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Monday, October 03, 2011

Why You Should Stop Ignoring That Bully

Dear Evil HR Lady,

I work at a bank in a position that requires my reputation and work experience to be flawless. I love my work. However, I have a fairly young, inexperienced, undereducated, personally offensive coworker who comes to the company by way of her husband accepting a position in the US with the promise that his wife would also be employed for the duration of his tenure at a certain salary level. She is unqualified for the job she holds. She takes long lunches, disappears from her desk for hours during the day without letting anyone know where she is or what she is doing, and shirks work like the plague.

I could get over most of these issues knowing that she won’t be around until she retires and it is a matter of waiting out her husband’s employment term. However, where I find it difficult to work with her is that she has made it vocally clear to anyone in the vicinity of her voice that she thinks I am “stupid, unqualified for my position, not as smart as I think I am, don’t deserve my salary, unreliable and unable to do my job. Thinking I was taking the higher road I continued to include her in my project work, all the while she was telling the project teams that I was being removed from the projects because I didn’t know what I was doing and she was now taking over my role.

On a recent business trip, she informed teams at the other office that I was incompetent, etc. Not only was I embarrassed I was mortified that all my hard work might have just blown up in my face. I am still trying to recover by working harder and longer hours to get these teams on board again. It is not going well.

When we returned to our office, I requested a meeting with my immediate supervisor and explained what had been going on. He said he was aware of the statements this person made but said that my reputation proceeded me and I had nothing to worry about, but he said nothing to her.

I have caught her sabotaging presentations I worked weeks on. I have caught her telling my clients that she has been assigned my projects for reasons I previously stated; and I have overheard her talking about me to other employees who look embarrassed and uncomfortable when I make eye contact with them. The extent of her maliciousness go way beyond what I have recounted here, but when it comes to proving them she is clever in that she never puts anything in writing and I cannot pin any of the sabotage on her personally.

As my bonuses and raises are determined by my success on projects and she works to undermine these projects, her behavior has an impact on my financial success as well as my professional success.

Here is my question: is this something that I should take to HR rather than putting up with? I am at a loss since she seems to be a protected person and I can’t seem to find any footing with my supervisor. What can I do to change this environment? Ignoring it is not working any longer.

For the answer click here: Why You Should Stop Ignoring That Bully


Another Evil HR Director said...

I would agree with Suzanne that this situation should not be ignored any longer, and she gives some good and creative ways of dealing with it. However, I have to question the idea that any supervisor should feel his employee is going over his head if that employee goes to HR with her problem. Especially since, in this case, she has already spoken to the supervisor at least once.

Although it may be true that solutions could be limited based on the husband's position with the company, I still feels it's both important and worth speaking to HR. If this were me, I know I would do whatever possible to assist. It's possible this could be seen as a constructive discharge case.

I have to admit I'm very curious about the type of company that would hire someone's spouse just to get the husband. I've never heard of that before!

Anonymous said...

I went through something similar - it was HORRIBLE! And no one wanted to step in because they worried they'd then draw the fire. As I told one supervisor "So, I guess as long as I'm the only one being tortured, it's okay!" Yeah, went a bit over the edge. The co-worker eventually came off the books, but I never felt the same or very safe at work. I strongly urge you to read two books that helped - Emotional Vampires and The Sociopath Next Door. They both explained the power struggle and encouraged me to take action rather than try to figure out what I'd done to draw the fire - which is the first instinct of a normal person. These people aren't normal and you need to understand them before taking them on. Just my two cents. I'm signing as anonymous, for obvious reasons. :)

Ms. B aka Ky Girl said...

I am a Regional HR Manager, in the restaurant industry. And in my opinion I would def. take this to HR. Not only is this other employee being unprofessional but is two steps from harassment. One of the responsibilities of HR Professionals is to ensure there is a safe and positive work environment and there is good morale for productivity. Not only is this coworker going to other employees and slandering your reputation but she is also being unprofessional regarding the way she handles the company’s clients. I don’t know of any HR professional that would not address this matter.

In regards to the previous comment:” I have to admit I'm very curious about the type of company that would hire someone's spouse just to get the husband. I've never heard of that before!”

This is not a common practice but it is done, usually done to fill executive positions or other high caliber position, as well as military based positions, which this is mostly known for. I know of a few banks that offer this program in Indiana that I interviewed with before, they either offer a direct program within the company or a Spouse Employment Assistance Program which help them find employment near the home, or business location.

Anonymous said...

I was getting sick to my stomach reading this because it was bringing back flashbacks of what happened to me. Do NOT under any circumstances go to HR. They are there to support mean lady's husband, which means you will be considered exependable and "the problem". I hate to say it, but your best path would be to get another job as quickly as possible, before your reputation is utterly destroyed by this "lady". She will do what she can to destroy you because your very existance is a threat to her. Every time you are kind, do your job well, are competent, it exposes her own weakness. So she has to destroy you to survive. That's how they think.

If you truly want to give your situation one last chance, you need to a) pull this lady off of all of your projects. b) password protect your projects c) keep a fact based (emphasis on facts) journal with names, dates, witnesses, etc. d) compile a listing of how this woman has caused losses in revenue. Take the losses in revenue to your boss, and let him know what is going on. Tell him you are concerned that this lady's actions will refelct badly on him. See if he will intervene.

But really - these people are evil. You can't outhink them because they think in ways you could never imagine. So run, run, run, for the exit.

And BTW, in addition to "The Sociopath Next Door", I would recommend "Cain and Abel at Work".

Suzanne Lucas said...

I do wonder why a company would do this? Many companies have spousal assistance programs for relocating employees, but don't guarantee them jobs at the same company. I wonder what the husband does?

And Another Evil HR Director, I think as a general rule when people come to HR because their manager won't solve a problem, the manager feels offended. It doesn't mean you shouldn't go to HR, it's just a consequence that I think people should be aware of.

Ms. B aka Ky Girl said...

That sounded like a great solution when I was 15, however this is someone's career. Yes, I think you are dead on with your suggestions regarding, your points you labeled":a) pull this lady off of all of your projects. b) password protect your projects c) keep a fact based (emphasis on facts) journal with names, dates, witnesses, etc. d) compile a listing of how this woman has caused losses in revenue. " However to run and find another job.With the economy today I think we would need to think of another method in a mature manner vs. running and ignoring HR. HR is there to support and assist. I know all HR dept. dont function the same but this is their job....and if you are termed due to bringing these facts to them...Then you have something else bigger on your hands,I am sure the company wouldn't want to deal with. SO I am sure they would address it.

Anonymous said...

@Ms B
HR is there to protect the company first, which may include favoring or protecting this malicious incompetent (MI) over the OP because she's married to Mr. Recruited. If Mr. Recruited is more important to the company's bottom line or they really like him that much more than OP then HR is going to neutralize OP. It doesn't matter how excellent of a worker OP is.

I would also advise she keep records of her meetings with HR and her boss and her original " fact based (emphasis on facts) journal with names, dates, witnesses" in a place where nobody from the company can access it.

Looking for a new job at best, will just give her an idea of what her market value and keep her interviewing skills fresh and help her when she negotiates her next salary raise. At worst, it will give her a head start before MI's shenanigans run her out of her job.

Mary Jo said...

What a hard situation to be in. Definitely don't sit around and take this from her.

My suggestion to you is to clearly document (including dates) all instances of your coworker's badmouthing and slandering. If there is any badmouthing in writing, try and get your hands on it.
Get statements from coworkers and clients that you trust regarding her behavior and document it.
Go to your supervisor again and let that person know how serious this is to you and that you feel like you are working in am environment of harrassment. If he doesn't agree to take action, let him know that you plan to talk to HR because your career and reputation are at stake here.
A competent HR person will address the situation especially since you have clear documentation.
If not, let us know and we'll have more suggestions of a next step for you. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

No laws are being broken. HR won't address it because they are trying to appease the mean lady's husband. HR has a tendency (desire) to believe that this is just two women that can't get along. Coworkers won't speak up because they are terrified they are next on the bully list. So HR backs mean lady because she appears to be more valuable to the company. This is how it is with most bullying cases - going to HR makes it worse. That is why for most of these cases the only solution is to leave quickly before her reputation is destroyed. If she delays she may have a difficult time later on, as her reputation will be in shreads.

Very few HR people are astute enough to see the bullying for what it is. Fewer still will have the guts to do the right thing and go against upper management.

Mike C. said...

But hey guys, just so long as workplace bullying remains legal, as this blogger has argued in the past? After all we don't want the nanny-state to interfere with the free market. Even though she lives in a country - Switzerland - which protects it's own employees against such damage.

I mean sure, in the United States if I spread false rumors that someone is a pedophile I can be sued for libel/slander but if maliciously destroy someone's career it's totally cool. The OP has no real recourse and is at the whims of a terrible economy and a company that not only doesn't care about the OP, but by not protecting the OP and ruining a clean reputation, it makes that often refrained comment of "oh just find another job" that much more difficult.

And really, just trying to draw other coworkers away from bad conversations isn't going to do a thing. The OP can't control interactions that happen elsewhere, and the OP has already complained about sabotage. What in the hell is your answer for that?

Let's face it, the OP is screw because of a lack of laws that other developed nations have already taken care of.

Suzanne Lucas said...


I think companies should deal with bullies, but new legislation is not the solution to every problem.

In fact, less regulation would be a great solution to this problem, as it would cause the economy to pick up and then there would be more jobs available and people wouldn't feel trapped.

Sometime people are mean. And that stinks. But, even with legislation, it wouldn't stop people like this. She's convinced she's right and justified. And the management would be just as freaked out about losing the husband as they are now.