Thursday, 5 February 2015

My workplace bully met me today.

Today I encountered a woman who had bullied me at work. I did something I would not have imagined a few years ago. I said hello to her.

The first thing I noticed was that my heart didn't race and I didn't feel like I was having a panic attack. I would experience these things whenever I had to deal with her at work, so this was significant. I was feeling secure and successful and I was looking fabulous. (I'd had a free afternoon after finishing work with a client, so I'd walked into a hair salon and had my hair blow waved.)

It felt wonderful to stand in front of her and deliver the message that I had survived and thrived, in spite of her best efforts to pull me to pieces. 

When talking about my best and worst leaders in leadership development, this woman is the person who springs to mind as the example of my worst leader. I led a team in the area she oversaw. The team was geographically dispersed and she regularly convened telephone conferences, preceded by an overload of detailed email requests. 

I specifically remember one incident when my team was confused by an email request she had sent. They asked me for guidance. I didn't know what it meant either, so agreed to raise it during the telephone conference. 

She discussed all the items on her agenda and then asked if anyone had anything else to discuss. I posed the question about what her email meant on behalf of the team. She responded by asking me if I had read the email and then stated that she assumed that I could in fact read. 

I have never felt so small. I couldn't speak. I felt as though I was being attacked. My team gaped at me. None of us spoke up. I think we were paralysed with fear. The telephone conference ended, none of us knew what she was asking of us and I spent my time avoiding my boss as much as possible. 

Not only did this woman give me my "worst leader" example, but she also gave me a character to develop. Over the last two days, I've been playing a senior doctor who is a bully and who spends her time belittling and humiliating her registrar. I often pose the question about reading capability when I'm playing this role.

During today's encounter, I noticed that this woman did not use my name once, yet I greeted her by using both her first name and surname. She asked me what I was doing now and I was very happy to speak about my success. She didn't congratulate me. She terminated the conversation very quickly. I wonder if she felt nervous meeting me again. Perhaps she has reflected on her behaviour and treatment of me and now regrets it. Whether she regrets it or not, I'm so pleased I took the chance to display my survival and success. Today, I took her power away.

Have you ever met your bully again? How did you feel? What did the bully do?

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