I cannot remember the first time I heard the phrase "perceptions and assumptions" from my supervisor's lips. I only remember the impact.
The words were clearly enunciated. The middle syllables on both words - cept on perceptions and sumpt on assumptions - were stressed with the p's and t's at the end of both syllables clearly enunciated. To my psyche, the stressing and enunciating had the effect of a cell door clanging shut.
Which was probably the desired intent.
To demonstrate power and control.
To shut me down.
To render me powerless and defenceless.
If that was the intent, it worked.
Each encounter left me not only feeling bruised and battered emotionally and shut down, but also confused.
What was wrong with the thoughts I was expressing? With the way my mind worked?
I was trying to present my case in a rational and logical way, and it was not working.
I clearly remember one occurrence. (Remember this is only one incident out of a long series of related incidences.) My supervisor had arranged a meeting with HR at the suggestion of her supervisor. My "perception and assumption" of the meeting was that it was to see if we could move forward on the issue and bullying.
I spent hours writing a letter which I handed out to both my supervisor and the HR rep.
While we were engrossed in our meeting, the HR rep was listening. My supervisor was busy reading.
What she read did not make her happy.
One incident I outlined in the letter was the behaviour of one of the major players in the situation. My "perception and assumption" based on what I was witnessing in the workplace was that she was doing very little in the way of work - while I was busy working my head off.
This person would sit at her computer - when she sat at all - and go on the net, check out this and that, etc. It became a cat and mouse game as I kept trying to see if she was actually doing any work. With very little success, I might add. If she was actually working, she kept it very well hidden.
I had brought up this lack of work activity to my supervisor many times as a major concern. Her response? Beside being that it was all about my "perceptions and assumptions" was that I was not to be noticing her at all - which according to my "perceptions and assumptions" is very difficult in a small office with no walls dividing work stations - and that we both had jobs to do and we were both doing them. End of story. End of conversation.
Really? We're both doing our jobs to our supervisor's satisfaction? When only one of us is doing any real work?
Now here is where a real assumption does come into play.
For my mind, it's not a hard jump to take what I've observed about my co-worker's work - or should I say non-work? - related activities, my supervisor's statement that we both had jobs to do and are doing them to the assumption: If this is true, then her job is to do nothing work-related. Followed closely by the thought: "Where do I go to apply for such a position?" I mean to show up, sit at the computer for eight hours and surf the net, text message my friends, talk to them on my ever present cell phone, plan my vacations and get paid for it? Hey! This sounds like a dream job (except I'd get bored too easy if I had nothing worthwhile to do). I said as much in this written document.
My supervisor took issue to this and on her way out the door of the meeting room pronounced: "Perceptions and Assumptions" before sashaying out. She also said she wished that I had talked to her about this before I wrote it. To which I responded: "I have. Many times." There was no further response except to watch her backside swish as she went out the door.
The HR rep never followed up. At least not to me.
The situation continued unresolved and unchanged for several more years.
Years in which the situation increasingly escalated.
I am working hard to keep this post focused on my key point (no pun intended) re: perceptions and assumptions, which it is not easy.
Workplace abuse aka bullying is very complicated. For one, there are many different players involved from the bullies to the bystanders to those who should have known better i.e. HR, management and even the union. It would be so easy to go off onto a tangent at any given point.
In fact, writing this series is bringing up so many thoughts, memories, etc. that the only way I can focus on the this one key point is to write all the other intrusive thoughts down to give them their time, their opportunity to be heard later.
Tomorrow, July 1st, is Canada Day. For those of my readers who live in Canada, enjoy your National holiday to the fullest.