Work continued

I seem to be furiously angry. Work was a bit better yesterday, where we had an outing to the Eurocup semi-final in the afternoon. I enjoy watching soccer, and was cheering for Germany, who unfortunately lost. I liked sitting with the other people in the department (not my team).

At work yesterday, I’d been trying to not be intimidated and shut down by my boss, but to keep at her if I didn’t understand. Mostly I’d been avoiding her, but that’s not working well for me. And she actually came back with a good idea, something I can do to figure out more what is going on there. I started reverse engineering some documents, figuring out how the information was compiled. Anyhow, though she was dismissive and mostly talking in a jumble, that idea was good, and so I did that yesterday and some of today.

But overall, what’s happening is not pretty. This is a strange woman. She’s got two people on her team, my co-worker and myself, and she plays favorites so blatantly it’s ridiculous. She seems to have annexed this young girl, who is my co-worker, B. B is very shy, quiet and focused on her tasks. J (boss) constantly is at her desk, micro-managing her tasks. She talks to her about work, gives her lots to do, and tells her what’s going on. And B is kind of flattered. Sometimes she resents the micro-managing, but mostly, she seems happy that she is valued and needed.

J is ignoring me entirely, unless forced to address me because her boss needs something from me. I have little to do for the most part. If I ask her anything about what I do have to do, she talks to me as if I’m stupid. In any case, she is difficult to understand, but she is making no effort at all with me. It feels as if I’ve done something and am being punished.

I sometimes respond by being super apologetic for not knowing things. Or flustered, or just feeling bad and as if I need to shut up forever.

So I’ve been struggling with not shutting down, with not collapsing into depression. Tonight I did collapse, lying down for a few hours after work, no supper or ability to eat.

But now I’ve just become mad. I am furious.

This was one of the points mentioned by my predecessor in her resignation letter – that J creates a ‘poisoned atmosphere’ by leaving her out of meetings, making teamwork impossible. I am sure that was softened a lot from the actual situation, because she is doing it again.

She also is offering B various tasks that are in my job description, when B is already fully occupied and I have little to do.

I suppose J is so insecure, she can only feel comfortable with someone who is totally accepting, totally self-effacing, who has no ideas of her own whatsoever, and who craves approval and acceptance very much. I suppose i also crave approval, but not to the extent that I’d let someone annex me as B has been. I stay my own person.

For sure, my own stuff is being triggered here. That’s where I get confused – I know I have a lot of issues, so I tend to think it’s me, it’s my insecurity, and after all, I do have less knowledge than B on the department, having been there just a short time. But…..I think actually this is a dynamic this woman plays out over and over. It is chance that I saw my predecessor’s resignation letter, but still. It’s information. J had set up this situation with her previous team as well.

I’m going to request a meeting and speak with her about this. Somewhat diplomatically, but still. I feel I have little to lose, and I might feel a whole lot better. I’ll say that we just need to get through three more months, and it’s in both of our interests to try and work things out to meet that goal.

We had this gross team coffee this morning. J thinks these are ‘team meetings’, where we chit chat and pretend we like each other. She insists on buying both of us coffee and a treat, which felt so wrong to me. I told her I’d like to pay for my own, and she insisted on paying for me. Yuck. In general, she will not tell me anything, but feels she is keeping up her end if she comes and chit chats with both of us every few days. I am not her friend, I do not want to be forced to chat with her, I don’t want to share any of my life with her, I don’t care about hers. It’s hard for me to be unfriendly, actually, because I do crave connection, but I feel like I need a shower after our ‘chats’.

I think my plan of asking for a meeting is a good one. I need to think out what I want to say. It will be hard for me not to back down immediately, as soon as J denies any points I make. I want to stay firm, but of course not aggressive either. Or emotional either. We also have HR matters to discuss – apparently I get sick days, which she doesn’t want to give me. We can discuss that.



  1. I think that is one of the hard things about having “issues.” Eventually, you start to realize you aren’t the only one. You aren’t like the Hope Diamond and totally rare. You have your issues, some people have their issues, and you have to learn to deal with your issues along with everyone else’s. Frequently, people like your boss are difficult for everyone to deal with, but it can seem like they are only difficult for you. The other coworker may very well go home in a state of sweaty anxiety from needing to please her boss so much and basically walk on eggshells all day long, but it can look on the outside like all is well and she is happy with the arrangement. I used to have this kind of fantasy, that for “healthy people,” someone like your boss is not a problem. “Healthy people” are unaffected by them. But I don’t think it’s true. I think someone like your boss is stressful for many, many people around her. Difficult people are part of life’s normal problems, and yet I think I fit it into this schema of believing that I am uniquely unlucky or uniquely persecuted, and that people pick on me because i have low self-esteem, or something like that. I had this really difficult principal who essentially fired me, and almost everyone hated her at that school. I was the only one in a position where I could be fired, and to her face, people were generally nice because she was the boss and most people would like to be civil, but hardly anyone had a good relationship with her. If you find yourself in a situation where you are isolated and you don’t get to compare notes, you never realize this: that nearly everyone finds that particular person difficult to deal with and it isn’t just you. I did, to some extent, bring on my own problems with that principal because I did have issues, but nearly everyone found her difficult. It’s just I was the only one who could be fired.

    • Ellen said:

      But I want to be the Hope diamond! 🙂

      Thanks for pointing that out. It’s very very true that this woman is not well liked. I’ve seen people wince when she approaches, roll their eyes in one case. And because she is outgoing and seems to have no social fear, her peers do respond to her socializing, but that doesn’t mean they like or respect her.

      I’m sorry that happened with the principal. I’ve also been in a situation, years ago, with a difficult manager who ended up essentially firing me. She was difficult, but I contributed by handling the situation very badly. At this point, I’d thought my social skills have improved exponentially, and I could manage these difficult situations. Not so much.

      I still wonder though if I attract this kind of ‘acting out’ behaviour by bosses, it’s happened to me so often. I wonder if they subconsciously sense wounding and damage, and get the idea they can treat me however they want. But yeah, this is a difficult woman for anyone to deal with. And now my only teammate also has started to treat me in a condescending way – as if I am slow, and she needs to be kind to me. It’s a mess.

      Thanks Ash.

      • Oh, that sucks. I think as the contract worker, you are the available target. There are no real consequences for someone if you don’t like the way you are treated the way there would be for someone permanent. It could be you, but I think it’s also your status. In my case, I think she really regretted firing me, but she couldn’t unfire me after it was done. The way I responded to her would have been fine with a normal principal and I did just feel too old to be treated like a door mat, but I I recognize now I wasn’t dealing with a normal person, and she was very personally wounded at my standing up for myself. If I had set a boundary with her in a softer, more gentle way, it would have helped. It just didn’t cross my mind that it would be personal for her, and I think it really was. She needed to couch it in sort of professional-ese, but it was like, “You didn’t like me, and I got my feelings hurt….” I was probably more genuinely nice to her than anyone else at that school, because even though she behaved like a jackass, I responded to her as a human being. I don’t think I realized that actually meant something to her, and the one time I really took a stand about something, it wasn’t just a professional difference to her. It really hurt her.

        • Ellen said:

          Well, I am contract to perm. What the organization wants is to hire full-time, as this is a permanent type role. However, I can see why they hired contract first, given the people problems this manager has, and that she essentially, as far as I can make out, drove away a very dedicated long-term employee who preceded me. So as far as they are concerned, officially, they want my role to be permanent, for me to be happy enough to accept a full time job there (assuming they were happy with me).

          This manager isn’t a normal person either. It feels as if she is acting out a very energetic personal saga, with me as scapegoat. Her relationship to her other employee is also not normal – maybe she can only accept slavish devotion. It could also very well be that I am hurting her feelings somehow. I am not that impressed with what she values most, a kind of hyper focus on millions of details at once, and heroically finishing outrageous amounts of work on a daily basis. I value analysis and setting up good systems instead of daily heroism and massive overtime. Anyhow. I have not expressed this in words, but my attitude may show. Or it may not. Who knows.

          I am writing a book here. I actually feel that I’ve reached a kind of a crisis point with all this. I cannot seem to recover on the weekend, and my time is taken up with all the stuff work is triggering. Thinking of going to the doctor and asking for some stress days at this point.

          Thanks for sharing your experience with me.

          • Yeah, I am pretty sure that would be horrible. There are only 2 of you. There is kind of no place to retreat from her insanity. I guess she had to pick on one of you. The slavish devotion must be meeting her needs in some way. I hope you figure something out so it’s not so impossible to cope.

  2. Grainne said:

    Sounds right to me – your boss is so insecure that she cannot handle someone who is talented, smart and takes initiative. She needs to micromanage to feel in control so when you try to take initiative, she panics. Can’t have anyone smarter than her…let alone someone who might do a better job than she can.

    Hang in there. Xx

    • Ellen said:

      She’s definitely insecure. Even in my totally triggered state, I can see that. Not sure she thinks I’m smarter than her – she’s currently making out that I’m horribly stupid.

      Thank you Grainne. I know you’re a fellow sufferer in the work wars. 🙂

      • Grainne said:

        My boss does that too. I think that people who talk down to others like that are usually hiding from the fact that they are insecure about their own intelligence and ability. My nasty boss is mortified when staff seem to like me more but it goes to a whole different level when someone says “It’s okay. Grainne already explained this to me.” Or something of that nature. She is so low on confidence that she’ll start adding her educational creds to her email signature line when she emails staff.

        So useless and frustrating. I absolutely feel you on those dreadful coffee meetings too. I avoid them at all costs.

        • Ellen said:

          Aack…sounds awful also. As to coffee…. I actually enjoy having coffee with others and chatting, so I miss that. But I absolutely hate pretending to like this boss and having to chat with her about anything personal whatsoever. I guess lots of people have to do this regularly, but I never did. I’m usually lonely at coffee time. Ironic that the boss is the one person who wants to have coffee.

  3. Rachel said:

    Wow, what a difficult person to be around and have to work with 40 hours a week. Not to mention report to and have to interact with in a supervisory capacity. Sorry Ellen, anger is such a difficult emotion to have and work with. I find anger very hard to deal with, it is so unpleasant and can lead to reactivity that really only makes us feel worse afterwards. But so hard to control in those moments.

    • Ellen said:

      Anger is difficult. It’s actually not usually my first emotion when dealing with this boss – I kind of have to achieve it afterwards. I mostly feel ashamed and inadequate, and sometimes pissed off, kind of a low level anger. I’m actually not having trouble controlling anger, it’s more that i’m having trouble feeling it. In this particular situation.

      Thanks for the sympathy Rachel.

      • Rachel said:

        Ah, gotcha. Yes, the feeling of the anger. Well, I imagine growing up in your household, it wouldn’t have been too accepted to express an emotion like anger or disagreement, so what is the use of feeling it as a young person.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: