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I've been in my current place of employment for some time now circa 5 years and never had any issue.

Recently the company was taken over and as part of that we had a reshuffle in terms of expanding the team and making sub departments.

Since doing so I have been put under the direction of a former peer who I've known for some time prior to his employment at my workplace having attended the same year at uni. Since then I have had a constant battle professionally; my opinion discounted, my work constantly picked apart even though the way the work was done was contrary to my opinion for exactly the reasons it's been picked apart for. I have even been ridiculed for a code merge of which the merge branches contained work which has been approved by the same person. I feel this is somewhat deliberate and I can't win either way.

I have been playing nice and just taking it but recently this has escalated. I have literally had the person looking over my shoulder while I work and commenting as I write.

If I ask another employee a question they're right in there asking me why and making the simple question a long and arduous process that goes around the houses.

Recently in a work chat room an issue arose to which I tried to explain the problem but every line I wrote I was met with a David Brent style "just sort it ...". This is the only written example of this type of behaviour I have but this kind of thing is daily.

Another example is recently I worked late with a bunch of others to finish delivery of a release and subsequently took my time back during the week, later that week the director said well done guys take 2 hours off this week. Subsequently I was asked by this person to produce my time sheet which was short by 1h 45 mins of my usual hours I.e. in my eyes still had 15m extra to take. I received a message out of hours during my annual leave "Just so you know most of us didn't claim back the Monday. That was the two hours that * said we could have back".

To this a further message stating that we need to discuss about my attendance since the holiday which I'm currently on wasn't approved.

I applied for this holiday 26 days in advance for a period of 5 days to which prior to me applying I'd had a verbal approval.

So as you can imagine I have been pretty stressed out this week and having been away from any forms of communication for the past four days this has been the first chance I've had to get this off my chest so I apologise to anyone reading this.

Is this bullying or am I simply paranoid? What are my next steps?

closed as off-topic by Masked Man, gnat, JasonJ, Mister Positive, Chris E Jul 12 '17 at 13:43

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  • 1
    Holy Wall of Text. Please reformat your question so it's readable. – nvoigt Jul 12 '17 at 7:46
  • Holy paragraphs Batman, – thebluefox Jul 12 '17 at 7:52
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    lol! Sorry wrote it on my phone! I'll sort it now. – Mark Jul 12 '17 at 7:54
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    He doesn't treat them in this manner if thats what your asking. Just me. – Mark Jul 12 '17 at 8:00
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    Document it. Everything. Then, escalate it to the next boss or HR. – Florian Schaetz Jul 12 '17 at 8:27
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It's a very difficult position to be in, undoubtedly.

The actual definition of bullying is pretty specific in the fact that it's using strength or a position of power to force someone to do something.

Picking apart the actual definition of what it is to bully is pointless however, even though he's not forcing you to do anything his behaviour is still unacceptable.

You have two options;

Talk directly to him about it.

Whether you do this depends on how comfortable you'd be we the confrontation it's likely to cause. I'd also consider having someone else present for this to ensure that you have a witness to anything that is said.

A simple question like "We used to get on quite well, but currently it feels like I'm being singled out for things that aren't my fault. Have I done something wrong?"

It may well be that he's just really bad at managing - and he thinks that the way he deals with you is going to actually motivate you to 'do better'.

Talk to his superior about it

If you don't feel comfortable in talking to him, then your next option is to talk to his superior. This is much more serious than addressing him directly about it as it will have to be dealt with properly by the person you speak to.

It may well be this is your only option though.

If you do this, you'll need to try and have as many specific examples as possible. For example - the pull request that was previously approved by him is a good one.


Funnily enough I've had a similar experience - though in my case the person in question was the boss of the company and the only option I had was to leave. That was amongst the worse 6 months of my life though - so if you're being made as miserable as I was then it's very important you do something to improve your situation.

  • Thanks very much for your reply. I'm glad I'm not going mad! My notice period is 3 months since I've been there that long. – Mark Jul 12 '17 at 8:46
  • These are absolutely the way to go and the subtle option in the last line is the final resort. One another way which may or may not work is being mildly aggressive yourself against this behaviour. Like Hey boss, can I please complete this without you looking over my code? or Can you let [other person] answer my question without you interrupting. Either he will get the hint and tone down or he will himself call you for a meeting and that point you can explain what is bothering you. – PagMax Jul 12 '17 at 12:53
  • if op is trying to keep his job, this is not a good advice. However i agree with the response, op has to be aware that if neither of the options above work, he will need to find another job – Homerothompson Jul 12 '17 at 13:05
  • @gnsanty Which part isn't good advice if he wants to keep his job? – thebluefox Jul 12 '17 at 13:14
  • was talking about @PagMax comment about being aggressive – Homerothompson Jul 12 '17 at 13:52
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When you say you "have been put under the direction of", is this more of a management or supervisor role, or more of a mentorship?

If it's mentorship, he's greatly overstepping his role and you can probably discuss this with him privately and ask him to stop or discuss this with your actual manager.

If it's management, these issues are probably best dealt with on a case-by-case basis. If you can't make headway like that, you can try to discuss this in a more general way with him firstly, and then with his supervisor or someone higher up, or just consider switching to a different team or company.

If you're not sure which one it is, you should probably start by clarifying this with whomever you believe to be your manager.

Even if he's actively trying to undermine you, pushing back on issues to find out the argument behind them and point out the flaws with them is perhaps still the best course of action, apart from just trying to get out of there.

My analysis of each issue you pointed out:

my opinion discounted
my work constantly picked apart

Present a good case for why you said or did something or point out flaws in their opinion.

If they make a good argument, you learn something. If they don't, they should either respect your opinion more or think twice about haphazardly pointing out flaws with your work or thinking.

I have even been ridiculed for a code merge of which the merge branches contained work which has been approved by the same person

They may object to the way you did it or wanted you to get approval for the merge itself. Perhaps the code wasn't supposed to be merged yet, perhaps there were conflicts that either you didn't handle appropriately or that just needed to be handled carefully or perhaps it was just seen as such a significant change that it needed approval or a second pair of eyes first (sanity checks and code reviews aren't signs that you're doing anything wrong).

In this case you really should clarify exactly what their problem is so you can discuss that, know what you did wrong for future reference or call them out on their crap.

I have literally had the person looking over my shoulder while I work and commenting as I write.

I've had this happen a few times (in a non-negative way) with managers whom I had good relationships with and who gave me a lot of autonomy, because them doing that made sense in the moment. So I can't condemn this practice universally.

If you don't need them there, you can probably just stop, turn around and say "I believe I can finish this on my own, I'll let you know if I have any questions" and wait until they leave.

If I ask another employee a question they're right in there asking me why and making the simple question a long and arduous process that goes around the houses.

Reflect on whether they have a good point. If not, push back in a way that makes sense.

every line I wrote I was met with a David Brent style "just sort it ...".

I can definitely see either argument here. From your point of view, your concerns are ignored. From their point of view, either you're bringing up issues that you really should be figuring out on your own or you're involving everyone in a discussion that you really should be having one-on-one with someone (i.e. in both cases, wasting time).

If your concerns are both valid and appropriate, simply pushing back would be reasonable - "I just figured it would make more sense to quickly get an answer here instead of spending a few hours or days trying to figure this out on my own", "I don't have enough information to 'just sort it out'" (that exact phrasing is a bit passive-aggressive) or something along those lines.

"Just so you know most of us didn't claim back the Monday. That was the two hours that * said we could have back"

This seems like a reasonable comment.

If you worked 10 hours on day X and 6 hours on day Y, putting 8 hours on both days or 16 hours in total makes a fair amount of sense. At least that's what I'm assuming that comment meant.

a further message stating that we need to discuss about my attendance since the holiday which I'm currently on wasn't approved

Perhaps you didn't apply to the correct people or in the correct way (there should be a well-defined or commonly-accepted process to apply for leave) or perhaps your application was declined for some reason (which you should presumably be notified about).

The key word here is "discuss" - you need to figure out where the miscommunication or problem was and make sure it doesn't happen again.

  • Hi @Dukeling, I am in a senior position so to clarify the person in question would be my manager. I think you may have missed some of the points in my question. – Mark Jul 12 '17 at 12:39
  • How can you object to a merge between two code reviewed branches to which you were the person in question who approved the previous work. This was a simple merge no new development. – Mark Jul 12 '17 at 12:41
  • The manager was not helping me out but actively interrupting me working to comment on something he saw. That process is reseved for the pull request. They are not simple comments but wholesale don't do it like that type of comments. – Mark Jul 12 '17 at 12:45
  • No they simply wanted full enclosure in a micromangement style. – Mark Jul 12 '17 at 12:46
  • I had not explained the situation yet or given them the choice of how to address it. Had I just sorted it the the cosquences of that dicsion would have been my fault. I have been there before and refuse to make the call and take the conciquences thats why I turned down a management position – Mark Jul 12 '17 at 12:48

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