View Full Version : Workplace/co-worker dramaz (long)

12-28-11, 2:11pm
I wanted to run this by y'all -

I'm in a narrow specialized field, and I'm lucky to have my current job. My entire industry is shrinking to a pinpoint. Against the odds, I lucked into my current position without having had a whole heck of a lot of experience, just perceived talent. I'm good at what I do, and I beat out some equally qualified folks for my position. So you could say that there are some people who'd cut my throat as soon as look at me because they think I don't deserve the job. (Paranoid much? lol)

Anyway, I was fortunate that my boss liked my previous work enough to install me in a cherry position in a pretty prestige-y outfit, at least in terms of the particular world that I'm in. There's no other option for me professionally in this city, so if I were to switch jobs, I would be switching cities, and probably careers. No guarantee I could pick up and leave, expecting to get the same kind of job elsewhere. The odds are against it, which is why my co-workers, who are as disenchanted with management as I am, are clinging to their jobs with white knuckles.

My boss has a bizarre management style, such that he feels his role is to withdraw from the details. Things go wrong because nobody gets any information, and people yell at each other instead of at the boss.

So everyone kicks the can, full of contempt for everyone else. They all see the leadership vacuum, so they're constantly asserting themselves in a mad scrabble for the moral upper hand - mostly by backstabbing, gossiping, beating up on each other in meetings and in email, and currying favor with the boss/emperor with no clothes.

Recently I told Gareth I was taking Monday (the official Christmas holiday) off. He said, "Okay, fine." I did my work ahead and left it in the system. There is usually a tech in the control room (it's a radio station), called a board op, during any automated shift, but it's not on me to arrange that. I figured Gareth would make arrangements for that day, since he knew I wasn't going to be out.

Come Monday and all hell breaks loose, because Kitten didn't tell anyone she wasn't going to be at work! This is of course not true - I told my boss, Gareth.

The production guy pointed his finger in my face in our meeting yesterday, and accused me of leaving him in the lurch. He had to rush into the station on a holiday to cover for me. Gareth listened to this, didn't meet my eye, and said he'd "take care of it."

Meanwhile, the production guy scurries up to me after the meeting, still complaining about my behavior. "Why didn't you tell me you weren't going to be here?"

I said,"I told our manager about my day off. It was cleared at the highest level. My tracks were in the system. I did my job. It's not on me that Gareth didn't tell you my schedule."

Then, that's not enough for the little twerp. He and another co-worker of mine, who is our union shop steward, both gang up on me in an email a few minutes later, chastising me over: "This is what the contract says, please let Gareth know two weeks ahead what your schedule will be."

The thing is, I DID tell Gareth my schedule. Gareth just didn't tell anyone else, which is typical. Knowing this is his pattern, I should have made sure someone else knew. So sue me.

I emailed the guys back and told them I wasn't an idiot and didn't need to be rapped on the wrist for something I didn't do.

A co-worker later said to me, "Look, just between you and me - Gareth apologized to me and said you were completely in the right." And I'm like, what friggin' good does that do me, that he apologized to YOU?

I'm afraid the production twerp is building his case against me, trying to create a story in which I'm the rogue or the non-communicator or the screw-up, and he's the guy who comes galloping to the rescue to save the station every time.

More evidence of this, is that he does pieces of my job for me ahead of time, and then raps me on the knuckles because I didn't do it sooner. For instance, he rips the Emergency Alert System tapes out of the server, which is something I'm supposed to be doing each day, and sticks them on the back side of my log, where I can't see them. One day I walked by the server a few times - I had heard the emergency alert, but no tape came out of the machine. I thought I was going crazy. Then it turns out he's taking them before I can see them and hiding them from me. So then he gets to accuse me of not removing them and signing them myself. This guy has a pattern of doing stuff like this, which is an elaborate manipulation of the story of Kitten and what kind of employee she is. In reality I'm smart, quick and efficient, but he seems to be doing his best to rewrite my identity - to make it seem like I'm messing up all the time.

So the boss' inaction is creates an environment where the last person in the chain gets the brunt of the $hit cascade. I could use your help on this.

Shall I:

- start documenting what's happening in detail?
- go to HR proactively and show them my docs?
- make a stink about this before I've been accused of something major that my boss won't back me up on?
- look for another job?

Any input welcome, sorry this was so long :)

12-28-11, 2:18pm
And you want to stay there... why? I would ask HR for a referral via your Employee aassistance Program - which hopefully you have - and get some coaching about this. And, enlist an ally in HR, as a way of assurring a positive job reference if/when you leave.

12-28-11, 2:45pm
1. Get emotion out of the way!
2. Document everything and email your boss to confirm what you two to agreed in conversation and cc those who will be impacted about any time changes right before you head out of work.
3. Detach, detach, detach.
4. Review your job description and list what is entailed in your daily duties. Once boss agrees to your outline, you have clear documentation of grounds for intrusion into your job description to deal with the union rep and others.
5.Detach as people are not being bad as much as struggling for survival in a tough environment.
6. Understand that it is not personally you that is targetted as much as your position. Disagree with the offense but tolerate the person.
Hope that you can work your way through this.

12-28-11, 2:46pm
Thanks Redfox! I'll check out the Employee Assistance Program, I didn't think of that.

It's difficult to leave, because I'd be leaving not just my job, but my career. Working in the media in this particular job, in a largish city, is a chance I may never have again. So leaving here means going back to anonymous work in a non-glamorous field. Which is something most people do, I realize! And I did it myself for the first twenty years of my working life.

Anyway, it's mentally difficult to make that adjustment, since it would involve a radical re-working of my identity. I'm also losing access to a world I find enriching, and one in which I've made valuable contacts. To see all of that fading away is really upsetting. So I've tried to salvage my situation. But I think I'm really against the wall in this place. (Plus my hubby is freaked out at the possible loss of half our income...)

HR here, which is essentially one person, is as gossip-ridden as every other department. Confidentiality is not a concept this woman understands (and it's not necessarily her fault, it's a top-down attitude). So - spilling the beans to her that I'm leaving could sink me faster than I'm ready to be sunk. But I need to do something! Gah!

12-28-11, 2:49pm
Hi Razz,
I like these suggestions - and your insight that people are not necessarily out to get me, they're just trying to survive amid the dysfunction.

Detach is now my mantra, and I see the value of documentation and including anyone and everyone who might possibly be impacted on anything I do. Thanks for this!

1. Get emotion out of the way!
2. Document everything and email your boss to confirm what you two to agreed in conversation and cc those who will be impacted about any time changes right before you head out of work.
3. Detach, detach, detach.
4. Review your job description and list what is entailed in your daily duties. Once boss agrees to your outline, you have clear documentation of grounds for intrusion into your job description to deal with the union rep and others.
5.Detach as people are not being bad as much as struggling for survival in a tough environment.
6. Understand that it is not personally you that is targetted as much as your position. Disagree with the offense but tolerate the person.
Hope that you can work your way through this.

12-28-11, 2:56pm
Sounds as though it's time to stop expecting this guy to do the right thing. He isn't going to.

So in the Xmas situation, that would mean not just notifying him, but notifying anyone your decision affects.

In the tape situation, it seems you're faced with either sitting down with him and agreeing on a procedure, IN WRITING to protect your a**, or continuing to accept his undermining. Personally, I'd bite the bullet and choose the former.

And document everything. Everything. Day, date, time, players, actions, outcome. Visualize yourself in arbitration or in a courtroom for wrongful termination a year or two down the line, and visualize precisely what you'll want to be able to whip out of your briefcase to defend yourself.

And start collecting it now. Sounds like, if you aren't willing to forego the "glamour" of this toxic environment, you need to redouble your efforts to protect yourself, even if you don't think you should have to. There aren't any shoulds any more.

Me? I'd find a way to work with the contacts you enjoy in some other way, for example starting a business that supports them in some way, or provides a service they'll find useful. YMMV, but there isn't enough glamour in the world to endanger my health and my sanity in the way that you're tolerating, let alone the freaks you attract on Facebook (from your other posts). This kind of drama can provide a certain thrill, a certain validation, but it can also undermine your entire life. You are counting yourself as fortunate to have this job, and it sounds anything but fortunate to this observer.

12-28-11, 3:01pm
In order to protect yourself you will need to do a certain amount of covering/adjusting to make up for the flakey boss' flaws. Been there, done that, tshirts in the closet. Yes, it is annoying, but you will save yourself a lot of pain and frustration if you take on the responsibility for making everyone aware of your plans. All of this could have been averted by quick communication to all on your team that you would be out on Christmas. I make it a habit to let direct coworkers know of my plans as far as possible in advance, and I send out little reminders a few days before in case my input is needed on anything. Then there is an autoresponse set up on my email with information about who to contact in case of anything urgent, and how to relay a message to me. To be honest, I think this is the minimum requirement for any professional position. You don't need to be on-call 24/7, and should be able to take time off when needed/desired, but you also need to let people know what to do if something comes up. I am stunned by the failure of some people in my current work circle -- including one who has to sign off on a lot of the major stuff related to my work -- to offer their colleagues the basic courtesy of letting them know when they will be unavailable. It has messed things up for me on numerous occasions in recent weeks -- leaves me in the position of "covering" for someone who doesn't manage his responsibilities well -- and is one of my pet peeves.

Sorry, that is probably more about me than about you, but in this environment I think adopting a CYA approach and taking the responsibility for clear communication into your own hands is key. The cc: function is a great thing -- so if you request leave from your boss, confirm it with an email and then cc relevant colleagues. At least then the documentation is there. Again, lesson hard learned at previous HSSJ with psycho, irresponsible boss -- definitely another Emperor with no clothes....


PS: Given what you say about the one-woman dysfunctional HR department I would NOT approach her or go to an Employee Assistance Program. That can easily be turned against you.

Be as professional and helpful as you can to other colleagues. Do not resort to their backstabbing.

And I would edit out the name of your boss in the message above, or change to a pseudonym,

12-28-11, 4:10pm
Thanks puglogic and lhamo, great suggestions. I'll take these to heart!

Right, no worries - "Gareth" is not my boss' real name ;)

Thanks again for your thoughtful responses, everyone!

12-28-11, 8:06pm
Document, document, document

And do the communicating that the boss should do, in writing or in emails that you save

And hold on to that job

iris lily
12-28-11, 9:55pm
Document, document, document

And do the communicating that the boss should do, in writing or in emails that you save

And hold on to that job


Anne Lee
12-29-11, 7:19am
I agree with documenting.

Realize your boss - either through negligence or incompetence - is not going to do his job as a manager and act accordingly. Is this a case where he is knowledgeable about the industry but doesn't have a manager's bone in his body?

And for heaven's sake under no circumstance, even passively, enter into the backbiting and gossip. When you start hearing someone start in on someone else, say something innocuous like "Well in a perfect world we would all be good looking, rich and talented but around here we just settle for good looking." or even the now cliche "It is what it is." For the chronic offenders, you will have to say "I can see you are frustrated by this situation (ed note: never another person). I'm afraid I don't have any good advice." Then change the topic.

Also, get some books about dealing with toxic people in the workplace. It can be toxically delicious to passively listen to someone else rake someone over the coals for a failing but that never is a good idea. Ever. Even the boss.

12-30-11, 1:18pm
Thanks, good advice Anne.

Yeah...I like the idea of a book about how to deal with toxic people in the workplace. As a kid I knew I was in deep $hit right out of the gate in my screwed up familiy - I was reading self-help tomes at age 11, desperate for any help I could find. I remember fantasizing about Dr. Maxwell Maltz, a kindly-looking author/psychologist who looked like the of kind guy who would have been a wonderful father. I wanted him to adopt me. I think I even wrote him a letter. God, what a pathetic kid! Anyway, my childhood sucked, and the office dynamics I'm in have so many echoes of my dysfunctional family.

I'm permanently in a rage about the fact that I was made to suffer the injustice of my parents' baseless accusations, their relentless criticism and rejection. They tried to stifle every sign of hope or creativity in me, any indication that I was feeling some happiness even for a moment. They set me up and pulled the rug out constantly, and this is what the production guy at my job is doing right now. It makes me physically sick. I realize I need to detach, as was advised above. That's the hardest piece for me.

I will soldier on! Your input always helps! :)

12-30-11, 1:30pm
Update - I'm in total cover-my-a$$ mode at work right now. The reason I'm afraid to bring up any problems or issues is that I know I'll get jumped on. It's totally about killing the messenger here. The place is a gigantic cluster, with the right hand not knowing what the left is doing. Case in point:

Yesterday I got to work and discovered that the audio program I depend on like life support has blown up. Adobe Audition doesn't work, there's no workspace, and when I tried to load my file, the program eats it! My only copy! I'm steamed, but I type out a calm, detached note to inform the relevant people that this vital software is unusable and I need some help - as in, NOW, please. But I was nice.

So all frickin' hell breaks loose. From the production guy: "You mean you're using Adobe Audition on a Nexgen computer? You're not supposed to do that. How long have you been doing that?" From our IT guy: "That's an unauthorized install! You can't use that program on that machine!"

So I'm instantly on the defensive. I try to explain to everyone that I've been using this installation of Audition since I was hired three years ago. About a jillion people have seen me editing files in Audition on this computer. Plus, I'm not the only one who does this. Our overnight guys have been using this program on this same machine FOR YEARS.

Everyone's freaked out. If our production and computer techs are so great, why is it they've had absolutely no idea what's been happening with these computers before now? We're a small outfit, it's not like there's a thousand computers to keep track of. OMG, they're so lame!

So I know at this point that I need to bring in "Gareth," whose mantra is "I'm removing myself from the details." But knowing that he'll attack me for leaving him out of the loop if I try to work around him, I cc him on this correspondence and apologize extravangantly for not having let him in on the discussion before now. I felt it was important to stress that I had not installed the unauthorized Audition program, so I said I wanted that documented. (Had a feeling Mr. production guy was gearing up to accuse me of that, and wanted to head it off.)

Gareth actually sent me a nice note, said he was behind me - knew I needed the software, and to let me know if they don't fix the situation for me soon.

So yeah, it's all about CMA these days, sigh

12-30-11, 1:52pm
Oh, geez, kitten, good luck! I appreciate all the good advice you have here in this thread. Good for you to be working on detachment when you come from a family circle that is mirrored in your work environment. Somehow we seem to find in our adult lives places that allow us to work on the skills we didn't get in childhood....but that's not a lesson anybody actually WANTS, and it only seems like it was helpful in hindsight. Sometimes many years worth of hindsight.

I hope you are doing good self care/stress management while you work through this: good nutrition, strenuous exercise, social support of people who have NOTHING to do with your work environment....all that stuff.

Maybe it would help to remember that you are not doing the CMA so much as documenting situations. I loved Anne Lee's reminders about how to avoid even the appearance of going along with the negative gossipy behaviour.

Best wishes in these difficult times and circumstances.

12-30-11, 2:10pm
Thanks reader99, Iris Lily and leslieann!

leslieann, your point is so interesting about re-creating the environments we had as children. I think aspects of this are right on the money. I do find images of my childhood in my daily life as an adult.

As to whether or not I was unconsciously seeking out this kind of mirroring of my old, unworked-through issues, because I'm not done processing them - it's a possibility. The thing is, though, I would find those mirror images in ANY job I could have. So I've just got to say that I really don't think that I sought out this job or these messed up people because they actually provide something I need. I can find that kind of processing elsewhere - in therapy, in reading, in writing, in doing my creative work. I don't need to surround myself with jerks in order to become self-actualized (or whatever). But I do think I get your point - life really does feel like a hall of mirrors sometimes. And it takes so much strength and self-insight to navigate a world that can drive you crazy.

I do adore you guys - you always get it - and I appreciate the compassion you've shown in your responses.

I'd like to wish you all a very happy new year! Here's to a less crazy, and very much simpler 2012! :)