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Apologies, confessions and a bit of a rant

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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. :)

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.
--- End quote ---

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

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.
-oblivion (February 10, 2019, 02:49 PM)
--- End quote ---

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.

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.

@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.


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