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Author Topic: Apologies, confessions and a bit of a rant  (Read 1636 times)

oblivion

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Apologies, confessions and a bit of a rant
« on: February 10, 2019, 02:49 PM »
I had a nice email recently that reminded me that I haven’t really contributed much here recently.

Which is nothing more or less than the truth. I’ve done little lately apart from asking for a coding snack which, for one reason or another, I ended up having to park. And I haven’t been very good at doing what I used to do — sticking my oar into things or attempting (with mixed results) to be amusing, occasionally trying to be helpful, so forth.

So, for no very good reason, beyond perhaps having some stuff I want to get off my chest, I’m going to do a little explaining of my recent history.

After apologizing for having all but disappeared, of course.

Somewhere around four years ago, my boss’s boss asked me to take on one of my boss’s responsibilities. In exchange for a promotion, if not a very dramatic one — it was going to amount to about £10 per week - and with a little reluctance because it was very much unknown territory for not much reward, I agreed.

Fast forward a year or so. My boss started to be Difficult about a particular issue relevant to a particular member of staff. I’m not going to go into much detail in the interests of privacy but the responsibility handed to me included three members of staff, one of whom was off sick at the time I took over and remained off sick through the whole of 2015. This spun off into a number of issues that had to be dealt with and required my boss to engage with one or two things that he simply refused to.

His refusal to engage with some issues wasn’t a big deal. With others, it just was. I ended up having to go over his head to avoid the other two members of the team quitting. He was not impressed, although I managed to keep the team together.

With the benefit of hindsight, what he spent his time doing was setting me up to fail. Pretty much constantly. And because I’m not the sort of person who enjoys failure, and because I’m quite good at finding alternate ways to solve problems, his attitude towards me became more and more confrontational, including a few occasions where he was actually shouting and swearing at me. So I tried to deal with that stuff -- we have policies and procedures for dealing with bullying, and I followed them -- but with no success.

By the end of 2017, our working relationship was nonexistent. I was, by then, unwilling to be in the same room as him if there were no others present. Our HR Department had failed to deliver on any of the promises it had made to me (me following our organisational policies notwithstanding) but eventually scheduled a mediation session for February last year. By that time, I wasn’t reporting to him any more and it was completely clear to everyone (me and the mediators, anyway) that as he had no skin in the game, he had no interest in solving the problem -- if, indeed, he ever had.

The failure of the mediation to achieve anything didn’t really surprise me. What DID surprise me was when my new boss summoned me to a meeting and informed me that a number of complaints had been made about me.

Investigations were undertaken, and despite the fact that there was no evidence for anything that had been said, alongside the fact that I’d been able to provide evidence for my various statements and refutations, I ended up in front of a disciplinary panel in August last year.

The case got thrown out. No evidence of any case to answer.

However. After the failure of the mediation process, my ex-boss went off sick with stress, and made it clear that he was going to refuse to return to work until the possibility of accidentally encountering me had been removed. I was asked to relocate from my office as a result (although the reasons given to me were vague and certainly didn’t include the actual truth) and I’ve ended up having to work from home pretty much all the time.

By November, I’d had a formal, written apology from our HR Department for the poor way they’d behaved, along with various assurances that things would be done to sort out office space and so forth.

In the last year, in the face of all this stuff being fired at me, I’ve been nominated for two staff awards for the quality of my work. (Didn’t win either, but even so...)

And here we are, in February of 2019, and still nothing has changed -- I’m still marginalised, still working from home, still coming up against stuff from my ex-boss that makes it clear that he’s doing his best to sabotage my career...

So anyway, all this stuff has made me a bit more introverted than usual. I’m not going to say “hopefully it’ll all be over soon” because I’ve been saying that sort of thing for four years now and it just goes on not being over at all.

If anyone has a mechanism for dealing with bullying that doesn’t require a properly functioning HR department, I’d love to hear about it. :)
 
-- bests, Tim

...this space unintentionally left blank.

cranioscopical

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Re: Apologies, confessions and a bit of a rant
« Reply #1 on: February 10, 2019, 03:16 PM »
If anyone has a mechanism for dealing with bullying that doesn’t require a properly functioning HR department, I’d love to hear about it.

An evening visit, at his home, by three large bikers?

wraith808

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Re: Apologies, confessions and a bit of a rant
« Reply #2 on: February 10, 2019, 03:41 PM »
If anyone has a mechanism for dealing with bullying that doesn’t require a properly functioning HR department, I’d love to hear about it.

A lot would depend on how large the company is, and how much you're invested in staying there.  If you have a letter from the HR department talking about the incident and their poor handling of it, you can burn the whole place down pretty effectively.  I'd suggest keeping a log of everything involved and every occurrence, no matter how small, so that if it does end up coming back against you, you'll have proof of everything from your side.  It's a pain, but it works.  Also, your director of HR reports to someone else.  If you can loop them in, that might be a way to circumvent them and get things done.  Of course, all of this is contingent on being willing to leave if it comes to that.

Not a great situation, and sorry that you've had to deal with it.  I hope it works out for the best for you in the end.

Dormouse

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Re: Apologies, confessions and a bit of a rant
« Reply #3 on: February 10, 2019, 05:15 PM »
I truly empathise. I have known people involved in similar situations and had to deal with some myself. Never easy. And always massively debilitating on more than one level.

My persistent mantra is that a bad employer degrades all its employees and a good employer does the reverse. Success with a bad employer has a limited outcome in the absence of leaving.

The problem I see in your account is that it is hard and procedural. And the outcomes have demonstrated the greater power of soft and interpersonal. If you can see the web of soft connections and influences, then you need to be willing to use it yourself. If you can't, then you would be much better off in an organisation that works procedurally as it ought to - but they are a minority. Someone other than your ex-boss must have pushed for the complaint against you to go to a disciplinary panel despite the lack of evidence.

In a normal organisation, your ex-bosses behaviour (going off with stress to manipulate the organisation) would be a very black mark on their record. Since it appears to have worked, he must have some power or influence that makes the organisation accommodate his flounces. If you can work out what that is, you might be able to find a way of disabling it. And at that point your log of his wrongdoings can be used in a formal complaint against him at a time when the organisation is willing to behave appropriately.

IainB

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Re: Apologies, confessions and a bit of a rant
« Reply #4 on: February 10, 2019, 10:54 PM »
@oblivion: Interesting case you describe here.
I discussed this with a friend of mine who is an employment lawyer. He has seen the sort of thing you describe happen to others before, in 3 different countries. He has a really lateral thinking type of approach, and has many major wins for his clients under his belt. This is the gist of what he says (I was taking notes!):

The cause: Essentially, if someone - typically a manager - decides to directly or indirectly perpetrate an "attack" on a person/target - threatening their employment prospects - in this way, it will typically be because, for example:
  • (a) The perpetrator has been directed to do so (e.g., because management are upset that the target has not toed the line on something that scares them and it may risk exposing their incompetence/law-breaking/mistake, but they don't have a valid reason to fire you).
  • (b) The perpetrator feels a personal malicious intent towards you and personally wishes to get rid of you (and sometimes your work associates as well), for some perceived crime or grievance reason - it doesn't necessarily have to make a lot of sense, either.
  • (c) You may be perceived as simply being in the way of the perpetrator's career progress, and therefore a threat to be disposed of.
  • (d) The perpetrator is a social psychopath and you happen to be his/her unlucky target (not so common, but it does happen and is apparently a relatively well-documented syndrome in corporations).

The perpetrator might not be a "bad" person, per se, but could be deficient in some regard of personality/character and is compensating by attacking you, especially if they (say) feel that your presence or good actions risk showing them in a correspondingly bad light, by comparison (this is apparently not uncommon).
The perpetrator may try to use every trick in the book to cast you in a bad light, including, but not limited to some pretty typical ones:
(i) Engineering the performance review: Ensuring that you get a bad performance review or bad 360° feedback reports (e.g., getting your co-workers to "independently" report their concerns about you, etc., yet it is all fabricated). The co-workers who are dumb/gullible enough to make such reports may have no feelings pf animosity towards you, may not realise that what they are reporting will be used against you - as a hatchet job - but are obligingly making a report because they have been asked or instructed to do so. People in this category go along with it because they may be just dumb, or fearful for their own safety/job protection, or lack the spine to object to it and daren't object as that would be raising their heads above the parapet.
(ii) Entrapment: Trying to entrap you in a manufactured situation which could show you in a bad light (try to ensure there are independent witnesses to your dealings) - e.g., journalists do this all the time as a matter of course (think fake news).
(iii) Falsification: Falsifying reports about you and what you may have said, losing the context (try to avoid having one-on-one meetings with such people).
(iv) Mis-direction: e.g., (say) to draw people's attention away from something they'd rather was kept covered up/concealed (another journo trick and one well-practiced by politicians).

Why does the persecution treatment persist?
  • You're authorised as the target: Maybe you did something wrong to deserve it in the first place, but regardless as to how it actually started, the only reason you are continuing to get the slow torture treatment meted out to you as you described is probably that the perpetrator (behind the torture) is being supported (for whatever reason) by the boss, and thus by the HR dept.
  • Without that support, it couldn't happen and would have been killed stone dead.
  • The HR dept aren't there to help YOU - they are most decidedly NOT your friends and are categorically NOT interested in fair play as they are there with the express objective of ensuring that the company personnel are managed rigidly as per contract and to protect from and minimise legal risk/cost to the company under any/all circumstances of employment (think Google's no-option-but-to-fire software engineer James Damore, whose carefully-constructed "open" essay gave the perception that it could effectively implicitly offer a de facto criticism of Google's hiring processes as being sexist, which criticism Google, of course, could never have tolerated or admitted to, as Delmore would probably have been only too well aware).

What can you do about it?
Probably not a lot as far as you seem to be heading at present. However, instead of repeatedly defending yourself by repeatedly throwing your efforts at a brick wall, treat the whole thing as an opportunity.
You can't really want to work there any more after the way you have been treated. From what you describe, they must want to get rid of you pretty bad. That will have a dollar value - it will probably already have been costing them a lot to get thus far. Somebody's budget will be copping those costs, and it will be an unproductive indirect cost to be charged against profits. You can't run a business like that. Companies can't afford to support dysfunctional and costly petty political fun-and-games, so there is probably something serious at the root of it. Follow the money. Under what circumstances would these behaviours make sense? Where is the profit in these behaviours? Who is protecting whom, and why?

My lawyer friend suggested that you go and talk to a decent employment lawyer about it and discuss the idea of constructive dismissal. The company have already goofed and apologised for that goof (from what you write) and that latter point (the apology) is another goof, but it is also a potentially golden egg - admission of mistake.
If you did go to a lawyer, he/she would probably suggest writing a letter (from the lawyer), offering your resignation on payment of (say) 2 years' severance pay in lieu of notice and due to length-of-service + pension severance entitlements, holiday leave, + lotsa moolah (damages) for the unpleasant machinations they have already put you through (and apologised for!), etc. There will be a negotiation, and you might come out with something less (if you wanted to accept it), but you set the upper limit in that initial letter.

Interesting negotiations: If you have a decent and relatively new company vehicle with (say) a $30,000 market value, then offer to buy it for a few hundred dollars, which would correspondingly reduce the potentially taxable payments in lieu.
They will be much more likely to be open to discussing a without prejudice offer as an alternative to being sued publicly in an employment court. It's cheaper and private. No-one likes bad advertising regarding their atrocious HR practices.
To protect yourself after exit, it is vital to make it conditional to the severance agreement that the company agrees to expunge your personnel files and records and performance reports and any copies thereof within two weeks and will not make, keep or provide such records nor make any verbal or written job references or comment to anybody, regarding your employment with the company. (This has teeth. You can penalise them with seriously hefty fines if they breach that.) You will become an unremembered ghost and they won't smear your reputation.
« Last Edit: February 10, 2019, 11:06 PM by IainB »

Contro

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Re: Apologies, confessions and a bit of a rant
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2019, 03:26 PM »
 :-* Are you a programmer ?

I am not the most indicated to tell you nothing. I have been ruined twice in my life. All the money lost. Now I work for myself but I have spent long periods working for others as commercial : selling bricks, elevators , fire extinguisers, books and so on.
I also think I deserve more, but the reality tells me is not an easy thing.
Everything for me is relative (as Einstein told), so I apply good sense of humor and perseverance.
I have been for years president of business people and never will let anybody treats me with injustice. I will fight forever. And of course neither of my fellows.
I have defeated the injustice many times with the simplest words.
So I hope you will be happy doing the very best for you. Put the point in place.

 :P

mouser

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Re: Apologies, confessions and a bit of a rant
« Reply #6 on: February 25, 2019, 06:50 PM »
I'm sorry to hear about your struggles with humans and office politics.. This article about autistic workspaces came to mind -- though I'm not saying your issues have anything to do with that.

I don't have any good advice about such things.. It sounds incredibly stressful.  But you aren't giving up and that's the important thing, I think.  Try to rise above the bitterness and frustration and be as zen about it all as you can be.

oblivion

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Re: Apologies, confessions and a bit of a rant
« Reply #7 on: February 28, 2019, 09:20 AM »
Thanks to everyone -- many wise words and supportive stuff, and that's all really helpful, even if only to help me arrange my thoughts.

I have another meeting with HR next week. The idea seems to be "as long as we talk to him occasionally, he won't throw his toys out of the pram."

I'm not sure about zen-like, but I'm planning on spending some more time investigating meditation, just as a way to achieve some more focus.

I'm planning to ask HR why their policy appears to allow perjury (okay, it wasn't a courtroom but it was a formal inquiry) to pass with impunity but for the subject of the attack to continue to be excluded, marginalised and anything else I can think of that reflects the way I feel.

Thing is, the organisation (whether it likes it or not) doesn't have anyone else who's prepared to get down-and-dirty with some of the more specialised systems we use. (I didn't say, but I work for a hospital. Or three hospitals, really, all part of a single organisation. So some of the specialised systems interact with diagnostic equipment with a specialist operator at one end, a patient at the other, and a PC and/or a file server somewhere around making things happen, or just storing data, or some combination thereof.) Most of our techies don't deal with the clinical elements of our systems or, if they do, it's only the data movement and storage end of things.

But that makes me complicated and confusing. My management wants me to be like a Lego brick (replaceable with any other Lego brick with access to an interchangeable set of core skills) but my primary attribute -- I get interested in weird stuff and have enough smarts to be able to apply general computing skills to things that look very, very odd being used by people with some extremely specialised skills in their own right -- isn't something that's easy to duplicate. I'm not unique, but I'm definitely regarded in that way and it's only a small step to jump from "weird" to "a problem to be solved."

It's almost certainly the case that my ex-boss has (a) a personality disorder, (b) a history of ... how to put this ... inappropriate relationships with colleagues that has almost certainly added another human being to the world, and (c) no people skills -- which may be related to (a) and may just be How It Is.

I think point (b) above may be the root of some of my problems, because I was quite friendly with two of the colleagues I'm aware of and, despite his apparent desire to stay married, I think -- not jealousy, exactly, but an overwhelming need to possess things / people  -- caused me to be regarded as The Enemy.

How much of this stuff I can use to make my problems go away? Maybe none of it. But I've just turned 57 (3 weeks ago today, for the curious) and it's hard to see that potential alternative employers are going to be easy to find, particularly if I don't want to go back to spending hours commuting.

In one sense, though, I'm really lucky, and really grateful. The people I work most closely with -- various clinicians, clinical managers and teams -- have all been really supportive, and never fail to remind me how helpful they feel I am, and how much better it is that I'm there for them rather than how it used to be before I got involved with their systems. And some of the letters they wrote (character references for the disciplinary that I ended up not needing to use) -- well, perhaps I should just say that a tear or two was shed.

So I'm still battling on. I just wish I felt that the corporate side of the organisation was a bit more inclined to fairness (rather than just paying lip service to the concept.)

And I'm still not doing very well at contributing here. Hopefully, that'll improve with time. :)
-- bests, Tim

...this space unintentionally left blank.

wraith808

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Re: Apologies, confessions and a bit of a rant
« Reply #8 on: February 28, 2019, 11:51 AM »
This isn't the life you deal with day to day.  Look at this as an escape, and visit as you have a chance.  I hope things get better- I know how work can affect all of the other areas of your life.  :) :Thmbsup: