Many years ago, I was a single mum and I was struggling in work, I was working at the time for an individual that was simply put a bully.
Nothing I ever did was good enough, and the goalposts were constantly changing. The manager made things up, changed their mind constantly and insisted that they hadn’t (despite email evidence) and they believed in demeaning and patronising individuals in front of the team – it seemed they almost revelled in watching them squirm.
It wasn’t healthy for the team and resulted in an environment of keeping your head down, covering your back and accepting that this is how it is.
I have never been particularly good at staying quiet on the occasions that I feel someone is being unfairly treated and despite, often saying to myself …don’t get involved it will only result in you being the target and making your situation worse, time and again, I found myself opening my mouth to support others.
After months of being the target of this individual’s behaviour and feeling like they were playing cat and mouse with me, where I was the mouse and the cat (my manager) felt like it was more of a tiger, I found myself worn down and the feeling that there was no escape enveloped me.
I was exhausted, worn down emotionally and mentally and was at a point that I felt I could take no more.
Sitting in my office one Friday evening just before going home I found myself in tears just wanting it all to stop. I couldn’t take the strain of constantly feeling I had to prove myself, battling to do the right thing for my team and my department, to support the business and feeling that no one was listening or cared. I was done. I wrote my resignation letter and intended to slide it under my boss’s door and leave with the intent of never coming back.
Something made me hesitate
As I got to the door something, I don’t know what made me hesitate and I decided to hold on to the letter and think about it over the weekend and then submit it on the following Monday if I still felt the same way.
Over the weekend I thought about it and about the impact it was having on my life and my family mainly my amazing son, as his mum I had become an emotional wreck, snapping at him when he didn’t deserve it and all because of a job I had previously loved.
On the Sunday night my son did something that was the catalyst that changed my life and my thinking.
I had just snapped at him and told him off for something minor and my response was an over-reaction, as his eyes filled with tears, I burst into tears I couldn’t believe that I had just done that to my son – him being the most precious thing in my life.
I hugged him tight
I hugged him tight and apologised and told him I was sorry he didn’t deserve that, that he hadn’t done anything it was mummy, and she wasn’t happy in work and that was what made me shout. He hugged me tightly and wiped my eyes and told me he loved me. He said why don’t you stay at home then and when I said I needed to go to earn pennies to pay the bills he said “ok” and kissed me then like kids do he let go and walked away.
I thought he had gone to play in the other room but no he reappeared a minute later with his money box and said ‘here you are mummy, you can have my pennies now you don’t need to work anymore.’
Those words and his actions broke me completely but helped mend me at the same time, the pure simpleness and love he showed in that moment brought out my natural spirit and made me reconnect with a deeper part of me that was not going to allow anyone or anything to impact me and certainly not my son in this way.
So having put my five-year-old son to bed I sat and focused on what I could do to change the situation and what my options were.
Leave – not really a great choice as I was a single mum and wouldn’t be able to afford the mortgage and bills for long without a steady income.
Look for a new job – Possible option but I had really loved my job and enjoyed working with the people in the business and didn’t really want to leave.
Tackle the issue – what could I do, I could report the behaviour and issue to a more senior manager than the ones we (myself and other people who were on the receiving end of the behaviour had spoken to previously).
Document the behaviours I had observed. Stating facts not just feelings, look at ways I could respond differently that still allowed me to be true to my own values.
What did I do?
I wrote down every example of behaviour I could think of that related to myself and then reviewed and removed the ones where, because of my mindset, I recognised that they were minor issues or even just exaggerations of behaviour based on my mindset at the time and with a calmer clearer mind I could see them differently.
First thing Monday morning I went to see the Site Director and calmly and factually talked to them about the issues.
Having shared everything I was asked what I wanted to happen next, and my answer surprised me then and still does because of how low I had been on the Friday and over the weekend. I said “nothing” I want to speak to them now and tell them how I have felt and address this for myself, something I couldn’t have done the week before.
I went to my boss and shared how I felt and how I felt their behaviour was inappropriate and that I would no longer allow myself to be treated that way and what steps I had taken and would take going forward to address it.
Their behaviour towards me changed overnight and over the following few weeks it was addressed for other people as well, I didn’t miraculously feel better overnight and it took several months for me to feel in control of myself and my emotions again and it wasn’t always easy to stand up for myself as my self-confidence had been knocked but I knew what it meant to me which gave me the inner strength and belief in myself to change things and move forward.
What did I learn?
1. Stepping back from the issue and looking at what’s in your control and what your options are is an easy step.
2. Writing down what had happened to help get everything out helped me gain the space to review it all and look at what were facts and what was being caused by my emotional state.
3. Planning and taking action made me feel back in control.
4. Once I reached out and asked for help and support, I realised that just talking about it allowed me to take action.
5. My son was an amazing individual then and is an even more amazing, insightful young man today.
6. Sometimes it’s the simplicity of a question or comment that is all that is needed to start a change.
So, if something in your life isn’t going the way you want it to or is causing you pain in any way emotionally or physically. What could you do about it? There are always options, some may not be feasible, and some may not be a perfect solution, but we always have a choice to do something differently and change our reality.
What one thing can you change today? What steps are you going to take today to do that?