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Managing Difficult Relationships

This is something that I’ve wanted to talk about for a little while now, but it’s just been too hard to discuss on the forums. In discussing with @Bre-RO she suggested that maybe something a bit more general might help me open some dialogue, which is what I’m going to do.


Recently things have been pretty tough lately at work. I’m finding myself scared of my manager and quite fearful of making mistakes, saying the wrong thing ect. My anxiety is extremely high. 

I have spoken to my psychologist in-depth about everything and she was great at supporting me through it, but it feels like something is missing. And perhaps it’s peer support.


I am wanting to leave the workplace and find something which is better for my mental health, but until then I need help coping within the workplace. And I think the most helpful thing for me right now is to hear others’ stories and then come up with a plan as to how I can cope when things are tough (which is what my psych suggested I do while I'm still in the role but I’m at a complete loss as to where to start!).


Do you have a story of managing a difficult relationship with a work colleague/professional relationship? What helped you cope and what helped the situation?


We reflected on the joys of 2019

Remember you're amazing just as you are Heart

Re: Managing Difficult Relationships

Hi @Bee

I'm sorry that work is so anxiety-inducing for you at the moment. While I haven't been in your exact situation, I have definitely had my fair share of difficulties at work (not necessarily with just one person, although I've had that too). 


I used to work as a journalist and had a lot of tight deadlines to meet and a lot of work to do every day. On top of that, I had to constantly be creative in coming up with new ideas for stories, and "pitch" them to my editor in front of my entire team. This was my first ever 'real' job in the career I had been working towards for years. The pressure was immense and I felt I just couldn't cope. I would often go home from work and just cry for hours on the phone to my friends, or alone.


I was also isolated from family and friends because I was living in a new place with no social connections at all. It was really, really hard. Even though I knew I was good at what I did, I felt I was never quite good enough and would constantly doubt myself. I would also face online hate from commenters and it was really difficult to deal with. In the end, I decided I didn't want to be a journalist anymore. This was the hardest part because I had to give up a dream that I'd had since I was a kid. I have never been more depressed in my entire life.


However, there was hope. I quit my job, and even though my bosses tried to convince me to stay, as soon as I handed in my notice I felt so relieved. It was really hard to quit, but my life has only gotten better from that point onwards. Going back to uni and studying something so different from my first career was really tricky too, but I feel really fulfilled now. Now I'm on a path that I love, I have people in my life that are so supportive because they've helped me in my darkest time, and I know that I gave journalism a shot and it just wasn't my destiny. Now I have new dreams that are even better than my old ones. 


I dealt with a lot of shit from my bosses and in the workplace during my time at the newspaper. I also learnt a lot about myself and I actually now am grateful for that tough time. Without it, I wouldn't know myself as well.


I think the most important thing with dealing with work pressures is to realise that literally everyone will experience imposter syndrome or feel that they are constantly about to make mistakes. That's how I felt and I know that I may feel that in my new career too. Everyone in my life has told me that they've felt like that at one point too. I guarantee that even your boss has felt the way you are feeling now at some point. I don't say this to diminish how you're feeling, because your feelings are 100% valid. I just say it to maybe help you understand that it's okay to be imperfect at work. It's okay to make mistakes. It's okay to grow. I'm not sure if this will help you at all, but I just want you to know you'll get through this tough time as I did. I believe in you. 

“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Re: Managing Difficult Relationships

I'm really sorry you're going through this @Bee  Smiley Sad


I've had a few situations where I've worked with someone who was awful to me. And each time I ultimately just had to get out.


During the time before I was able to do that, here's some things I did to cope:


-Called helplines for support

-Had something fun and regular in my life outside of work that I didn't stop doing (for me it was a social sports class)

- When the workload was also taking up most of my life, accepting/seeking practical help with everyday tasks so they got done

- Spent time during the work day with colleagues who were nice to me

-Figured out ways of communicating that minimised criticism/conflict from the person (I found just saying 'ok' meant it ended her tirade faster, whereas 'ok' and explaining my reasoning encouraged her to keep going)

- Found moments to take pride (and sometimes I maybe even managed pleasure) in my work despite her

- Took moments of respite to briefly be alone or cry or breathe dramatically or bury my face in my hands or silently scream during breaks (might have always been in toilets)

- Debriefed to the extent I could handle with trusted people (which was minimal, talking about upsetting things is hard)

- Took steps to get out as soon as I could/minimise my time there when I knew I couldn't handle it


Sending big hugs, I hope this thread helps Heart


Re: Managing Difficult Relationships

There's one thing I think I should add/clarify... I said I did those things to cope, but at the time I wasn't feeling empowered or like I was implementing coping strategies, I was just doing whatever I could to get through a really shitty situation and it's just looking back I can identify all the things I was doing.


And they were thoroughly inadequate, I was still further from ok than I can even describe (because words are hard, and also it might break the guidelines). I'm  just adding this because I don't want it to sound like a neat list that should fix things, or that if you're not coping it's because you're not doing enough. 


I'm thinking of it as I was in a shipwreck during a storm, doing things like gasping for air and treading water and desperately grabbing hold of passing driftwood. I did what I could, but it wasn't sustainable and I needed to either be rescued or make it to land.


It sounds like you're in a situation that sucks, and you don't deserve to be treated like this. Making a plan to find another workplace, talking to your psychologist, and making this thread are all amazing steps. And I'll bet there's lots of other things you're doing too, that you may not even realise. Be proud of yourself for all you're doing to get through this Heart and we're very happy to be another piece of driftwood and help however we can until it's resolved

Re: Managing Difficult Relationships

@MisoBear I feel imposter syndrome a LOT at work now! (It has a name! Smiley Surprised )
I know it's okay to make mistakes and that we learn from our mistakes, my current manager doesn't have a relaxed attitude to mistakes as the previous one, which makes it incredibly anxiety-provoking for me, because I know I will make mistakes. It's all part of the human condition!


@hellofriend  thank you for your responses, your list, and clarification Heart

I definitely relate to doing what I can to get through a shitty situation. And they do feel inadequate in the moment. Especially when I feel so emotional and impacted by her words/tone of voice.


I am doing some things at work, at the moment my strategies are:

  • Breathe! Slowing my breathing and trying to ensure I remain/get back to calm
  • I am trying to take on what she says and NOT focus on her tonne of voice or how much it stings, which is incredibly difficult
  • I drink water, press my tongue to the roof of my mouth and look to the ceiling to preventing myself from crying in front of her
  • If I really need to cry I go to the toilet and let the tears fall for a bit, which is tricky when they won't stop.

After work I do some of the following things, depending on when the incident occurred

  • Cry in my car until it's all out.
  • Debrief with some friends who support me and make me laugh with inside jokes and anecdotes of their day
  • Treat my self to something nice, be it a movie or just cuddling a cat for a while
  • Colouring in


I am currently looking for other jobs, but I am finding it hard because ideally I need something part-time and I want it in an office setting/accounts/business. And it's hard with limited experience. I am about to start my Diploma in Accounting, I'm just sorting the fees out and once that is done I can start.


We reflected on the joys of 2019

Remember you're amazing just as you are Heart

Re: Managing Difficult Relationships

I'm sorry that things have been so difficult for you at work @Bee. Smiley Sad I think a lot of people can relate to these kinds of experiences, especially young people trying to get their foot in the door. I don't know why managers seem to make things so tough for younger people. Some workplaces seem to have a political atmosphere like Game of Thrones. Smiley Sad

I've had several bad experiences in some positions. In two places I provided unpaid administrative support in, I was replaced by a new paid receptionist, and one place I interned in was so bad that I just had to quit.
I thought that I was alone in having these experiences, but I've since spoken to other people who have been in similar positions and read similar stories online. So we're definitely not alone.

I echo the other comments on this thread. I felt relief that I didn't have to deal with the bad management at some of the places I was at any more and I've never felt as though I wanted to go back to them. Like you, I also found myself crying in the toilets about some of the nasty things that were said and done to me and about me when I was just trying to get some experience. I really think that it is better to have no job than be miserable and not have your hard work recognised. Thankfully, I've had some other opportunities where I have been treated better.

One of the things that I have learned is that it's okay to quit if a job or volunteering opportunity isn't for you. There is nothing wrong about quitting. The managers are the ones who lose out in the end, and it's their own fault if they have driven you to feel as though there is no other alternative but to quit. You deserve to be treated with respect and not feel as though you're being harassed or targeted. It helped me to have at least one supportive person I could confide in before I left these places. I also took time out in my breaks (if I was lucky to get one because some of these places made me work all day without a break at all, not even to eat or go to the toilet) to play games on my phone or talk to my family.

@MisoBear  I'm so glad that you love what you're doing now. Smiley Happy A psychologist I worked with also made the transition from journalism to psychology and has never looked back, so I hope it works out for you. I used to want to be a journalist when I was younger, but I don't think I would have been able to cope with the immense pressure that you've described.


Re: Managing Difficult Relationships

Hi @Bee,


That's so hard. Some managers are not very good at managing people with kindness but instead think they have to be harsh in order to assert their authority. It sounds like maybe that might be the kind of manager your manager is? If so, that really sucks and you have every right to feel upset. It sounds like you have a few good strategies in place for coping with her, and are also planning an exit strategy. It sounds like you are really doing all you can. Stay strong, this tough time will pass and I promise you will work somewhere with a better manager soon!

“Your now is not your forever."
― John Green, Turtles All the Way Down

Re: Managing Difficult Relationships

@MisoBear wrote:

That's so hard. Some managers are not very good at managing people with kindness but instead think they have to be harsh in order to assert their authority. It sounds like maybe that might be the kind of manager your manager is?

Yeah that's how I see my manager @MisoBear

I'm just taking work one day at a time, and trying to leave the worries of work in the office and not take them home. Which is easier said than done, but I managed to do that yesterday which was progress for me Smiley Happy


@WheresMySquishy I haven't seen game of thrones, but it's quite political now in the office...


I'm sorry to hear you've had some bad experiences within work environments.


I have been told that it's not wise to quit until I have another job, and where I am that is very true, when I left my job at the supermarket for an office job and was let go, I couldn't cope going back to the supermarket and found it hard to get another job, took about 2 years if not more! Smiley Sad And I can't afford to be back in that position now, so sticking it out is kind of my best option until something better comes along (shrug)


(I don't mean for this to sound negative, but it feels it at the moment)


We reflected on the joys of 2019

Remember you're amazing just as you are Heart

Re: Managing Difficult Relationships

I've just come across this post now after reading your other one @Bee and it sounds like @MisoBear, @WheresMySquishy, and @hellofriend have been able to provide some amazing advice!! Reading through all the posts has just made my heart feel happy with all the support and guidance you three have provided @Bee 😊 Keep up the awesome work guys!! This really is such a special place 😍


And you should be so proud of yourself for implementing those coping techniques @Bee because I know it's not always easy when you're distressed so keep at it! ❤


If you don't mind me asking, who has been telling you it's not wise to be quitting? And what reasons have they given you for this?