A few years ago, I absolutely loved going to work. I enjoyed my job and all it entailed. And just because there wasn’t someone looking over my shoulder all the time, I can honestly say that I never took advantage of the relative independence my position allowed. Sure, there were the odd moments I wished I’d stayed in bed, but on the whole, I considered myself pretty lucky. I got along with the rest of the staff because I steered clear of gossip and never offered opinions about co-workers. I carried out my duties faithfully and kept my nose out of other peoples’ business. One day, it all changed…
Now I’ve heard a lot of people say that every workplace has its bully but I never gave this much thought until it dawned upon me that I was in fact being bullied. Nobody stole my lunch money or threatened to ‘beat me up’ but there was one woman who suddenly took a dislike to me. Let’s call her ‘Linda”. Linda took her job seriously and her gossip and bad-mouthing activities more so. I’d be hard pressed to recall a work day when she didn’t criticise someone or pass judgement on someone else. And Linda never made mistakes, only other people make mistakes. When she started listing faults with the big boss one morning, telling me why she was so incompetent, I thought she’d go on all day until I interjected. I pointed out to Linda that perhaps she would be happier working somewhere else with less people to upset her. I got the cold shoulder until the following Monday. That’s right, Linda could not take criticism and loathed anybody contradicting her.
What about the bullying? As I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t physical or even obvious at first. Linda choose covert bullying. I think because this suited her sly, two-faced personality. We shared an office with two others, we attended the same meeting once a week and we had the same duties, but we suddenly stopped sharing conversations. Unless someone else was present Linda completely froze me out. When pieces of my work started disappearing I didn’t say anything, I just put up with it. But after several weeks of covert bullying I confronted her. One morning before we started work I calmly and politely asked Linda if she had a problem with me. Well you could have knocked me down with a feather when she finally answered me.
Linda was reprimanded for breaching one of our work rules and held me responsible. When I told her, truthfully I had nothing to do with the situation she wouldn’t hear of it, instead, she went to one of our managers and said I abused her and spoke to her in a threatening manner.
Yes, I defended myself but the whole situation took a toll on my mental health.
So how did this all end? I requested unpaid leave to have treatment for my depression, but sadly, my request was denied and I was forced to resign. I think it was far tidier for the people at the top to be rid of someone with a mental illness rather then deal with the reality of bullying. Even though it’s been two years now, I still see people I used to work with and most of them tell me how lucky I am to not have to put up with Linda any more. I take solace in the fact that I am so much kinder, tolerant and pleasant than Linda. I have more empathy and I’m just a nicer person than she is. I don’t believe it’s enough to simply put up a few anti-bullying posters or say bullying won’t be tolerated, get serious about it. When anyone asks me why I left my last job I reply truthfully, “I was bullied, I confronted the bully and I was forced to resign.” Stand up for your workmates, dob in a bully and support the victim.