On Worplace Bullying

I've been trying very hard indeed to get people where I used to work to recognise that I was quite severely bullied over my entire tenure of 11 years, but I think I'm reached the end of that particular tether, so I'm trying another approach.

I learned as a child to not let bullies "get away with it". If one does, they just bully more; And more; With impunity.

Usually I try to educate bullies that what they do is neither clever nor helpful for anyone ... even themselves, but some bullies just won't learn that. Then things have to be taken further.

Now to what was going on.

Events unfolded slowly, so please bear with me here.

I was employed by a contract manufacturer of electronics boards to build a business doing contract design. The plan (allegedly, at least) was to offer the complete package of design, through prototyping and pilot production to full scale manufacturing, all under one roof. That sounds like a good plan and I certainly had the skills to do it, including around 35 years experience mostly in the electronics and software design and management, and also skills from other disciplines (I worked crazy hours, often in totally unrelated disciplines, like running a bar in the evenings at a very large amateur theatre group ).

I started settling in and getting ready to start detail planning with the directors, to be told within my first few days that "before we can really progress this, we desperately need PCB CAD support for our existing customers". I protested that that was really rather a diversion from what we were trying to achieve, but they were adamant "Not negotiable, sorry". There followed six months of largely wasted time getting a very senior engineer and manager up to speed as a CAD operator. Then there were six months of cash-flow worries (probably real enough), followed by more months of move to new premises, most of which made making any significant progress towards this design business pretty much impossible.

But at last, things started to move on. And almost immediately were stopped again. "Not much demand at the moment" (Surely if I'm building this business I should be part of actually building this demand!).

I'd already learned before this stage that the technical director of the contract manufacturer had been "pushed aside" by the other board members from his previous role as CEO. The guy, Nick, seemed happy enough in the Technical Director role. He was an engineer, though had spent far more time as CEO, but clearly enjoyed engineering and asserted that he wanted to company to start making and selling it's own products, not just manufacture products for others. I too agreed that this was a good strategy, so as there was "not much demand" in the planned business, I agreed and the other directors agreed that it was sensible to focus on Nick's plan, for the present.

Long story short, after a small 'feeler' project that didn't go very far, we discovered an opportunity that looked like a "goer". High intensity LED-based light sources for fluorescent microscopy. LEDs have more than a few challenges in that use, but we felt we could overcome them. We knew LEDs well, we knew how to manage temperatures well, we knew how to control them well, we knew how to get the light we produced into the microscope. We also knew there was nothing like what we believed we could do already in the market. Well, we did it and shook up the market, going from new entry start-up to "the experts" in just a couple of years.

All great!

But, despite having done the lion's share of the work producing this ground-breaking product, I still seemed to be stuck in the back room, not getting the proper recognition or benefits of all this work I had done towards making this remarkable product. There was always that "you're the expert producing our designs"; "we need an additional product for clinical use", "you have a lot of work on at the moment and shouldn't be distracted by the business stuff".

The arguments were kind of reasonable, but kept going on ... and on ... and on.

If I raised an issue: "we're messing up a bit here on customer requirements. Requirements Capture has been a mainstay of my work for twenty years, why not let me do that?", I just get non-committal responses. "My job in the past and why I came here was engineering design and management of engineering. I'm still not doing that; Why?" The response was "we're not really big enough yet". Meanwhile I'm working damned hard, alone, on more and yet more products for this company.

Various "odd" things happen through this time ... Nick is apparently completely unable to put a simple priority on two tasks, one for "us" and one for that contract manufacturer, for whom I still officially work and who still actually pay me. I say that for that reason, or until he can decide, I'll get on with the parent company's product first, "but do please say if you want me to do otherwise as I'll very happily change". He walked away, back to his office and our recent addition business development manager, who wanted the other task done, glared at me with clear anger.

There was the time when I threatened to leave as "I'm getting nowhere here" shortly later to be told by Nick that he was promoting a technician to work with me on contract designs and, of course, I would be his line manager. Nick would tell him when both he and Nick were back from their respective summer holidays. He didn't. I reminded him several times. The promoted technician asked him several times what was his new job title, role, line manager and so on. Nick just did not (would not) say. Frozen again. For nine whole months.

I started to become clinically depressed. The technician became frustrated and left soon after a client offered him a job working for them.

Now my gradually increasing depression started to be used against me. I'm now "grumpy", "difficult", my "behaviour" is "not helping".

By now I've been working with them for close to ten years, am in my 60s, have designed the electronics and software for every single product they sell (an odd one-off excluded), and still I have no recognition for my huge contribution, never a promotion, never a pay rise other than across-the-board incremental, rarely even a thank-you. I'm clinically depressed and I'm becoming pretty damned angry. I demand a proper meeting to explain what is going on here.

I'll skip the detail, but again there were some very odd things said in that meeting, though for the first time ever, there's a little movement towards some kind of recognition of my contribution. It's small, but it's a start.

By this time, because my depression "is upsetting some of the others", I've been asked to work at home. As an acknowledgement that I have never been in a position to build the R&D business for which I'd joined them, they "allow" me also to work, in my own time, for other companies or myself.

A year or two after that, Nick telephoned me and, after our usual niceties, in what felt very much like some kind of confessional, took a pause and a deep breath and said "I thought you were there to take my job away from me".

"Oh God Nick, I would never do something like that".

He went on to talk about those early months and me being sidelined to get that CAD system/service in place. I was shocked, but felt that at least it was now in the open. At least we can now do something about it. Potentially I can start to be myself again and make the progress I should already have made.

Sadly that was the last time I ever spoke to Nick, who, ten days later, was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour in the motor regions of his brain. He left the company and died about six months later. Despite what he'd done, I remain pretty sure it was atypical of him, cause by that belief.

Even before Nick was gone, things for me went from bad to much worse. That business development manager who'd been so angered by my local decision on prioresses, who also seemed to blame me for other things controlled by Nick and who also seemed to think I should just do as he says and not ask questions of him,m now takes over as acting CEO. I promptly find myself brought before a contract HR person and accused of lots of things I've never been and never done. Lies and innuendo. People with whom I worked now also seem to think the lies and innuendo are true, despite ample past evident that I am highly dedicated and motivated. They appear to think my (by now quite obvious) clinical depression is an act. There is "some resentment" that I have been "allowed" to work at home (I only did so because I was asked to ... I did not want to, I like to work with) people).

I end up resigning as it becomes clear I will no longer be able to work with these people. I'm offered "protection" for the very modest share options I was offered as part of that little late recognition with a severance agreement that guarantees if I've left before the company is sold, will pay me a percentage of what I would have been due.

The severance agreement included one of the now infamous Non-Disclosure Agreements.

So I must not tell you what company did this.

Cute, huh?

Documents relating to XxxxXXX Limited

Last Modified times indicate the date and time at which I last modified the file. They don't give a record per-se of the amount of time I worked, but they do say that I was working at these times. Statistical distribution should tell you pretty much all else you should know.

Toxicity of Ego in the Workplace -- a case study

What they wrote about me:

What they wrote about me:

Some facts:

Some facts:

(The dense regions above on Thursday reflect a day in November 2011 when I "copied anew" some 10,000 files. The original last-modified times of those files were therefore lost, however my work ethinc remains clear!.)

Graph of last-modified times
(the midday peak is because 10,000 files were
copied between fileservers at that time in 2011)