Subtle workplace bullying

I never discuss my work on this blog. Rarely do I even mention it – my journeys on the bus each morning notwithstanding.  For a number of reasons. Firstly my job is fairly mundane – it pays the bills and is occasionally engaging. But it’s a means to an end, rather than the end itself. I try to keep it as interesting as I can, without surrendering to the corporate gobbledy-gook that seems to be a characteristic of such places. I suspect that people will have limited interest in the minutiae of my scintillating worklife,.

The other reason I never discuss it, is because I have – since the day I started – been bewildered by the behaviour and attitude of certain people.

It all started so promisingly. I was to be living in a flat in leafy Castleknock with a continental flatmate. The flat was located close by work. So far so good. The antics of Flatenemy have  been discussed in detail, to the seeming amusement of the more regular readers of my blog.

Work was always more troubling to discuss. I was aware that since it was my first employment in Ireland in decades, I may take some time to readjust to Irish styles of working. Sure that would be no bother, right?

I am also aware that discretion  is always a worthwhile and beneficial characteristic when it comes to one’s professional life.

Sometimes it feels  better to ignore politics and just vent. Like now.

I work with some appalling people. There. I have said it. I can’t unsay is now.

Perhaps these people are kind and loving to their families; and help little old ladies cross the road in their spare time. Perhaps they give generously to charity. Perhaps their friends regard them as the life and soul of the party.

Or perhaps they are assholes?

Their names are Stubby and Split-End . They were responsible for training me into my job. I was hired to ease the pressure and to relieve some of their workload. Since the day I began I have had the feeling that I am a nuisance and a hindrance. Nothing blatant has ever been said. But from Day One, if I had a question about work, I could expect a heartfelt sigh. Or eyes thrown to heaven. Ot a ‘didn’t you learn that at your last job?’ Or a ‘I explained that to you two weeks ago? Why didn’t you take notes?’ Or a ‘I am extremely concerned about your work.’

Then after making these declarations they would look at each other and smirk. They are friendly with each other and enjoy having whispered conversations.

I was a little bit flummoxed by the whole situation. And just a touch relieved when the routine began, where after telling me off out of ‘concern’ they’d go on lunch together.

It was all very discombobulating though. Very sly and very undermining. I wasn’t in a position to say ‘What is your goddamned problem?’ as I knew the response would  be ‘I am merely worried about the work.’ I have never been insulted to my face. I cannot expect that I my colleagues and I will be friends. I know that I have nothing  in common with them. But it is unsettling.

My attempts to be friendly or engaging with Stubby were met with the stone-faced stare of a steely-eyed killer. Which is quite a feat considering the she breathes through her mouth and has a head like a potato.

Or the shrug of annoyance when I asked where Split-End was going on her upcoming fortnight’s holiday. The one word reply of ‘America’ told me that it was perhaps better not to pursue the conversation.

My boss is an extremely capable person and somewhat lacking in people skills. One of those intensely competitive people if you broke your arm she’d regale you with the story of how she broke both her arms and legs. No matter what the situation she’d have an hilarious anecdote about how amazing and tough and brave she was. I was hardly in a position to go wailing about being excluded and isolated by my colleagues. It was all too subtle. All too underhand. Wouldn’t I simply be told to grow a spine? And in fact, isn’t that what I should be doing? And if I – a temporary employee – raise concerns about permanent staff, am I not simply marking myself out as a troublemaker?

After a few months of dining alone at lunch, wondering what the hell had ever possessed me to move back to Ireland, I started to befriend some other people with whom I am not directly working. That’s been pleasant.

But the shade of my direct colleagues still permeates the room malevolently, on a day to day basis. The looks of exasperation. The huddled conversations. The slyly hostile environment. The realisation that I will never belong here.

But also that this is not my fault. And that I have stopped caring about fitting in. I won’t. Nor do I particularly want to.

I am approaching the end of my one year contract. It has been extended by another year. I never thought I’d last this long – the first four months here involved a daily stern chat to myself to stick it out. I had bills to pay. And responsibilities. And obligations. And a fifteen year gap from Ireland on my resume.

As my first anniversary approaches I can acknowledge how horrendous this past year at work has been.

And now that I have this year under my belt I need a goal. I am feeling another job in my bones.

I must get to work on organising that.

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