When this happened, I felt great shame and humiliation.
I took a step way outside the box when I applied for another position at work. Gladys had decided to leave the company. She did the job of two people so there were two positions open. I didn’t have the qualifications to review contracts, but I did have the ability to make sure all the documentation was in place and set up projects and new customers. I got the job and they employed a part-time lawyer to review the contracts.
My boss told me that this job was my baby. As time progressed, my job evolved into more than just setting up projects and customers and I became a glorified coordinator. All contracts were sent to me. If they were outside of our written contract format, I sent them out for review to the lawyer. Otherwise I sent them for signature from both the client and from the signer in our company; found out who was going to run the project; made sure that the credit check had been done on new customers; ensured that we had all the legal documents in place including the purchase orders and continued to follow up on these things until we had them all in hand.
I closed projects out in a timely manner; followed the ‘exception to the rule’ protocol; identified situations where work had started without the proper paperwork; helped set up a way to track the amount used on a blanket purchase order as well as identify situations where work started without a purchase order or where the purchase order had been exceeded. I started to develop a way where we could track our bid estimate on a project against the actual results so that the engineers could see how accurate their bids were and make the required adjustments in future bids.
I made all this visible to management and operations via a Sharepoint list. Management liked it. I worked closely with Sales, Operations, and the Finance Department. I received bonuses and a lot of praise for my work.
Then a year and a half later, my boss called me up. “I wanted to tell you, before someone else told you, Gladys is coming back. They are firing the lawyer and she will be reviewing the contracts. The CFO didn’t want her to come as she had left the company twice, but our boss wanted her to come back because the lawyer isn’t able to look at the operational impact of the contract and so she has to do it and the turn around time is too slow”.
My heart instantly lurched into my stomach. Gladys and I are very different. I am very detailed orientated; Gladys liked to cut corners to get things done on time and hated to have to do anything extra. She also didn’t make the sales people accountable and would move ahead without the proper paperwork in place. I knew this because I had often found myself in a position where a work order had to be invoiced without any pricing in place. Gladys also hated SharePoint.
When I took on the job, I was given instructions to create different processes and to gatepost certain things. This I did. In developing the new processes, I found out from all the departments what their needs were. To do this, I set up meetings to discuss their requirements and develop processes that would worked for everyone and with which my managers approved of. Everyone seemed really happy or so I thought.
My boss said that he would have no trouble saying something to Gladys if she didn’t follow the processes and would keep her in check even though she was going to work directly with his boss and not him. I was really nervous about the situation but thought that if my boss would keep Gladys in line, then it would be manageable.
Gladys was going to start just after Christmas. I tried to forget about the changes that were going to happen over the Christmas period. I was on vacation over Christmas and tried to keep busy so that I didn’t have time to think.
All too soon, I had to return to work and face this new dynamic.
It did not start off well.
Gladys didn’t want to know about the new processes. She started doing the work that I did and I had no paper trail to know what was going on. By the end of the week, I was told that she was going to be my boss. Her boss said that we would make a good team.
It had taken me a long time to get the confidence of my colleagues. Gladys had been well liked. I didn’t do things the same way as Gladys did. I was firm in keeping the processes as I had been requested to do. The processes kept people accountable.
Gladys started to run me down in emails to colleagues saying that I didn’t know what I was doing. She wouldn’t follow the processes. She told me that Sharepoint sucked.
She and I were duplicating the work and it was annoying the departments. I lost my authority as everyone paid more attention to what she said than following the processes.
She called me up and asked me to talk to her about the friction that I was feeling. As I started to explain the processes, she talked over me and yelled at me to shut up. ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ She yelled.
I realized that this was not going to work. She was now in charge of my baby. I was being put back into a position of being ‘just a processor’; to take orders. I rang her boss up and said that this was not going to work. She said that she was aware that there was a problem going on and had an idea about another position for me. She just had to get permission from the CFO and HR before offering it to me.
She received permission and I was offered a job as the Sales Tax Accountant. She asked me to attack the job with my usual enthusiasm. I can’t say that I was very motivated. I was humiliated by the whole situation. I was embarrassed. I was grieving a job that I had enjoyed so much and had put so much effort into. I wondered what I had done wrong. I knew of no other way to handle the situation. I had felt powerless.
I was now in a corner. I was being trained to do sales tax by a bully who was very controlling, wouldn’t answer my questions, wanted me to do things by rote rather than by understanding, put me down all the time, criticized me, talked down to me and demoralized me. I was now on a team that was reactive rather than proactive and didn’t want new ideas or any contribution to improve processes. I was also in a situation where I was micro managed.
I totally understood why the company needed Gladys’ expertise. However, bringing Gladys back totally ruined my career. I was surprised that they created a new position for me. The whole situation left me very confused for over a year.
I am finally over my grief. I keep my head down. Do my job. Don’t interact much with anyone. My writing now provides the creative outlet that I had in my previous jobs.
However, I still wonder, as I did throughout the grieving process, whether the whole idea to bring Gladys back again and the way it was handled, was a poor decision by management or what?
What are your thoughts?
(First Published in Roaming Brit on 23rd May, 2018)