coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tales of Bullying and Meanness: The Marathon Man

My tormentor was the faculty chairman of an academic department at the university. He disliked me, but when I asked if he wanted me to find another job he said no. He wanted to bring me down, teach me my place, perhaps destroy me. He would come into my office, shut the door, and harangue me for hours. Not every day, but certainly every week. He was afraid of the other faculty, which included his wife. Berating me was his only avenue for achieving authority. 

Because I was the manager, he was my supervisor for the 3 year term he filled. There was always a new chair, every 3 years. I could hold on. I didn't want to give him the satisfaction of chasing me away. Perhaps I should have left, but I didn't. Call me foolish, but I like to win.

He had to give me a final performance evaluation about a month before his term ended. It lasted, on and off, for a day and a half. I'm not kidding. Hours and hours of him asking me questions he could then use my answers against me. It was quite odd.

I reminded him a performance evaluation is a time for a supervisor to review the employee's work performance, and give constructive feedback to help the employee improve. Instead, we danced around his hatred for me. Just him and me. On and off for 2 days he asked me questions, and I tried to answer them very carefully.

Finally, he asked what I thought about working for him. I replied "Working for you is like running a marathon in 90 degree heat, with the flu." He was a runner, so I knew he'd understand. That ended the "review." A month later his term was up, and I had a new department chair who was quite wonderful.  I won, sort of.

alone and waiting




36 comments:

  1. Petty and vindictive, that man. And very foolish indeed to think he could wear you down. You are granite, tough with sparkly bits.

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  2. Ugh... he sounds like a total monster of a supervisor, a true nightmare. I love the answer you gave him about what it was like to work for him.

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  3. I had terrible bosses, one of whom was not only cruel to me but also to his partners and clients. I stayed one year exactly and had to fight to get the pay that was due me. How you were able to handle three years with someone who sounds mentally unstable and should have been removed from his position because of the sick type of harassment that he put you through is amazing. You are a very strong woman. I do hope Karma came to him.

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    1. I'm the adult child of an alcoholic. I can endure 3 years with one hand tied behind my back. I'm not sure what ever happened to him. I don't ask.

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    2. And I'm sorry you had to work with a boss like that.

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  4. That's a powerful story. You ran the distance. You told the truth. Your photographs tell stories, too. Thank you.

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    1. I DID run the distance!! I'm so glad you got that.

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  5. It is hard to stay when you are constantly berated and told you are less than. I have also been in that situation a coup0le of times. I outlasted one of them and came out on top. With the other one it just didn't matter enough for me to fight it. I left and never looked back. The supervisor in that case was sent to prison for embezzlement so in a way I came out on top there too.

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    1. Oh gee, you worked for an actual crook. Sheesh. I would have left if I hadn't loved my job so much.

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  6. Sounds like he needed some time on a therapist's couch. Was there no one higher up than him who could see what was happening? Must have been a stressful three years for you! Glad you survived.

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    1. That's a story in itself. There was someone higher, and she was once my mentor at the college level. He made sure to poison her against me. He was thorough. She was overly respectful towards faculty members, and people with PhD's, and took his side. I was shattered by that betrayal. But we made up and became friendly again a year or two after the Malicious Bastard stopped being the chairman.

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  7. Yes, my thought was the same - that you should have gone to HR or someone in authority above him. I am sorry that you were betrayed there also. I worked as an admin. asst. at a college and I was lucky never to have an experience like yours. I am glad you were able to outlast him!

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    1. There isn't much an HR director can do at a university when a faculty member is a terrible boss to staff members. Tenured faculty cannot be fired. The HR Director was aware of his "issues." She took me aside an advised me to find another job and escape. The thought of leaving made me feel like a victim. I had to wait him out, or I would have never gotten over it. I know this is strange, but I'm a little strange. Ha. I worked at the University for 37 years. He was one of the very very few faculty members who I would take issue with. There was something wrong with him.

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  8. What a horrible boss. There was no help from human resources I'm guessing. It's disgusting that this was allowed to happen but I know it happens in hospitals too. Our medical director is bully. I'm waiting for him to do something to me so that I can confront him on it but it likes to attack new people or people who are afraid of him. He has no power over me anymore. He is a small, petty, insecure man who is deeply unhappy and takes it out on underlings. He's afraid of me though and my husband works in the same place and my husband is not only quite large but smart too which makes him a formidable foe and I think the doc knows that.

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    1. There wasn't much human resources could do, because he was an academic. I love your comment, by the way.

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  9. Oh, how I can relate. As the only woman at my level, back in the seventies, the division managers Maytag rotated past me were unbelievable. I gritted my teeth and vowed to outlast them. The last one got me. Then his bad practices got him, then Maytag was swallowed by a bigger fish. I enjoyed following all their demises, in the WSJ. I doubt out daughters realize the dues we paid. And some are still paying.

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  10. More power to you! What a mean and petty man.
    We had a faculty Dean years back who used to hide his female staff's coats and bags just to watch them searching frantically - for a laugh he claimed. They eventually reported him and he was quietly moved to a higher position - as you do in male dominated academia.

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    1. What a crazy, backwards world we live in.

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  11. Well, that WAS a good comeback! I guess he certainly got the point! I never understood why academic environments are often so toxic. You'd think having a bunch of smart people together would be a good thing, but so often the egos and intellects clash.

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    1. Sadly, being smart is no guarantee that one will be kind, or good, or moral.

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  12. I had a female school principal who was like this. Worst five years of my teaching career. She was the only female principal I had in my 37 years of public education. Not sure what that says. She was a major piece of work. I was chair of a group that worked diligently to get her removed. It finally happened but after I took early retirement.

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    1. I'm sorry your only female principal was a monster. I'm happy your group's effort resulted in her removal.

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  13. I think the key moment occurred when you asked if he wanted you to find another job. Crunch time. He could, of course, have said "Yes" and this would have been a different story. The fact that he had to say "No" meant the sting of uncertainty was removed. He became background noise. Unpleasant, to be sure, but you could be reasonably sure you could wait him out.

    Another key issue was how old you were at the time. At different times of our lives we react differently. Early on I'd have felt as harassed as you were. Later on I'd have relished a two-day evaluation as an opportunity to practice what the RAF described as "dumb insolence". Responding with the shortest of short answers; sometimes remaining silent. In the RAF being right or wrong didn't matter; I was condemned to the cook-house for the mere querulous tone of my voice. Marathon Man didn't command that kind of irrational power.

    You don't raise the knotty matter of gender. It's quite conceivable he was in love with you. But that's not how lovers behave, you say. But I'm afraid it does happen. Especially with men who find themselves disadvantaged by the object of their adoration. I know I can't have her so I'll make her life miserable as she has made mine.

    Your ordeal lasted and it must have made your life intolerable. At a later stage you might have spent the time speculating on how and why he'd become what he was. Passing into brief trances as you weighed up this and that. But then I'm merely theorising and you lived through it. Forget what I've said. I'm one of those doofusses on the other side of the fence: a man. And an old man at that.

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    1. Beautiful and thoughtful commenting! You are absolutely right in the first paragraph. When I said no, I knew for sure I was fine and it was all about him.

      I was in my early 50s at the time. He was about 10 years younger. I can assure you he was not in love with me (ick). He WAS jealous of the relationship and support I had with my staff. He wanted them to feel that way about him, instead of me. Fat chance. They all hated him because he was such a jerk.

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    2. There was also class conflict involved. He was from the upper echelons of society, with all it's trappings of entitlement. It really annoyed him that I, a working class woman, had confidence in myself when he did not.

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  14. Upper echelons of society, forsooth. And you the Floridian equivalent of Elizabeth Bennett. There is the kernel of a short story here, get on with it Col!

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  15. Wow, what a toxic work situation for you. I hate that you had to deal with that jerk.

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  16. It must have been a huge relief when the new department head arrived. I've had similar experiences but nothing as miserable as yours.

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    1. It was a huge relief. Sorry to hear you had a similar experience. Some people should never have jobs where they are supervising human beings.

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  17. You did indeed Win in that Toxic Work situation since he was the one 'removed' and you were there after he was not. I do recall The Good Ole Boy Networks of the 70-90's Eras and it used to chap the hides of the Men if a Woman was in a position of Authority and Influence. I delighted in Ball Breaking, since they underestimated me due to Age and Gender, they never saw me coming and taking them down one at a time was a real Sport. *Winks*

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  18. Everything has pretty much been said. All I can add (or muster, I might add) is WoW!

    Kudos to you for hanging in.

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So, whadayathink?