Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PET PATSY OR POLLYANNA?



Some management  at CIT may be relieved at being found to have ‘done no wrong’ after bullying allegations were not ‘proven’ against them, but other staff and victims know that as well as official complaints against them, there are countless unofficial ones – the lower levels talk because up to now it’s all they could do!

Many know staff affected by this nasty ‘management style’ – otherwise called bullying. Management have had some staff in tears on many occasions while favouring other staff who have glowed and prospered under the sunshine of their good regard and over blown praise. In this way, bullies create worshipers who will support them to the ends of the earth.  Their worshipers  so relieved to be among the chosen few may not realise that this has been achieved through a process of divide and conquer.

The manager has her pets and her patsy’s. Often, managers will rely upon their pets for evidence in their favour when a case comes up against them. The pet will be used to support their claim about the ‘over sensitivity’ of their colleague, or personal information like having ‘trouble at home’ will be used to ‘prove’ their ‘over-reaction’ to ‘common and reasonable management directives’.

Sometimes they will agree and/or manufacture evidence that the victim was not that good at her job anyway. You can imagine the reflected glory that the supportive pet may bask in then. When the bully has worked at the place for years, who do you think will be believed? Some sociopathic bullies relish the power their ‘promote and destroy’ games gives them. Some play them for all of their careers. Some have played them at CIT for 20 years plus.

It can be very difficult to make a complaint stick. How do you get across to those you complain to about the tone of voice used towards you when given management direction? How do you describe a voice dripping with sarcasm? How do you explain the way your question is answered with a sneer and a laugh indicting how stupid you are? How do you explain or even prove that this manager’s manner towards you is always condescending, that you are not allowed to move without checking with them first, that you are never allowed to show any initiative and are reprimanded when you do? How do you get across that you feel demeaned every day when others say they have no problem with this person?

In this situation my advice would be to do several things, but whatever you do, DO IT NOW.

  • ·         DO NOT HESITATE TO DO SOMETHING IMMEDIATELY.
  • ·         DO NOT ADOPT A WAIT AND SEE ATTITUDE
  • ·         STAND ON YOUR DIGNITY BY RESPECTFULLY CHALLENGING THE BULLY OR:
  • ·         GET SOME ASSERTIVENESS TRAINING IMMEDIATELY
  • ·         GATHER EVIDENCE NO MATTER WHAT THE OUTCOME
  • ·         TELL SOMEONE SENIOR
  • ·         DO NOT NECESSARILY AGREE TO MEDIATION 


Don’t think of playing it cool, or ‘wait and see’. Don’t tell yourself that you have not been at the place long enough … that you have not established yourself because this is what the bully is counting on.  If you are casual, do not let fear that the bully will affect your employment stop you – they will try anyway if they have already started in on you, and the best way to deal with it is to recognise it and be proactive immediately, if all you do as a first measure is to gather evidence.

Stand on your dignity. Unless you are a certified lunatic yourself, chances are the person bullying you really is and why should you be subject to that for even a second? If they are half decent, they may apologise immediately – even some sociopaths will apologise in the first instance to give them time to consider their next move – or, to throw you off balance. If they are sociopaths it will get worse whether you DO or DON’T DO anything. Some bullies are actually gutless cowards and the minute you stand up to them they back off, though they may still undermine you quietly (if they are sociopaths) which is why you MUST keep records of your attempt to deal with the bullying positive and negative.

The FIRST time someone speaks to you in a way you do not like, you need to immediately let them know. Don’t be aggressive or rude, just say ‘That came across as a bit … is that what you meant?’ This gives both of you the opportunity to have a reasonable discussion and importantly, if you get a nasty aggressive or dismissive response; document it. It is important evidence of the beginning of a pattern so put it in a diary. Document it even if you get an apology. If nothing comes of it – great, if it does - you’ll have your evidence.
If you really cannot bring yourself to say something to them, then at least keep records and getting some assertiveness training would help enormously.

Keep a daily record of your relationships at work both good and bad and note whenever a manager or anyone else speaks to you or treats you in a way you find unacceptable. I think this is a sad but sound piece of advice because of the sheer volume of evidence that nasty management styles are almost the norm in Australian work places. Sadly, this makes the workplace sound like a battle ground, and it can be when people don’t approach each other no matter what their level of seniority, with collegiate respect. Also record positive exchanges and successful collaborations because this will prove you are someone who can and does have positive relationships.

I would go so far as to record every meeting you ever have not just with the professional work aspects of it but with your thoughts and feelings about it. For example; ‘had great meeting with X – they appreciated my thoughts and said we will talk again. I like their respectful attitude to D who is a bit difficult in meetings and likes to push their own barrow a bit much’.

I was in the unfortunate position of being in weekly meetings where the director and second in command used the meeting as a slagging off session against each and every centre who had made application to them for their particular professional help – they were the only ones in the place with any expertise according to them and everyone else right up to the CEO were a pack of idiots.I squirmed with embarrassment as did other committee members, while the ‘pets’ had a good laugh and joined in. I sat and heard the good creative work of my colleagues in other centres mocked and disparaged. I didn’t tell them because I knew it would cause not just trouble but hurt, but by god I should have told someone! 

Later, others spoke to me about their disgust at the situation and one young woman was so disturbed she resigned only to be berated by the director with “You are leaving after everything I have done for you?!” One decent soul on the committee then shared with me her horror and disgust when she witnessed her boss badly bullying a poor innocent year 10 kid on work experience!

Telling someone senior immediately about your exchange with a possible bully is essential. Even if you think the outcome was positive, tell them what happened, what you did, and how the discussion went and ask them to document it as well. Try to tell someone at the same level or higher than the ‘problem person’ because they will have a legal responsibility to document and if necessary bear witness if the situation escalates. You could tell a trusted colleague but you risk that person losing confidence in supporting you if things go badly.

Your family doctor is also a great person to tell as is a counsellor. If you later need evidence, a letter from your either confirming the date you first raised concerns about difficult relationships at work will go a long way as evidence especially if compensation is a part of the outcome. Even if you think it is NO BIG DEAL at the moment – ask your doctor to record it as a part of a casual conversation. Too many people have a little niggle that something is not right and by the time the nasty situation has escalated they then have the stress of trying to remember and reconstruct what happened – and you cannot legally invent dates that you have not recorded at the time.

It seems awful to be encouraging people to go all ‘big brother’ on each other but to me, after my experience of work place bullying, nasty management and just plain neglectful management I think it is absolutely necessary. I wish I had had the foresight to document everything that happened to me – some I did and  I have made complaints of course and we are still to see the outcome of that.

Lastly, do not be talked into the ‘milder’ recourse of many of the bullied and have mediation. If your bully is clever (and sociopaths are) they will still be able to manipulate this situation and don’t forget they will already have had practice. If they have worked at the place for a long time they will also have all the ways and means to further intimidate you. Many people should never be in the same room as their bully ever again as mediation requires. Also, the workplace may well see the situation as ‘resolved’ after mediation but many bullies do not give up even after this process, mine didn't  There is much more to say about this and the internet has some research on it too. If you are at the point where you know you are being bullied, put in a formal complaint and let it run its course.

Sadly, we don’t live in a friendly supportive respectful collegiate utopia and until we do – be aware but don’t be alarmed -  as they say. Be aware that tensions can exist but don’t ‘look’ for them – be slow to take offense but on the other hand don’t put up with rudeness or nastiness because this is where bullying ferments. Show by example how you’d like to be treated; be fair, be polite, be assertive when you must – and always be willing to apologise when someone says you've upset them even if you think you haven’t. If we all did this the working world may become a better place.

Yeah, and my real name is Pollyanna.

Cheers
Lorese

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