It was a cool and gloomy day in March, just about the beginning of the autumn season in the “land down under”, when “Isabelle” had to cross the “Rubicon” and finally called it quits for her job, which she had learned to love and enjoy for so many years. WHY? That’s the big question mark! Yes, why such an abrupt decision to leave her job voluntarily at these precarious times?
When she confided me about what happened in her workplace for the past several months, that was the only time I understand the rationality of her swift decision to end her career with, and even more so without asking for any entitlements, a large and prestigious banking institution in a developed country like Australia.
At that point in time, giving up her career almost immediately was inevitable. She had to get out of the “dark hole” as soon as she could so as to get some fresh air, so to speak, as she might get choked. Unless she rallied all her strength to get out of the “hole’, she would really suffocate. His “toxic” boss made her remaining days and months in the office miserable.
This happened after months of discussions and meetings with the concerned parties and likewise after patiently waiting for a resolution from the management and other agencies (e.g. labor and human rights groups) which had been requested to mediate on the said problem. Unfortunately, the said negotiations were not to Isabelle’s favor. Obviously, the said human rights and labor firms merely left the matter to the management for resolution, making it a mere internal conflict between the employer and employee. Isabelle got frustrated on this. She couldn’t believe the said action taken by the supposedly “friendly” groups. All along, she thought these groups could help her resolve her problem with management, as part of her last resort quest.
To provide you a brief history on the subject, let’s backtrack a little bit on what happened several months before she gave in to the demands of her “monster-like” office colleague/boss.
Isabelle was enjoying her job in one of the bank’s team offices/departments, even earning awards and the accolade from her previous managers and superiors. As a matter of fact, she was always chosen as the employee with the highest productivity rating of the said department. Unfortunately, the said department’s operation was off-shored to one of the developing countries in Asia, for certain reasons. In view of this, Isabelle’s “good-natured” boss was eventually assigned to Asia to manage the said offshore activities. Isabelle opted not to join her boss, so she was left in the main office and was absorbed by another department. The new head of Isabelle’s present team used to be of her grade level, before he got promoted as the head of the said department. (Note: Isabelle got even a higher productivity rating than her new “boss”, though they were not teammates before).
Since it was a new job assignment and entirely different from the previous one, Isabelle went through a formal training process and fortunately got to know and familiarize her present job easily. Albeit the equivalent position had a higher salary rate in the new department, she didn’t ask for a raise right there and then. She thought it would be prudent to wait for few more months to prove her worth and negotiate later with her new “boss”.
Isabelle’s problem started when their department opened up new and better jobs, however all of these were not offered to her. Thus, on her own volition, Isabelle took the opportunity by signifying interest for the said newly opened job openings. Without any explanation from her boss, she was not considered at all for any of the said newly opened positions, even if, to Isabelle’s assessment, she was more than qualified than the new entrants who knew nothing about the job “from Adam”! She felt there was clear discrimination in the hiring process and that a “silent harassment” was inflicted on her. She got no immediate, concrete and valid answers from her boss, as a matter of fact, during her one-on-one conversation with him, the latter appeared to have no sympathy with her. He even told her, straight to her face, that her duties and functions are “petty” and even further belittled her performance. To Isabelle, the said comments were fabricated lies, uncalled for, and had no basis at all. She did not expect neither to hear “bad” words nor witness such a “negative” behavior from a supposedly “professional”, like his “boss”. From then on, her boss was always “picking on” her for no reason at all.
Due to the humiliations she suffered, Isabelle was no longer happy with her work. There had been sleepless nights and she could no longer concentrate on her studies at night, being a part-time student. At that point, reporting to office was very stressful on her part. Her health was affected that she even developed hypertension due to depression.
To remedy the situation, Isabelle was still sane enough to report the matter to their Human Resource (HR) Office and raised her grievances on bullying, discrimination and harassment. But just the same, there was no positive outcome. Isabelle felt something strange; it was as if her “boss” seemed to have maneuvered everything against her.
Isabelle attempted to speak again with her boss, however, the matter got worse. Her boss gave a “deaf ear” on her viewpoints and complaints. At this time, Isabelle had the courage to raise the issue about her salary emphasizing that she was the only one receiving a low grade salary compared to her peers in the office. Was it because she was the only South East Asian in the group? It was further expressed to him that the situation is disadvantageous on her part and that her salary is no longer commensurate to her duties and qualifications.
In view of this, she was called to a meeting by one of the bank’s senior officers and her boss, and she thought that was a good chance to narrate her story with the presence of a “third party”. Much to her dismay, both the senior manager and her boss accused her of allegedly breaching the office code of conduct and warned her of a possibility of putting her for disciplinary action. Isabelle couldn’t believe what was happening; the senior manager was siding with his boss, she simply couldn’t fathom the fact!
So, Isabelle being left alone with no “strong fortress” to lean on reported the matter again to HR but the same was not investigated. So, she went to the Human Rights Commission and submitted a formal complaint against her boss. It took a while for the Human Rights group to respond to the issues raised. As mentioned in the earlier part of this blog, the matter was not resolved on their part, instead it was remanded back to bank’s management.
For Isabelle, going back to the office was no longer an alternative. She thought the option to quit was the best solution at that point in time, considering her deteriorating health situation and embattled peer relationship. It was getting nowhere, his boss had been imposing burdensome and unfair demands from her, i.e., to go extra miles out of her way, so to speak. She never thought she would meet such an exceptional unreasonable person in her entire life. Isabelle felt this kind of boss is psychologically sick and perhaps not worthy of her or even anyone’s respect and service. She was sad though leaving the bank, but what was weird she didn’t understand why the senior management allowed inappropriate behavior, a “psychopath” like his boss, to flourish in their workplace.
Even if she is a devout believer in God, Isabelle started to question why God allowed this to happen to her. But because of her strong faith in HIM, Isabelle was able to stand up and amazingly, she felt a great sense of relief when she finally decided to leave. Isabelle did not pursue anymore the option of filing a case against her boss. Such option would be costly on her part, she would not be able to afford a legal battle with a “giant” in the industry. At present, Isabelle is happy and contented; she diverted her attention to other fields of interests and recently obtained a scholarship cash grant from a reputable school because of her academic excellence achievement.
Isabelle decided to share her story as part of her awareness campaign that there are emerging and thriving bosses and peers out there in workplaces who will bully, harass or discriminate a person in one way or another. These people have no compassion and are indeed pathological liars, getting what they want out of their peers/staff/employees.
You see, a good boss should be someone who is “human”, a human being who recognizes that everyone has weaknesses and that said weaknesses can be changed into strengths and opportunities. In the case of Isabelle, there was not even an iota of compelling reason for her to be treated like what she encountered. My guess was, probably her boss perceived her as a threat! What do you think?
But as they say, bullying has been a national past time of “egocentric” people these days and that is a sad fact. Next time guys, beware of these people and learn from Isabelle’s experience on how to “wake them up”, when it’s your turn!
Here are 10 traits of psychopaths (sourced from the web) which according to Isabelle his former boss was exactly like them. Surely, his toxic boss is a certified “copy cat”:
1. They tend to exploit and trick others for self-advancement.
2. They have used lies and deception to get their way.
3. They have used ingratiation to get their way.
4. They tend to manipulate others for selfish reasons.
5. They tend not to feel regretful and apologetic after having done wrong.
6. They tend not to worry about whether their behavior is ethical.
7. They tend to be lacking in empathy and crassly unaware of the distress they can cause others.
8. They tend to take a pretty dim view of humanity, attributing nasty motives and selfishness.
9. They tend to be hungry for admiration.
10. They want to be the centre of attention.
Note: Courtesy of Office Politics by Oliver James (Vermillion)