Gilda’s 14 December post If You’re Happy and You Know It resonated with me. Particularly her words about being unhappy in a job and passively accepting an unacceptable situation.

My career was as an editor working for the Australian federal public service. I’d always been incredibly happy with my choice of work and always maintained good relations in the various departments in which I worked. I had confidence in myself and my abilities.

My last full-time position was in a government statutory authority and over 18 years I worked my way up from a mid-level editor to become the Director of Publishing.

There was, however, a two-year blip fairly early on. A newspaper journalist was hired as Director of Publishing. Let’s call him Bob to protect the guilty. At that time the service was re-classifying editor positions into journalist positions. This was because most publishing areas were part of bigger public relations branches and editors, including me, worked across the publications, media and public relations sub-branches.

My problems started when I suggested that my position be re-classified. Bob didn’t like the idea, saying I wasn’t a journalist. After that we went from having a cordial working relationship to one where nothing I did was good enough. His treatment of me permeated the branch and my direct supervisors began treating me the same way.

I tried talking to him about it but he denied anything was wrong. I endured it for two years and quickly lost confidence in myself and my capabilities. I’m amazed, looking back, how easily it was to start doubting myself.

I tried to get out by applying for other jobs but I was in the situation of only receiving luke-warm endorsements from my supervisors and Bob, so of course I was quickly eliminated from consideration.

My watershed moment came when the Chairman’s media officer, another newspaper journalist I often worked for and thought very highly of, asked what I had done to make Bob hate me so much. Then he said the words I can still recall verbatim today. ‘I think your work’s really good.’ That someone I respected thought well of me had a profound effect on me.

At that time the organisation’s publishing program was pretty shambolic. There was no organization-wide publishing program. Stymied in my own branch I started looking outside of it, suggesting to other areas that I edit their work and prepare it for publication. It was extra work, but it was work I didn’t have to put through my supervisors or Bob. Gradually others approached me and over time publications took on a corporate look and quality. Two years later the CEO personally recommended me for the assistant director’s job. I felt such a surge of vindication and validation I walked on air for months!

After that there was no stopping me. The CEO supported my ideas and very quickly we began working together to ever increase the quality of publications.

My goal was to replace Bob as Director of Publishing. I told no-one, just worked for it. Several years later when he retired my manager said, “I’m not proceeding to interview, Alana, you’re obviously the best person for the job.”

That was a French champagne moment if ever there was one! It’s up there as one of the best feelings of satisfaction I’ve ever had.

From the start I swore no staff of mine would endure from me what I’d endured from Bob. I had a team of professionals and I trusted and supported them. They repaid me by producing award-winning publications. I felt ten feet tall with all the compliments we received.

The lesson I learned from this is just how easy it is to shatter a person’s sense of self worth. It’s taught me to tread carefully when in a position of power.

I look back on those two years as a test of character and spirit. Never again will I let someone undermine me. Never again will I doubt myself. It’s a good feeling.


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Guest posts are the opinion of that author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Gilda Evans or others posted here.