In the Workplace (A Personal Story)


Bullying in the workplace is getting some attention, but certainly less than childhood bullying. I think that might be because adults are embarrassed to admit they are still bullied and can succumb to that bullying. I think it brave when someone sends me their bullying in the workplace story, because I think many of us also experience this issue and don’t know what to do, other than quiet and be out of work or deal with the abuse on a daily basis. Gayla shares her story below and is looking for some advice, so please comment if you have some feedback for her. ~Alan Eisenberg


In the Workplace

In my quest to find help with a current situation of Workplace Bullying, I came across your webpage. It seems that childhood bullies must grow up to be Workplace Bullying Supervisors, like mine.

In my part-time job as a receptionist at a local Private School of Music and Arts, sounds like a fun, great place to work, right? Well, that is what I thought 9 months ago when I took this job. In the first several months at the job this person had no issues with me, my work performance and nothing negative. All of my work seemed to be a great help to the school, and I absolutely loved going to work everyday. Being told my cheerful attitude such a positive addition to their registration office. It seemed I asked all the right questions about how to do the job in the most efficient organized manner, many times I was told “in comparison to past employees in this position, you are great.” All of the parents seem to like me at the front desk, all of the teachers seem to like conversing with me, all of the students liked a helpful, smiling face as they come in to attend their music lessons or art class.

At some point this person turned into my worst nightmare on the job. This person is my supervisor and all of a sudden I am being talked down to, as if I were a naughty child. If front of others my every action is questioned, scolder and reprimanded beyond petty. With my co-worker and peers being within hearing distance, I ve been told “why are you taking the files out of the draw to organize them, simply leave them in the folder and alphabetized them in the folder.” Or “look at me when I am talking to you, so I know that you are hearing me.” My every sentence has been corrected, I ve been told “I do not like the way your tone of voice changes when you talk to the children.” The other person in the office has acknowledged this person being rude and unprofessional to me ( as well as others in this school ), even to her at times.

Now the worst slap in the face, I had scheduled a few days off work, as my 80 yr old mom was coming for I visit and I am picking her up from the airport after work. So that afternoon, I arrive at work and I my supervisor informs me we have a meeting with the HR representative. I should have seen it coming, she had asked me the day before “why are you giving out wrong information regarding classes” and it was something she had heard incorrectly, I told a parent summer classes are 9 weeks, and she heard is as me telling them the Private Lessons are 9 weeks. So, we go into the meeting and I am shocked, she is placing me on a written warning for false and unfounded statements, on the day my mom is coming in for a visit. I challenged her on several of the allegations and tell her and the HR representative I will be writing a rebuttal. She is shaking as we then return to the Registration Office, and looks at me with her belittling look “if you need to take a break now, feel free to do so.” I simply turn and look her straight in the eyes, and say “no, you go ahead.” Needless to say, my time spent with my mom and family could have been much better without this cloud hanging over me.

My rebuttal has been written and presented to HR, whom in turn sent her a copy. Now I am expecting to be terminated from this job next week, after their follow-up. And since I also have suggested to HR this is a “hostile work environment”, they followed up with an investigation of my claim and deemed it is NOT harassment and my claim is invalid.

In the meantime, I took 2 weeks off the job for personal time, due to experiencing sever anxiety attacks, depression, lack of energy, outburst of tears, and loss of self-confidence. At one point I thought I was having a heart attack, these feelings are so debilitating. Now that I ve returned to work it is, of course, even worse since she feels she has HR and Managements approval to treat people in this manner.

How do we stop the epidemic from spreading? How do we stop Childhood bullies from becoming Managers at a School?

Thank you for reading my story, I hope to hear back from you.

~Gayla

7 thoughts on “In the Workplace (A Personal Story)

  1. I would like to share my story here ,

    Office Bullying Story

    I grew up in a big family; my parents are well respected for their success and personality. Therefore I grew up in a quiet comfortable environment. I had a friendly face and personality, nerve bullied other kids or been bullied – I had no bullying knowledge. Things changed after my immigration.

    I graduated from the university in Toronto at the beginning of fifth year after immigration; I started working in a big financial institution. My knowledge, understanding and team work skills earned me full respect and recognition from the whole team. I had gotten “Excellence” three times for my performance review. When I decided to leave for another position, my manager held a farewell party for me, and all the group members gave note book, pen, card and bible story to me as gifts.
    But in the new company, I fell into hell. On the first day, the girl on senior position training me started to be picky on me. She didn’t show me the work, instead, she asked me to pick the printouts for her. Later on she showed me something wrong, and I made mistakes. When the manager blamed me, I showed him the evidence that her training/ notes was wrong, which was the reason for me to make the mistakes. After that, the girl always yelled at me in the office unreasonably. She was the only senior staff in my group; I am the newer one in the group; therefore I tried my best to get along with her. Nothing helped; she yelled at me again and again unreasonably and gave me a poor performance review. I was so stressful at that time and asked a transfer to another group to the manager.

    The manager saw the whole story, and transferred me to another team. Then the girl started to make rumors: “The manager likes her, so he transferred her”. Or “She attracted the manager by her face to get advantage …” I did not pay any attention to those stupid words as they are all lies. After I was transferred to the other group, I started from the lowest position, and I never complain — I need the money to support my family: my husband was still in school as that time. To be honest, I had worked in the office for 6 months before the transfer and 15 months after the transfer, the manager and me had only three conversations, including two greetings (How are you), and one meeting ( me, supervisor and the manager.) The manager is a young single man, I tried to avoid trouble.

    I always think rumors are rumors, where is the evidence? If no evidence, those are lies, only stupid people would believe lies. But I underestimated the negative impact. Her irresponsible words caused the other girls to be jealous on me. Another black girl in my team, who was as short as 1.5 m saw me drinking water in the kitchen, and then spread rumors: “you know why her skin looked so good, because she has diabetes. She drinks so much water everyday…” I went to do physical exam every other year, and I’m always very healthy. And my whole family including my parents do not have that illness. How can you trust lies a jealous girl made? For those girls, the manager could be their Prince Charming, but for me, a married woman, who had worked ten years to make our dream true in Toronto, my hubby is my team in whole life, hurting my family is worse than losing one job !

    But nobody listened to me, those women grew up in Canada, and they made bigger noise, they made more stupid rumors and used rumors to picture a monster. And guys started to suspect that I might take advantage, which made me a worse situation. But lies are lies, I didn’t even talk to the manager, he never helped me. After the manager dated with a woman in office, and gave her a lot of gifts, now the rumors became “She loved the manager, but the manager dumped her…” The loud noise makes me very stressful; lose confidence and interest to life. The worst thing is that I had no bullying knowledge; I just kept on blaming myself. As an immigrant on lower position, doesn’t mean my soul is cheaper than theirs!

    And for those stupid followers, if you think there are fantasies, loving affair, where is evidence, evidence, evidence?

    I always be a good looking girl and like all petty stuff, but during those three years, I always worn the most plain clothes with my face pale. I wanted to be invisible in exchange to some peaceful time. My husband always said: you looked so worried… During those three years, I totally forget smile, forget singing, and forget what happiness is.

    After my husband got a job, he worked very hard. He got promotion and made more money. Then we had our dreamed house and a happy baby. Everything is perfect as we planned. I have completed my first dream in Canada successfully!

    Living with my warm family, I recovered gradually and started to smile and sing again. What made me regret most is that three years like a dark hole, which almost damaged my health and life. Time proved everything: the manager married to other woman, and I am innocent at all. I never took any advantage; instead, I need to be compensated for the worst office environment, for those who spread rumors, those liars! Lies are lies, and rumors fool stupid people only and time proves it!

    I understand it now: that office gave me a full lesson about bullying, and I thank it though the company never exists now –It was taken over by bigger company. But from then on, nobody can make me feel bad about myself by making stupid lies and rumors. If anyone tries those bullying tricks, I’ll beat it back immediately! And If I see any bullying happened, I’ll give a hand! Everyone can be stronger after experienced bullying, and fight back is our clear action!

    Also, I smile to life every minute now; because I know it will smile back to me!

  2. I have had, and I suspect many of us have had, to deal with this sort of harassment (a very serious, “grown-up” sort of bullying) at jobs. It is entirely possible that the woman started feeling (or conceivably might even have been told by *her* boss or the management) that you were doing such a good job that why wasn’t she (the supervisor) doing things as well as you? Or it’s possible that the school is looking to cut back on staff and so is “setting up” false cases against some staff (you among them); in this case–in fact, in all these cases–the harassment seems aimed, at least in large part, to try to make you quit. I take it your job is not a union position; but if it is, talk to your shop steward or other union rep today; if there is any grievance procedure, union or otherwise, beyond your filing of your rebuttal (a good move! nice work!), go ahead with that too. And if other people there have told you, or you think are likely to tell you, of such behavior by this woman toward themselves, see if you can get them to put it in writing, signed and dated if possible (I can see why some might want to do it anonymously—which isn’t too helpful, probably, but it’s better than nothing); and get any such statements in to whoever’s reviewing your rebuttal/the case, as quickly as you can (be sure you’re two copies and save one for yourself). (I’m not an attorney, by the way, and I’m not offering legal advice. Just suggesting some ideas from years of on-the-job experience.) This is like, but also unlike, bullying–in that it may have clearer legal remedies, and it likely has motivations that are economic rather than personal. Hang in there and fight it as you’ve been doing—and if you lose the job anyhow, pat yourself on the back and remind yourself you’re taking part in “the workers’ struggle”. ’cause you are, and you seem to be doing a great job of it. Your family can be proud of you for fighting back in this environment–show them to be!

  3. Thank you very much for your suggestion. I was struggled for breads for my family during those three years, therefore I pushed myself to the limit. I did not have any energy to look for legal procedures or help. Your reply is very helpful, I’ll try some ways to fight.

  4. I also say kudos to you (1) for thinking quickly on your feet and saying that you will write a rebuttal and (2) for looking your supervisor in the eye and saying you did not need a break, but that she could take one. It is completely understandable that you are having panic attacks. Find a good counselor ASAP who can help you manage them and deal with your current trauma. If the school for which you are working has an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), take advantage of it and see a therapist who can provide you free service. It will be completely confidential. Often, it is standard protocol to refer an employee to an EAP counselor before they can be fired. If you seek help from the EAP on your own, you will avoid a “supervisory referral.”
    I’ve started a COOL COMEBACKS section on this blog designed for dealing with people like your supervisor. This is the type of person you have to kill with compliments, like—You’re a good supervisor who expects the best out of her employees. Use active listening to keep the focus on her—I’m sure having someone challenge your evaluation is upsetting. For as long as you’re at this school, take the high road and use whatever legal recourse you have. You may have more people pulling for you than you know.

  5. Thanks for sharing this story. Some of this sounds so familiar to my own situation – the first months that were joyful and full of positive feedback, then somehow turning to unfair criticism. So sorry you are going through this. Mind you, I don’t see how they can fire you over this, so while your boss is making life difficult for you I think you should stop worrying about that and instead think about whether you would like to choose to leave and get another job, or sit it out. Good luck :)

  6. Gayla and Strongeryy: Both your stories moved me because I have endured hostile work environments as well. After a while I was able to find other jobs. While workplace discrimination and harassment is illegal, bullying at work is not – yet. You might want to search for info on workplace bullying; there are websites, books and DVDs and groups pushing for new laws aimed at making workplaces healthy. Don’t search on your computer at work, do it at home or at the library. (One of my workplace bullies stationed a confederate to stand behind me to watch my computer screen). In the meantime, keep copies of your positive reviews from before the bullying started and use them to stoke your resume with all the attributes and accomplishments that make you a great employee. I had the great privilege of working for a company before I retired where the focus was always on getting the job done and on treating employees with dignity and respect. Workplaces where bullying is tolerated are dysfunctional and non-productive. Managers who tolerate this kind of behavior don’t deserve you.

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