An email yesterday somewhat preempted the column I wrote on Friday for my Monday Musing for publication tomorrow (10th January 2011), but I’d like to deal with the specific issue here.
Your boss should not be allowing any form of bullying or harassment, but that does not mean that the victim has no need to do anything themselves. Most of these problems in the workplace are mind games; they are about power and control and many, as in the case in question, can seem very innocuous from the outside.
The problem referred to me is in regard of a colleague who has what I can CJ syndrome. For those not familiar with the world of Reggie Perrin, CJ was his boss, and a running gag through the books and TV series went something like; Reggie “I’ll see you at three on Wednesday”, CJ “Fine, Tuesday at ten”. Whatever Reggie suggested, CJ would want something different, and the email to me was about someone who has a similar problem with a colleague who is always changing meeting times for no apparent reason or finding an excuse for wanting them cancelled at the last-minute.
For me this is classic control freak territory and it is being done for no other reason that to have the upper hand. The perpetrator is getting a kick out of being difficult, so what can you do?
Well, as we’ve established, these things are about control, and part of the problem here is that you are allowing yourself to be a victim of the other person’s actions, so be prepared to make a stand. In many of these cases it isn’t always easy for the boss to see the problem, so complaining is not always the right answer. If you do the boss has to speak to the other party about the issue and, at that stage, the boss is establishing both viewpoints, however distorted they may be. Do you want them just to act on hearsay? Well, yes you do, but they shouldn’t;t if they are a half decent boss.
What they might do is to tell you to get everything in writing and copy it to everyone concerned. OK, if it’s a direct order then you’ll have to do it, but it isn’t likely to work. The first problem is that it is you who is doing all the writing and that is a waste of your time as well as everyone else’s who has to read what you’ve written. The second problem is that, if your protagonist is one of those who is really unpleasant they will turn this against you. I’ve investigated many bullying and harassment cases and can assure you that the really nasty pieces of work love it when their victim gets into putting it all in writing.
No, you are far better off taking the matter on through your normal ways of working. Don’t let them divert or distract you because your performance will suffer and then you have another problem with your boss looming. Stick to your own agenda. Arrange the meetings with colleagues and, if your tormentor wants to change things, say no and hold the meeting without them. Yes there will be some issues, but tough it out. It soon becomes apparent that they are a pain and behaviour will change. You will never become pals, but if they know that they can’t get under your skin they’ll give up on you and try someone else. When you see who that is, help them overcome the problem.
It is difficult when someone is trying to undermine you, but try to fight your own corner. You have friends and family who can help take your mind off these issues and make you feel good. Whatever you do, don’t sink to the other person’s level; be true to your own standards. Office jerks may seem to do well, but that is an illusion that they like to foster and, while they have you under their thumb, it may look that way to you. Get out from under and you’ll see them for what they are, and that is probably the way everyone else sees them as well.
Keep the faith and feel free to write for advice. I’m happy to help.