Case 100 - Computing Industry

My last job started out as my dream job ñ I am ambitious, hardworking and intelligent, and with several yearsí experience as a programmer I at first enjoyed being in a fast-paced environment where I soaked up knowledge from a team of highly-qualified people who had exposure to new areas of IT which interested me. For the first couple of years I was highly praised in reviews for both my technical skills and my hard work and good attitude.

Unfortunately I was a naive person with integrity swimming around in a shark tank.

I raised some concerns about one of my line managers who was incompetent ñ gave wildly conflicting orders, was personally intrusive, etc. I was pleasantly surprised when he moved roles within the company but at that point I was also sidelined. As business tailed off after the dotcom bubble, everybody was getting more and more work. I noticed that as well as my workload going up some of these tasks were unnecessary, impossible, or both, and many were rubbishy jobs no-one else wanted. In other words my willingness to please people and try harder was being taken advantage of. I had difficulty getting the ongoing training I needed, and was trapped in a vicious circle of being seen as a mere generalist in an arena where specialists were highly valued, and only getting general jobs in which I could not stretch myself. I tried to train in my own time, but working around 60 hours per week there was not much of that.

Around this point the technical lead of our team made his dislike of me open. Since reading these pages I realise he has the classic bad traits of a guru bully, as well as being described as a guru because of his amazing technical ability. He indulged in black-and-white thinking, so the moment my stress and tiredness caused me to make one mistake he was on my back forever after. No matter what I did right I was in future blamed for almost everything.

I had had indifferent health for a long time, and unsurprisingly it collapsed under the strain. I was not directly criticised for taking a few daysí sick leave here and there, especially as I was still working very long hours and catching up on my targets whenever I was well, but a supportive colleague passed on a list of vicious gossip and backbiting about me. I was said to be not quite technically competent, but also ìnot interested in technologyî, an outright lie. Much was made of the fact that I was single, in my mid-thirties, and I allegedly ìhad a problem with genderî. Obviously this was projection on the part of some males who had a problem with me. Somewhere they had picked up on the fact that I had escaped from an abusive relationship a few years ago and been single since. Knowing that I had little to no family support and was, as I now see from the bullying profiles, a classic target due to my integrity, naivety, and goodwill, this only helped them pounce.

I found myself in hospital for an operation to help with an illness which is classically stress-related. On my first day of return to work I was made redundant on arrival. I later found out that my redundancy had been added at the last minute to a huge list of more ìgenuineî redundancies due to loss of business. Since my employer was a huge corporation with deep pockets my lawyer advised me that fighting would probably be fruitless.

Everyone advised me to get on with my life. I took the redundancy money, lived quietly by myself, and retrained myself in some new technical skills. At this time I also rediscovered an old hobby, knowing I needed something to occupy me, and was surprised to learn I was producing work at a professional level. I made the decision to become self-employed both in programming and my hobby.

However I have taken a huge hit in terms of self-esteem and confidence, and after many monthsí isolation at home I finally realised I was suffering from reactive depression and chronic fatigue, and sought more help. I am still not yet economically active over a year after the blow, although I can realistically expect to be sufficiently improved soon. I am coming out of isolation, regaining my sense of the talent, experience and abilities I do have, and acquiring more. I have made the effort to find more support from friends and some family members and spent a lot of time on self-help measures. Like many of us I intend never to be a permanent employee again, hoping that by taking only contracts I can avoid some of the vicious office politics out there as my temporary presence will be less of a threat. I also hope that having many clients and several strands of business will make me less vulnerable to dependency on just the one job and feeling I have to kow-tow to unreasonable demands.

If I could give advice to others it would be to beware, take heed of the fact that bullies do not just go for people they see as having weakness or pain or lack of support in their lives already, but also for those with integrity and honesty. A bully who is competent at the content of their job but incompetent dealing with others, like the guru above, will use their expertise to make you feel small while at the same time secretly envying you for any outside interests, life, or people skills you may have.

Maybe people who are genuinely made redundant because there is not enough business in their line of work are best advised to dust themselves off and try elsewhere immediately. Those of us who are forced out for personal reasons may need extra time and emotional space in which to recover, and this does not mean we are weak, lazy or inadequate. My positive thoughts for everyone out there in a similar situation.

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