Effects Workplace Bullying
This is a story I have wanted to tell for quite some time but did not have the courage until now. I used to think that bullying only happened on the playground until I experienced workplace bullying as an adult. I will not divulge when or where my incident happened but I wanted to share my story in hopes that it helps someone else. I would like everyone who reads this blog to know that telling my story brings back a lot of painful memories. It took me a long time to get over the effects workplace bullying.
Workplace bullying involves acts or verbal comments that can mentally hurt or isolate you in the workplace. It often involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behaviour that is meant to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate you. My counsellor described it as the assertion of power through aggression because the bully feels threatened by you. Bullies often lack confidence and feel jealous of your ideas or talent. It can also include work interference or sabotage which prevents you from getting your work done.
I didn’t mind my new job at first. The people I worked with were nice enough. It wasn’t an overly warm work environment but it was a full-time permanent position with decent benefits during a time when the Canadian economy wasn’t the greatest. I kept telling myself I should be grateful that I have a job. I was also making a difference in some small way. Sadly, two years after I started my new position one of my co-workers died and his position was taken over by someone else.
I never really had much involvement with the person who took over for my co-worker, accept passing her in the hallways from time to time or seeing her at meetings. She never bothered to say hi to me or even acknowledge my existence until we started working together.
At first I didn’t think much about the bullying incidences, thinking maybe they would go away or stop. Maybe that was naive of me. I thought if I was just nicer to her, more compliant and/or went beyond what was asked of me things would get better. But they never did. I saw how she treated other co-workers. I couldn’t understand what I did that caused her to dislike me so much. Over time, the effects workplace bullying started to affect my health.
I was a teacher working in academia. You are often required to co-teach a course with one of your colleagues. This means you have to work closely with this individual for long periods of time. I have worked with people I have disliked before but never experienced workplace bullying until a few years ago. It is not an easy thing to talk about. There is a lot of stigma attached to it. People will often try to down play what happened to you. “Are you sure you aren’t reading too much into it?” “Maybe you misinterpreted what she meant.” “What did she sound like?”
I knew what was happening to me was bullying. She would make rude comments to my face in front of other coworkers. She tried to humiliate me in public places with other people around. She often made threats. She would critique everything that I did. She was very controlling. She would send demeaning emails. She purposely left me out of meetings then blamed me if something went wrong or didn’t get done. She criticized me to fellow colleagues.
After a few months, I couldn’t take it anymore. I reported the incidences to my manager who ended up doing nothing. I started to take alternate paths to my office to avoid running into her. I would ignore her emails. I would hide in my office. I dreaded going to work. I developed insomnia. I was tired all the time from being so stressed out. I thought just one more month and the class will be over and we won’t have to work closely with each other anymore. Then the worst thing imaginable happened, I was forced to work with her again the following semester.
My health was being severely affected. I had night sweats. I couldn’t sleep. My adrenal glands were shot. I could barely function. To make things worse, I was told she was going to permanently take over the one class so we would be forced to work together year after year.
I eventually went to my union where there was an investigation. The outcome was expected. My bully was now someone in an authoritative position. The investigation was tainted. Nobody outside the college or department was brought in to conduct the investigation. Not one of my witnesses were questioned. It was very suspect, one-sided and incomplete. I was told they found no evidence of bullying from their investigation. Really??? Yet it was suggested my bully and I not work together for a year so our relationship could heal. I was also told they would talk to my bully about how her actions/comments can be misinterpreted by other people.
What made matters worse was I tried to protect myself by tape recording one of the incidences. I ended up being reprimanded for it even though it isn’t against the law. It is amazing how your life can be turned upside down in a year. I ended up going on short-term disability, selling my house, leaving my job and moving without having another full-time job lined up. I took a big gamble. However, I knew if I stayed the situation would eventually kill me. I was becoming a shell of the person I used to be.
After my incident, I wanted to learn more about workplace bullying so I started looking into Canadian laws, statistics and other bullying cases. I began to understand and realize why so many people end up quitting their jobs and never report their incident. For example, in my previous workplace less than 5% of bullying and harassment cases are ever won.
According to a 2012 workplace bullying survey of 552 full-time employed Canadians found the following:
- 45% of the full-time employees said they were bullied
- Only 1/3 of the employees reported the incidence to HR
- 1/3 stated it caused them health issues
- 26% quit their jobs to stop the bullying
Sadly, the laws for bullying and harassment are weak. The bully almost has to admit to their actions before anything can be done and/or need witnesses and/or video/tape record the incidences. If your workplace has unions like mine did, you may find yourself in the same situation I did. Unfortunately, the laws did not protect or help me. I even had witnesses and recorded one of the incidences.
It has been almost one year since I left that toxic work environment. It hasn’t been easy but things are looking up!!! I started working in NWM for an amazing certified organic company. They are so supportive. I have learned a lot over the last couple months. They are doing everything they can to help me succeed quickly. I have become a blogger!! I have the support of my friends and family.
I am starting to feel like me again. I no longer have insomnia or night sweats. I am no longer tired all the time. I am working for myself now.
I am hoping my story helps someone else find the courage to take action and fight back or leave their current situation. Most people do not realize the long-term effects workplace bullying can have such as PTSD. I want you to know that life gets better. You can choose to work for yourself. Talk to someone. I could not have gotten through my ordeal without the help of my counsellor. Check to see what kind of laws exist in your area. Check to see if there is a bullying or harassment prevention system set up in your workplace. Document everything.
I do not feel any hatred towards my bully. I believe that karma will take care of her. I hope by standing up to her and leaving she will feel bad for what she has done.
I survived the effects workplace bullying.
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