Saturday, November 18, 2006

A nightmarish second week

Where do I start?After a very tiring weekend, I was looking forward to the peace, quiet and simplicity of my Leicester life.

My second week in Leicester was hell!. I seriously reconsidered my decision to take up this job and was millimeters close from packing it in. It's a long story.

Monday started off well enough, drove in from London that morning and got on with work as per normal. By Wednesday, I had started sensing some sort of atmosphere, nothing definite but my intuition was picking up some strange vibes.

My main boss was speaking to me with a blank stare on his face, avoiding eye contact and talking in a funny tone. My direct boss was not communicating with me at all preferring to send messages to me indirectly through my training partner. A team outing was planned, even though I had paid my £5 deposit, I noticed no one was particularly interested in if I was attending or not plus I had not yet been given the restaurant details. I decided not to go.

On Friday, none of my team members who went for the outing commented on my absence and a pre-arranged meeting I and a colleage (the 20yr old) had made almost fell apart because she did not show up neither did she call me. I was definitely now convinced that there was a problem, I had to pray to God for guidance on how to deal with it and for the best opportunity to address it.

Later that day, we had a team scheduled, just before the team meeting, my housemate/landlady Louise left a message on my phone that the rent/deposit cheque I had given her on Monday had bounced. I was shocked, upset and embarrased because Tunji was supposed to make sure there were enough funds in my account for that. I sent her text that I will bring the cash with me after the weekend but she replied that she needed it immediately in her account as certain payments were going out. Tunji was in Essex in an all day meeting so he was not pleased about having to sort out this as well as deal with my anger. Obviously, the bounced cheque was not the only thing upsetting me, I still had this work issue to deal with and he got the full brunt of my upset.

The meeting started and seemed to be progressing well when the other contractor guy suggested that training partners draw up an agreement to manage communication and general interaction whilst training. I saw my chance and said it was not going to be possible for me to do that as communication with my partner had broken down. All eyes turned to her and she burst into tears and ran off from the meeting. Her friend, the other youngster, followed to comfort her.

I explained to the rest of the team that I had been feeling an atmosphere and had no idea where it was coming from as I thought we had built up a good relationship. They tried to explain that she was under a lot of personal stress and was especially sensitive.

I noticed her and her friend returning and I got up to talk to her before she got to the meeting table. I asked her where all this was coming from as I thought we were friends. She replied that it was not just her that had a problem with me, everyone in the team did. At this point our direct manager joined us and I turned to him asking what this was all about. He hesitantly indicated that someone had told him that I said he did not deserve to be manager. I asked him why the hell I'd say that when I knew nothing about him and his work experience. I asked that we all returned to the team meeting table and discuss this in the presence of everyone. Of course when we got back, I asked each person directly if I had spoken to them about him and they all denied I had. I then asked each person to say what problem exactly they had with me as that was the only way I'd be able to make changes.

My partner said she was trying to log on earlier in the week and whilst she was having difficulty doing it, I suggested she tried one or two other things. She felt I only said that because of her age. I did not trust that she knew what she was doing. The gay guy said I had asked him what he was doing for lunch and when he replied he was meeting up with his old workmates, I said "well, I'll have lunch here in the training room". He said my response upset him. The other youngster said during a training session the day before where I was training a class of 15 delegates including her, I had asked her a question and when she responded, I moved on to someone else.

I realised that it was impossible to create a professional working relationship with them and any notion of friendship was totally out of the question. As I had more pressing things to deal with, namely finding £580 cash within the next hour to pay my landlady, I thanked them for their feedback and promised I will bear in mind their individual sensitivities in my future interaction with them. I think my direct-manager person felt a bit bad and started saying he did not want me to feel everyone was picking on me, he could imagine that it would be hard on me too leaving my baby and husband to come to work in Leicester. I did not want his sympathy, I interrupted him saying "Yes it is hard but don't worry about it, I'm strong enough. Are we done?" When he said yes, I wished everyone a pleasant weekend and left.

Tunji could only rustle up £450 for me and I drove around for ages looking for a branch of her bank, Alliance & Leicester, which you'd imagine being in Leicester would be easy to find. By the time I found one, paid the cash in and began setting off for London, my stress levels were going through the roof. In that state, I decided to call my main-manager, the guy who interviewed me.

Luckily it went to voicemail. If I had spoken to him at that moment, I would have quit there and then. By the time he called me back, I was calmer and told him I felt it was neccessary to flag some of the problems I was having with the team, particularly my training partner and how that could impact our working effectively together. He in effect asked me to walk on eggshells (he actually used those words) around her for the time being and things will improve and the project progresses. His response was not reassuring and I was convinced he had been told these lies against me and his behaviour earlier in the week was in reaction to them. We ended the call with niceties and I continued on my journey home.

This experience rocked me to my core. I was hurt, angry, confused, upset, frustrated, friendless - and these are those feelings I can articulate. I felt so much more stuff I can't put into words. My Leicester life adventure had become a nightmare. I'm convinced I've made a mistake.

Why did the team turn on me? They made comments like "You are a strong woman. You are very confident" etc... Was that the problem? Two weeks before I was singing along to Teletubbies with a cereal stained t-shirt on the floor with my baby.

Did I try too hard to come across as a confident professional woman and over do it? Should I have been more timid, nervous, self-deprecating?

Did they read my blog? Even then I don't think I have written anything bad about anyone. The blog is about me. Maybe when I said I did not need them, my attitude went too far into the realm of "I am an island" when obviously as we know, no man is an island.

A friend said to me, your testimony is too big and satan would want to sour it. He certainly had a hand in this no doubt but what avenue did I give him? Had I become too self-assured, trusting in my own ability to do the job?

In almost every job I've done, I've been liked and have liked the people I worked with. One of my former workmates from 1998 is my baby's god mother. I still get birthday cards from another. When my son was born, one former workmate from a place I worked in 2001, sent £40 gift vouchers and remembers his birthday religiously. I meet up regularly with a bunch of upto 15 others not to mention the numerous emails I exchange with previous workmates.

This experience was certainly a new one for me.

So what do I do going forward? Well, my bible tells me "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible. Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, "I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it," says the Lord. Instead, do what the Scriptures say: "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink, and they will be ashamed of what they have done to you." Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good." (Romans 12:17-21).

That's what I'll do, by God's grace.

Sorry this is so long... a lot did go on this week and I've actually left out some minor bits. I'll appreciate some tips and advice on me and dealing with this from a practical perspective.

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