As regular readers of this blog will know my line manager in my current job has systematically driven me from it. She has set up conflicting demands, i.e. that by dismissing any suggestion I make as irrelevant or 'inappropriate', even striking through proposals I have written and then complains that I defer to her too much and do not propose innovations. Similarly she complained that I bothered her too much coming to talk to her about things, so I reduced that and used more emails, but that too is wrong as now I am not speaking to her sufficiently and not asking 'probing questions'. She says she finds me too submissive but fears coming to speak to me.
One reason for not asking probing questions and getting everything written down, as I have explained before, is because she forgets what she has said to me previously, for example, switching the days of regular meetings and twice altering the number of copies of reports that have to be produced. Now, there is no problem changing your mind, but when she has she insists it must be me who was doing it deliberately wrongly as she could 'never' have thought the other way let alone given instructions saying that. I have tried to fit in with everything she instructs but even that is apparently inappropriate 'complying' or 'fitting in' with her wishes is the wrong attitude, so she says, though she cannot indicate the right attitude I would adopt, it is just that I am wrong.
Anyway, in the current pattern of working in the UK, the line manager decides everything and so removes you by the rules she sets with no come-back. Thus, over a period of nine months not only has this job proven to be impossible for me to hold on to, no matter what I try to do, it has effectively brought my career to an end at the age of 44. Ahead lies having my house repossessed and a long period of unemployment for me, simply because of the caprice and personal prejudices of one manager.
Obviously all of this has caused stress for me as I have sought ways to please my manager and cling on to my job only for her to come back with new criticisms in the highly indignant way which is apparently the common attitude. My very behaviour is insulting and apparently even a question I asked at a public lecture was insulting to her and 'an embarrassment' to myself and the unit, despite the fact that the lecture was unrelated to the work of my company let alone my unit. Apparently, I am both too confident and outspoken, but insufficiently positive and by that very fact I disparage the unit. I would ask anyone how could they be positive when facing such criticism especially when it is often contradictory. I think I am doing well not to have had a nervous breakdown faced with such Kafkaesque treatment.
I know I will not work again for a long time and that all that I have worked for over the past ten years has been trashed in less than hat in months. One challenge going forward is not holding on to hatred. It is so easy to curse my boss and just to think, 'what if?' before one of these nasty meetings (typically lasting 2-3 hours). What if her car broke down, what if she was attacked in the street, what if she fell ill, what if someone found something to complain about her for, what if someone made her comply with the rules of the company, what if her friends in high places disowned her, or even better, turned on her? It is very easy, sometimes consoling to run through these scenarios. However, I realise how corrosive such thoughts can be. I have written recently about how anger might feel good, but like a narcotic actually damages you and hatred is much the same.
I am undecided on whether I believe in karma, but I do think that you can trigger some immediate effect if you let yourself hate. It begins to blind you to how someone else believes. Perhaps my manager has set out intentionally to do me harm, but it is more likely that she genuinely believes she is right to criticise me and remove me from the company, that I am truly insulting and will damage the reputation of her and the business she works for. If I cannot see the way she sees the world then I cannot be alert to things I might be able to do to make things that little bit less unpleasant for me. Another thing, I realise, is that I am probably well out-of-step with current business culture, in which you are free to take individual words or even tone of voice as something which causes offence to you, for which you have to become vocally indignant and visibly horrified. I must say some of the 'horrified' performances are quite comic as if the manager in question has suddenly gone back to the days of Jane Austen and seen an inappropriately clad man emerging from the lake.
Though I do not like Catherine Tate's 'comic characters', I think the phrase of one of them 'how very dare you?' perfectly sums up the indignant tone so often used; self-righteousness taken to an absurd level. Maybe the absurdity is why I am slow to spot that such an attitude is a weapon that can be turned against anyone they choose. By being offended you stop the question being one of a difference of opinion and turn it immediately into a moral question, one in which you have already seized the 'high ground'. In addition the horror expressed at the view disagreed with means that they can shut down any rational discussion, 'it's so offensive, I can't talk about it' means that they can make a charge, define that it is bad and shoot down any challenge all in one.
Perhaps rather than anger, I should pity the people who are so lacking in business skills that they have to resort to such tricks simply to get their way. Getting their way is a key goal, not just in substance but down to the minute details, individual words, colour of text, absolutely everything. For them getting 99% of what they want is not enough. Even with 100% it is not 'wrong' or 'inappropriate' if not expressed precisely the way they want it (even if they never actually tell you this). Unless you can read your manager's mind you are going to suffer. Maybe I am less tolerant of this attitude than some people but I have seen even very good workers who are praised across their departments, criticised over small issues, sending an email a day later than expected (even with two weeks remaining before the deadline) and not expressing something the exact way the manager wants. Even such petty things they are told, is 'letting the side down'.
I am getting back into repeating my postings about indignitaries and this posting is about something different, even though in my case it has been prompted by indignitary behaviour. What I check myself from doing is running through all this speculation of how bad or even mildly discomforting things should happen to my line manager, even if in part as some kind of balance for the unpleasantness she has assiduously inflicted on me, whatever her motive. Beginning to have thoughts like these are the first step on being contaminated by hatred. Such fantasies begin to dominate your waking thoughts, perhaps even your dreams. They can easily become more extreme. Talking with friends and colleagues it was fascinating how one advised me in all seriousness to shoot my manager and that he being in with certain people in West London could organise that. Another said how he had identified the car park at the company which had no CCTV surveillance and was near to a public exit to the site so was the ideal one for assaulting people returning to their car! To some degree it is heartening to think that I am not alone in thinking this way about our company's management, but on the other hand, it alarmed me to think that I was at risk of becoming like these two, just a step away from actual violence.
I know that simple prejudice at work can muck up your entire life and the lives of those people around you. Violence would do that to a greater extent, not only messing up the life of the manager, perhaps she would simply brush it off, but others around her and of course, myself and others around me. I do worry that if she is mugged or burgled or her car vandalised, already it is me at the top of the suspect list which would put me into even worse circumstances. In addition, it is corrosive to think this way. If there is no way you can get at being treated so badly by your manager, then you have to rely on non-human sources.
I think the reason why karma and 'vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord' were brought in for humans was to stop them wasting their lives. It is so easy to get into a frame of mind in which you think about how the person might come unstuck from severe action you might take against them to humiliate or discredit them to simple things such as their car breaking down on their way to the meeting at which they are going to treat you so badly. This clogs up your brain and means you fail to focus on things like trying to get another job or engaging with effective ways of winning some compensation, Thoughts of revenge easily become your entire focus and sap your energy. While the target is probably oblivious to your thoughts, you are effectively helping them to win by damaging your own life on top of the damage they have already inflicted.
It can be stunning how many people cannot see beyond their own egos. Not only my current manager but also bullies in the past have believed that I 'need to see' that what they are doing is 'right' because it is nothing more than common sense. Their view of the world is so distorted that they set their own moral boundaries. I have sometimes thought what characterises evil and have come to a conclusion that it is a focus which is just on the benefit of the individual and however that can be achieved, with no thought or even disapproval of those affected by the actions of the evil person. If we look at real evil people (as opposed to portrayals) they generally do not believe they are evil. Think of the serial killers and the war criminals, they all believe what they did was 'right' even 'moral'. Yet by objective judgement they are evil. Now I am not equating my manager with such criminals, but it seems all too common that you have people in business who are so focused on their own personal advancement and ensuring their personal perspectives are the only acceptable ones that they begin to stray into modes of behaviour that we see among the genuinely evil.
Everyone, even the most powerful will face people they feel hard done by, whether this is genuine or not. In some/most/all cases we can wreak retribution on these people. Yet to be obsessed in planning to do so, let alone acting on it, we are further corroding ourselves. We become consumed, literally, eaten up by the need for revenge. It strips us of our faculties, we can no longer see clearly, we can no longer hear differing advice, we cannot think about other things, certainly we lose enjoyment. We all hope that 'whatever comes around, goes around' and that the person gets their come-uppance. Of course, quite often we never see them 'fall', but from the moment they begin treating us and others badly, they are beginning to lose and they will continue losing. Perhaps not in the financial sense, but in the fact that they chip away at their humanity and people respond to that.
For all her apparent success, no-one trusts my manager and they only do what she wants not out of respect but from fear of their own positions, something which will no doubt increase now they have seen what has been done to me and how quickly. Things will be done for her at best in a lacklustre way. In addition even the CEO of a company cannot work in a vacuum they need to hear differing perspectives to their own. If they are not then the company will falter, not immediately but steadily. This is happening in my context already no-one is warning my manager of the pitfalls she is walking into. To do so would be to risk being treated the way I have been. Being way behind schedule in planning a prestige event, not keeping the website updated, jobs she has taken on herself but is neglecting because she puts no store by the views of colleagues; only she can be right. When your views are rejected so often you stop giving your view. Consequently you can already see she is walking head long into failure. Her obsession with the advertising of an upcoming prestige event has meant she has neglected the organisation of the event and with less than four weeks to go has only a single speaker for the whole day. There is no incentive for me to step in and try to rectify that. My ideas have now been taken up by her and have become 'hers' but her obsession with style over substance means that the event will fail, it is too late to prevent this now.
It is hard not to wallow in anger and a desire for revenge against someone who has treated you badly. However, with reflection it can be seen that it does more harm to you than to them. In addition, there will be revenge maybe that you will never witness, but it will come. A person who is a bully reaps the consequences of such behaviour and will fail. Their narrow focus means they miss the warning signs and they will not listen to any alerts that they are busily marching towards such an outcome. You have to accept that some balance ensure they will not escape unpunished by their behaviour and instead cut yourself off from concerning yourself any longer with that person otherwise you risk being dragged down into their morass alongside them.