This week's anonymous guest blog has kindly been shared by @bullyingdecoded.
Ten years ago I was bullied by the boss. We were a brand new department at an established company, which at the time wasn’t putting much effort into their marketing efforts, perhaps because of the success they gained back in the ’70s when the business was founded.
Our new department consisted of six people, five of whom lasted only six months. It started with the Director leaving and with the leader gone, everyone else dropped like flies. Except for me. I was a junior there, just learning the ropes.
Even though it wasn’t my job, I took over the manager’s duties because she too, jumped ship. I no longer had direction or guidance from anyone. Nothing like on the job “training” to really get you up to speed.
After a few months of working alone, I was given a new boss — the president’s wife. Turned out she was the reason why the new department didn’t work out. She terrorized each person, one by one. I got to enjoy a few months by myself and thought I was spared.
That strong perfume of hers — the scent of which, to this day, makes the hair on my arms and neck stand — made me cringe, almost as badly as if someone ran their nails across a chalkboard. Smelling it meant she was in the office and that I was going to have a bad day.
Bullying in the Workplace
The boss was a micromanager — one without people skills. She was always nitpicking my work, never encouraging or praising me, always criticizing with a goal to tear me down and build herself up. While that may prompt you to say “Suck it up and deal with it,” you cannot bear that kind of behaviour indefinitely.
She insisted on reviewing my work before it got sent to publishers. And while I understood she wanted to make sure my I’s were dotted and my T’s crossed, she would do so with the air of suggesting I was incompetent at my job. For example: she said my citings were incorrect and said that people’s work titles should be capitalized. But I Googled it and she was incorrect.
Plus, she started a sign in/sign out system for whenever a member of the group would step out of the building — even if we were just going to the car to grab something. It felt like a prison more than a workplace.
After several years of dreading going to work and tensing up every time I smelled her perfume, I resigned. My health at that point had been affected. I was diagnosed with Grave’s disease, which is an elevated form of hyperthyroidism. My endocrinologist said stress didn’t cause it, but stress does bring it out.
For me, it was always mind over matter. I would think: So what if work was stressful? She was the president’s wife. She was entitled to check my work, to criticize it. It happens everywhere. The grass is never greener on the other side so deal with it. Talk to your friends, talk to your boss.
In my case, there was no one at work I could talk to that could help me get the president’s wife off my back. She controlled the HR department. Heck, HR was afraid of her. I learned there were a lot of closed and pending legal cases against her. Someone told me to journal all the incidents, note the days and time and jot down my feelings. I did just that.
Appealing for Unemployment Benefits
Because I had to get out of Dodge as quickly as possible, I never had the chance to find another job. I filed for unemployment. I got denied. The president’s wife had a brother, who was VP there. He rebutted my claim with the office of unemployment so EDD declared that because I quit voluntarily, I wasn’t entitled to any unemployment insurance. I appealed.
Sitting in the conference room with the appeals judge as we endured a conference call with the brother, I was relieved I took the time to journal the details. I was too nervous to remember all the incidents. Some time had passed since the first “run-ins” and with so many things going on healthwise, I depended on my journal to cite these incidents. The judge determined I indeed was bullied and granted me unemployment insurance.
Workplace stress happens all the time. To be human is to stress. But when it gets to the point where your health is affected or if it affects the way you treat your family on an on-going basis, talk to someone and especially write it down. You never know when you’ll be opening that journal again.