I have learned through my website that bullying is not something that just ends at school age, but that bullies can grow up to be workplace bullies and victimization from bullying happens to adults as well. If that wasn’t clear before, it has become abundantly clear to me through stories like the one below. As with school administration, I wish all HR departments at companies would have a “no bullying” policy and follow it when needed. ~Alan Eisenberg
I want my story to be heard as I know many others that have suffered through similar and bullying and victimization is not limited to the school grounds and early years, but is sadly alive and well in the workplace.
Last year I felt like a punch bag… it was like a vendetta was being launched and the HR Department were powerless from stopping it from happening. It is not what you know, but who you know.
This is how it all began…
I was appointed the Head of Marketing. I embraced the challenge and was extremely upbeat and enthusiastic to begin with. I started to make various positive changes… rebranded, created a corporate brand guideline and developed social media.
I received praise from the ‘outside world’ and from most of the board members, however there was one department and one Director in particular that I was required to work with in order to succeed in the marketing in its entirety and this particular department and Director made my life a living hell for approximately 12-18 months. By the end of it, I was nothing more than a nervous, insomniac wreck of person. 60% of what I had been tasked with meant I had no choice, but to work with this particular department. I am a proactive individual so made bi-monthly standing meetings that were often cancelled and yet I soon discovered that ‘secret meetings’ pertaining to the marketing and various events had been held. I was once accused in a meeting in front of many individuals of making some terrible mistakes that had caused some embarrassment… it had to do with the proofing, the print and the delivery. They didn’t like it when I was able to back up all my documentation to show that:
- Deadlines had been missed by this department for final changes so late submissions caused the additional pressure on the print suppliers to deliver within an unreasonable time frame.
- Some of the supposed requested changes to be made could never be backed up/supported and all requested changes received were made by me.
- Due to the missed deadline the booklets would have to be delivered directly to the venue.
The printers were instructed accordingly, but at the last-minute a rather odd request was made to have these delivered directly to the hotel. I queried this at the time, but as the request came from someone far more important I let it be. However it was brought up in the meeting and I was accused of making a silly decision to deliver to the hotel which caused additional work and the cost of a taxi to ferry these booklets in several trips to the event. However I had the supporting emails to prove that the decision had not been made by me which I produced and this caused embarrassment to the important person concerned. I was not about to be humiliated again for a mistake I had not made! This is where I fear that the real vendetta against me and my team began.
It was indeed a very sad year as I was desperately trying to justify everything I did. The ‘bullies’ were however allowed to continue with the harsh tones, failure to respond to emails, stonewalling, secret meetings, missed deadlines and worst of all were the fabricated stories and lies and the stalking on my own personal social media sites that followed for at least 6 months. There was little I could do except do other than the best that I could and to persevere. Thankfully others supported me, but the damage of the stress had taken its toll and eventually something had to give… the marketing was yanked from under my feet through no fault of my own and the person appointed to take over the role was none other than the Directors sister-in-law and the daughter of the big boss.
I am hardworking, diligent and dedicated and usually achieve my goals. I have never cheated, lied or stolen in my life… I am as honest as they come. I am direct and truthful and I have strong morals and integrity, but what I saw and went through gave me a cruel insight to the harsh reality of the business world. I was advised that if I decided to take the matter further I would almost certainly lose as the company had endless financial and legal resources and even though this particular Director has a file a ‘mile long’ (slight exaggeration!) of complaints of bullying and various other charges against her she was untouchable and no one who came up against her ever won! If I pursued the matter I might just not have a job right now so how would I then pay my bills and mortgage? My very kind, caring and wonderful colleague who was working with me resigned out of principle to what was happening and also because with the loss of the marketing she was forced into a menial job that she did not wish to do. I felt cowardly for staying, but at that point I had lost all confidence in myself and the system that was supposed to protect the bullied victim.
I speak Afrikaans as part of my home language and I am proud to be bilingual. Hearing others speak foreign languages in and around me is refreshing… it shows we are a proud multi-cultural society. It shows I am not racist. The definition for ethnicity is: the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition which to me equates to an Afrikaans speaking South African and for this I was forced into writing a letter of apology for speaking a language which apparently caused a colleague some offence. This colleague never brought it to my attention, he never even politely asked that I refrain from speaking another language in front of him… he went straight to the very top with exaggerated claims, false accusations and goodness knows what else so the HR department were therefore instructed to deal with myself and another colleague and we were told under no uncertain terms that should we choose not to write an apology letter for speaking Afrikaans our jobs were under threat. Other languages openly spoken in the office have never ever been brought into question… a different rule applied to us. We were not being treated fairly. This gang of colleagues at work had rallied around to ‘get me‘ and they were to succeed. The worst was a twitter claim that could never be supported (nothing was ever captured or photographed) and it was exaggerated to all on the board. I was beyond mortified. Even my own boss never believed me. Unbeknown to me HR and the CEO had already trawled through a 1000 twitter messages on my feed and found the retweet (yes a retweet from UberFacts!) that had upset this particular Director who was out to get me to the point that I lost my marketing position, but the build-up to this had continued for months and perhaps because I did not break sooner this just had to be manipulated and twisted into something it never was. Once the truth was revealed that it was a retweet, I never received an apology for the embarrassment that I had endured and suffered from the false tweet accusation and I felt that my honour and integrity was forever ruined. I cried and vomited for most of the night and when I eventually was so shattered I fell asleep I dreamt I never woke up and for the first time in a long time I felt free.
I realized then that I needed help. So I wrote the following message on Facebook to my bullies and I have subsequently received huge support from around the world and now realise just how many others suffer daily at the hands of bullies. I am sadly not alone.
“You and your gang of friends made my life so unbearable last year with the exaggerations and lies that it made me physically ill. I lost the marketing position, I lost my colleague, I was stalked on social network sites and I suffered from an ulcer and the physical and emotional stress caused elevated Cortisol levels and as a direct result of this I have gained weight. This is bullying… IT IS victimization, but sadly you won the last round and you are likely to win again. It was never ever a fair fight to begin with. Your ties and connections protect you and your loved ones… I am not afforded the same. Karma will prevail.”
My advice to those going through a similar experience is to please not suffer in silence as I want to let you know that you are not alone. Surround yourself with family and genuine friends that care and with their help you can get through it all. The advice I received today was to ‘forgive, but never forget.’ Perhaps it is time to heed this very good advice.