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I'm facing the prospect of having to work with someone who has displayed bullying behaviour towards me in the past. She undermines by constant criticism, and uses her elevated position to hold power over me.

I feel that it will only be a matter of time before I will be set-up to fail. I don't want work to affect my health or home-life again, which it previously did.

Ideally, I would choose not to work with this person again, but it looks inevitable, despite voicing my concerns to my immediate line-manager.

What can I do to prevent this happening?

  • Is there any chance this person has changed their ways since you've worked together? – DarkCygnus Nov 7 '18 at 15:39
  • @DarkCygnus - No. I see this person on a daily basis and her attitude towards me has clearly not changed. – Kath Nov 7 '18 at 15:44
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    The recurring theme I've seen on workplace as far as being set up to fail is concerned: document everything. every verbal request she makes of you, every time she shoots you down, send her a confirmation email. You can then show these to your boss when she makes her play. – Scoots Nov 7 '18 at 15:48
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    What do you mean by "voicing my concerns"? Did you just say "She doesn't like me" or did you go into detail on what your past problems have been? – mcknz Nov 7 '18 at 15:50
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    Sounds like it might be time for you to start searching for a new job. One where you won't have to deal with this colleague. – Lee Abraham Nov 7 '18 at 16:58
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There are a number of things you can do to mitigate this problem.

  1. Make it clear to whoever assigns you to project what problems you have had in the past. Make it clear that this is more than just 'we don't get along'. Be specific about the behaviours you have seen and how they have affected you.
  2. Repeat all of the above to HR, if your company is large enough to have one. Neither of the above guarantee that you won't be made to work with this person, but you are laying the groundwork if things go wrong later.
  3. If you are in a union or professional association get them involved too.
  4. If you do end up working with this person, make the best effort you can to work with them. However if they display clearly unacceptable behaviour, go through all the steps you would normally do in this case - tell them first, then if the behaviour doesn't change talk to your boss or their boss, and/or HR.
  5. Keep a record of any problematic interactions with them, even if each individual interaction doesn't warrant a complaint on its own. Consider recording everything they ask you to do, especially if they tend to blame you for things you haven't done. Keep a note of times and dates, what was said, what the results were. If others witness these interactions note their names. This will give you evidence to back up any complaints you have to make later.
  • Number 5 is good. Keep this record in a paper notebook, not online. Make sure to put a time and date on each note you make. Take the notebook home with you when you leave the workplace. Read this: susanjfowler.com/blog/2017/2/19/… – O. Jones Nov 9 '18 at 23:33
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I found myself in a similar situation a few years ago. After a widespread reshuffling of teams, I was put to to work with this person who was senior to me and came from another team closer to senior management. After a short while getting used to the new team structure, it became clear that this person was not easy to get on with, and I soon felt bullied and undermined at work. After putting up with it for a bit, I complained about their behaviour to my manager, and when he did nothing I elevated my complaint to his manager, citing specific examples of the kind of things that I felt were bullying. Some days later I was called to a meeting with the manager and this person, where they outright lied and denied my complaints. And at a later meeting with the same manager I was effectively demoted from my mid-level team lead position. It was not long after that, that I decided to look for a new job, before it got any worse.

Like with DJ's advice, maybe I should have gone to HR; maybe I should have kept detailed notes of the bullying rather than just what I could remember; maybe company policy or government legislation was there to protect me. But in the end you may have to admit defeat and look for a new job.

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