My boss Norman Shylock is making my life hell. No newsflash there. The ass-wipe casts a shadow over my life like some ogre in a Goya etching. It’s not helped by his long downcast face, dead-fish eyes and stick-out ears. Shrek on steroids, uglier on the inside than out. Shylock’s face is the last thing I think about when I go to bed at night. He haunts all my dreams. I often wake from them soaked in sweat in the middle of the night, clutching a bloody knife or a smoking shotgun. He’s the first thing I think about when I wake in the morning, tossing and turning at some ungodly hour. The caricature I’m describing here fits the classic definition of a toxic workplace bully. The kind of monster whose CV is a case study in ruining people’s lives. Did I tell you about his nauseating new catch-phrase, ‘good buddy’, with which he punctuates every sentence? If he says it once more I swear I’m going to punch it right back down his flabby slack-jawed, spittle-flecked mouth.
How bad is it? It’s this bad. Every morning when I walk into the office I glance over in the direction of his desk to see if his deformed head is poking up from behind his monitor. If I don’t see it, for that oh-so-precious fleeting moment in my day, my heart skips a little beat at the prospect of a rare happy seven and a half hours in the office. I utter a silent prayer that Shylock has been called to our London headquarters, or up to our northern regional office. Sadly, as I near his chair I notice his coat draped over the back, his loathsome flaccid briefcase slumped against the wall, and my heart plumbs back to the darkest depths of a Marianas Trench. It’s going to be another shit day. The ordeal begins immediately when I switch on my computer and log on to the company email, dreading the monster’s name appearing in my inbox. My line manager. Norman Shylock. If I don’t see it bolded anywhere I’m like, yesss! giving a little fist-pump inside. I wish. Most days begin with six or seven emails from the oberleutnantfuhrer. They lie in wait like crocs in the shallows of a placid lake, ready to leap up and devour me. Every one contains instructions to perform some shitty pointless task, some wanky process to complete, a control to pass, a form to fill out, in triplicate. All PDQ, with drop-dead urgent deadlines, or my ass is on the line. He words them in sly ways that contain little traps for me to stumble into, obstacles to trip me up, hoops to jump through. Such is my life at UK Cash Cowboys, the friendly smiling face of UK finance. One big fucking happy family to the world.
I kind of knew it was coming, since the day I appealed the wanky end-of-year performance rating he gave me last December. He’d basically made up a bunch of bullshit about my ‘attitude’ at work. The lying shit. And when I put in the appeal to HR in the New Year, Shylock went ape, like the big corporate bullying twat he is. He fired off a snotty broadside to the HR Appeal Manager – two full sides of A4 on which he’d vomited a dung-pile of vitriolic abuse that misrepresented everything I’d ever done or said over the past year, twisted every conversation we’d ever had to portray me in the worst possible light. The wanker used every trick in the Shit Manager’s Handbook to try and blacken my name, so he wouldn’t look a jerk in front of his boss if my appeal succeeded.
How it goes at UK Cash Cowboys is like this. You turn up, do your job, and are grateful for all the shit they make you eat throughout the year. They’re into managing their overheads down as a company. Year on year. My salary is an overhead. The way they keep that down is by turning my performance on its head and claiming I’m crap at my job. Which I’m not. That’s why they employ shits like Shylock. Fixers. Corporate bruisers whose only purpose in life is to beat up staff so often and make their lives so shit, that when the company cuts their pay it almost feels like good news.
The end of year performance appraisals at UK Cash Cowboys are when jerks like Shylock really come into their own. It’s when he really rolls up his sleeves, cracks his knuckles and goes to work. His sole purpose in life, from what I can gather, is to make everyone in my team at the Cowboys feel a complete waste of oxygen as a human being. So worthless we feel grateful for receiving no bonus or pay review for the sixth year in a row. That’s how it works, and always has. Nobody EVER, but ever steps out of line, or speaks up. They daren’t, for fear their name will go straight in the book as a trouble-maker. They’ll get marked down for ‘corrective treatment’, a ‘personal development plan’, some ‘one on one coaching’. Out will come the thumb screws, the slow steady water torture of aggressive micro-management, the sneaky man-traps they’ll set every day, the work they’ll pile on, teeing you up for failure, so they can strap you to a desk and butt-fuck you even harder at the end of the following year. And most of all, nobody EVER appeals their lousy appraisal rating, on pain of death. An appeal goes up to HR, it goes up to senior management, and causes a whole shit-heap of aggravation and administrative pain that they aren’t used to. Don’t even go there.
Look, don’t get me wrong, mostly I suck up all this corporate bullshit and just get on with my job, anything for a quiet life. I’m no trouble maker, even though most days work feels like I’m climbing out a trench and advancing into no-man’s land. It comes with the territory, right? Work is a perpetual war with an army of bullying middle managers whose only purpose is to keep the company’s foot on your neck, work you to the bone, suppress your pay and make sure you don’t step out of line. And when you’re all used up, to sack you. Workplace bullies. Little men who amount to nothing outside, who get put in positions of power and think the way to prove they’re somebody is to fuck everybody over underneath them, proving us inefficient and lazy and a failure, even if we aren’t. But hey, life sucks, get over it, most people say. So mostly you just hawl it up and take home your pay. Like everyone else I have a mortgage to pay, steam to put on the table, gas in the tank. Life may not be perfect but I’m not being nailed to a cross. Well, not literally. I’m sure Shylock’s working on it.
But this year, it was different. Shylock stepped over a line. He tried to put a big black mark on my largely glowing 15-year performance track record at UK Cash Cowboys. ‘THIS GUY IS A LIGHTWEIGHT AND A TROUBLEMAKER WHO IS CRAP AT HIS JOB’, is what he’d written at the end of my appraisal, in as many words. He also gave me the lowest rating he possibly could. Basically, he was fucking with me. He was saying, I’m in charge here good buddy, and don’t you fucking forget it.
Okay, flap-ears, I thought. Bring it fucking on. I didn’t pick this argument but if you’re going to make it personal, you’re fucking with the wrong guy. As it happens I grew up in a tough working class town where if somebody hits you, you hit them back, and ask questions later. Shylock was humping the wrong dude. Like a lot of corporate schmucks Norman’s problem is, all he’s ever known or been is a manager. Outside of work he doesn’t know shit, he’s invisible. A nobody with no special talents or gifts and a big fat zero of a personality. But in the workplace he thinks he’s Robert Mugabe. He thinks he’s Saddam Hussein. The boss who gets to dick people around just because he can. He also thinks, deluded fuck that he is, that pain is just a one way process. Pain comes down from above, and never goes up the other way. So he thinks. Well, fuck that, good buddy.
My first week back after Christmas, I worked over until 2am every night, going through a year’s worth of emails to find evidence that disproved all the bullshit allegations he’d made against me in my appraisal. Five thousand emails. That’s a lot. Most nights I staggered from the office around 2am, drove home half asleep and got to bed around three, to be up again for work at seven. You see, people like me, I guess, we can be quite passive on the surface, but push us too far and we’re like a dog with a bone. My Appeal meeting was set for the Friday at the end of that week. At the meeting I slam-dunked a two-inch thick dossier on the desk in front of the Appeals Manager, systematically destroying, line by line, all the lies Norman Shylock had made up about me, proving I’d completed all the tasks he said I hadn’t, and I hadn’t done the bad shit he said I had.
Everybody knows at UK Cash Cowboys that appeals aren’t supposed to happen. And they never succeed. Normally one manager gets on the line to another, they have a cosy chat with the Appeals Manager, whose own boss lets him know in no uncertain terms that he should ‘make the problem go away’. Well, fuck normal. I was going to send some pain back the other way. My demolition of every shred of Shylock’s bullshit gave the Appeals Manager nowhere else to go. He had no alternative but to find in my favour, unless the company wanted to find itself in an employee tribunal or court of law. Which, of course, would result in a whole heap of negative shit smeared all over their precious shiny brand in public. Even stupid assholes like Shylock and his boss Dick Holder, our so-called ‘Chief Marketing Bullshit Officer’, knew that wasn’t going to be much help in growing the business. So Shylock was made to suck it up and look a dick in front of Dick. What a pair of dicks. Dick had set the dick an objective to fuck me over, and he’d fucked up. The dick.
The Monday after my Appeal meeting, Shylock called me into his office. “Okay Bukowski,” he said, like he was sorry. “Twenty fourteen is going to be our busiest year ever. Dick Holder says we need to draw a line under this and move on, good buddy. He’s worried about the shitload of work we have to deliver this year. For the sake of the whole team, we need to work together on this. Deal?” He stretched a hand across the table. “Fine,” I said, shaking his mitt. It felt cold and clammy, like grasping the week-old corpse of a decomposing salmon. Shylock nodded gravely, like one of those dogs in the back of a car, his dead eyes sending rays of hatred over the desk. And I knew there and then, that the deal was this. Norman Shylock wasn’t going to draw a line under anything. He was going to make it his sole mission in 2014, numero uno, right at the top of his personal objectives, to personally destroy me. He was going to make my daily working life as close to living hell as he could. Welcome to UK Cash Cowboys, good buddy.by