Bullies in the workplace

My first job came about almost by fluke. I was interning at a company for what was supposed to be 3 weeks. This turned into 2 months. And then 5 months. And then I was offered a job.

For a time it was great. And then, as is inevitable with many things, it all changed.

My first ever boss left the company. We had built up a good relationship with each other and worked well together as a team. I learned a lot from her and she is still a good friend of mine to this day.

After she left I got a taste of what it was like to have the boss from hell. And that’s not an exaggeration. On her third day at the company she came flying over to my desk in tears. Her son was sick. I was sympathetic. It was her child after all. So I did what I could and I was supportive through and through. But he seemed to be sick every other week. Not helpful since she only worked 4 days a week to begin with and the days she did come in she always left early. Suddenly I was busier than I had ever been, which would have been great, had I not already been stretched to capacity before she joined.

She said things like “Person x doesn’t appreciate my seniority”. It’s a small agency with 40 something people in it, not some huge corporation for God’s sake! What is wrong with you? She didn’t make good relationships with anyone beyond senior level. And this was a woman tasked with, among other things, reducing the extremely high turnover rate at the company and to generally improve morale amongst the employees. Yeah, she didn’t.

In fact, she really didn’t do very much at all. Certainly not enough to warrant the unbelievable salary she was being paid. I ended up signing into my emails from 5am every morning and not signing off until well after midnight. Every day. I could never get all of my admin done during the week. There was simply never enough time to accommodate the seemingly endless requests from her, from the 10 senior people I ended up being a PA for (though some of them took pity on me and did the majority of their stuff on their own), from the rest of the company’s employees who would rather ask me their questions instead of this supposedly senior person, so I would come into the office on weekends and work.

It took a huge toll on me. I was always, always sick with something but very rarely took a sick day. I hardly took any time off for myself, knowing that if I did the office would descend into total chaos. It came to a head the day of my sister’s graduation. It was a Tuesday and I had booked the day off to go up to Birmingham to which my only sibling, the little sister that I had helped the Warrior raise, graduate from university. Except, I had such anxiety (something that came from my job and that my boss decided wasn’t a real thing) that I made the mistake of checking my email whilst we were there. I then spent much of the afternoon freaking out internally because my boss had failed to follow basic protocol on something.

After the Warrior became upset with me for working at my sister’s celebration I sucked it up and signed out. But the next morning I was in early and proceeded to spend three quarters of the business day fixing her mess. Our contact at our outsourced IT company (don’t even get me started on how much this increased my workload when we switched to this) was irate and point blank told me that he refused to ever deal with her after his experience from the previous day and any and all correspondence from her would be sent to me to check over.

I had had enough. Nothing was ever good enough for her. She did literally no work and would always do the most unnecessary things just to make it appear as though she was. After 8 months at the company she couldn’t use the company credit card and got frustrated with me about it. No, I said. It’s a Mastercard not a Visa. How can you not know that? You’ve used it 10 times before at least!

I could never speak to the Board members about anything. It all had to go through her first. Except, she would never respond to me or would fob me off and then tell our COO that she knew nothing about why something important hadn’t been done. I refused to be blamed for not doing my job anymore so I decided to speak to him anyway. And I made it clear that I was being told to not speak to him. He didn’t like that but kept it quiet at my request. He ended up asking me how much of my decision to leave was down to her. I lied and said I just felt it was time to move on. He knew I was lying but didn’t push me on it. It was my opportunity to show him a 13 page dossier of incidents, including dates, of her behaviour towards me. Some of these were minor grievances, others were absolutely huge. I accidentally deleted it on my last day. I took it as a sign that I wasn’t meant to say anything about her. They could all learn for themselves what it was like and I could leave with some of my reputation intact at least (it’s easy to blame someone who is not there to defend themselves but I try not to think too much about how much has become my fault since my departure).

I enjoyed a very good professional relationship with the Founder of the company. She didn’t like it. I didn’t care. I was the first person every single person in that company went to for everything. She hated that. Again. Didn’t care.

She was a bully. And, by far, the worst boss I’ve ever had the misfortune of having but I learned a lot from my dealings with her. It was hard. I hated it. I had zero loyalty to her and cashed in all of my outstanding 13 days holiday when I resigned so I left the company within 9 days of handing in my notice. I declined her request to stay on an extra week after my holiday. I didn’t tell her that I was leaving while she was still away on holiday. I did all of my work in those 9 days but didn’t save it onto the system where she could access it. I felt a little guilty but not enough to do it all again and help her out. I even stayed late on my last day at the company, arriving well over an hour late to my own leaving drinks. I was done. Enough was enough.

The point is I spent 7 months unemployed and worrying about money and my future because I worked for someone who made my every waking moment a misery. My unhappiness stemmed from always being told I wasn’t doing this or doing that. I wasn’t good enough. Of course, there were things I was missing. Of course I couldn’t keep on top of everything.Don’t get my wrong, I am super hard on myself. I wasn’t perfect by any means. But at least I tried. At least I worked hard. She wasn’t doing her job. We weren’t working as a team. I take part of the blame for that. But she turned a job I loved into one I hated. And I chose to be unemployed over working for her any longer.

Now I watch my sister go through the same thing. She took a couple of days to respond to a colleague on whatsapp during a school break from term. Since then she has been bullied every single day by that teacher. Yesterday she scolded her in front of the class. She was yelled at by a parent. And then the teacher decided to get in another jab – kicking my sister when she was down.

Maybe I’m protective of my sister because she is one of the most precious things in my life. Maybe it’s because I’m her big sister and it’s just ingrained in me to want to obliterate anyone who hurts her, who bullies her, who mocks her. I don’t know. What I do know is that I am sick of this.

I am sick to death of this stupid, grown-ass woman, who has a weird obsession with my sister, bullying her. I am sick of being helpless to do anything about it.

It’s hard enough to find a good job. It’s even harder to find something you enjoy doing day in and day out so that you don’t end up hating everything without having a person you spend more time with than your family make you miserable. Just be nice to each other. It’s so much easier for everyone to have good professional relationships with your colleagues. In fact, even outside of the workplace, just don’t operate as a horrible person. Be nice. Be kind. You might even find that people actually want to be around you instead of not.

Smurf x

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