I am so exhausted. It has been another unbearable week at work and I really don’t know how much more I can take.
I have written before about how challenging my job can be. It’s not just the hours and the stress invoked by having partners and clients constantly jumping up and down for things I cannot easily produce; it’s the vile atmosphere in my team where people rarely chat to each other and simply criticise each other and try to pull each other down (the youngest and most female being the main targets). I have also mentioned that they recently forced me to work despite being off sick for a pregnancy-related illness. As background, I had only tried to take two days off and I am not someone who habitually calls in sick, so this was unacceptable.
Several others in the team feel the same. Actually, everyone in the team thinks the atmosphere sucks, but there are those who don’t do too badly out of it (the boss’s favourites) and those who are constantly pushed around (me and the other junior females).
There was recently a firm-wide survey requesting feedback into our experience of the firm. The feedback from our team was extremely negative and apparently the partners were asked to explain to those higher up the chain why this was. As such, a meeting was set up whereby we had to give feedback to one of the mid-level members of the team as to why we had rated the partners so low, and he then had to report back to the partners. We had a meeting that went on for 1 hr 45 minutes and we gave lots of feedback, all of which was constructive rather than just having a moan. I was naively hopefully that they might take some of our comments on board and start adjusting the way they work and they way they treat people.
I thought wrong.
We are getting a feedback session on our feedback session, but from what I have been told the partners went “ballistic” and denied that any of it was true and instead they have come up with a list of four areas where they think that the junior end of the team are not competent and where we need to start “doing better”. WTAF? How have they turned a session, supposedly brought about in the interest of boosting morale and finding out why nobody in the team respects the partners, to yet another opportunity to criticise and de-motivate?!
So this week did not start well. Later in the week another junior colleague quit. They are apparently fighting to make her stay, but according to this colleague her resignation conversation took less than three minutes in which she was asked to explain why she was leaving, gave her reasons (mostly: unsupportive environment/feels she will get better experience and supervision at the new firm) and was promptly told by our head of department “You won’t get a better experience, but just go ahead and give your resignation letter to HR” before ending the conversation. Nice.
Shortly after this happened, two of the partners had a meeting with the HR representative. I recently had a meeting with her to discuss my pregnancy and possible adjustments I may need at work (which incidentally, sound like they will be ignored) and I mentioned the fact that the partner had told me I could not be off sick as there was work to be one.
Apparently, although I did not see it, in the partner/HR meeting this partner stormed out of the room and “had a face bright red with fury”. The next thing I know, I was dragged into a meeting room with the other partner (head of department) and was told that they had concerns about my “transparency”. According to him, they “never know whether [I] am off sick or working from home” and that “[I] need to record any absences as it goes on [my] record”. To date, I have had two days of sickness. I recorded a day and a half, because on the second day I was made to work. That seems fair to me, because why should I not be allowed the benefit of a sick day and be allowed to get better, yet I’m also expected to have the black mark against my name and record it as a full day off? As for working from home, in recent weeks I have had two pregnancy-related appointments, so I have worked from home for the remainder of those days (the hospital is close to home, and work is 1.5 hours away). Both of those days were cleared with him beforehand.
Unfortunately this accusation about my “transparency” is just a total lie and they are taking steps to smear my reputation, probably in the hope that I will just quit now rather than taking a (partly paid by the firm) year off to raise my child. On top of this, I now have to have weekly meetings with the other partner (the one who told me to work and also said I may not be able to go to L’s funeral) to “run through my workload”. This has been spun to HR as being in my interests so that they can check I am not being overworked. Unfortunately, I know them well and it is just another opportunity to put pressure on me, monitor me and ultimately control me, as there is simply no way they will ever take work off me/tell people to back off me/take steps to protect me. It is the paper trail to say “But look! We were trying to help her manage her workload, but she just couldn’t cope”, while telling me that I’m not working hard enough or that people think I am a liar (although “transparency” is a slightly less sinister way of putting things).
It is unbelievable. For years, I have worked my arse off for that firm. I have regularly worked through the night and over weekends for mediocre pay and zero thanks. I have commuted up to four hours per day, or (for 18 months) paid for a flat in the same city (as well as paying my own mortgage and bills!) to be there at all hours to do the job. I have juggled fertility appointments and used my free-time/annual leave to cover this, rather than taking sick leave. For the last few years I have just about been breaking even financially and have sacrificed friends, family and (almost certainly) fertility in order to build up my reputation and to get trust from my colleagues.
And for a while I had that. A year ago I was getting lots of compliments and everyone seemed to want me to work on their matters. I was the “popular” “trustworthy” junior.
Then I had to take two weeks off sick for my operation and things started changing.
Then several months after that, I got pregnant. Now suddenly there are issues about my “transparency” and my “low chargeable hours” (which is out of my hands, because the partners give out the work and have been loading me with non-chargeable work (which counts for nothing) for the past 9 months and not giving me access to the chargeable work (which is where you get the points)).
So right now, the situation at work very much sucks. It is pure discrimination and it is unfair, but I am trying to avoid going down the discrimination route as the anxiety of it all may cause me to miscarry and then they will have won.
I know that, like any bully, this fear is what they are relying on. That I will be too afraid to bring them up on their behaviour as I just do not have the emotional, or financial, resources to fight them.
So what do I do now? I am trying so hard to stay positive and to keep things in perspective.
Ultimately, this is what I need to focus on:
- I am pregnant. After dealing with infertility, this is all that matters to me (except the health of my family, BT and the cats). I have won the jackpot. In a way, dealing with discrimination is a good thing, because it has ONLY happened because I am pregnant.
- If I lose my job, I will be fine. Yes, my pride will hurt. Yes, I will be livid because it will be 100% unfair and after years of giving everything and getting little in return, it will be completely unjust and I will question why I even bothered sacrificing so much for them in the first place. BUT, I will still (hopefully) have my family, BT and our house. I will also find some other form of job, even if it is just something to pay the bills.
- I have the control to come up with an exit plan. I may be tied for now, as there is no way I am letting them bully me out of my maternity rights, but ultimately I do not need to stay there. There is no benefit to me in working for them. I am no longer under the illusion that I have anything to gain by being there (except the average salary and money into a pension, which I can get in many other places). They have bullied me into a position whereby my confidence has gone and I am a (fat) shell of my former self. But deep down it is there somewhere. That drive and determination to succeed and be good at my job. Deep down I KNOW I am not a bad employee as I have never had any employment issues in the 17 years I have had jobs.
So for now, I need to remember: It’s not me, it’s them.
I just need to keep my head down and focus on what is important.