I had run into her as she was walking out of a heated meeting with my boss. Upon seeing me she went into a tirade about how I was the worst manager my company had. This incident along with continued difficulties working with her have plagued my career and self-esteem ever since. This was also the impetus behind my be strong challenge a couple of years ago.
As for the manager herself, she has slowly lost power in my company. After she recommended two of my employees be fired during last year's salary review I went to our President and complained. I learned she’d already informed him my employees weren't up to her expectations and he was now furious. He had told her he would never allow her to fire them and neither would his father or brother. He was angry she was still talking about this. From now on he wanted her focusing on the projects he assigned her and to stop causing trouble in my department. He must have talked to her because she avoided me for at least a month afterwards and hasn't complained about my employees since. I still find it difficult working with her and have to remain on guard or I am blind-sighted when she does whatever it takes including lying to make sure she looks good.
Then a couple of days ago we were both in the restroom at the same time. She told me she had injured her knee in a boot camp exercise program and could now barely walk. Looking at herself in the mirror she burst into tears. She said she never felt this frumpy before in her life. She asked if I ever felt frumpy. Careful not to provide details, I truthfully responded with yes - every day. She pointed out how my hair was not grey while hers, according to her son, could use a good coloring. We then had a real conversation about aging (we both turn 52 this year), dieting and exercise. I ended up recommending she make an appointment with my orthopedic.
She is now visiting my office regularly giving me updates on her knee. I started thinking this is nice, if she were like this all the time I might actually be able to work with her. Then all of a sudden I was overcome with a sense of déjà vu. I’ve felt this way before. Growing up my parents used to fight every day. Eventually it would get so bad something big would happen – there would be a big scene, my mother would seriously threaten to leave or would leave. Then they would make up and life at home was calm. I would think this is nice, I wish it would stay like this. Of course it never did and I’d eventually wake up to the screaming again. I then realized it won’t be long before this manager is back to her previous shenanigans.
I thought about her telling me how she was competing with the other members of her boot camp class when she hurt herself. I thought about all the conversations we've had over the years and realized most of them included a competition – a competition where she did or said everything she could to come out on top.
I was thinking about this today as I read Carolyn Hax’s advice in her column Dad Can't Stop Daughter From Measuring Herself Against Sister. Carolyn responds with:
The only reasonable path Younger sister can take to feeling good about herself is to do the best job she can at being Younger. Using anything or anyone else as a point of reference is bound to fail.And so I decide how I’m going to compete with the HR Manager in the future - I am not. I’m going to work on being the best me (a 52-year old accounting manager) can be and not worry about her. She has her own demons to wrestle with. If I’m content with myself and my work she will not be able to rattle me.
Have you ever competed with a bully at work?