I believe today is the anniversary of when I was unfairly made redundant. As a direct result of this, the past ten years in the workplace have been very difficult for me.
Since that time I have had some kind of Fairy Godparent. They have watched over me, intervened and manipulated down the years. It was being done with good intent, although this immediately gives me a huge problem. I resent the fact that someone acknowledges that there is something that needs fixing, but they will not do it honestly, and in the open.
The persistent intervention I have experienced has had the opposite of the desired effect for several reasons. One is that I always know when I am being handled. Second, I have always had a aversion to being handled - because I am so aware - I find it dishonest and sneaky. Worse still, a big part of it took place when I was trying to recover from Clinical Depression. Constantly reminded that I was not on level ground delayed my recovery and gave me a total aversion to handling. It caused other problems too. Thirdly, it has been done remotely, through third parties. Who have been incompetent, to say the least. Plus you only get one side of the story, feedback is selective or inaccurate. And last, if it is being done through guilt then I have my pride. If you know you owe me then stop expecting me to pay what you owe.
I know that folk find it difficult to understand, but when I say I *always* know when I am being handled, then I really mean it. I sometimes get things wrong and see something which is not there. False positives are an occupational hazard. It is *possible* for me to miss a single, isolated incident, so I guess strictly speaking I don’t *always* detect the handling. However, I have been so sensitised to this type of activity over the recent past that I would bet a week’s pocket money, a whole 3d, that I haven’t missed anything in a decade.
Trying to explain it is hard. It really is like trying to explain colour to a person who has been blind since birth. Just a short while ago a young lad at work was trying to convince me that you cannot tell what someone is thinking. At any single point in time I agree. I can’t. What I am talking about is being able to detect that what is being said or done is unusual in some way. I don’t always immediately get specifics, like motive. However, surprisingly often, a single data point is enough. I get a feeling that something is odd. I am frequently unable to verbalise what I feel at this early stage. It really operates at a very visceral level. Instinct. Intuition. Feeling. As it is called in the Meyer-Briggs world.
(It did not escape my notice that this was raised because he too, had been part of my latest problems. I had suspected he was involved in the Rent-a-Mate franchise and the fact this was on his mind and popped up out of the blue confirmed my suspicion.)
What triggers my intuition can be any number of factors. Typically it is the way something is said, the context, or the timing.
Don’t misunderstand me. Some of the descriptions of the INFJ type can get a bit carried away with the 6th sense idea. It is much more grounded than that, it genuinely exists as a distinctive ability. The best analogy I can come up with is the game Only Connect. Many people will get the sequence or connection after four clues, given enough time. Imagine that 1% of the population always get the solution after one or two clues, within the time allowed in the game. This is the equivalent of an INFJ. For me, it means we are able to instinctively detect an anomaly in behaviour, with minimal data and without having to do the maths.
Straight after I was made redundant I suspected that my interviews were being “managed”. I then experienced incidents which seemed to support my instinct at the first role I took after redundancy. However, my judgement was very cloudy at this time. I was still very much suffering from Clinical Depression trying to recover from the relapse caused by my redundancy. It was a struggle just to function. It took a big effort just to get through one day at a time. I ended each week exhausted. There was other unpleasantness at work which also blurred the issues.
This role cost me a lot of money in failed attempts to move to the area. I was working four long days and living and sleeping in the car three nights a week. It was not a good experience.
When I left this first place I had a much clearer impression that at least two interviews had been set up, especially for me. There were things about the manner of the agency person and the behaviour of people in the interviews which were not natural. When I took the second role after being made redundant however, I was still only about 80% convinced of the job management activity. I took the role on the basis that there seemed reasonable cause for doubt and that if something was going on then I just had to last less than ten years. I thought I could tough it out. I was wrong, as it turned out.
After just a few weeks in the new role a senior person asked me how I was getting on. This was distinctly odd. The way it was asked seemed weighted with expectation. My suspicions had already been aroused, so I was sensitised to the possibility of some hidden agenda. I said that it was OK and that it looked like it was the best company I had worked for. His reaction was a complete give away. After that, I knew I had been handled into a job and that the people there were in on it. Subsequent events just kept confirming this.
What I call the Rent-a-Mate franchise has been a feature of the harassment I have encountered down through the years. The franchise has manifested itself in many forms over the years. It has been employed for a variety of reasons.
In the early years this was both upsetting and annoying. I was trying to recover from depression, but someone thought it was a good idea to keep sticking people in front of me who were being too matey without following normal social protocols. It was like I was constantly being told to “cheer up”. The most insensitive, f*cking stupid, thing you can say to anyone suffering depression. Like saying to someone with a broken leg, “You can run it off.”
The first manifestation of the franchise was before I was made redundant, when I was ill, and work did not believe I was ill. I was sat next to someone who pretended to be my mate. But he wasn’t.
In all this time recruitment agencies and social media sites have featured heavily.
Agencies have been used to “manage” my career for me. I got at least one job, possibly two, by this means.
I have had agencies put onto me for some kind of joke.
I had agencies put on me to test if I was looking for work, but with different motives.
Then there have been times when agencies have been put onto me as a smoke screen to “prove” that agencies were not being put on to me. This behaviour is very common among those who like to “social engineer”. If they think they may have been rumbled then they do something else in an attempt to show that they weren’t doing it. All it does it confirm that they were doing it in the first place.
Many, many, times I posted public pleas about this activity. I said how it really upset me. How it reminded me of a terrible time in my life. But people kept doing it.
The result is I have not used an agency for years and years. I will never use one again.
I have had a string of people on social media and at work put up as a mates, dispensing their emotional Germoline. I prefer not to take part in your games.
There have been examples of how some people’s idea of being a mate and showing “empathy” is just sick and insensitive. I have had cancer rubbed in my face on more than one occasion.
There is a very strong connection between people I have actually met and other, more distant, people. The USA is the other focal point in the ellipse that has been my work life. I say ellipse, but the last decade has been more like a journey along a Möbius strip, constantly passing the same events and behaviour. Many people I have encountered at work have connections there. Some of those US connections have offered threats as "friendly advice". Yet I was meant to turn to them. Doesn't it strike you as a funny way of encouraging an approach? It did me.
I have received a lot of interference and abuse through social media. Some of this has been from people who have taken advantage of the carte blanche given to them by a single senior person going around talking about me and effectively pinning a target on me. It has been open season on me for years. At one point he realised what was happening because he actually mentioned it. His concern was that people were behaving like animals who scented a wounded animal. Well, yes. Thanks to you.
This is why, as a manager, you should never discuss anyone with their colleagues. It bypasses and undermines any normal social process. It sets the wrong example of what is acceptable behaviour. It draws it to everyone’s attention and some people are really not very nice people and react to the scent of blood.
I recognise that some of the incidents could have happened anyway. Some people don’t need any excuse to behave like a ****.
Unwanted events have occurred on a regular basis. involving dozens of people. There were scores of incidents down the years, maybe hundreds. Believe me, I am not exaggerating.
When I was still recovering from depression I found them more upsetting and annoying than I did later on. But a lot of damage had been done by then. The fact they just kept happening wore me down. Early on, they made me feel very self-conscious, uncomfortable, and insecure. I got anxious. It affected my ability to do things like presentations. I started getting bad anxiety attacks just thinking about having to do presentations. On several occasions I had to get a stand-in.
This behaviour got so bad that I could not stand being in the same space as this increasingly large group of people who clearly had no idea how to behave. It made me feel very uncomfortable and even threatened.
It got to a point where I found it very difficult to attend internal talks and meetings. I started to get panic attacks about meetings. As much as possible I attended internal meetings via remote access.
About half way through my period in this role my brain finally recovered. I knew when I had got everything back together and had a celebratory coffee with the Consultant. I stopped seeing him shortly afterwards. I stopped taking antidepressant. I also came off the medication I had been taking to prevent acid reflux. But by now the damage had been done.
One lad liked to discuss me on a personal level with his mates while I was standing in Ops. This happened on a least two occasions that I heard.
A former team member asked another former team member “Does your mood change when I do this?” as he was closing the blind within my hearing, and clearly referring to me. An attempt to cover this up was made in a 1-2-1 with my manager. He had obviously been briefed by the senior manager, my main protagonist, to say that my health issues had not been discussed with anyone.
There was a bit of a theme running through my former team. Three of them made a sport talking about me. I heard them on several occasions. Two of them were proactive. On two other occasions there was a deafening silence as I approached and they stopped talking about me.
Then there was the one where I was sat at my desk posting something on Twitter about my father and his involvement in WWII. The person sat at the desk behind me was on the phone. He starts laughing and not in a nice way. “Don’t mention the war” he says, obviously repeating what has been said on the phone. The person on the other end is evidently watching my feed and commentating. So I post a great Eleanor Roosevelt quote “Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” I paused a moment, then I stood up and looked at the person behind. He could not look at me and was busy trying to disappear into his chair. I moved desk after this incident. It wasn't the first nonsense I had experienced from this group.
I had a spell where I experienced the Case of the Intermittent Wifi. It lasted a couple of weeks or so. Whenever I used my notepad at lunchtime and tried to connect to our open office Wifi, in communal office space, it worked for a few minutes, and then refused to connect. When I returned to my desk after an hour or so, it magically worked again. I have very good reason to believe I was being nobbled by the people in Ops.
Speaking of Ops, there was the time the senior Ops person decided he was going to give me an impromptu interview. Clearly my knowledge and capability had been discussed. In the middle of what started out as a perfectly normal conversation about a minor work detail he started talking about DNS. So we talked about ANAMEs and CNAMEs and ALIASes. Just like that. It was pretty obvious I was being tested. All in all, not very nice. Like the manager phishing about mental health, the manager phishing about my finances, the manager phishing about personal details. It just kept happening.
I heard at least 4 people who had the label of “manager” discussing me in open office within my hearing.
The same thing that I believe happened to me a number of years earlier repeated itself. I had someone sat next to me who was a plant. It was nasty. I was still recovering from depression, and this did nothing for my trust and confidence. It raised my anxiety levels. He showed an unnatural and unhealthy interest in my involvement with LinkedIn, for example.
This person then teamed up with someone else to give me the most bizarre experience of my time at this place. The other person wanted me to look at a YouTube video of some poor chap with ADHD. It was presented out of the blue, and in an odd fashion. It was sick. There was a creepy interest in my reaction.
The same week, another person with the label of “manager” had a very short and odd exchange with me at my desk. In a very contrived way, he managed to suggest that programmers were natural schizophrenics, he then stuck his face right into mine while staring at me in a way that suggested I was supposed to confess I was one.
It looked like the possibility I had some certifiable mental health condition was being discussed at this time. I had Clinical Depression. I was surrounded by Sociopaths.
A lot of people interfered with my blog and web sites when I first started them. I had to delete them.
There was interference on my first Fantasy Premier League site. I gave up on this for a while, too.
There was a lot of social engineering and interference with my first LinkedIn account. I deleted it. The second account I opened did not fare better. I deleted it.
One person took a dislike to me and set up a campaign of threatening emails. Within a few days I received a succession of ominous emails about life insurance. He was mistaken. It wasn't me.
My email address was used to register for all kinds of services and accounts. Betting companies. Goods and services. It got so bad that it eventually led me to change my ISP and online identity.
My phone number was heavily abused in similar fashion and was a reason I got a new phone.
I know there has been a lot of social media “social engineering” going on. I have now deleted all my social media accounts. I have no plans to use social media in the future. I do not look at any now.
I did report some of this activity to my manager. It was like shining a light into a black hole. The response was to make an announcement that if anyone had any problems then someone would be available on Fridays at 3pm to talk.
I started the role with a senior manager acting as my manager. It turned out that he would be my main problem. When I tried to explain my situation after I started at this second place following my redundancy, I felt it would be a good idea to come clean and talk about my health, my situation and my relationship with the workplace. Just so we both knew the score. New job. Fresh start. I tried to open a conversation. He clearly didn’t want to talk about it. I was surprised that he recused himself from direct contact with me. Any competent and conscientious manager should have opened a dialogue. As a manager, I would have. This was another very clear sign that everything was not what it seemed. It told me he was in on the underlying conspiracy.
I then had two managers over a period of a few years. I told both that I was aware of this senior person’s manipulative “social engineering” activity. I told them I did not like it. I said it made me ill. I said I wished he would stop. I said he was shit at it. I said this at more than one meeting. Nothing happened.
My early experiences broke my morale and enthusiasm. I started out making some decent contributions, but these tailed off as my confidence and enthusiasm was drained. I was ignored or fobbed off. I was marginalised over a period. The last "team" I was in went off to a development conference without me.
A few times I was steered towards the group doing work like logging and Chef. I was not averse to this, but it would mean working with the person who was chiefly responsible for all the nonsense I was experiencing. (This is another common practice among those who like to "social engineer". You face up to the victim brazenly, as "proof" you have not been doing anything.) He was an active member of this group along with his drone - the one who was sat next to me for several weeks, phishing and reporting on me. His ADHD accomplice was also in this group. Absolutely no way was I going to join them.
I did have one serious interest for which I still had some enthusiasm. I dearly wanted to work on AI and Machine Learning projects. I had a lot of basic knowledge and was willing and able to learn whatever it took.
For some two years I asked to be able to work on projects around AI and Machine Learning. I had loads of ideas and suggestions, but I wanted anything I did to be useful and properly sanctioned. I could see tons of opportunity in this space. Instead of anyone sitting down and discussing this like grown-ups I was fed tidbits and had carrots dangled. It was very frustrating.
The final few months were a little different. I was finally "allowed" to do a meaty ML project on which I made excellent progress, starting from cold. The way it was handled was not very supportive. I got the distinct impression that everyone stood back and watched to see if I would fail. This was a project to detect anomalies in log file content using research done by Ericsson and Uppsala University. After 3 months I had a processing pipeline and pilot system up and running. It needed more research, but I knew I could crack it.
Instead of being able to follow through, I was then moved on to something completely different. This was to use some very new Amazon services to collect and analyse financial data. Again I made good progress, even though there were issues and it was not as straightforward as it could have been. This was not an ML project, it was more data warehousing. It was a let down, but it had some very interesting challenges.
I was not able to see where things were going at this stage. When I did ask the senior technical person, he dropped hints that it could involve ML and data analysis. I smelt a rat. Making vague promises that fit with what someone wants to hear is yet another unacceptable management technique.
As part of the preparation for this second project I had a long sit down discussion with another senior person. Probably the second oldest person in the company. We covered the technical issues and then in a Rent-a-Mate fashion, he started leading the conversation and went on about our age, out of the blue. Which he segued into money and pensions. I kept quiet. This was obviously another phishing trip.
Towards the end of that year I was presented with an impossible choice about my role. Around this time, a couple of years ago, in fact. Yet another November anniversary.
This is an another example of unacceptable management practice. When there is a big choice, make the individual choose. Then if they don’t like it, you can turn around and say "you chose". Even more nasty, give them Hobson’s Choice. Don’t treat someone like an individual, a person, a human being. This was the crunch point which I should have anticipated.
It had all been leading up to this decision. There was also something odd about what was being done. For me, what was happening, and what was being said, did not add up. One option would mean doing what I wanted to do but working with the senior manager who was to be my nemesis and the person he had sat next to me as his agent. I had already avoided this situation more than once. The other option meant doing something I was interested in, and which I recognised has significant value to the company, but was not exactly what I was hoping to do. And by now I did not trust the person who made vague promises about ML options.
It had become abundantly clear that I was being deliberately kept from the group who had been specifically set up to work on ML projects. Other people joined but I was being kept out. I got included in one or two of their meetings. Then I was excluded again. They pretended to be interested in what I was doing, but for me this was fake.
The person running me sat with them, but I was sat well apart and separate. The treatment I received was just unacceptable. From people for whom I had completely lost respect. I was just being manipulated and messed about. They showed no respect. They had spent years showing a complete lack of consideration. I clearly did not have a future here.
This dilemma set up a big internal conflict in me. I got very upset and anxious and had to have a week off ill, with very intense chest pain. The pain was as bad as I have ever experienced. I started to fear for my long term health. I thought about it for a few more weeks, into the New Year of 2017, and then I decided I had to accept that I could nothing about it. I could not continue.
My offer to do an exit interview was not taken up, even though I understood it was standard practise. Here it is, anyway.
I seriously considered taking them to Employment Tribunal for Constructive Dismissal. I could see a very good case being made. But it was going to cost me some £1500 to bring the case, with a less than 15% chance of success according to advice. It was too big a risk. The fee was repealed a few months later. Too late.
Some **** thought they would be funny when I left, like terminal cancer is funny. I was registered for a lawn mower repair job at a company in West Wales. A pathetic reference to garden leave? This is pretty typical of the undeserved harassment I have experienced for years. As I said earlier, dozens of people have been involved and there have been scores of incidents, maybe as many as a couple of hundred.
As if this wasn't bad enough, the so-called management and their practises have been derisory. Childish. Inept. Insensitive. Inhuman. Patronising. Condescending. Lacking consideration and respect. Indifferent to my condition. Psychopathic, in fact. I was not treated like an individual. It was nasty. It came with a lot of very bad side-effects. There have been similar numbers involved in these management related activities. Dozens of people, scores of incidents.
Then there have been the number of times I have simply heard people talking about me,. I know I come from the age of the dinosaurs, but I do not understand why anyone does it. Some things are none of your business. Gossip is a bad thing. Spreading stories and rumours is destructive and is unacceptable. The number of these observed incidents may only be a dozen or so, but there was enough evidence to show it was always going on behind the scenes.
It all added up to a very toxic environment, and ultimately, an intolerable one.
You need to choose your friends more wisely. You must always get a balanced view. Remember there are always two sides to every story, at the very least. If you haven't seen it, then please watch Rashomon. I hope you get my drift. I never got a chance to put my story in any meaningful way. No one was listening when I tried.
I had to take a few months out to recover. I was more stressed and tired than I realised.
I am trying to set myself up as a small business, so I can avoid those situations and people that just have a negative effect on me. I will get there.
I had a local software development interview about a year ago. It was obvious that those sitting on the other side of the table had been briefed and that this was another “managed” interview. The thought of experiencing yet more of the same was unthinkable. I could not follow it through.
I started a new job just under a year ago. Something very different. Hardly ideal, but I had a friend who had done something similar, and it worked out very well for him.
But not for me. From the start it was odd. I was being handled again. From some of the social media activity it looked like the early effort was directing me to some external opportunity and I was being fed a load of grief that meant I was expected to leave to take it up. I did not oblige, so I was led by the nose to other “opportunities”.
This was all denied. Of course. Subsequent behaviour demonstrated I was right.
There was an attempt to renew my role at this place. Once again, there was evidence of intervention. I had another anxiety attack because folk do not understand and are not listening. My confidence and trust was shattered. I could not continue.
After 3 strikes I am out.
The interference and harassment just continues. A local artist whose work I think is great has been playing silly buggers on social media for two years, thanks to the Rent-a-Mate franchise. I really enjoy the work of a few other artists, but I cannot be sure of them, and whether I can trust them to be genuine, and not more stalkers. My default now and for some time, is to assume the worst, for the sake of my health and peace of mind.
Another example. The Rent-a-Mate franchise has been talking to the art club recently. I got a series of phone calls last week as a result of severing close connections with the art club and water works the previous week. The number was one digit difference from the local Southampton dial code, but it was from Hamm, Westphalia. Slightly odd MO with this one, and the timing, number and location are significant.
The only choice I have now is to completely avoid any person or situation that may be used as a channel to interfere. This causes more than a few problems. Not least, it constrains my social life. It adds obstacles to my projects and future development. It completely closes some of my options. I cannot look for work again, for example.
I absolutely have had more than enough of this cat-and-mouse nonsense. I don't play games with people. I never have, and I don't appreciate it happening to me. It is a complete waste of intellectual effort, it takes up time, drains energy, and now it makes me ill just thinking about it.
How many times do I have to say it before the penny drops? Your behaviour causes me to have anxiety attacks. I have had several in the past few weeks as a direct result of your behaviour.
I have spent over 12 years of my life being harassed and handled in one form or another. It has done untold damage to me, my family and my life. I cannot, and I will not, put myself in harm's way again.
[This section was updated 6th March 2019]
I am not so green as I am cabbage looking, I know how many beans make five. But there are none so blind as those that will not see, especially those who can't do right for doing wrong.
Writing this has been reet cathartic, but I am going to stop harping on now. I'd best get weavin’.
I am a big fan of the natural world. I am especially fond of the coast and the sea.