What's your problem?

Two years ago, I signed up to a personal fitness programme and lost 3.5 stones. Last July, I was shocked when my boss told me that colleagues had raised concerns about my health. She expressed the view that perhaps I had lost too much weight.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

 I visited my doctor, who gave me a clean bill of health, and I worked with my trainer on building up my muscle mass so I do not look scrawny. Recently, my boss informed me that the same colleagues had again expressed concerns about my health and that they considered my contributions in meetings to be 'offbeam'. I asked for clarification and she said she would provide me with specific examples. The matter was left there. I feel angry and de-motivated. My last day off sick was a year ago. Many of my colleagues have had periods off sick since then. I have a further meeting with my boss coming up. How should I handle it? In addition, a senior post has become vacant and three of my colleagues and I are in competition for it.

What I strongly suspect is this: for whatever reason, two or three of your colleagues have taken against you. There may not even be a reason, any more than there's a reason when two or three schoolkids gang up against another. If I'm right, your weight loss and your appearance are not the cause of their concern - they're simply being used as 'evidence' for their attempts to discredit you in the eyes of your boss. This is nasty stuff.

Try not to let your anger and demotivation show. When you see your boss, confess to genuine bewilderment and ask her for those specific examples of your 'offbeam' behaviour that she promised you. Above all, ask if she herself shares the concerns that your colleagues have expressed and press her for an honest answer. Only if she is unhesitatingly supportive and full of praise for your work should you feel confident about your prospects.

This may sound defeatist, but when irrational vendettas break out in office life and are tolerated by management, it's often better to look for a new and uncontaminated environment than rely on appeals to reason.

Jeremy Bullmore has been creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London and a non-executive director of the Guardian Media Group; he is a non-executive director of WPP. Address your problems to Jeremy Bullmore at: editorial@mtmagazine.co.uk. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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