Once upon a time, there was a young woman who was funny, friendly, had a wonderful husband and young daughter, had a great fulltime, flexible job with a woman owned company and a busy social life. Then one day, a ten minute altercation with a narcisstic workplace bully changed everything from that day forward. The End???
No, the beginning! He messed with the wrong woman.
First, just know that it if you have ever been part of a toxic work environment or the target of a workplace “bully”, it is not your fault. Anything you may have said or done did not ask for this to happen. These type of environments and bullying behaviors are unprofessional and should be completely unacceptable in any environment. But that doesn't mean that it isn't happening. It only takes one bully to make a workplace toxic. AND if the bully is your boss, well, this is probably the worst.
So, is this article about a toxic workplace or a bully you ask? Well, both. Can you have a workplace bully and a healthy workplace? I believe you can as long as you have a healthy team that support you, HR department or not, as long as you have a boss and coworkers that can be your support system, you can overcome the workplace bully. BUT, I became a little bit of an expert in this topic when it happened to me, after I had been a faithful, loyal employee for over 9 years and a bully decided to inappropriately verbally attack me one day in the office, when the owner was not in. My perspective is that of a bully and a management team that was completely unsupportive, therefore a once secure work environment for 9 years becomes a toxic workplace.
In light of my own workplace bullying incident, I felt compelled to document not just what had been going on at work, but to document the experience and how it has affected me as well. This has been very therapeutic, and helped me cope with the work stress that I experienced for 15 months following the initial harassment report.
Side note: Please keep in mind that one isolated incident does not constitute workplace bullying. Bullying behavior is generally...
-persistent and prolonged in nature
-carried out by one or more persons against one or more targets
-conscious behavior with the intention to harm the target
-has a devastating influence on the emotional well-being of the victim or target.
(However, if the bully has a history of this behavior with others, then a pattern is clearly established.)
Here is the pattern of this bully. In my bully's off time, he was also the lead singer in his own band, and so he thought he was a rockstar that no one could touch. When he wasn't busy promoting his band to coworkers, working on his social media posts during work hours, and booking gigs from his desk, he was busy sneaking out of work early to practice for rockstar gigs, and because he didn't have to be accountable to anyone in the office because he was a top producer aka "revenue generator", and a complete brown noser, he got away with tons of other crap. This particular bully, a manager that had been with the company 5 years, and had already established the bully behavior with at least six other females in the company. This meme has a quote of his exact words that I once overheard and it just made my stomach turn.
Although there were no formal, written complaints by these women, they were addressed with the owner of the company, and basically dismissed in some fashion over and over and over. Some quit, some were pushed out, and others chose to remain quiet while continuing employment. I was not too surprised to read an article that 90% of workplace harassment is not reported. Now whether or not that is a verbal or written report, I am not clear. But I decided that I would be the one to file a formal and written complaint because I was going to make a difference. BUT oh how I did not know what the outcome would be, and one of the most trying times of my life.
90% of workplace harassment is not reported
Yep, so 9 years. For 9 years, I was the one and only employee that did my job. (To protect the identity of the company and current employees, I will not be mentioning the name of the company or any employees.) I was under a lot of stress as the company and tasks grew, but I did my job well. I knew my job like the back of my hand, and I never had a negative incident or bad review. I consistently received praise and raises. While I did tell my boss numerous times that since the company had grown ten fold, we needed to hire a team member to assist me as my department was the only one not growing with the others. I did not know that sharing this with my boss would backfire on me after I filed a harassment complaint.
While most states adopt anti-bullying legislation, it can really only be enforced if the bullied person is in a protected class that can fall under discrimination or harassment such as race, gender, age, disability. Bullying behavior, in general, is not illegal, and most often the bullies are in some position of power or top producers or money makers in a company (like mine was). In an experience such as mine where he is just a misogynist-narcissist-self promoting jerk, his behaviors were just conveniently overlooked and dismissed as "well, he is just passionate about his job and cares so much he yells and gets angry." And that type of behavior is excusable? So he gets sent to a three day anger management class aka leadership training as a punishment. And what do I get? OH, I (the lowly admin) will get a lesson in what happens when you report a "revenue generator". These are the exact words my boss used the day before I actually left, and those were the exact words that compelled me to finish my 10 year employment and move the fuck on from the job that I once saw myself at for 15 or 20 years. In my eyes, I was the glue that held that place together. In his eyes, I was a lowly admin, who happened to be the workplace whistleblower. Toot toot!!!
FACTS gathered from bullying experts:
Bullies target people who pose a threat to them in the workplace. Often the bully is target smart, competent, well liked and self-assured. In fact, targets are often the most veteran and skilled person in the workgroup. They are the go to veteran workers to whom new employees turn to for guidance. Insecure bosses and coworkers can’t stand to share credit for the recognition of talent. Bully bosses steal credit from skilled targets.
For bullies, competence is competition. Bullies target these capable workers out of jealousy or to put the target down to make themselves look better and make the target appear less valuable to the organization.
Workplace bullies often target employees who excel at their jobs and are liked by their supervisors. Bullies seek to elevate their own status within the organization by pushing others down or sabotaging their work. Bullies often have poor coping skills and tackle their insecurities by manipulating others to raise their own consciously or unconsciously, bullies thrive on immediate power. Bullies seek out people who are vulnerable and who are unlikely to retaliate, confront, or report them.
Bullies also target employees who are:
-passive and submissive
-shy, meek, or quiet
-new to the workplace
-outside workplace cliques
-inexperienced, older or handicapped employees.
Bullies are often insecure and vulnerable themselves and bullying helps them conceal their own insecurities and create the appearance they are in control.
Bullies often target employees who are fair, honest and ethical or have strong morals and integrity, especially if the bully does not possess those traits or if the targets values conflict with those of the bully. Whistle blowers who expose fraudulent or unethical practices are usually bully targets. So, really no one is immune to a workplace bully.
It's very unfortunate, but from time to time, I hear a story from another person (male or female that sounds like I could literally just insert my name and it would be my story as well. In fact I read a story not long ago that was exactly like mine, down to the age and job. So I know I am not alone. Statistics do show that women are bullied more than men, and can be by a male or female bully.
I consider myself an outspoken, non-meek person, so I may very well have been the target of bullies all my life because of my unfiltered mouth, but I can guarantee you that I have never remained silent. I encouraged the other women who were bullied by this man to do something more, but they didn't. I even said I would back them up, but nothing.
I believe that no matter what your occupation or pay status, no one deserves to be bullied, and not one of your stories is more or less important than another, because it is unique to the person going through it.
If you have been bullied and would like to share your story>>>
Please print out the following survey. Feel free to expand on any section with more detail.
I certainly hope you don’t have multiple incidents, but in regards to the most poignant or the incident that had the most impact, please respond below. (For me, it is my current situation).
The information I am requesting is just to put profiles together to paint the picture of your stories. If you feel uncomfortable answering a question, please feel free to leave it blank.
Also, if a question comes up that you think would be a good one to ask, let me know and I can disseminate it to the group for more responses.
Your identity will completely protected. I will not mention your name, your employer name or any defining piece of information. If you’d like me to refer to you as an alias that is fine, otherwise it will most likely be by age and occupation.
Name: (and if you’d like me to refer to you as an alias, what name can I use?)
How long have you been in this job:
Approximate date when this occurred: (was it 10 years ago, current?)
Your Educational level:
Is your workplace bully Male/Female:
Bully’s relationship to you: (Boss/supervisor, coworker/peer, subordinate/direct report)
Types of abusive conduct typically include:
Repeated infliction of verbal abuse – derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets
Verbal or physical conduct that a reasonable person would find threatening, intimidating, or humiliating.
Gratuitous sabotage- or undermining of an employees work performance
Conduct that a reasonable person would find to be hostile, offensive and unrelated to employers legitimate business interests.
From your perspective, please describe what types of abuse or harassment you endured:
Do you know what gas lighting is?
Here is a link that explains gaslighting.
Do you feel that you were subjected to gaslighting? Please give examples.
At any time during the bullying incidents, did you tell bully how behavior made you feel or ask them to stop?
Did you report the bully or file a report?
What was outcome?
Was there any retaliation by bully or your employer?
Has this bully done this to others prior to you or have a history?
Did you document and what ways? (could be notebook, emails, meetings with HR or a boss)
Do you deem the bullying in your particular situation to be unlawful? Please explain.
Did the bully recruit any other coworkers, aka mobbing, ganging up, to pick on you? (this could also be considered retaliation)
If your coworkers were aware of the bullying, how did coworkers treat you after you reported it?
Did you have any health issues as a result?
Did you seek medical attention? Did you get diagnosed with any issues? (Autoimmune disorder, hypertension, depression, anxiety, panic attack, PTSD)
Did you ever miss any work? How often, any particular day of the week like (Monday or Friday).
Did you leave the job, were you terminated, or still employed?
Did the bully leave the job, terminated, or still employed?
What are some self-care things that you have tried or done to help you cope and get through?
Aside from a pressing medical issue, did you start or take part in any behaviors or an outlet that were not normal for you as a result of the bullying? (Self-harming, Drinking, drugs, sex, anger, just anything that is outside your norm?) Personally, I took it out on my poor hubby at home ☹ and I picked my skin A LOT.
What advice would you give a coworker that came to you and confided they were being bullied?
What advice would you give to anyone about what to do if nothing is done about a bully in your workplace?
If presented with a similar situation in the future, say at a different job, what would you differently if it happened again?
Please respond to the questions by number with your answer in the body of an email, or feel free to fill in this form and save it, send it back to me.
Feel free to add details here, I am looking forward to hearing your stories. THANK YOU ALL!