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Simply cannot get along with a returning colleague

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by lars, Jan 8, 2019.

  1. lars

    lars New commenter

    I’ve been in post for 10 years, have spent much of that time shuffling things around to make my role what I want it to be. At the beginning of the academic year I finally had the job of my dreams. That has now come crashing down.

    A few years ago we had a colleague who started off fine but became an absolute nightmare. This person made me feel miserable with snide comments and unprofessional behaviour and the day they left was a huge relief. The person left and life at school improved immensely. Fast forward a couple of years and they’re back! And I simply can’t deal with it. I tell students all the time that in the real world they will need to get on with all kinds of people. To my shame I have discovered I can’t stand being in the same place... I saw the person in the car park this morning and almost just turned back home!

    I sound unhinged and immature which is embarrassing. I can’t go to our HOD because the two of them are best friends in real life. I don’t want to leave, but the current situation is unsustainable and I feel so powerless! I can’t adequately express how badly this person affects me. What can I do?
  2. HelenREMfan

    HelenREMfan Star commenter

    I know exactly what you mean. One of our dept left and a temp teacher was appointed, a NQT, one who knew it all (not) I spent my days pulling the knives out of my back as basically she wished this old fogey to fork off and die so she could have my job. Of course she didn't know half as much as she thought she did - a lot of inexperience, manifesting with for example an over familiarity with the kids..trying to be their friend, discussing the Year 11 Prom endlessly (more than most year 11s!) I think what got to me was that people didn't initially see what she was like. Our new HoD was very fair thankfully so I didn't feel too threatened.... tho the 2 young male members of dept were pretty taken in by her. Eventually ppl did begin to get her measure and I managed to ignore her as much as possible. I also decided that maybe I would not share teaching practices and skills I had spent years developing, quite so freely with her.
    I feel for you as your post brought things back to me. All you can do is be impeccably professional with this person and allow them to show themselves up with the snide comments. Rise above them.....karma comes out in the end.... if you can...amass evidence of unprofessional behaviour.... keep your tinder dry :)
    knitone, Dragonlady30, saluki and 7 others like this.
  3. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    It does sound an unusually strong adverse reaction to someone.

    I'm not asking for detail here but turning tail and going home at the mere sight of this person does seem extreme. What you might expect if you'd found this person in bed with your partner!

    And you're bemused by your own reaction too. You can't understand why this person arouses such hostility within you. As s/he clearly has the support of the HoD then I see no option for you other than to learn to live with it.

    But how? I rarely suggest counselling but you need to find ways of dealing with this as it's essentially your problem and you don't want to be "snowflakey" about it. You advise your students to learn how to be tolerant and to accommodate others and adapt so you have to do it too. It's just a question of how. So counselling is the only thing I can suggest. This person raises your hackles and it's not a feeling you're prepared to live with.

    Obviously you must challenge unprofessional behaviour and have every right to do so but your personal response is something you will manage for yourself. Best wishes. Very uncomfortable for you.
  4. meggyd

    meggyd Senior commenter

    Teaching is a job where you are generally on your own in a classroom. Ok maybe with a TA but this person is not your TA it seems . Imagine working in an open plan office. If this person is not managing you is it really so bad?
  5. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    The quality of teachers coming through has definitely dropped in the last five years as budgets bite, poorer initial training routes with dubious standards and help abound, poorer pay attracting poorer candidates for teaching and older staff overworked so far less time to offer help and / or being culled so less experience around.
  6. Bedlam3

    Bedlam3 Lead commenter

    I think we all have experienced people who make us feel this way. I'd avoid them as much as I could and try to ignore it all.
  7. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Lead commenter

    I can understand how you feel. Have they returned as they were when they left, or how they were at the start? It may be that their poor behaviour was manifesting out of external situations and not really aimed at you (not an excuse), and their time away from the school has resolved it?

    I think that you'd benefit in trying to draw a line under it and giving them another chance. However if they make snide comments etc, call them out on it. Tell them how their actions make you feel. In my experience this can be enough to stop it. It can be stressful to do so, but it's better than suffering over time (rather like taking a plaster off). It will also give you the power back that you feel missing. If they did continue, then it would start to fall into bullying and could be dealt with in that way.
    border_walker and grumpydogwoman like this.
  8. lars

    lars New commenter

    You’re all right, this is absolutely my problem. I’m shocked by how bad I feel around this colleague. They don’t manage me, we just work in the same small dept. I feel powerless, frightened, sidelined and alone - it’s horrible. My partner is very worried about me and has rightly pointed out that I can’t come home in this state every night as I have been.

    I have had counselling for this before, but the last couple of years my well-being has been much improved. I don’t remember anything specific from before, I have literally blocked it all from my memory. All I remember is the relief of their resignation! It’s ridiculous how one person can have this effect and even worse I’m letting it happen.
  9. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Keep a clear diary of every single snide remark, incident of unprofessional behaviour, no matter how small. Record date, time, location, witnesses, what happened.

    After a week or so go to a member of SLT that you trust and ask them to help.
  10. sbkrobson

    sbkrobson Star commenter

    I don't understand the posts saying you need to live with it. Or get over it. Or accept it.
    You don't.
    Snidey comments and over frequent criticism is a form of bullying, and one who delivers such can thrive on the result. Cowering. Fear. Silence. Regressing from a scenario which their victim built for themselves in order to flourish.
    Don't give that result.
    Give the opposite.
    "Is it necessary to make that comment?"
    Say it.
    Say it every time.
    Don't feed a bully. Starve them of the pleasure they seek.

    Your fear of that person is not actually a fear of them, it is a fear of yourself and your perceived lack of voice. You don't need counselling, because there is nothing wrong with you. You are not the person putting somebody else down, which in the realm of professional life is a twisted manifestation of social inadequacy.
    There's nothing wrong with you. Your post proves you are perfectly nice. If they put you down, tell them to back off clearly, directly and repeatedly, and give yourself a pat on the back when they do.
  11. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    What would you tell your students to do?

    Is this person very outgoing, very gregarious? Are you quite retiring? Do you feel a little overshadowed?

    That's OK. Quieter people may be slow-burners but risk falling out with fewer people. Maybe you'll take longer for others to see your sterling qualities. Maybe you're a naturally anxious person. But you may be very thoughtful too. Measured, considered, not prone to making hasty judgements. Your value may take longer to be discerned. But maybe that's who you are. The workplace needs all sorts of different characters. You have your place. This other person has her/his place. For now.
  12. thejudgesscoresarein

    thejudgesscoresarein Occasional commenter

    As an experienced Headteacher, if you want my honest opinion, I think that you’re looking into this too deeply, and I’ll tell you why:

    - The colleague who left and returned was obviously valued by the school, otherwise they wouldn’t be offered a return to the school.
    - Everyone has differences in a workplace, I think you should act in a professional manner and any disputes escalate to your line manager, but personally, I think with yourself, it’s some sort of personal issue you have with that colleague and I think that as an adult, you should try to resolve the situation.

    If you feel that the HoD is giving the colleague preferential treatment, then you can report this, and this should then be investigated. If no joy, consult the chair of governors.
    border_walker and grumpydogwoman like this.
  13. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Lead commenter

    So is there anything specific they are doing at the moment that is causing you to feel anxious? Or is it previous experiences of the person mean you've anchored your feelings to them, so seeing them is bringing back those prior feelings?

    I agree with your partner you shouldn't be coming home in a state each night. Depending on the above will determine who you should need to speak to first to improve the situation. It isn't a matter of you letting it happen, but at this current moment you're not in a position to completely change it yet (however your post shows that you're doing something, but these things can sometimes take time)..
  14. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Sorry got to ‘ job of my dreams ‘o_O and stopped reading. Sure other colleagues will be more helpful :)
  15. MrsArmitage

    MrsArmitage Occasional commenter

    I am in a very similar situation to you, the only real differences being that my colleague didn’t leave. He is absolutely rotten to, and about me leaving me very isolated. I used to have panic attacks before department meetings because I had to be in a room with him. It was always shrugged off with ‘oh you know what he’s like, he’s a bit odd’ etc. I resorted to counselling and I’m glad I did; I learnt that there was no point turning myself inside out trying to figure it why he hated me and constantly undermined me, but that I could learn to change how I dealt with it. It’s damn hard, but when he’s really out of order, I tell my line manager immediately and she sorts it. I never confront him myself for reasons I don’t want to go into here. I had to learn to diminish him to nothing, a person who didn’t figure at all in my life, and this involved not wasting my time fretting about what he would do next. It might be worth giving counselling another go, like a refresher course.
    grumpydogwoman likes this.
  16. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    I had to endure someone like this for two years - but she left in the Summer

    We all really missed her - for about 5 minutes

    I so pity her new colleagues.

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