobody is superior to others and most definitely not her.  To the bully boss social status is very important, so she talks about well off friends who do not have to work and which expensive purchases she has made.  The bully boss also wants to be seen as the smartest and hardest working individual, not just in the team, but in the business unit, or perhaps even the whole company.  So, the bully boss regularly points out how many hours she puts in:  she sees sending out a report at 10 PM as hard work and stellar commitment and comes in some mornings telling everyone who is not interested how long she stayed last night or that she worked at home until 2 AM.  The bully is a lonely soul.  The bully also puts down the achievements of others, in my case mine, and begins manipulating people higher in ranking so I look bad and she better.  It was then when things started to affect my health as I just could not get my head around the fact this was happening.  From then on, I increased my networking activities in the company to not lose my reputation.  I began to build rapport with others, even outside the team, to share and cross-check my observations.  There was very little evidence against my observations.

Friday, 29 May 2015

The bully does not say goodbye

That's right.  Often when I leave the office and say 'bye everyone', everyone but the bully responds.  She pretends not to hear it and looks down on her keyboard, but behaves completely differently when another team member leaves.  The same applies to 'saying good morning' - everyone but me gets one.  Occasionally, she does acknowledge and I cannot help but think this is because her boss is in the office that day.  So, I lowered my expectations of my boss and and it is no longer my issue but her's.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

My boss bullies me.  She has done so from day one and it took me almost a year to be absolutely certain.  She has only been my boss for 18 months, but this has been long enough to cause damage to my health, career progress and reputation within my company.  The first incident took place just a few weeks after she became my boss when she called me into a room to discuss the outline of a presentation for a client.  Once we were in there she started interrogating me about one of the subjects I am an analyst for at this company - every answer I gave was met with scepticism and prompted her to ask me another question or respond with 'yes, but...'.  It was then I had the first inkling of what could happen in the coming months.

I am still with this company and would like to share my story to encourage others to expose bullies (as tactfully as possible, it's for your own good) and take a helicopter view of the situation for your sanity.  Whenever I feel I can no longer take this shit, I look at a recent situation from above and then I almost fall off the chair laughing.