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Another bad experience with a boss


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Old 16th August 2016, 5:08 AM   #1
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Another bad experience with a boss

Hi everyone,

I thought this might be a good space to get some feedback on a very confusing incident that happened yesterday as I've been really down...

I've been freelancing for a charity for almost a year now and have tried my best and worked very hard for them. I wrapped up the contract about 2 months ago but my ex-boss called me in yesterday for a meeting. When I left although my colleagues all were kind enough to give me a card and going away party, she didn't even say goodbye or nice to work with you. I know there's no requirement for her to do this but I tried to go above and beyond for the organisation and it would have been nice for her to at least recognise it as we're a very small team and I've always tried to be very friendly with her.

When we sat down she asked why I had asked for the meeting which was very confusing and I explained that she had suggested it. She seemed anxious to mentor me but it soon became a discussion of what she felt I did poorly at work and when I asked why she hadn't brought this to my attention at the time she said that "the org needed to be brought to a new level now" as if she was employing me as a favour but it was time to get serious. She also said that (and I originally came on for a 2 month contract that kept on being extended) I didn't do enough to anticipate her needs or get under the skin of the organisation which I feel is difficult to do as a Freelancer when you're hired to deliver a certain project without any security past 2 months... But I'm also confused why she then kept on renewing my contract for 8 additional months.

She then proceeded to complain about her other employees in front of me saying at one point about another hard working woman my age "She needs to learn how to make ****ing decisions." I finally lost my temper a bit and said while I appreciated her thoughts I didn't feel this feedback was constructive as she had mentioned this to me in three previous "mentoring meetings." She seems to want to mentor me but every time we sit down together she takes it as an opportunity to tell me what my personal failings are without any suggestions for how to improve and then following our meetings sends me lots of links to potential jobs and asks if I want her to check my CV. It almost feels like being lured in to one on ones so that she can lay in to me, There's currently a mass exodus of employees from the job (4 have quit the very small team in the past 2 months alone) and I've seen her be very abusive not just to me but to other staff.

The issue is that I have had so many terrible managers in the charity sector and as a freelancer it feels like we can be the first to be kicked around a bit. This has happened 3 times before where I feel like I do work to the best of my abilities, get positive feedback from the wider team and then proceed to get the stuffing kicked out of me by my employer.

But I am feeling terribly demoralised these days. I just feel like I've got a whole list of bad experiences with bosses and fallouts. I'm very anxious to please and be liked and I find it difficult to know that I've struggled to get along with so many managers. I tend to make good friends with colleagues but yet again, I've found myself in a position with an employer where I feel like things haven't been left on a good note and it's really shaken me. I'm passionate about working in my sector and want to try to apply my skills to a bigger cause but feel like the enthusiasm I had when I first started working has completely evaporated. I genuinely feel a bit scared and constantly anxious about being fired or attacked and I'm afraid it's made me very paranoid.

Any people's similar experiences or advice would be much appreciated right now. Thanks so much!
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Old 16th August 2016, 10:21 AM   #2
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This boss of yours was unprofessional in two ways:
1. Aby issues she had with your work you should have been aware of along the way.
2. She should not mention other colleagues and her personal/work problems with them.

She did keep hiring you so that implies she was happy with your work or you were the cheapest freelancer for the role.
From what she said though it sounds a bit to me like her superiors have said the game needs to be upped - possibly she got a slating so passed that on - again - unprofessional IMO. She gave you the remit - you seemed to be doing fine at it and then the race end line moves - after you thought you had got over the end line.

I am more concerned for the bigger picture that you say you leave on not such a good note with several bosses but that you aim to please. Aiming to please is one thing but adhering to your own boundaries is another.
Maybe knowing what it is that you do as a FL'er would help us to understand clearer?
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Old 16th August 2016, 11:32 AM   #3
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Hi GemmaUK,

Thank you so much for responding to my message, it really means a lot! I've been checking back on this site all day as I've definitely been too much in my own head.

I think you're right about feeling like the finishing line just kept on being moved. And interesting that you point out her superiors, she has time and time again ripped the small team of 3 employees to shreds until the Board of Trustees or some highly influential person gives positive feedback at which point we are then suddenly incredible assets to her. But it does feel like if you don't continue to wow her every single day you will quickly fall out of favour and be considered the "dead weight."

I work in the charity sector doing programme management for youth engagement projects. In the past five years I've freelanced for perhaps 8 or 9 orgs. In that time I've clashed with the woman I've mentioned in this post and another who seemed to fall in to a pattern of systematically shaming one member of the office each week and would put you through almost a "hazing" period to see what you were made of. I was also once hired by a group that brought me on at a very very junior level when I was 21 and then let me go 2 weeks later when I couldn't complete a DIFID grant (a large multi million pound grant that is about 40 pages long). I've had some very positive experiences with some projects but all I seem to fixate on is the maybe 3 or 4 superiors who I have left on an awkward note with. I'm sure I'm not perfect as a freelancer but am really trying with all my heart to do the best job within my capabilities.

One of my issues is I've never been in the position of having time or training invested in me as I come in as the freelancer. I sell myself as being competent and then when there's something I can't do I'm ultimately let go. I understand that a freelancer comes in to get a job done but all I would have wanted at any point yesterday after a year of working weekends and evenings for this woman was a "thank you for your work." I accept that I will never get that but I just feel like now in my late 20s I can't look back on solid confirmation that I'm actually ok at what I do and I feel very worried and unconfident about this.

Can I ask what you mean about adhering to my own boundaries?
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Old 16th August 2016, 1:49 PM   #4
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The boss was not paying attention to what was going on along the way and was not making it part of her duties to mentor you along the way. What she did was wait until the contract was over and then improvise doing what she should have been doing all along because she knows it is part of her duties. I simply wouldn't ever work for them again. Anyone temporary is rarely given much consideration, even the free interns.
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Old 16th August 2016, 1:53 PM   #5
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Hi Preraph,

Thank you for your message and thoughts on this. I know that temporary employees, even those with an org for a longer time, might not be as considered. And you're right that she ignored me until she realised she had to give feedback. I'm just disappointed in myself for loosing my cool and getting defensive which she then took as I wasn't receptive to feedback. I've got a job interview tomorrow which I really hope I get - I'm hoping that being a full time employee might make me more included in a team...
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Old 16th August 2016, 5:31 PM   #6
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Good luck on your interview for the new job. Yes, sounds like you'd be happier as a permanent employee, though not ever office operates the same. Some are more prone to positive feedback and some are more apt to hope you just do your job on your own. Hope you find the right fit.
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Old 16th August 2016, 11:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worriedfiance246 View Post
Hi everyone,

I thought this might be a good space to get some feedback on a very confusing incident that happened yesterday as I've been really down...

I've been freelancing for a charity for almost a year now and have tried my best and worked very hard for them. I wrapped up the contract about 2 months ago but my ex-boss called me in yesterday for a meeting. When I left although my colleagues all were kind enough to give me a card and going away party, she didn't even say goodbye or nice to work with you. I know there's no requirement for her to do this but I tried to go above and beyond for the organisation and it would have been nice for her to at least recognise it as we're a very small team and I've always tried to be very friendly with her.

When we sat down she asked why I had asked for the meeting which was very confusing and I explained that she had suggested it. She seemed anxious to mentor me but it soon became a discussion of what she felt I did poorly at work and when I asked why she hadn't brought this to my attention at the time she said that "the org needed to be brought to a new level now" as if she was employing me as a favour but it was time to get serious. She also said that (and I originally came on for a 2 month contract that kept on being extended) I didn't do enough to anticipate her needs or get under the skin of the organisation which I feel is difficult to do as a Freelancer when you're hired to deliver a certain project without any security past 2 months... But I'm also confused why she then kept on renewing my contract for 8 additional months.

She then proceeded to complain about her other employees in front of me saying at one point about another hard working woman my age "She needs to learn how to make ****ing decisions." I finally lost my temper a bit and said while I appreciated her thoughts I didn't feel this feedback was constructive as she had mentioned this to me in three previous "mentoring meetings." She seems to want to mentor me but every time we sit down together she takes it as an opportunity to tell me what my personal failings are without any suggestions for how to improve and then following our meetings sends me lots of links to potential jobs and asks if I want her to check my CV. It almost feels like being lured in to one on ones so that she can lay in to me, There's currently a mass exodus of employees from the job (4 have quit the very small team in the past 2 months alone) and I've seen her be very abusive not just to me but to other staff.

The issue is that I have had so many terrible managers in the charity sector and as a freelancer it feels like we can be the first to be kicked around a bit. This has happened 3 times before where I feel like I do work to the best of my abilities, get positive feedback from the wider team and then proceed to get the stuffing kicked out of me by my employer.

But I am feeling terribly demoralised these days. I just feel like I've got a whole list of bad experiences with bosses and fallouts. I'm very anxious to please and be liked and I find it difficult to know that I've struggled to get along with so many managers. I tend to make good friends with colleagues but yet again, I've found myself in a position with an employer where I feel like things haven't been left on a good note and it's really shaken me. I'm passionate about working in my sector and want to try to apply my skills to a bigger cause but feel like the enthusiasm I had when I first started working has completely evaporated. I genuinely feel a bit scared and constantly anxious about being fired or attacked and I'm afraid it's made me very paranoid.

Any people's similar experiences or advice would be much appreciated right now. Thanks so much!
Cliff's notes: she did you a favor. You absolutely do not want or need to work with "leaders" like this.

I learned long ago that people (in the collective sense) are not nearly as intelligent as we think we are, meaning most of us can know what we should do and how we should behave, and yet for whatever reason, we don't.

You can't control how other people behave or feel about you. What's important is that you know the reality of who she is, what she is, and how she'd treat you and others. Even mediocre employees deserve and can find better places to work and better people to work for.

Move on and don't give this a moment's thought. It was an experience that just didn't work out. We all have those - even your supervisors.
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Old 17th August 2016, 2:14 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worriedfiance246 View Post
Hi GemmaUK,

Thank you so much for responding to my message, it really means a lot! I've been checking back on this site all day as I've definitely been too much in my own head.

I think you're right about feeling like the finishing line just kept on being moved. And interesting that you point out her superiors, she has time and time again ripped the small team of 3 employees to shreds until the Board of Trustees or some highly influential person gives positive feedback at which point we are then suddenly incredible assets to her. But it does feel like if you don't continue to wow her every single day you will quickly fall out of favour and be considered the "dead weight."

I work in the charity sector doing programme management for youth engagement projects. In the past five years I've freelanced for perhaps 8 or 9 orgs. In that time I've clashed with the woman I've mentioned in this post and another who seemed to fall in to a pattern of systematically shaming one member of the office each week and would put you through almost a "hazing" period to see what you were made of. I was also once hired by a group that brought me on at a very very junior level when I was 21 and then let me go 2 weeks later when I couldn't complete a DIFID grant (a large multi million pound grant that is about 40 pages long). I've had some very positive experiences with some projects but all I seem to fixate on is the maybe 3 or 4 superiors who I have left on an awkward note with. I'm sure I'm not perfect as a freelancer but am really trying with all my heart to do the best job within my capabilities.

One of my issues is I've never been in the position of having time or training invested in me as I come in as the freelancer. I sell myself as being competent and then when there's something I can't do I'm ultimately let go. I understand that a freelancer comes in to get a job done but all I would have wanted at any point yesterday after a year of working weekends and evenings for this woman was a "thank you for your work." I accept that I will never get that but I just feel like now in my late 20s I can't look back on solid confirmation that I'm actually ok at what I do and I feel very worried and unconfident about this.

Can I ask what you mean about adhering to my own boundaries?
OK, ignore what I said about boundaries completely - it's nothing to do with that and was an assumption on my part.

I think you are focusing too much on the bad incidents with previous bosses (though this will have reminded you of that) so give yourself a break and realise that it's not a consistent thing.

I know a few folk who have their own small lcompanies or who work freelance and those who do will go in hitting the ground running - or appear to be doing so. In the background anything they didn't know they researched like crazy.
I watched my ex do this many times but he was confident he could always get there and lucky enough that he could pretty much guarantee that another issue would pop up naturally that he needed to take care of with much more urgency which gave him time to research.

It doesn't sound like you have much of an opportunity for that - especially with the legal stuff you had to do in another role. I suspect any research would have been very niche for that with a charity being involved.

I wish you the best of luck with the job interview. There is a big difference working for an employer as you do get training and can ask for help when required.
I'm not cut out for freelancing but I have quit jobs where there was just no guidance on the background of how the company operated.
Even in employed work environments there's been things I just don't know anything about and I have gone away and self taught - one task in particular this year - but I was confident because of working there and knowing the background that I could get a result from it and I did.

I think you will feel more appreciated and supported within an employed work environment and that's no bad thing to admit.
I'm a bit of a 'terrier' so I have been told by almost all my past bosses because for me I want to know all of the details behind what I am doing. They call me a terrier because I will dig into things more than most so I understand the bigger picture, not just the task I am doing.
You could well be the same.
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Old 18th August 2016, 8:02 AM   #9
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Hi Fugu, Preraph, and GemmaUK,

Again thank you so much for all of your supportive comments, I can't tell you how helpful and encouraging I found them.

The exciting news is despite the shaken confidence on Monday I found out yesterday that I was offered a full-time position at an organisation I've really loved consulting with for the past year in what is in many ways my dream role. I was so nervous I was up at 5 am preparing, couldn't eat beforehand, and was trying not to shake so when I found out yesterday afternoon I felt close to tears! I also realised that for the first time in my young adult life I'll have a line manager, an HR Manager who looks after staff well-being, a pension, and even paid holidays! The person who hired me even said that they have a stipend for training and encouraged me to take advantage of it as well as come to him for professional development at any time. What an amazing relief to feel safe in a work place like this - finally.

I think also, as you've all been so kind to point out, it's put the previous office and my abusive boss in to better perspective. While it's important that employees understand and anticipate the needs of the org and their employer, surely that should be a two way street? It should also be about making your team feel valued and like weekends and evenings of hard work are appreciated and recognised. My hope is that with a few weeks of having a supportive work environment I might see the mean-spirited comments of this previous woman in a different light. I guess the challenge is not to take forward negative professional experiences in to new positions or ruminate over them, something I'm guilty of doing.

Fugu, Preraph, and GemmaUK, my deepest thanks for your really helpful comments. You took time out of your busy days to help a stranger online feel better about herself and possibly provide a bit of grounding to walk in to this interview with my head held higher and for that I am so grateful. Your messages really helped and I really hope I can repay your kindness in future.
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Old 19th August 2016, 2:14 AM   #10
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Wioohooooo!! Congratulations!!

I think you'll feel much more part of a team and much more supported.
There are always weird managers or colleagues wherever you work so keep your eyes open still - but you have back up this time should there be any problems. Plus it sounds like you already have good rapport with these folk so problems should be few if any or totally manageable.

Good luck!! x
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Old 19th August 2016, 10:11 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Worriedfiance246 View Post
Hi Fugu, Preraph, and GemmaUK,

Again thank you so much for all of your supportive comments, I can't tell you how helpful and encouraging I found them.
No probs - glad to help.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Worriedfiance246 View Post
The exciting news is despite the shaken confidence on Monday I found out yesterday that I was offered a full-time position at an organisation I've really loved consulting with for the past year in what is in many ways my dream role. I was so nervous I was up at 5 am preparing, couldn't eat beforehand, and was trying not to shake so when I found out yesterday afternoon I felt close to tears! I also realised that for the first time in my young adult life I'll have a line manager, an HR Manager who looks after staff well-being, a pension, and even paid holidays! The person who hired me even said that they have a stipend for training and encouraged me to take advantage of it as well as come to him for professional development at any time. What an amazing relief to feel safe in a work place like this - finally.
This is why I wrote what I wrote the other day. A lot of employers want employees to feel like they are indebted to them somehow and they let things like seniority and titles go to their heads. You obviously want to stay in the good graces of your employer, but you don't owe them anything beyond an honest day's effort for a day's pay.

The key is balance. On one hand, you're always replaceable. There's always someone out there who can do your job, and some might even do it better than you, so never assume that you're worth more as an individual than the collective contributions of the team. I always approach work by trying to understand that my job is to make my employer's job easier. But on the reverse side of that coin, you have your life and there are commitments beyond work. You even have a commitment to your own well-being. Don't ever neglect that. Just as you're replaceable, so are the people you work for. You simply do not need to tolerate abuse and you are better off working with people of like minds.
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