I have a job and I own a flat and I consider myself lucky for that. However I have been in the same job for 8 and a half years and for the sake of my sanity I believe I need to find a new one. It is all too easy to languish in the ‘comfort’ and security of a job you know, even when you are no longer being challenged on any level. The longer I stay here, the harder it is becoming to imagine myself moving on. I’ve spent far too long observing the rule ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’, however I have become increasingly aware of the fact that in actual fact, it is ‘broke’ and has been for some time. There are also things about my job that nobody should have to deal with.
So my job: The assistant to Managing Director of a media company. I’m very good at what I do and my role, of course, transcends the role of a mere assistant. I genuinely like most of my work colleagues. My boss however, is Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde incarnate (actually that would have to be ‘Mrs Hyde’ as she is female), and the office politics she manages to create in such a small office (about 14 people) is really quite unbelievable. And unpleasant. Mrs Hyde is one of the nicest, most generous bosses you could wish for, but also often one of the nastiest most despicable bullies imaginable. The mind games she likes to play, border on pure evil. Being the assistant to Mrs Hyde, I find myself perched in a very delicate and somewhat dangerous position in the office – I am frequently the victim and in equal measures, the confidante to her nasty little mind games and bullying. The role of confidante is a dangerous one, as I will always try to protect whichever colleague is the victim that day, by trying to diffuse the situation, or distract Mrs Hyde so she thinks about something other than psychological violence towards her latest victim – I have to be very, very careful that I don’t put my own head on the block in the process. I seem to spend my life trying to smooth these unpleasant situations manufactured by Mrs Hyde . I sometimes think that I missed my vocation as a diplomat.
Mrs Hyde, also delights in stirring up bad feeling between people in the office. She always has one person ‘on the go’, that she picks on and bullies – seemingly for sport. She will spend her time undermining that person, chipping away at their confidence, criticizing and questioning everything they do, as well as setting little traps for them to unwittingly walk into, just so she can have a go at them and put them down in front of everybody. At the same time, she’ll make a point of being particularly lovely to everyone else in the office, just to make the ‘outcast’ as truly and utterly miserable as possible. Furthermore, when the ‘outcast’ has their back turned, Mrs Hyde will bitch about the them ‘in confidence’ to anyone who will listen, trying to undermine any friendship or respect the ‘outcast’ has with their colleagues. Whisper, whisper, whisper. She is always whispering about somebody – often with me, putting me in my usual horribly awkward situation as office diplomat. It has always been like this and I have had my fair turn as ‘outcast’ over the years.
Mrs Hyde is also the worst kind of micro-manager. She won’t ever just let you get on with your job – she even tries to dictate exactly what you should say in your emails to people. Eight years of this has the unfortunate consequence of slowly but surely undermining your confidence as you increasingly question your ability to do the simplest of tasks unsupervised.
The difference between me and everyone else in the office is that I am the only person who will stand up to Mrs Hyde and bite back when she is being rude & unpleasant for no apparent reason. Historically, I have had to endure days, sometimes weeks of such abuse before I finally snap and confront her about her bad behaviour. There have been some explosive rows and I have said things to her that have drained the blood from my colleagues faces, but I have no fear of Mrs Hyde. In fact I pity her. The interesting thing is that confronting her does stop her dead in her tracks, as ultimately, she knows that her behaviour is totally unacceptable on pretty much every level. I can’t tolerate bullying and there is only so much of it I am prepared take on the chin from my boss. More recently I have changed tactic a little to try and spare my blood pressure and I will challenge her as soon as she starts down that nasty road. This seems to work quite well as it stops situations building up to explosive proportions between us. It doesn’t however, compensate for the slow annihilation of my self-confidence which has arisen as a result of working for her.
The rest of the time she is divine; we get on really well, she takes us out to posh restaurants for lunch, has a laugh in the office, buys cakes for everyone for afternoon tea, buys us expensive birthday and Christmas presents, cracks open a bottle of wine or even Champagne at 6pm, offers genuine sympathy and support in a personal crisis and generally, is honestly, lovely. That’s my boss. It’s complex. I once wondered if she was bi-polar, but her behaviour isn’t quite right for that. Another theory is that she is going through ‘the change’ – she is indeed the right age for that, however it doesn’t explain why she has been like it for the last 8 years. She clearly has huge insecurity issues and I think that ultimately, despite her lovely side, she is just a deeply unpleasant person.
As if that wasn’t complicated enough to deal with on a day to day basis, the female colleague I share an office with (let’s call her Betty), is lovely, but totally and frighteningly neurotic. She is overly gushing about everyone and everything, seems to consider every friend that she has as her ‘best friend’, views the world through some bizarre rose-tinted spectacles and can sometimes, because of that, be rather irritating… I love her dearly, but her neurosis and insecurity is always hovering just a micro-millimeter below the surface. The fact that Betty always sees the good in people and can, because of that, come across as a little ‘false’ or naive, irritates the hell out of Mrs Hyde, (who generally looks for the bad in people), so Mrs Hyde often picks on her. Betty’s reaction to Mrs Hyde’s bullying, is either depths of despair or silent, simmering fury. Betty walks on eggshells (as we all do) but rather than keeping her head down on a ‘Mrs Hyde’s mood could go either way today’ day, she over-compensates by being over-bubbly, over-positive, over-lovely and ultimately, face-slappingly irritating. Mrs Hyde then feels the urge to be rude and aggressive towards Betty, and I am left picking up the pieces and have to enter into therapy sessions for days on end to try and help her through the trauma of Mrs Hyde’s bullying. It should absolutely be acknowledged that Betty does also very much support me through my bad times with Mrs Hyde, as much as I support her. It’s just that Betty’s neurosis can be difficult to deal with on a daily basis – especially when the odd childish tantrum is thrown in for good measure if she happens to be feeling particularly neurotic that day.
The third female of note in my office is quite frankly, a vile human being (let’s call her Violet). Once upon a time several years ago, I thought she was just misunderstood and I made an effort to befriend her and give her the benefit of the doubt when everyone else basically hated her. I chose to ignore the stories and rumours about her and the warnings that she was not to be trusted, and chose instead to concentrate on the positives – her great sense of humour & the fact that she was a great laugh to be around. We would regularly go out to lunch, and often we would be discussing the dreadful behaviour of Mrs Hyde and how best to handle her. We would often also bicker and occasionally fall out over petty stuff – she would enjoy a good bitch about a colleague and I wouldn’t play that game. At that time we were the two who had to work the closest with Mrs Hyde, and were always on the front line, each enduring long periods of bullying and nastiness, not helped by the fact that Mrs Hyde obviously felt threatened by our friendship. She tried many times to drive a wedge between us, especially if she detected we’d fallen out, but ultimately, me and Violet were a great team, we got on well, we got things done and we could trust each other… or so I thought.
Mrs Hyde and Violet used to also go out to lunch a lot together – just the two of them. For a long time I ignored the fact that every time Mrs Hyde came back from a lunch with Violet, she would be in a fearsome mood and always seemed to start picking on someone – sometimes me. The rest of the office knew what was going on as none of them trusted Violet in the first place and they were understandably starting to associate me with ‘them’. The Ugly Sisters. What Violet would do at these lunches, was whatever she felt she had to, in order to make sure Mrs Hyde’s bullying was never directed towards her. So she would dish the dirt, spread gossip, and sometimes just downright lie about her colleagues in the office. She would offer her ‘opinions’ about how someone or other wasn’t doing their job properly and of course Mrs Hyde lapped it up as she loves nothing more than a good gossip and a bitch. Unfortunately, if Violet said it, Mrs Hyde believed it, and that afternoon would always be deeply unpleasant for somebody. Violet would of course then pretend she was outraged by Mrs Hyde’s behaviour towards us.
One day, in yet another attempt to drive a wedge between me and Violet, Mrs Hyde decided to tell me, that Violet had told her, about something I had told Violet… in strictest confidence. As friends. Something that was actually quite personal. Something that Violet knew I didn’t ever want getting back to Mrs Hyde. I was very angry, but didn’t confront Violet about it – I let it pass. Then a few months later the same thing happened again. This time I vented my anger at Mrs Hyde (well if she wants to stir the pot then she can take some of the heat). I think it made Mrs Hyde think twice about spreading muck in this way again. Again I didn’t confront Violet but I knew now that she was not to be trusted. Quite upsetting really. The final nail in the coffin of my friendship with Violet, came when Mrs Hyde was out of the office one day, but she asked me to check her emails for her. As I was checking her emails I found an email from Violet to Mrs Hyde, accusing me, out of the blue, of some really bad things which were totally untrue (I will spare you the details – but the accusations were not even based loosely on any truth – it was quite unbelievable). It was a sniping, spiteful, nasty email with the sole intention of poisoning Mrs Hyde’s mind against me. It was one of the most appalling acts of betrayal I think I have ever been subjected to. I had incidentally, been the ‘outcast’ for a few days prior to this, so, suddenly everything clicked into place – Violet had been pouring petrol on the flames and I had caught her red-handed, sticking a knife in my back – my friend and ally had once and for all shown her true nature – something people had tried to warn me about. I felt betrayed and foolish for trusting her for so long. Her actions were completely uncalled for, her comments nothing short of slanderous – I had done nothing to deserve it. What on earth was she saying at their lunches together? I totally lost it. Luckily neither Mrs Hyde, nor Violet were in the office at the time. Very rarely have I felt such pure fury. This was potentially my job at stake here, such were the gravity of the accusations. I immediately left the office and just walked to try and calm myself down. After a while I sat on a park bench and forced myself to think rationally about how I was to handle this unbelievable situation. I may well have never seen this email and so might never have discovered the depths of Violets treachery.
After about an hour, I decided that I would not confront Violet. That was an incredibly hard decision to make as I obviously wanted to take her aside and rip her poisonous tongue out of her face. Instead, I decided I would take Mrs Hyde into the conference room and tell her I had seen the email. So I did exactly that and my god did I tell her what I thought about it. She witnessed both barrels of my fury – (not directed at her of course). In 8 years she has never seen me as angry as I was that day.
I never did talk to Violet about it, but it has been made quite clear that I will have nothing more to do with her. I am polite and professional towards her at all times, but that’s it. I know for a fact that Mrs Hyde will have told her that I saw the email, so you would have thought that a grovelly apology would have followed at some point… it never came. There is more to tell of the aftermath, but I don’t think it would serve any purpose to write it down here.
That was in April 2009. Cut to today, and Violet and Mrs Hyde no longer get on at all, Violet is constantly on the receiving end of Mrs Hyde’s bullying and it’s pretty clear that Violet is deeply unhappy. For the first time in my life I have absolutely no sympathy. Violet has brought her own world down upon her own head and frankly she deserves everything she gets. I am honestly not a vindictive person, but hers has been a supremely karmical and I hate to say it, tremendously satisfying fall from grace.
So that is my life at work – the good is great, the bad is really bad. After 8 years of it, I think I have served my term and deserve something better. It has made me a stronger person in many ways, but in other ways it has taken a terrible toll. A new job and a fresh start could be all that I need to get my life back on track, and to start enjoying life again… nothing is ever that simple though is it?