When things start going very wrong...
October 11, 2015 3:10 AM   Subscribe

I started a new job in another country 15 months ago. It seemed to be going great and changed my life for the better. But then last couple of months, things started to go unexpectedly downhill and it snowballed from there. Details inside.

When I moved and started this job, it seemed to be a dream come true. The company had great culture and my new co-workers became instant friends. I had social plans with them often and we hang out at work and had so much fun. The work itself was challenging but since I was single and had nowhere else to focus my energy, I didn't mind. I often worked weekends and extra hours, and I actually looked forward to coming to work every day and got sad when I had the holidays. I became particularly close (platonic) friends with *Jim and he just seemed to get me.

I was also pretty successful - I seemed to pick things up quickly and accomplished a lot in the first year or so.

Then few months back, Jim started avoiding me. I couldn't figure out why but it was pretty obvious. I am pretty sure that whatever problems he had with me, he shared with others and I gradually stopped being invited to the social outings. Meanwhile, Jim seemed to develop a very close friendship with a person that started work recently and it seemed like I was replaced. When we had to interact, Jim had nearly always sarcastic and mocking tone. I took it in stride and decided to just let that go and move on. I still wasn't feeling that bad and I thought "oh well, time to make an attempt to make friends outside of work"...

And then....I made a random mistake at work that was blown out of proportion. I lost quite a bit of my confidence. I also had to do a public talk in front of a 100 people and it didn't go well. I got stumped when I was asked questions and was too nervous to think...so I just said one word answers. It was really bad and I felt like people lost a lot of respect for me professionally. Jim and the group keep making sarcastic comments and said how I wasn't suited for this career where just a few months back, they had nothing but praise for my work.

I am pretty depressed over this and I am trying to figure out if this is just a down cycle I need to ride out or a sign that I need to start looking for a new job. The job that was a source of soo much joy is now slowly turning into a place I find depressing to think of. I have also started doing less work and have lost a lot of motivation. Keep in mind that I was never criticized by my bosses or told that my performance is now bad. All the comments were from the co-workers that are on the same level as me.

I keep swinging between, "I am just going to go to work, do my best and not give a s*it" and browsing for new jobs and thinking I need to leave ASAP.

Any thoughts on how to deal with this?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm guessing that you were so good at your job and also clearly ambitious that Jim and the others got jealous and started seeing you as competition. Is it normal at that company to work as many hours as you did? If not they probably thought you were making them look bad. You don't say what country you moved from/to, but in the UK for example it's not the done thing to be too keen and gung-ho, or to be obviously ambitious in a way that's more socially acceptable in the US.

You may feel better if you leave for your own mental well-being, but you don't need to leave ASAP. You have time to wait until the right opportunity comes along. Don't do anything in a hurry that you might regret later - bide your time. Are jobs like yours relatively plentiful and easy to get in your new country? If you do decide to leave, try to make changes in your approach in line with the culture of the country you've moved to so that this doesn't happen again.

Alternatively, you could stay, especially if a promotion is on the cards anytime soon. You may as well get rewarded for your hard work and then when/if you do decide to leave you could maybe get a better job than what you have now. In the meantime, keep your head down with this group. Are there other colleagues you could be "work friendly" with who aren't with this group? Not everyone has to be in the "in crowd" and that's ok.

I'll share my story just to show you there's hope - I got bullied at work in a recent job (about five years ago now) and even got blamed for a big mistake (in my case it was someone else's fault but they managed to pin it on me). I wanted to quit in despair. But I didn't - I stuck it out, then got a promotion and transfer to another department, got a second promotion, then changed jobs and got another promotion at my new place. The colleagues who bullied me are now stuck in their own miserable jobs and lives while I make over 3x my old salary and am respected in my field. They're still entry level and word is they're infighting quite a bit with each other. I don't bear them any ill will, though. Living well truly is the best revenge!
posted by hazyjane at 3:46 AM on October 11, 2015 [14 favorites]

The obvious thing is to sit down and talk to your boss about your performance, and how you're fitting in to the company culture. Do you have regular development talks where this could happen? You could use the presentation where you froze as a good moment to ask for support and feedback. (Note: nearly everyone freezes during a presentation at some point in their career. NBD.) Your boss should also be a natural place to ask about whether he has had feedback from others about your performance.

There could be all kinds of explanations to what you now pick up from the other coworkers-- anything from you've broken some cultural taboo (worked too many hours?) or rubbed them the wrong way. Or relied on them too much-- this happens easily as an expat-- and made them feel too responsible for you. How is it going with finding friends outside of work? Is there anyone in the office you trust a little who you can ask about what you perceive to be nasty remarks?

As I read your post, it really strikes me as strange that there is literally nothing about your bosses or formal feedback or your career accomplishments and whether you are on track for your yearly goals. Everything you write is how you are perceived by one group of people. What is it you most want to accomplish with this job?
posted by frumiousb at 4:07 AM on October 11, 2015 [2 favorites]

My motto at work (and general life also) is "Move forward in a positive manner." Sometimes when it's hard to just keep going, I keep repeating that mantra and giving some thought to where that direction should be. I think you should really start thinking about it, and usually the positive direction becomes clear. Which path will move you forward in a positive manner?
posted by raisingsand at 7:26 AM on October 11, 2015 [3 favorites]

I took a job in a remote location. Listening to a woman who shared a lot of site history, it became obvious the person in my position was always successfuly hit on by another staff member. I picked up on this right away and went to the person in charge. I told her what I had noticed, and she affirmed it had always gone down that way, though it wasn't mandated. I told her I didn't take the job for that, she realized I didn't. But consequently folks assumed I was gay.

So Jim may have a reputation to uphold. He may be miffed his mac has been nixed. You don't have to explain anything, just work and do a good job. Let the next sucker fall under Jim. If it is any good he will forget you weren't swayed, but don't put it past infantile social structures to persist. It is difficult because you can't call out their entire social culture. This is especially true if they have set up a sexual straw man, as the agriculture teacher said about rattlesnakes, "If there's one, there's two." Some cultures can't deal with single women who do not pair up, right away.
posted by Oyéah at 9:54 AM on October 11, 2015

Some cultures can't deal with single women who do not pair up, right away.

In addition to the excellent comments in this thread – I just wanted to BOLDFACED NTH this. I've been single 11 years now in a country other than the one I grew up in, and basically, here, everywhere except Paris, single women do not exist which means if they do then they mustn't the world is ending there is a woman living her own life no she's not she must be lying or exaggerating or insane or if she's cute all it will take is to flirt with her then we can either find another weakness OR date her etc. and so forth, even worse when you're a foreigner because they do not give a shit about your reputation. It can have massive influence on how you're treated at work. It shouldn't, which is why it often flies under the radar of those of us of Anglo-cultural persuasion, but it does.
posted by fraula at 1:16 PM on October 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

TBH, it sounds like you've outgrown the role. I would look for something else and take some public speaking courses (which you can then put on your resume) - and, really, if you're seeking work, no one actually has to know (or really cares) how the talk went, just that you did it - it's something that you've done - next time, you'll be in a position to do it better. Your co-workers won't let it go or support you because they work in a toxic culture and it's not in their best interests for you to succeed - it will mean that they won't.

Sometimes moving up and away from these things is infinitely better than trying to sit there in the middle of it and make it all work.

You're not responsible for how your co-workers behave or for changing how they behave. If the company you work for loses hard-working people in this way, then maybe they'll realise that they need to be more proactive about managing the workplace culture (or maybe they won't do a thing, but that's not your problem).
posted by heyjude at 2:17 PM on October 11, 2015

Oh, and were any of your co-workers alternatives to do this public talk or were you the only one in line to do this - have any of them done this kind of thing before or want to do this?

Just some things to think about.
posted by heyjude at 2:23 PM on October 11, 2015

They sound like jerks. New job, new job, new job. Start sending out that resume today.
posted by Toddles at 5:49 PM on October 11, 2015

« Older Managing social anxiety as a parent   |   Examples of surprising aspects of everyday life... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.