Unpacking The Past

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I’m working with my psychologist to try and unpack some of my bad work experiences – this incident came up in our last session. I’ve written it down in an effort to get the events clear in my head, and also so I can easily refer to it in the future. My memory is not as good as it once was. ;)

One of the best managers I ever had was once totally undermined by a team leader underneath her. Because it was a 24/7 call centre, my manager saw this team leader for a maximum of 2 hours a day and for those two hours, this team leader was on her super best behaviour. It was a total accident that what this Team Leader was up to behind her back was discovered..

My manager called me into her office and told me that she was getting feedback that I was “dismissive”. I said I wasn’t really sure what that meant. Could she please provide me with a specific example. She said she could not, because then I would know who gave the feedback and asked me just to keep it in mind. I said ok, but I can’t fix this without more info, so please ask the person giving you this feedback to speak up and let me know when it happens, and/or ask them if they are ok with you relating a specific example.

A month or so later when we had another catch-up, she said she was still receiving feedback that I was “dismissive”. She had asked the feedback provider re relating an example and the answer was no. As no specific example could be provided, I said, “Sorry, I can’t fix this without knowing more. Plus, now I am starting to feel concerned that the person giving this feedback isn’t adult enough to put their name to it. Maybe there is a reason they will not put their name to it”.

Probably three weeks later, I was walking past the managers office and I heard my name and that word. Her office was glass, so I could see who was in there with her. It was one of the team leaders. The manager and I locked eyes and she knew I had heard it. After that person left, she called me in. I apologised. I did not mean to overhear but I was walking past. Then I said – now I know who is giving you this feedback, I actually know what the problem is – and I am not being dismissive, I am simply too busy to “debrief” with her.

This person was a team leader and if I had a question about how to handle something I would ask her. She would tell me to do X. I’d accept her answer on face value and do exactly what she said to do. Once I’d done what she said, I moved on to the next task.

Two or three hours later she would come to me when it was quiet and try to have another discussion about the question I’d asked. I’d be like.. I did what you said, it is handled, and I’ve moved on to other things. And she’d be like “No, we need to debrief”. And I’d be like, I’m sorry, I don’t have time to debrief. I have 6 other tasks in my queue that need to be completed. The situation was solved and I’ve closed it off, so we don’t need to debrief.

When I explained this, my manager said I was doing exactly the right thing. She actually felt that how I was handling this issue was too polite and she told me in future to be a lot more “dismissive” about these debriefs and just to give a simple no, and she would talk to the team leader directly about this.

My manager then asked me why I had not mentioned this situation to her. I explained that this team leader had told me to always go directly to her if I had an issue with her and she would do the same with me.

I had spoken directly to the team leader about it, and she told me the debriefing was her way of doing things and I should debrief whenever she wanted me to debrief. I said lets do a compromise – if I say that I have work I need to do, let it go. If I’m not busy, we can debrief. In that job, it was rare for me not to be busy, so 99% of the time I’d say I had work to do.

The manager was very unhappy about this “feedback deal”, and on further investigation she found out this team leader had made the same “feedback deal” with every single staff member. She sent out an email making it very clear that any issues with team leaders were to be raised directly with her, and no “feedback deals” were allowed.

I was also very unhappy that this team leader was saying to my face if she had any issues with me she would raise them with me, and from then on, I did not trust her.

All of a sudden, all the issues with people had with this team leader were going to the manager. It turned out this team leader was doing a lot of not great things and the spotlight was well and truly on her. The long cigarette breaks, the disappearances, her refusal to answer her phone when it rang, the non completion of tasks, some bullying of staff members, the times she would leave early and have someone else cover for her, the inappropriate flirting with clients on her calls, all of this came to light.

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Because my Best Manager was truly that – an excellent manager – she kept a very tight leash on this team leader once all of this came to light.. but when my Best Manager left, this team leader had free rein to act inappropriately. That was not a fun time for me, but I knew to keep a very close eye on her, and to call her out on her bullshit.

She did not appreciate my calling her out, and she used a new staff member to try and oust me by having them make false complaints about me. Unfortunately for her, I was already in the process of complaining about her behaviour with management and when I pointed out that there were witnesses to the event this staff member complained about and that management should ask them for their version of events, it was discovered my version of events was the correct one.

After that situation, I stated to management that I no longer wanted to work with that team leader, and we adjusted my schedule accordingly, until I eventually left the company, mostly because the new manager was not a patch on Best Manager, and I no longer enjoyed the job.

Eventually, she ended up being demoted from her team leader position. Karma, it happens. :) Though sometimes it takes longer than we would like, and sometimes we are not there to witness it happen in person.

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9 thoughts on “Unpacking The Past

  1. I swear I could write a book on all of the horrible and bizarre bosses I’ve endured in my work life, but I suspect I’d be accused of making it all up! Yes, they were *that* terrible. And in just about every case, Karma eventually got them well after I was gone. Like one petty and vain young fellow who contracted a medical condition and lost all of his beloved hair only to have it grow back in sparse snow white patches. Probably the best one, though, was a spiteful, hateful Cruella DeVille boss who was universally loathed but couldn’t be fired or demoted because of her lofty governmental civil service position. Years after I’d left that horrible place, I learned that police had surrounded her department building and eventually hauled her out in hand cuffs. I DIDN’T learn why, though, and to this day I’d love to hear the details.

    • I’ve had a pretty unpleasant boss history too.. :) which is why my best manager was so amazing to experience. I saw that movie Horrible Bosses on a flight once – what a terrible movie it was, if I’d had a parachute I might have used it! And nothing in it even came close to any of the horrible bosses I have known..

      I’d love to know why she was arrested too! ;)

      I’ve been hanging out a bit on Ask A Manager, which has taught me that my experiences were not “the normal” and anytime I have written about them there I’ve received feedback that has helped me process the experience and start to put it behind me.

      For me, a late in life Aspergers diagnosis has really begun to make sense of the past when viewed in relation to my work history.

  2. I’m glad that you were backed up by your boss; that is rare in some jobs!! I have only a few terrible boss stories; in teaching, one can usually just shut the door and do one’s job without much interaction with the admin. However, there have been a few extremely incompetent principals, and one CRAZY, terrifying one. (from Texas, no surprise there!) Most of the people I work with are delightful and caring individuals, although there are a few young “mean girls” in my department now. As department chair, I get to deal with their drama. :( As Tonya’s real life friend, I can verify that she could write a BOOK about horrible bosses.

    • Best boss backed us up with clients as well. She held us all to a high standard and we did not want to disappoint her.. after she left the general morale went downhill and the new staff did not have the same care factor we all did. :)

      I’m glad you can mostly close the door on it all. And that reminds me, of the last shift I did work with Ms Dismissive. I actually slammed a door right in her face, deliberately and delightfully. I got to sit in Best Managers office that shift, and when Ms Dismissive was going on and on and on, “debriefing” a co worker at the top of her voice while standing right outside my door, I got up, turned to face her, looked her in the eye, grabbed the door, and slammed it shut.

      That was the last interaction I personally had with her. It was so, so, satisfying. And the look on her face, well, I’ll never forget it. I could almost print it out, from inside my mind. I imagine she wore pretty much the same face when she was demoted. :)

  3. Sometimes it is just impossible to work in such and environment and you have no choice but to leave. I don’t understand why people, who are only one level above you in this case, go out of the way to scheme and manipulate. Do they gain anything in the long run? Certainly not restful and innocent sleep, I should think.

    • In her case it was all about insecurity. I was good at what I did, and she felt that was a threat to her. Her feedback scheme might have gone unnoticed, if she could have kept from bitching about the staff to Best Manager. I’m really glad I was in the right place at the right time to overhear it. :)

  4. Debriefing. Isn’t that what happens when you take your pants off? Ha Ha
    That Team Leader sounds like right idiot, glad she got caught out.

    • Oh dears, you remind me that this was a team leader who thought leggins were pants, too. I have seen her butt crack more times than I care to recall, through her leggins and underwear!

      That kind of fashion crime is nearly as bad as treating other staff badly, I think. :)

  5. Years ago I had a boss who was a complete b*tch. She would backstab people as soon as they left the office, so you knew it was happening when you left. She said to me, when my Mum was dying, “don’t take too much time off, you don’t know how long it will take”. About 6 months after I left I sent her an email telling her in no uncertain terms, what I thought of her. My ex colleagues said it reduced her to tears, I kinda felt vindicated. She was one nasty nasty piece of work.

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