I have talked and heard from many people who tell me that bullying certainly continues after school into the workplace. I have had my share of unpleasant people to work with, one who was certainly a bully, but I never really had terrible workplace bullying experiences that I felt I couldn’t handle. Jane Keeler wrote me with the below story, which is interesting in that her bullying continued from school to the workplace. She wrote her story of bullying in her school days on her blog called Jane’s Daily Blah. Her story makes me wonder about how many people who suffered with childhood bullying find it continues for them into the workplace. ~ Alan Eisenberg
A Workplace of Bullying
Any time I come across a story of bullying, it really resonates with me. In March 2007, I read the book Odd Girl Out by Rachel Simmons, which inspired me to write a blog post about my childhood bullying experience. It received quite a few comments from others with similar experiences (you can read it here: http://janesdailyblah.blogspot.com/2007/03/odd-girl-out.html )
While I have certainly thought a lot about the effects that my childhood experiences of being bullied have had on my adult life (trouble standing up for myself coupled with general anxiety disorder), I recently learned that – unfortunately – bullying is not something which ends upon reaching adulthood. As such, I was wondering if you had done any research into adult bullying.
(Let me preface my story by saying that I am a 32 year old college educated professional. Other than the experience I am about to discuss, I am on good terms with all my previous employers, all of whom have told me that I am welcome to return any time.)
In 2009 I spent eight months working for a woman who was a bully. She was the director of a small non-profit. She bullied me, my coworkers, the board of directors of the non-profit, and members of the public. This woman repeatedly told me and my coworkers that talking to any member of the board of directors would result in immediate termination. She also made a point of telling us how much the board loved her, how she was close friends with board members, etc. The only people to whom we could report her behavior were the board members, and she made it seem that if we did so, they would take her side and we would lose our jobs.
The eight months I worked at this non-profit were hellish, and I went home most nights in tears. I suffered from constant verbal abuse, unreasonable demands, and was required to work nine hours a day with no break, while only being paid for eight (I was told that this was a requirement, and that if I didn’t do this, I would lose my job.) When the boss decided that she wanted to fire one of my coworkers, she informed me that since she didn’t want said employee to receive unemployment benefits, she was going to make her life hell so that she would quit – and she did just that, harassing the poor girl until she walked out in hysterics and never returned. On numerous occasions she threatened members of the public with legal action (often telling them she was on her way out the door to meet with her lawyer, when this was a complete lie) to get them to agree to her demands.
The eight months I worked at this non-profit were the worst of my life. Quitting that job – even in the middle of the Great Recession and in a part of the country with over 10% unemployment – was one of the best decisions I have EVER made. I only wish I had done it sooner. After quitting my job, I wrote a 30+ page statement detailing my experiences which I submitted to the board of directors. My former boss was fired roughly a month after that for “failure to adequately perform her duties.” Following her departure, the board discovered that she had used the organization’s credit card for personal purchases totaling thousands of dollars, the organization’s bank account was overdrawn, numerous checks had been written to various family members of this woman for unspecified services, and every single account (electricity, internet, payroll taxes, etc) was in arrears.
After her termination, my former boss began friending all of my friends on facebook (people from other cities, states, and countries, with whom she had no connection whatsoever) and she began making comments about my incompetence as an employee, and my stupidity. Additionally, she made numerous cryptic comments (ones which were obviously directed at me, but which did not explicitly state my name) which I found to be not just harassing but downright terrifying. In these cryptic comments she threatened me, my family, and my animals. Unfortunately, I was told by local police that because she did not use my name explicitly, they could take no action. She also began a smear campaign on community internet bulletinboards, smearing me, my coworkers, and (mainly) the board of directors. (This was done using an internet handle, but it was obvious to all involved that it was her.)
In the end, the board did not seek prosecution against this woman for anything. They told me that they didn’t prosecute for “fear of the negative publicity it would bring to the organization.” My belief is that they declined to prosecute for fear – not of publicity, but of her!
Unfortunately, the moral of the story seems to be that bullies win.
~ Jane E. Keeler