Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Early Thirsty....Have you ever done anything to make a colleague hate you.....

Like...want you dead hate you?

I can't give too many of the details.  But here is a bare bones summary:

Our department was being adversely affected by someone who felt (s)he was beyond reproach.  Very adversely affected, and everyone in the college was talking about how this person was taking advantage of us and we were letting hir get away with it.  Every one in my department was talking about it too, but were afraid of this person, who has a great deal of or something.  You might even call it charisma.  The person was in a position of power over us. 

But.  There was an avenue whereby someone could challenge hir.  No one was brave enough to do this.  I wanted very badly for someone else to do it, just like everyone else did.  I lobbied others to do it.  No one would. Everyone was afraid.

So I did it.  I challenged this person, and to make a long story short, I won.

Now this person wants me dead.  I have made a mortal enemy at work.

My department is thrilled.  They tell me all the time.  The administration is happy.  They have also told me this. But of course, this person is still here.  Seething with hatred. 

(S)he cannot really do anything to me. But (s)he is difficult at every turn, ready to thwart me, make me look bad, undo things I am doing.  It is a royal pain in the ass. 

Q: So tell me.  Have any of you dealt with anything like this?  How long does the hatred last?  Do you have any advice besides the obvious (document everything)?


  1. Yeah (hanging my head). Damn. My department is crazy, really. This one doesn't talk to that one and that one doesn't talk to that other one. That's another story.

    I can't go into the details. I think it's enough to say that I finally stood up to this person and am suffering for it. The powers that be are on my side and think I'm owed an apology. Wish me luck on that one.

    I don't hate this person, but it's quite uncomfortable working together now. Hey, now I really fit in. From what I hear, the hate and resentment never dies.This department argues about decades-old issues.

    I document everything. Everything is emailed and every verbal encounter is followed by an email confirmation, with copies to the powers that be.

    1. You sound like we might have been colleagues as you described what my former department was like.

      Don't count on an apology. Like John Wayne's character in the movie "She Wore A Yellow Ribbon" said, "Never apologize. It's a sign of weakness." You may have won the battle but, ultimately, you will lose the war. Your enemy, even if found to be in the wrong, can find and will find ways of getting even and it won't end until you're gone, preferably discredited and disgraced. And, yes, it can go on for years. It did with me when I was the one on the receiving end.

      By all means document everything but don't count on any of it ever being accepted as evidence. I did that and my doing so was turned against me by the institution staff association's lawyer. No matter what you do, you're stuck. If you keep a record of everything, you're the bad guy, you're the one being petty or paranoid, you're the one who's the bully. If you don't, you have no evidence to present and your allegations about your enemy are dismissed as frivolous if not vindictive.

      Unless something drastic happens, such as your enemy suddenly leaving, your best bet is to start looking for a job somewhere else. It's not going to end and it's not going to be nice.

      Been there. Suffered for it.

  2. Hmm. When I was a grad student, I went to war with an extremely unethical senior faculty member in my division of my department. Through a combination of whistle-blowing and standing up to the jerk, he wound up having to repay a federal grant and hire a lawyer to answer some of the charges. He also wound up with several letters of reprimand in his file about various charges of misconduct.
    I did this because I knew that this professor would do the same things again and someone had to have the stones (sorry if this offends, but to stand up to this kind of thing really takes a pair!!) to plant a flag and say there is a line and you just don't cross it. I knew that I was making it easier for the next person who would have to stand up to this professor. It didn't hurt that I was a few years older than the average cat and I was in the Reserves so I had a lot of training to fall back on.
    Not much changed. I was widely avoided by my fellow grad students and my time remaining was pretty lonely, but I was confident in my knowledge that I had done the right thing.
    We come to the crossroads and we have a choice to do what is right or do what is easy. Doing the correct thing or doing the right thing. GO with your gut and stand up to the person. The nice things about these circumstances is that you rapidly find out who your real friends are: the good ones will close ranks and support you and the rest can go chase a cat!

  3. Yeah. The hate lasts forever as far as I can tell. But it's not a terrible thing to be hated by someone everyone hates, and who hates almost everyone. Just don't take any bait.

    1. You're right. The hate does go on forever.

      These people can and will use any reason to wage war on someone. One could be too educated or too intelligent or not sufficiently educated or intelligent. One could be the first one with the newest shiny toy or be the only one who refuses to have one. One could have the best-looking spouse or, for that matter, no spouse at all. Place of birth or mother tongue could be used against someone. Supporting the wrong political party could be hazardous to one's job prospects.

      But don't bet that the settlement of a dispute means it's over. It might be finished as far as one party is concerned but it might not be for the one that started it. Also, the settlement of a dispute when certain people were in charge (and who, perhaps, had brokered a resolution) doesn't mean it's binding when someone else takes over. In fact, the new leadership might allow that dispute to continue or use that dispute as a reason for starting another one. Worse yet, they might even support a new campaign.

      There's a reason why I adopted my nickname. I got tired of being bullied, threatened, and harassed and hung on until I thought I had enough money to quit and go on my own.

  4. The larger issue is the culture. If you are in a place that values solving the problem then standing up and fighting the good fight is worth the effort/risk. If, however, you are in a place that just wants to make the problem "go away" as quickly as possible, you run the risk of being the thing that "goes away."

    1. Worse yet, the institute's staff association or union might be among those that make the problem go away.

      While I was teaching, we had several presidents of our staff association. Only one took the job seriously and was willing to stick her neck out for an individual member in a dispute. Unfortunately, she was hounded out of office due to internal association politics.

      For the most part, the staff association presidents collaborated with the administration when it came to a dispute. They claimed to be represent individual instructors but, in fact, were only too willing to help get rid of anybody who might prove to be troublesome.

  5. Yes. But not exactly intentionally. First I "stole his promotion" (we both went up for promotion in the same year. I didn't even know he was applying. I was the only person in the faculty to get promoted, which made it worse). He didn't speak to me at all - cut dead in the corridors - for six months. Which was actually kinda nice.

    THEN. I "made him feel bad"... because we went on a field trip to a place I know fairly well both through personal connections and because I did my PhD there and my second post-doc there and still have research sites there. He'd never been there for work, only once for a week's fun. But when I spoke to the students at various locations about aspects of the sites without telling him about them first, I was apparently deliberately trying to show him up, and it escalated from there.

    The six months of silence following THAT little lot was less nice as it came with glaring and rumour-mongering.

    However, he is now perfectly nice and collegial 90% of the time, with occasional nastiness. Unpredictable nastiness. I'd rather be openly hated, to be honest.

    1. I had colleagues like that both while I was teaching and while I was in industry.

      One of my tormentors while I was teaching was often quite nice and decent but I think that was simply an illusion meant to get me to drop my guard. I'm sure that if he ever wanted to pat me on the back for, presumably, a job well done, he wouldn't have done it to congratulate me but to look for a spot where he could stick a knife, so to speak.

      I agree that it's preferrable to be openly hated because at least one knows what one has to deal with. However, in the corporate culture that now prevails in higher education, doing so could brand one as having no "people skills", whatever they are. One is required to maintain the illusion of unity and cordiality though there are some who used that illusion to plot and scheme against colleagues they either don't like or regard as an obstacle or impediment.

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  7. On the other hand, I do believe that, in cases where someone has earned my justified wrath, revenge truly is a dish best served cold. They'll get theirs, one day....
    Scots' motto: never forgive, never forget.

    1. Personally, I prefer what Oscar Wilde said on the subject: "Living well is the best revenge."

    2. I have struggled with this, Dr BPD, because I never actually harbored any ill toward the person I crossed. (S)he was just doing a shitty job, and it was hurting all of us, and (s)he would not see it, would not change, would not do a better job. (S)he felt really entitled to be doing just what (s)he was doing. So (s)he feels completely justified and victimized. Sigh. It is hard, at least for me, to realize that I can never, ever, correct the wrong idea someone else has in their head. I am really really old to not have learned that lesson already.