A few weeks ago, I got myself a new job. Yay me. I picked what I imagined would be a nice safe place to work, not far from home. After my previous experience, I just didn’t have it in me to tackle a full time corporate environment so, part time it was, even though I was employed in a senior role. From the very first day my new employer displayed behaviors I just wasn’t comfortable with. She told the staff off publicly, bagged them out to the other staff, discouraged meal breaks, asked you to stay longer almost every time you came in, micro-managed everyone to within an inch of their lives and set unrealistic workloads for them.
I was wary of raising these issues with her as I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t over-reacting based on my most recent experience and was concerned that my message wouldn’t be taken seriously based on the fact I am setting up an anti-bullying training and education business. In short, I didn’t want to be seen as a zealot. I felt that my statements would have little credibility based on these things.
Anyway, a few weeks into the job and the HR firm called to check in with me to see how things were travelling and to pass on the positive feedback they were hearing about me. After ensuring our conversation would remain confidential, I expressed my concerns and stressed that I wasn’t prepared to raise them at this stage as I felt that not enough time had passed for my observations to be 100% accurate. HR and I came to an agreement on who would raise which issues and when.
The very next day at work my employer asked if we could have a chat, to which I said of course. Right from the interview stage my employer and I had established a straight up style of communication, something that was important to her as she had recently had some negative experiences with staff not speaking up and she was keen to break that pattern. Needless to say, I was annoyed when she said that HR had called her and said I had some concerns, I felt cornered and betrayed. However, I raised a few of the issues I had discussed with HR, how could I not? As graciously and as kindly as I could I explained to her that by bagging out the other staff as she did it became difficult for anyone to develop more than the required sense of loyalty she was entitled to as signer of our pay cheque. I went on to explain that being publicly reprimanded was very dis-empowering and de-motivating for the staff, witnesses and targets alike and that I was concerned this would continue to negatively impact on her business which she was clearly very passionate about. She thanked me for being courageous enough to bring this up and for trusting her enough with this, we both teared up a little and went on with our day. As the day went on, she thanked me again several times for our conversation. I was relieved. I had spoken up and not was not shut down and our relationship had improved as a consequence. Phew.
Back to work the next day, and she again asked for a conversation, sure, be happy to I said. Apparently she had discussed our conversation with her husband the previous evening and he had agreed that she was too serious with the staff and needed to build better relationships with them, as a consequence, my position was no longer available. Ok. However they would still need a receptionist and I was welcome to apply for that. After a little discussion, I agreed to take on that position and it was arranged that HR would call me on Monday to arrange to transfer the role. No problem. An hour later, as I was leaving for the day, she asked for my keys back and to make sure my time book was up to date, a formality required by HR apparently. Then she wished me good luck with the rest of my life and my own business. Hmmmm, not quite the agreement we had made not more than an hour ago.
By the way, did I mention that my employer was a psychologist? Surely someone a little above such a passive aggressive response to feedback that she requested.