deannawol: (Every Story Has An Ending - Rikkustears)
[personal profile] deannawol
So. a while back, I kinda alluded to my work situation. 

I left the job that was making me drive thousands of miles in a month, knocked the dust off my feet and started a new job as a project manager for a software company that worked with the fashion industry.  For the first seven months (a month after my probation ended), I was doing a great job.  My appraisal scores at the end of my probation were all up over 90% as their scoring went.  I took on more responsibility and was asked my opinion on things.  It was great.  And then one day, it all turned to crap.

Literally overnight, my line manager decided that she didn't like the way that I did anything.  She took me to task over some fairly minor things - which I did hold my hands up to - and read me the riot act.  In the hour after the meeting, I fixed everything that she had pointed out and brought everything up to date.  Two days later, I was called into another meeting where... she'd "been thinking".  She told me that I should consider that meeting earlier in the week to be my verbal warning and that she was putting me on a performance improvement plan. 

I was floored.  I literally couldn't say a word.  I just nodded and took it.  I know this is clichéd to say but this had never happened me before.  I put my head down and got down to it.  I worked on everything that she'd outlined as my responsibilities, including the very nebulous items that she stuck on the bottom of the plan.  I, also, started documenting what I was doing and how I was doing it.  The PIP was scheduled to last a month, with a mid-month review to discuss progress.  The mid-month review came 4 working days after the start of the PIP due to her need to travel to a client site. 

I got to the end of the month, sat down, talked through everything that I'd done and she said that was fine.  We'd still continue to meet and discuss how I was getting on but there was absolutely no talk of extending the PIP.  I washed my hands, kept working on those areas that she thought I was weak on and figured that I was back on an equal footing again. 

She did decide that she wanted to move the office around and turfed me out of my seat because she wanted it.  In fairness, it was a corner seat with no visible access to her screen - I still don't understand why she didn't take it when the old PM left, but that was fine.  She went back on all her talk about the PMs (and she was doing the job of a PM too) keeping a united front and keeping close to each other.  She moved me pretty much as far away as she could while keeping me in the same office.  This meant that she didn't actually have to talk to me during the day - I wasn't in her direct vicinity any more - which meant that it was so much harder for me to keep on top of those things that she'd identified, including keeping each other in the loop (I tried, she didn't even bother).  She also started taking away my access to folders on the network until little by little, everything that I'd been doing that constituted managing the implementation team (a part of my job) disappeared.

I was getting shouted at for not knowing the procedures that she had changed the night before without telling me anything about the changes.  I was getting castigated in the office, in front of everyone, for clients that were being troublesome.  That's all until one day, at about 4pm when I got a call to come up to one of the meeting rooms.  I went up and sat down and I was read a letter.  It was a disciplinary meeting.  I had 48 hours notice of a disciplinary meeting.  I went home and cried my eyes out.  I didn't know what the hell was going on. 

My partner and best friend's mum works in the Employment Appeals Tribunal in Ireland and she got me calmed down and gave me a strategy.  She totally prepared me and gave me some reassurance that it wasn't the end of the world.  I went into the meeting and I got told so many things that were wrong with me.  I countered some but honestly, it was harrowing.  In retrospect, the key items were that my personality wasn't the same as my line managers and I was showing her up by actually getting down and doing some work that the implementation consultants did (because they were stretched beyond capacity and it was writing customer manuals - which was an excellent way to teach myself the system).

Several things were highlighted during the meeting, including the fact that I was still apparently on the previous PIP despite there being no mention of this in the month since the last meeting.  My line manager had no proof of anything, and couldn't give any specific examples of anything "wrong" that I was doing.  The HR manager still sided with my line manager and I was put back on a PIP, this time for 3 months.  I wasn't given any details of the PIP until the following week and it still had some dangerously nebulous items on it. 

The attitude in the office towards me got worse and worse.  I could honestly go to work at 7:30 in the morning and not speak to a single person between then and 5:00 in the afternoon.  I was working as hard as I could but I kept getting work taken off me.  One such thing was a new project, but "the board would be more comfortable if [she] led it".  I asked to shadow her, so that I could continue to work on my "issues".  She said yes, and then gave me no information about the project or shared any information about it.  She was actively encouraging others not to talk to me about anything, often overruling my advice or instructions, taking credit for the few good ideas that I had to the board (as in, I told her to try this when she'd been saying the exact opposite to me).  I was trying to manage some of the worst legacy projects that the business had with the most difficult customers. 

It shouldn't have been a surprise when I got called to another meeting, not even three weeks after my PIP had started, and I was read my termination letter.  The funny thing was that I was honestly thinking of just calling in sick that day because the situation was just getting to me so much.  They fired me the day before my first year was due to be complete - and consequently, the last day that they could get away with paying me the bare minimum of severance in lieu of notice.

Strangely enough, that was when I really fought back.  My termination letter said that even with the support of my line manager, I had failed to show adequate progress.  Since the disciplinary meeting, I'd had no support.  I hadn't even had a meeting about the goals of the PIP which was supposed to be weekly.  There was nothing, no conversation, no words in my direction that weren't a flat out question that couldn't be answered by someone else.

Needless to say, the entire experience shook my confidence and my self belief.  It was... devastating.  I couldn't figure out how I'd gone from 90% to kicked out the door and bouncing on my ass down the pavement.  There didn't seem to be anything that I could point to, anything that I could say "ah hah!, it was this!" 

Several people figured that it was either because they didn't have space for two PMs with the declining business, or she was threatened by me and my ability to do technical things.  I don't know.  I don't think I will ever know.  But now, 9 months later, I don't care what the reason was.  I've come to the realisation today (I never said I was quick on the uptake) that what she did constituted emotional bullying.  I was miserable and she fostered and promoted a very toxic environment.  I say that I'm slow on the uptake but honestly, it's taken me this long to recover enough to divorce the pain from the situation.

Here's the controversial statement:  I'm happy that I got fired.  I'm happy that all that shit happened because my employer loyalty would have kept me there in my unhappy job until I got off my ass and started applying for jobs as if that was my full time job.

It pushed me into applying for a random job that I found on LinkedIn.  That job, my current job, saw my resume, talked to me over the phone and then wouldn't take no as an answer when it came to an interview. 

When I was fired, I managed to complain enough that they upped my severance from 1 month to 2 months payment giving me a buffer.  I started applying for jobs.  I had 4 interviews lined up in less than a week.  I actually got offered a job an hour after my very first interview.  I got strong-armed a little into taking it, but I did the polite thing and withdrew my applications for other jobs.  I started work less than two weeks after I got fired.  It was a little far away, it was paying a little less than my old job but at the same time, it was also a paying job which I needed.

When I got an email from another company, the one that I'd applied to on LinkedIn about two months prior, I politely told them that I'd just accepted another role and that I would have to withdraw from their process.  They kept emailing me for the next week offering me timeslot after timeslot until I decided that it wouldn't really do any harm to just talk to them.  I'd probably get kicked out after the first phone interview, right?

The phone interview went fantastically.  I was on form.  Great, witty, engaged, with tonnes of relevant experience for the role.  I waited to hear back, not getting my hopes up too high because I had a job already that I was still finding my way around.  (Not that it was hard - I had nothing to do all day most days and no one available to train me).  The next thing I knew, I was getting a call to discuss coming in for an in-person interview.  I made the arrangements, took my Christmas holidays a little early and disappeared off to the longest interview of my life - 3 hours.  I felt really positive about the interview but I still wasn't getting my hopes up.  It seemed like a nice place to work.  The guys who interviewed me were fantastic and exuberant and when I got my tour of the building, the things that were stressed were the fact that they had a diverse workforce, zero-tolerance on harassment or bullying, flexibility around what you needed as well as what was needed from you.

I got a call on Christmas eve saying that I had gotten the job and that a formal letter would be sent out to me after Christmas.  I started the job mid-January after apologising to the other company, and leaving them with a kick-ass and robust set of procedures that should be followed when getting quotes out to customers.  And I haven't looked back.

I have a line manager who actively listens, meets regularly, is always available to discuss issues.  I passed my probation (last month) with flying colours.  She's actively looking at ways for me to expand my knowledge and what I do.  She's looking at my future and trying to keep me in a situation that will keep me satisfied. 

Just today, she's identified an opportunity that she thinks would be perfect for me because "you're already fantastic at the project manager side of things, and you get the technology quicker than anyone else we've had start here."  She would have made me permanent after four months if she could have because I was already up to my elbows and running UAT sessions with clients solo - never been done before.  I feel valued, and listened to, and good. 

But... sitting just out of sight in my mind's eye is the imposter syndrome.  I honestly don't know if that's ever going to go away, but days like today...  They give me just enough to kick it square in it's nuts! 

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