I am feeling battered. Today I had the experience of being “depersonalized” by a man who I work with in a way that I haven’t experienced before. We are peers – equal roles on opposite sides of the client / provider fence and we’ve had some frustrations in the recent past. These are largely due to the enormous stress we both face on our respective sides of the work we’re engaged with : big teams, politics, shifting demands, challenged decision-making and so on…

I feel frustrated because he operates from a single base and doesn’t seem to appreciate that it is extremely hard for me to “just pop in” to his office for a chat whenever there’s an issue – Getting there takes an hour from where I engage with my team to get the work done.

He is also oblivious to style he uses to engage with me, which is very directive ; his tone implies – most of the time – that he is actually not interested in hearing my point of view. This means that his expressed desire for me to “just come and chat” is undermined by his manner; what comes across implicitly is “come here so I can shut you down”, and needless to say I am reluctant to do that more often than necessary.

He is frustrated by me because being bossed around tends to rub me up the wrong way and at times I respond quite vehemently (surprise!) – particularly when I believe there may be a better way of doing things, or that there are things he’s failing to consider. He is a man who is used to being the Head Honcho, and he doesn’t like being challenged.

Up to now I have managed to absorb what I believe to be increasingly personal levels of criticism, but yesterday – at our client’s request – I posed a question by email to another team who are themselves facing pressure. It was a very simple question – I just needed information… and as I say, I was asking on behalf of our client, but the person who responded was obviously anxious about the context in which it was asked.

They copied in their superior, and the man in question above, expressing a concern that I might be about to push work in their direction. I quickly explained this was not the case, providing a short but direct explanation, and assumed the matter was settled.

On turning on my laptop today, however, I found an email that disturbed me profoundly –– and I am at a bit of a loss as to how to how to deal with it.

He has emailed the person to whom I posed my original question, saying “we are having some difficulties with this person and her method of comms. Apologies.”

I’m not sure quite which part of this has me more enraged or upset…..
• The fact that he has the audacity to interfere in this exchange in the first place, completely ignoring the context I had subsequently provided, which I believe had resolved the concern….
• The fact that he has copied in a still wider audience….
• Or the fact that he has referred to me as “this person.”

On the whole I think it is the last item that has me the most freaked out. I am copied in on the damn email after all!!

WTF is up with referring to someone in the third person like that? The way it feels is that it is a way of trying to depersonalize me – the woman who he is finding hard to control. It feels like an attempt to “put me in my place” in exactly the same way that a drunk in a pub might refer to a woman who’d rejected his advances as “that slut.”

My emotional response to being both publically undermined and depersonalized in a two line email is the same gut-wrenching feeling that I have experienced when being sexually harassed (which happens a lot more often to ALL women than most men might think.)

If I had a partner to discuss this with I would, but in the absence of that I am putting this out there as a way of taking the burn out of it.