Sunday, 13 January 2013

Ring in the New

I've been back at work for a week, and so far, so good.

New Boss has initiated two conversations with me, and his manner during both of them has been pleasant, respectful and courteous. He has resisted the impulse to do impressions of me, tell me near-the-knuckle jokes, or throw accusations of "over-sensitivity" in my face. Instead, we merely chatted amiably about how we both spent the Christmas and New Year break.

Now I have no way of knowing if this entente cordiale will continue, but it would appear that by bearding this particular lion in its den (click here for details), I have temporarily halted what had started to become a very uncomfortable working relationship.

This lesson – the lesson of appropriately challenging inappropriate behaviour – is brought home to me yet again when I receive an email from Line Manager in the middle of the week. It starts “Katharine” and ends “Line Manager” (except he uses his real name, of course…). And the sentences in between are professional, courteous and unexceptional. Which would not be worthy of comment, except that Line Manager’s emails to me used to be abrupt, rude, sarcastic and hostile !!!

So what changed?

What changed was that I submitted a formal complaint against Line Manager for bullying, and after (an admittedly ghastly) six months of protracted investigations, my complaint was upheld.

New Boss told me during our pre-Christmas conversation in his office that he did not feel entirely relaxed around me, because he knew that I had strong views about how I want to be treated. Which I found a rather strange comment at the time, as I don’t imagine I want to be treated much differently from how most people want to be treated. I doubt very much if New Boss and Line Manager think of me with particular fondness – which is fine, because I don’t consider them my friends either. But I do expect them to treat me as I hope I treat everyone. Civilly and professionally.

One of the methods the Jackals formerly employed to upset me was social exclusion, ensuring I was within earshot when others in the office were being invited along to some gathering after work to which I was pointedly “not invited”. I expect the social events are still ongoing, but a stop appears to have been put to the petty playground tactics and loud proclamations. So I am no longer bothered. And I’m no longer bothered for 3 reasons:

1. What I don’t hear, can’t hurt me. Because it was never the gathering itself that was the issue; it was the deliberate attempt at public humiliation which was so upsetting. A humiliation to which I am no longer forced to play audience is meaningless.

2. Over the past year, I have worked hard to fill my life with lots of other interests; so I would not be free now, even if I were invited. If I chose to, I could now be out every single night – at choir practice, at a Support Group meeting, at a rehearsal or playreading, or just having coffee with a friend. If I had never been bullied, I would not have the life I have today. So although I am a long looooog way from feeling “grateful” for what happened, I do accept that today my life is far more rewarding, stimulating and interesting than it once was.

3. And finally, the stark truth is that many people I work with are – hmmmm, ‘ow shall I say? – different to me. The Jackals are tougher, a lot more cynical, with a fondness for schadenfreude, and a dislike of other people’s successes. I am tempted to write that these particular people are “nastier” but that is merely personal perception (I am sure that the Jackals also possess many good qualities. It’s just that these are quite hard to spot when they are in the workplace……) But it is the Jackals who lead the office socialising, so it is their values, qualities and interests which dominate proceedings. And these are things in which I am extremely happy not to share…

It’s been a while since I have felt any desire to “join in” with my co-workers; but perhaps New Year = New Start...?

So on my first day back at work, I email the office as a whole saying I have left some edible treats in the kitchen area. This is fairly standard practice when someone returns from having been away for any length of time, but I haven’t brought in any treats for almost 18 months. (Not having been quite in the mood, you understand....)

My treats seem to be well received, because a number of colleagues come up to me to say they’ve enjoyed them and to say thank you. And I start to hope for a future featuring a reasonably settled office environment. An environment where although not everyone is the same, we do all at least manage to treat each other with civility and respect.

Because – frankly – that would represent significant progress…..

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