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A subtle bully in the APS

Masquara 8 September 2007 86

I don’t want to embark on a whine fest, but if anyone has dealt with, or observed, a subtle bully in the APS I’d appreciate some advice on what to do. I’m experiencing the classic subtle bully – everyone else on the team kept happy as lark, and I’m on a ‘slow track’ and my bully (who at 50-odd is still just like the ‘playground bitch’) who took an intense dislike to me on her arrival in the department, is thoroughly enjoying being able to comment on just how junior my position still is in the organisation after three years (while everyone else is being promoted).

A bully knows of course all too well that if you label a team member as barely competent, you can engineer a perception of incompetence, followed by de-skilling, followed presumably by actual incompetence through depression. (not there yet, but I’m starting to feel at risk). Have any rioters observed someone in my position and can senior management do anything? All advice I’ve had so far is ‘get the **** away from any corporate bully’ – but the work itself (once I manage to get just one rung higher than my current role) should be rewarding and I don’t really want to shift.

Just one anecdote to illustrate this gal’s MO: announced to a recent team meeting with immense hilarity and schadenfreude that she had heard one of the dept’s graduates had made a massive faux pas by telling the Secretary she felt her skills were underutilised, and my manager stated with a lot of cruel mirth that the grad was now on a slow track to annihilation and now had no future in the department. It was a little like witnessing a public stoning. No doubt the graduate’s actual name was mentioned in a tighter group – a chorus of ‘what was her name?’ was only stopped at the main meeting when a team member piped up and said she didn’t want to know.

Luckily for the graduate, the Secretary had it understood soon after, that she welcomed the frank discussion with the graduates. Being in this bully’s own team, I have no such protection from a member of the Executive!

As I said, though, I actually want to salvage my career, not embark on my own series of victim anecdotes! Any tips or advice welcome. My bully, by the way, believes she is ‘like THAT’ with the Secretary. Is it inevitably career suicide to identify as a victim of a bully, and just how wide is the gap between HR rhetoric and the way victims are treated by HR?

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A subtle bully in the APS
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Ingeegoodbee 3:43 pm 16 Sep 07

I wouldn’t give any thought to dipsh!t ingrates like LaughingAtYou – the reality is they’re lower than pissants and its a fact that they can do absolutely nothing about your posts here – you’ve done nothing wrong. Having, from time to time, been responsible for managingt alledged and real breaches of the APS code, I can assure you, there’s nothing to worry about.

nyssa76 1:33 pm 16 Sep 07

Masquara, my only advice now is to be careful as to what you say on here. It is not unheard of for the APS etc to have people ‘watching’ this (and other) sites.

And then the best bit is, they’ll do you for misconduct – for speaking out but not actually naming anyone.

Gotta love this place.

VicePope 11:37 am 16 Sep 07

Sasha – I don’t disagree with much of what you say. I know of a couple of cases where agency heads got involved to deal with SES staff who needed to be dealt with in relation to rgeir treatment of staff, but it’s not as common as it should be. As you suggest, they are often too busy running their agency to be able to deal with the people in it.

It’s a pick and choose approach. With one of my monsters, I was able to make a frank statement that at least made it clear that I thought the manager’s actions to me and others were very poor. The person in question was very clever and far more interested in ideas and less worried about running squashing exercises. With the other manager, I had to get away – this manager lacked the intellect or inclination to see beyond a very healthy self-image that showed a good-humoured, caring soul. The manager associated principally or only with subordinate staff personally selected in the manager’s own image who owed their careers to the manager. The manager worked upwards by keeping the executive in the dark about issues. Anyone who questioned anything was marginalised and any work from the outgroup was either credited to the ingroup or rejected for reasons that owed nothing to content, expression, sense or consistency. The manager was simply unable to see that the disconnect between self-image and reality. I got out because I could not see a way to let some light shine in. The agency moved the manager on a while later, once a few things came to light.

I suppose, in shorthand and apologising for the labels, I found it easier to deal with a perfectionist mad person than with a smiling and thick psychopath. The mad person was at least capable of thinking reasonably. Some people could not deal with the first, some could not deal with the second and some presumably could either deal or not with both of them. One was capable of reasoned discourse, the other understood what I meant only when I asked someone in the Executive to point out why I was leaving. IMHO, neither should ever have been put in charge of people.

Masquara 10:22 am 16 Sep 07

Perhaps there could be an entirely new discussion about henchpersons, but this thread has been very valuable for me and I certainly don’t need to embark on one. Does anyone sense a thinly veiled threat there I wonder.

ant 10:19 am 16 Sep 07

Nice threatening post by “LaughingAtYou”. Where did that come from? why the venom? Seems rather personal.

LaughingAtYou 9:52 am 16 Sep 07

Read between the lines, people. I would suggest that this website has heard only one very biased side of this story by ‘Masquara’. I suspect that, were this so-called ‘subtle bully’ able to tell her side, we would hear a very different story. I would also like to point out to ‘Masquara’ that she isn’t as anonymous as she thinks she is. Perhaps ‘Masquara’ needs to find another way of salvaging her career – like finding one she is actually good at.

Sasha 11:11 pm 15 Sep 07

Vice Pope, thanks. Apologies too for taking so long to respond. Look, I think the bottomline is this. The top brass do not want to have to deal with this stuff. Even though it is their job, there is nothing in it for them. In fact, most of them are where they are because they work long hours. And why? Either their families can’t stand them or they can’t relate to people, or both. They want to get credit for big vision shit. Not touchy feelie shit.

Having said that, you don’t have to dob the one who is bastardising you. It’s the underlying threat that’s important. Regardless of the recruitment practices, Vice Pope, SES have to meet the SES leadership capability framework in their performance appraisals. Fear that they can’t get their bonus can be very motivating. The other issue is, if everyone leaves in the same situation, then this bastardisation is going to continue. I know the Secretary involved (there aren’t that many female Secretaries ie heads of departments) – and I think she would be appalled that this shit is going on on her turf. I would tell her. But, hey, that’s me. Career kamikaze. Always worried about the treatment of the next set of graduates. But leaving could be good too. I just never found running away helped anything. The one time I did this it was to a worse situation – something I hadn’t contemplated as being possible at the time!

Maelinar 8:46 am 14 Sep 07

@Smallchicken – You want to chastise me on my spelling over the grammatical anomalies in your post ?

I cannot put into this thread you how much I am laughing AT you right now.

Have you even heard of paragraph structure ?

Anyways – Toodles, on account of I’m never hearing from you again.

Bye. Comment by smallchicken — 13 September, 2007 @ 10:35 am

P.S. I stand by my comment re: Texta marks and fanta bottle. At no time did I say that you were sharehousing, I merely categorised you as a person who would in that situation. Thanks for the update on your personal life though – again I cannot impart how utterly worthless that information is in mere black and white form.

nyssa76 7:50 am 14 Sep 07

Thank you.

Ingeegoodbee 7:23 pm 13 Sep 07

Nyssa – stuff like that must come as the bleeding obvious for you, but not me. You know, you’re probably right – I stand by my later comments about passive-agressive types making out like the worlds after them when they’re the real problem but my labelling all and sundry as nutters was unhelpful.

Masquara 6:02 pm 13 Sep 07

Ant you can email me at I’ll cancel the account if I get spammed or abused. cheers

VicePope 5:48 pm 13 Sep 07

Well spotted Nyssa. On a thread about bullying, some people said things that could look like hectoring or ridicule. Not helpful.

nyssa76 5:41 pm 13 Sep 07

Ingeegoodbee, here’s a thought, did it not occur to you that people would be ‘afraid’ to talk about it on here for fear of being labelled a nutter? When positive comments/advice were given, people felt comfortable in speaking up.

VicePope 5:00 pm 13 Sep 07

SmallChicken – I cannot apologise for Maelinar or for anyone else. Their opinions are their own.

For my part, your account had such a ring of truth to it. Sometimes, it’s possible to fight and sometimes not. You made the call that seemed best, and it was the call I suspect a lot of us would make if we had the strength to do so.

I have not been a RA participant for long, but I can see every reason you should continue to contribute and none why you should not. Best wishes.

smallchicken 10:35 am 13 Sep 07

Smallchicken – I already know that in a share flat, you are the person who marks where they have drunk on the fanta bottle with a texta, and count how many sheets of toilet paper you use.

Call it a steriotyping all you will, it’s an effective way of categorising people.

Comment by Maelinar — 12 September, 2007 @ 2:51 pm

Maelinar I own 2 houses outright, I’m married and I am often a messy slob. Your ‘sterIotyping’ didn’t work but I expect you are just another narrow minded bigot, who, as sepi has said, provides me with just one more reason why I won’t bother coming back and sharing my experience on a web-site again. Yeah, it’s great fun having an anxiety disorder Maelinar, and having a-holes like you who put down those who decide to open up and share their experiences is boring and predictable. Maelinar, why not visit a site where other narrow minded bigots like yourself can discover your true inner insecurities? I know the typing practice without a spell-checker would be good for you. Sorry to everyone else but I’ve had a gutful of losers like Maelinar, nothing positive to contribute, small brain and sounding a lot like they wrote Pauline Hanson’s first ever paliamentary address. Bye.

Ingeegoodbee 8:04 am 13 Sep 07

nyssa, advice was sought, advice was given, I ‘d just hate to see what is otherwise a very useful thread degenerate into a agony-aunt session for every agrieved employee.

Also, while it’s undeniable that there are a bunch of a-hole bosses out there, it’s also true that workplaces have their fair share of passive-agressive personality types in the employment ranks, that make an artform out of pissing everyone off and then claiming underdog status like the whole world is out to get them.

end of rant.

nyssa76 7:45 am 13 Sep 07

Ingeegoodbee – why is it that all the people that don’t want to ‘see’ or ‘hear’ about workplace bullying, think the victim is always a nutter?

It’s called being accountable for your behaviour. If a boss does bully or harass you, they should be disciplined. However, due to the BS and suck-up ability of most bullies, it is never seen as bullying e.g. “We were just joking around and he laughed at first but then got all stroppy.” Translated “I took the piss outta him being a nancy boy and he couldn’t hack it.”

sepi, I know what you mean.

ant 10:33 pm 12 Sep 07

it’s a pity we can’t email each other. My particular bully is still making hay out of the bullying thing… I’m actually gobsmacked at how blatant it is. I googled him after this discussion began and was stunned to note that he’s been recently involved in the anti-bullying scene. If only they knew.

sepi 9:24 pm 12 Sep 07

The idea that anyone who is having workplace issues must be a nutter is why I chose not to complain when I was having an issue.

I’ve worked in heaps of jobs in public and private, large and small depts/organisations and I’ve never had a problem. Then I suddenly got a psycho boss, in an organisation I was new to, and suddenly it was happening to me.

Before that I was probably guilty of thinking these things happened to people with problems themselves, but not anymore.

And as soon as I moved to a different area everything went back to normal. Several other people went to great lengths to leave the team with the strange boss, not just me – one took a demotion to get out. So I’m confident he was the problem, not me.

LaLucha 8:13 pm 12 Sep 07

Very gingerly told part of the story to the GM today. Interesting isn’t it – they are so skilled (trained) at listening and pretending the conversation is going somewhere – then you’re back out of the office with no outcomes! I was very careful, but put a few things on the record in a non-blaming fashion, and referred to the team meeting sledging without specifics. The facts speak for themselves. As I expected, while I was having the discussion I quietly came to the conclusion, as pretty much everyone has told me here, that going the official complaint route would get me nowhere. Thanks again.

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