The tale I am about to tell is both grubby and murky, involving clashing egos; overweening ambitions and sordid intentions among middle management. It begins about a year ago when a company (let’s not say which one) based in the Wastelands of County Dublin hired a sprightly new manager. As anyone who works in the coalface of office administration knows, a new manager needs to tread carefully. They have to be assertive enough to stamp their authority on a team fairly fast, lest they reveal themselves to be a pushover. On the other hand they need to be aware of the septic fog of office politics seeping from every corner. Identify the gossips and the surly lumps early, and love-bomb them, to ward off their negativity. It is a tightrope that requires delicate navigation. Let’s call the villain of this piece Sinead Lovejoy (not her real name).
What is not advisable for a new manager, is to barge in like a bull in a china shop and declare that all systems in place are rubbish; that you are going to reinvent the wheel and that said reinvention will be delegated to minions without regard to working hours or volumes.
It all went disastrously wrong from day one. Screaming ‘You must do this because I’m your boss so you have to do as I say’ at a long-time employee ensured that said employee went to senior management and quit, explaining the reasons. Within weeks one of the two new employees hired to replace the aforementioned employee went out on stress leave. Some weeks later the other new employee was also out on long term sick leave. We’ll come back to this situation.
My first run in with Sinead (whose voice sounds like nails on a blackboard) was at lunch one day. I don’t work directly with her, so I was spared the relentless onslaught of delegated tasks. I try to be pleasant to the needy, so smiled vacantly at the reams of nonsense spewing from her mouth. She suffers from an affliction that means only her voice is allowed to be heard and she monopolises all conversations. There is something feral and desperate about this behaviour. Her voice is high pitched and resembles machine gun fire. I don’t know what is behind this behaviour, nor do I care. I am at work. I just want a quiet life. When she heard about my recent trip to Iceland she asked me to write an email detailing the places I could recommend to visit. I gave a nod and said OK. While I had vague intentions of replying, it was not a priority. Imagine my surprise when two weeks later I was told that I was being set a deadline to respond to her request for holiday recommendations in Iceland, as the delay in response was unacceptable. This antagonised me – she’s not my boss. Even if she was, then her holiday is her own goddamned business. For a quiet life I sent her the website for the Icelandic tourist board, telling her that everything on there was worth seeing.
From afar I watched her scheduling meetings at 5pm on Friday with employees who have a ninety minute commute to get home. To her threats – made openly in the office – of written warnings to employees for errors made.
To the shrieking to shut up, to the person next to her for typing too loudly.
To the birthday dinner for a member of her department where Sinead decided the date, the time and the restaurant.
To the weekend barbecue at her home where certain favoured employees were invited, but others excluded.
To the afternoon when she arrived over to my side of the office looking for my manager. Clearly miffed at my lazy-arsed response for Iceland tips, she sneered at me and said ‘Oh there’s nobody important here’ ; turned on her heel and marched off. Naturally I made a complaint to my manager and insisted that this behaviour be addressed with Sinead. I also thoughtfully told all her staff what she had said to me. It only seemed right. She’d been running riot for about a year and the highers-up seemed to be turning a blind eye to the chaos she leaves in her wake. I didn’t have much faith in their willingness to address her bullying. Spreading the word seemed the wisest.
Yesterday was the pinnacle of insanity. Several weeks ago when the two employees on long term stress leave departed, their work had to be covered. Sinead approached one of her other staff members – let’s call him Pablo – and pressganged him into taking on their responsibilities in their absence. His reluctance was visible – it would mean a much closer working relationship with Sinead. An ordeal for anyone. He hails from Chile (not his actual country of origin but close enough) and has not been home for a couple of years. This Christmas he has booked time off for a month, where with his wife, he will travel home. At lunch yesterday Sinead looked at him and said ‘I have never been to Chile. I want to go. I can go with you this Christmas, you can show me around’. Pablo gave a nervous laugh.
‘I am not joking, I want to travel to Chile with you this Christmas’ said Sinead sternly. No mention of her husband accompanying her.
Thankfully he had the smarts to immediately shut it down by saying ‘I am traveling with my wife, we are visiting family, you are not welcome to join us on our holiday’. She looked crestfallen.
The tension across the table was palpable. For the first time her insane behaviour was heading into #MeToo territory. Everyone is walking on eggshells. I expect Pablo to resign fairly soon. It’s like living in a soap opera with a crap Joan Collins.