Article by Jackie Richards 06.07.16
Did you know………that 75% of employees indicate that an immediate supervisor’s management approach causes the most stress in their jobs (“Good Boss, Bad Boss” by Bob Sutton, Business Plus)
There is a lot of press these days on bullying in schools and the odd tribunal case concerning bullying and harassment, but I’m sure from my experience, there is a lot more bullying going on in the workplace than we are made aware of.
I am writing about this not with my HR head on (although it will have an influence, having been in the field for over 20 years!), but from a personal perspective. I have met 4 people during my career in senior HR positions who I would class as bullies and I am going to share with you the most painful experience I had with a direct boss, who was a HR Director.
At first we got on very well, she encouraged me to develop my skills and praised me on my achievements. She admitted she was not a good trainer and did not know what coaching was(?!), but I had sufficient experience and knowledge to perform without this and she gave me support when it was needed.
However, as time went on and I was gaining more confidence and credibility with the staff, things started to change. She began to patronise and undermine me when given the chance, taking credit for the work that the HR Assistant and I had produced with very little input from her. She became lazy, treating us like her PAs and the HR Assistant in particular found her aggressive nature very unsettling at times.
So I decided to challenge her about it and her response at first was ‘Oh, I didn’t realise I was doing that and didn’t realise how I’d made you both feel’. But then a few weeks later when she’d had time to further digest what we’d discussed, she read out to me a two page, patronising document, using the metaphor of me as the sous chef to her master chef, basically explaining that I should not be so sensitive and when she is stressed, she is entitled to behave in the way she does, as she is the boss!
After that our relationship began to deteriorate further, with us only speaking to each other when we needed to, which made me feel awful for our HR Assistant, as the atmosphere in such a small office was far from pleasant at times! So, I tried a different tack, to build bridges and occasionally pamper her ego when I needed something from her (when I could manage to swallow enough of my pride to do this!). This worked for a while until the next chance she had to undermine me and then we were back to square one! I then dug my heels in and thought ‘I’m not going to let her win, I am not leaving’. I began keeping a note of our ‘exchanges’ and I kept a copy of the essay she had written to me before, with a view to reporting her to our harassment advisor. However, after going through all the possible consequences of this action, I realised that the anit-harassment advisor group was something that she had set up and co-ordinated, so I didn’t think I would get very far with that one?!!
So, I had 2 or 3 more miserable months of surviving in this frosty atmosphere, using the psychology that this wasn’t about me, it was about my boss and her lack of ability and self-esteem. But then the work started to deplete through reduced headcount and my up-skilling of managers – I had worked myself out of a job! So at this stage I decided I should start looking for another job. Then, I received a complete bombshell – I was made redundant to reduce costs! This was a small company and so the part-time Director wasn’t earning much more than me, but I was told there was still a need for a Board level Director there, which shocked everyone, considering the organisation only had a headcount of 100?! Then during the redundancy process, I was treated even more appallingly, being made to do any menial tasks that my boss desired to keep me there during all of my notice, just in case some big issue arose, so that she didn’t have to deal with it! So I walked (I had less than 2 years’ service so wasn’t owed any redundancy pay) and sent her a lengthy e-mail explaining why I was doing something so out of character, copying in the Chair of the Board and CEO.
So, the moral of this story is, you can try to tackle your bullying boss, but if as in my case, you don’t succeed, then think of your health and sanity – they are far more important than working for someone who does not appreciate you and could potentially damage your career – life is too short!
However, on a positive note, this Director gave me more confidence in my abilities and strengthened my resolve to become a self-employed HR Consultant, so that I don’t have to be managed by someone like her ever again!
Thank you for reading my blog
Jackie Richards MCIPD
T: 07807 166456