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Friday, 29 November 2013

Recollections of the manager from hell

I started working on a short-term contract at the university in mid-2003 and one of my first jobs was designing a website to deliver technical documents to staff, which went so well that a couple of years later I was hired on a continuing basis by the organisation. Things were looking promising and in 2006 I started a part-time degree in media, a long-time interest of mine. But cracks started to appear. Some people in the university did not like the website, it seemed, although noone came directly to me to talk about their concerns. Then my manager was let go midway through that year. I was not asked to step into his role and spent the following year completing my degree, performing my normal technical writing duties, and also writing stories for internal communications vehicles. I was told I was going to be promoted.

At the end of the year, I was asked if I'd like to join a new team focusing specifically on training, an area my work as a technical writer qualified me for; my work to that point had been writing training documents and other materials for users of the university's student administration system. I was told, "you’re heading for bigger and better things" than doing internal communications. I was also told that I would approve of the choice of the new manager, and soon another person moved down to where I worked and we began to set up shop. In early 2008 we moved our location to another building and eventually the new manager did turn up: a woman I'd worked with previously in my training role. But things started to sour.

I felt that she did not like me. If I had occasion to go to her desk, to explain something on the computer screen, for example, she would back away as if proximity to me were repulsive. The words she used also caused stress. "I suppose I'll have to find something for you to do today." "Whatever." “I want to make it perfectly clear once and for all that when I ask you to do something, you must do as I say.” “My impression is that there are too many words.” Other factors in my life at the time these things took place (March to June 2008) led to a psychotic episode, which was part of an illness that I had, but the toxic atmosphere produced by my manager exacerbated my condition. There was no allowance made for the illness and the only mention of it centred around my performing reduced duties, which made me even more anxious. Now, reading my chronicle of those dark times, I feel my heart rate increase, I feel my throat constrict as if I might cry, and I feel a tightness in my chest. It was so unfair, and although these things happened five years ago the memory of the constant humiliation resists dislocation; it can be, sometimes, as if I am still there, in the little room on top of the old brick building with the frogs sounding loudly outside the windows.

At the end of the year my position was made redundant. Conditional on completing a training course I was invited to apply for one of the new training roles that were to be created. After the shock of losing my job had passed I decided that I wanted nothing more to do with the woman who had become my manager from hell. I wanted to be a journalist. I left the university in March 2009.

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