(Whatever you are about to read now happened with me a couple of years ago. I never had the heart to make it public. I penned this down on the night when this particular incident of ‘toxic office politics’ took place, to vent out. Though I felt relieved that night sharing my story with my laptop, but today I feel even more empowered after publishing this here. It’ll only make me stronger from here on.)
How it all started…
Today I fell victim to the infamous ‘office politics’ rather gravely. Such stories are quite common but one doesn’t pay much attention to them until you are at the receiving end. Today, I, sitting at my home, reading a book, staring at the nature outside, after keeping a bowl full of water for the birds to drink from, sit on my desk to pen this down. Because I know, if I don’t, it will keep killing me inside.
Day 10, I reached office rather early and called my boss, let’s call her Rebecca, to ask what is the current status of work and where should I start with since I was coming back to office after a four-day granted leave for my viral fever. Respected Miss. Rebecca picks up the call and asks me to call her minion (who also happens to be one of my closest friends for the last three years) for the work. I called him and I was asked to call the new intern that they had hired in my absence. A little surprised, I called her and started my work.
I work for a few hours and then both of them arrive at the office. She asks me the status of the work twice, which was told to her. The new intern arrives and she starts her work as well. The minion comes and asks the said intern for her picture which would be put in the catalogue. She was amazed and so thankful that her name and picture would appear in the catalogue for working for just a few days. An hour passes by.
I am called inside the meeting room where she tells me that they were doing an audit of files and she needed me to delete all the files that I had in my laptop relating to this job. I oblige, she makes me search all the possible file formats, scanning through my personal files, reading the names aloud and deletes everything, making sure that all the important files and folders are transferred in the backup drive before deleting. She tells her minion that all the files will have to be deleted from his laptop as well but of course, they never reached that point. Then she calls the co-director of the project and says that she has to talk about me and then starts her tale. I call this a ‘tale’ because it was one.
A little back-story here…
Day 1, she calls and asks me the status of a certain work, which was supposed to go for print on Day 3. I tell her that quite a bit is left and assured her that it would be done by the morning of Day 3 and that she should not worry. She panics, refuses to believe me and requests one of my colleagues from another team to do some of the work. The person helps me with that and by the noon of Day 3, I submit everything, the work doesn’t get delayed at all and everything happens on time.
Then, on Day 5, working from 11 in the morning, I feel a little feverish and I tell her this at 9:30 in the night. She comments that of course it was bound to happen because I did not do my work on time and pushed myself to do everything in one day. Point taken, I told her that I will help her minion till all the major work is done and then I will leave for home so that nothing suffers. I reassured her telling the exact status of how everything was being managed. She asked me to leave for home and take rest for 3-4 days and come back healthy, as there would be more strenuous work at the actual event. Anyhow, I still stayed till 11 pm and did most of the work and left for home when the minion assured me not to worry, he will handle the work. (I am reminding you here that these words were spoken by a friend first rather than a colleague, at least that’s what I thought then.) I left for home.
Within fifty minutes I receive a text saying that they have hired another person for a week for, until we leave for the main event, which is in some other city. With a side note that we cannot be pulling late nights everyday and an intern would help to ease the work. I was really surprised at this, we did not have another person all along since the two and a half months that I worked there and now all of a sudden you realise the requirement of another person and that too they are hired within fifty minutes after I left for home. Only if I knew that was a part of some major planning.
The next morning I felt much better and told her that I am coming to office and if required, I’ll take a holiday some other day. She didn’t agree at all and forced me take a leave for the next few days, saying that it’s better that you recover completely. I thought that she was genuinely being sweet and I took the leaves as advised.
On Day 8, I visited a doctor in the noon and got medicines for the next three days. In the evening, I get a text from her asking how I was feeling then. I told her that I was feeling a little weak and that I’ll see her at office on Day 10. On the same night, my roommate and his friend were going out for a movie and asked me to come along since the movie-theatre was right behind our house and because I was mostly sad and anxious at home, worrying about the leaves. I agreed and went with them, where I clicked a picture with them, clicked a few 10-second clips of the movie that I was seeing and posted them on Snapchat. Coincidently, her minion randomly checks my Snapchat profile at the same time. Rebecca was sitting with him and they saw my posts. He kept on swiping my posts until he made sure she has seen all of them.
In the middle of the movie, I received a text from her saying that she needed something to be mailed to her urgently. I replied saying that I will send it across in sometime. The moment the movie ended, I went back home, rested a little, got everything in place and emailed it to her. Seconds after she received the mail, she thanked me and texted, ‘This late?’ To which I replied that I was resting (which still wasn’t a lie.) She replied back saying that she knows I wasn’t resting and told me that we will talk about this on Day 10. Learning that she knew I went for the movie, I replied back, ‘Oh that! After that I was resting.’ She asked me what I was referring to. I told her that I was confused. She asked me to take rest again and said that she’ll see me on Day 10.
I didn’t mention the movie because she said we will talk about it on Day 10 and I thought it would be best to talk about this face-to-face rather than on a group chat.
Coming back to Day 10, at the meeting with the co-director.
She starts narrating her story to the co-director, gracefully calling them facts. Talking about Day 1, she said that his work was too slow and two days before the catalogue had to go for printing he was still so far behind. (Well! pardon me for paying extra attention to detail. I might have procrastinated it a little but the quality of work or the work itself never suffered. Everything happened as planned nevertheless.) She took the aid of the sad demise of my aunt and exclaimed that his aunt had died that’s why she didn’t say anything to me then. Okay, noted.
Regarding sick leaves she came up with such interesting white lies and told the co-director that she had granted me leaves for three days and she asked me to come on Day 9, to which according to her, I replied saying that I cannot come to office as I was weak and that I would directly come on Day 10. She said she found it fishy because normally, fever takes three days to heal and why was I asking for a fourth holiday. So, according to her, she asked her minion to check my social handles to see if I was lying, which is when she discovered my Snapchat and found out that I indeed have been lying all along. She added that whenever I had asked to work from home, I was never doing any work and was apparently ‘chilling’ with my friends.
Respected Rebecca, why would I post things on my social media if I intended to hide or lie about anything?
Rebecca declared that the meeting was not about my quality of work but about my ethics of work, which were all wrong. She stated that since I commit piracy in theatres (referring to the two 10 second clips), I could not be trusted with my job. She went on to find anything possible to put me in bad light even if it didn’t make sense, she even announced that she wouldn’t want my name to be associated with her ever and asked me to pack my bags and leave because she had lost all trust in me. If that wasn’t enough, she said that technically my current month’s salary should go to the new intern. The poor co-director could just say that he trusted her and if she was saying this, he has to believe her.
I tried telling her that I was not jumping about or partying when I was sick, that I had gone to watch a god damn movie where one just sits back and relaxes. I traveled in a car to a place right behind my house to divert my mind from the sickness after 3 days of complete rest. Also, this was a 10 P.M. show.
But whenever I tried to say something or apologise, she told me that one should not apologise when the other person is shouting at them. Uh! What?
Left with no option I came out and packed my belongings. After which she remembered something else. Rebecca made me open my personal email account and made me delete every single email that had anything to do with the organisation, including my appointment letter. She then asked me to write an email to the director of the organisation to claim money for whatever days I have worked for this month. She left and I left the building.
I went to the garden in the premises and cried over what had just happened, until I realised that I had done nothing wrong. Okay, I agree that I might have procrastinated a little but not to the extent that I should get fired. I would have understood if any of the work had suffered because of me. The work suffered only when you granted me the leaves I never asked for. Of course! Now I know it was not in good faith all along.
Let me highlight the fact that this happened exactly four days short of the day we were about to leave for the event. Rebecca, tell me one thing if you knew all along that the work wasn’t happening, that I was too inefficient, why did you wait for two and a half months when almost 90 percent of the work was already done? Why didn’t you fire me right from the start when you knew the progress of the work all along? Blaming it on the minion in front of me, establishing that he was covering my ass since he was my friend, doesn’t quite work here. Obviously, you didn’t wake up to see all this four days prior to the event. Why didn’t this occur to you when you saw me working till 2 in the night on various days, or when we were working at your place till 3 a.m. a week ago, or when I sacrificed all my Sundays and Saturdays and even Diwali for this work?
If somehow you are reading this…
NO! I am not complaining here. I owned my work and readily worked on all such occasions because it was ‘our’ work and I had worked really hard all these months for the event to go flawless. Now after you, without giving a second thought to it, blurted that I didn’t do any hard work and that barely anything was given to me, knowing now that neither I would receive my salary nor my name or picture would appear in the catalogue, these thoughts come back and appear as sacrifices, which they were never meant to be.
I acknowledged my mistakes and apologised for them. Did you pay heed to anything? No. When you had it all planned why did you make me work on that day as well? How cheap of you to get maximum work out of me before you gave your little performance in that meeting room.
Do you really think I would write an email to the director of the company asking for money? Do you really think I would stoop down to your level? I will still not bad-mouth you or take your name anywhere and I will always choose the higher ground unlike you, even though by now all my colleagues might have a certain reputation of me what you and your minion must have fed them.
I have a question for you, how did it feel when you woke up on the morning of Day 11? Did you feel that sense of achievement that you were looking for? How did it feel after breaking hopes, dreams and aspirations of someone else? Did you have a good night’s sleep? You hold that power and would probably do this again with someone else. Like you told me to learn from this, I learned two major things;
One – never trust anyone, even your closest friends, they might be the one feeding off of your hard work and dedication and Second – never form opinions about anyone too early, in your case – of respect. Yes, I would always tell the said friend that Rebecca is such a nice person, I respect her so much, that she is such a great boss to have and that I am lucky to have worked with her. I guess I spoke too soon. I’ve lost all the respect I had for you. I never thought even in my wildest dreams that you would play this card. What makes me sad is not what you spoke the other day but after putting in all the efforts and dedicating my life to the project, I had to go through all of this.
I don’t deserve this and certainly not right before the event. My non-refundable return tickets are booked which you refuse to pay for along with my salary. Do you know how many amazing people I met there and made such cordial relations with them? Thanks for ruining my reputation to this extent.
Also, I am not gaining any sympathy here. I am just stating the brutal reality of the corporate work culture. This is how things work and this is exactly how they will keep working. Everyone who is reading this, listen to me, never let any of this break you. You are worth way more than this and if you know you were honest all along, believe in yourself, there is more to life and you will always find good work. Learn from everything you face; death of a loved one, separation from a lover, a fight with a friend, backstabbing friends/colleagues/employees, anything wrong that ever happened with you, just learn from the experience and come out stronger.
I also know when you, Rebecca, will read this; you will laugh it off, make further fun of me, turn this whole piece against me and diss me further privately and publicly both. But sorry, I refuse to lead my life fearing you. There is so much more to my life than this. Yes, I have shed numerous tears in those two days thinking about what happened.
But no, this will never bring me down. With every tear I shed, I grow stronger. Breathe in! Breathe out!