Bullying in the Workplace

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in th...

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A report in The West Australian newspaper yesterday (Page 7, Wednesday June 8 2011) stated that ‘bullying and discrimination are still rife in the workplace’ and that ‘Almost a third of the 5100 workers surveyed claimed to have been bullied at work’ with more than 1 in 10 having said that ‘they had been the victim of systemic workplace abuse or intimidation’.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise me.  This is why I thought I’d share part of my story, as ‘bullying’ can be atypical, and it can really sneak up on you, catching you unawares.

So here goes…

It’s strange that at the pinnacle of my career I could fall victim to bullying. I presume that this is what we call the tall poppy syndrome? When someone is doing something good, and is happy, then they obviously need to be bought down a peg or two. We see it in the cricket, in the football – Aussie culture? I certainly hope not!

After a hard slog in a male dominated team, with a serious lack of training (training? What was that?), high workloads, insane deadlines and politics galore, I was fortunate enough to win 2 company awards – the prizes being right up my alley (a travel voucher and a junket to a tropical getaway for a get together with other successful people within the company to listen to inspirational speakers). It was funny that even though I was excellent at what I did, and had great respect from customers and stakeholders alike, I had struggled with my confidence for years. I mean, my average scorecard was 10/10, and I still had confidence issues… Sudden, unexpected recognition just blew me away – I was astounded by the reactions of my associates and customers and had a sudden surge in confidence.

Of course, there is always a flip side to the story. The days, weeks and months following turned into hell at work. First, the cold shoulders and what I called ‘death glares’, followed by the snickering and gossiping. Then the team meetings – people could not talk to me without feeling the wrath from certain offenders, I couldn’t talk without getting eye rolls. I couldn’t even tell my team about the junket I had been on to share the inspiration I had gained from some amazing people, due to having to tread on egg shells. I could have handled all of those things, but then came the attempts to discredit my work, my reputation and my personality. ‘She slept her way to the top’, ‘It’s because she dresses the way she does’, ‘She’s on with all of her male colleagues’. (Now I’ve worded them all so very nicely so as not to offend but you can get the gist!!!). And some people believed them (not everyone, thankfully).

I had seen things like this happen to other successful women in the workforce, but it still came as a surprise. Perhaps it was my new-found confidence? Thinking back on it now I admit this story goes back a few more years, from when I was the shy, retiring type starting work, to when I started taking pride in my appearance, dressing in suits, doing my hair, wearing make up, talking and excelling and whatever it was I did! The rumours and innuendo probably started then. Disappointingly, it was all from women (I think that’s a whole new blog in itself!).

There were so many ways I could have handled this, and admit that exhaustion from the job did contribute to my ability to deal with the situation – but that also gave me clarity.

Some of the steps I took to deal with the issue were:

– I discussed the issues, how I was feeling, possible ways to deal with it with my Manager, and other trusted Managers;
– Attempted to discuss with the ring-leader;
– Discussed with my ‘friends’ at work (most of who had left by then – which perhaps symbolised some bigger issues in the greater company at the time – who backed me up to anyone they heard ‘dissing’ me;
– I tried blocking it out as ‘ignorance was bliss’;
– Just tried to not care.
– I didn’t feel like I could report anything. How can you substantiate gossip?

In the end I made the hardest, and easiest decision I had to make in a long time – I quit. I think what helped me to this decision was the realisation that sometimes you cannot change people, a place or a culture, and I had done all I could do there. I needed to be around people who were like me. I needed to look after myself.

I admit that I have still not found the right place for me, and have gone through a few more interesting ‘experiences’ since then, BUT I will never regretted the decision I made to leave when I did.


The stress of starting a new job

I recently started a new job. Time has blurred as the days have been long, the work has been ‘different’ and the people have been interesting. I compute that I have been there just on 5 weeks. I’ve read somewhere before that the first 6 months in a new job is one of the most stressful times in people’s lives. I can back up that by saying it’s certainly been a bumpy ride so far.

That’s why I thought I would – with all of my strength – try to come up with a list of what I am appreciative of in this new endeavour.

  • They have coffee machines on every floor that froth milk and automatically make your desired style of coffee (limited to a choice of about 4).

I’ve never had this luxury. Working in the city for 10 years I’d become one of the masses and developed the expensive habit of buying a coffee every day – it was my comfort thing. It used to make my day – I loved going to the coffee shop every day, and when getting to the front of the line, being asked how my day was and being handed my coffee before everyone else. They knew me and they knew just how I liked my coffee. They were also so god damn efficient! I miss that and the smiles.

Now I have a different type of efficiency – a machine that spits out my coffee – almost the way I like it. Plus I now don’t have to pay $4 per cup for it. I actually can’t pay $4 a day unless I stop by a drive-through coffee joint on the way to work (I no longer work in the city). The coffee machines are turning out to be GREAT for my purse strings but bad for my developing reliance on coffee.

  • I no longer work within walking distance of shops that sell clothes, make-up, shoes, dvd’s, cd’s, books, groceries…the list goes on.

There is a corner deli. That’s about it. No temptations. No ‘just ducking out to pick up some toilet paper and soap for home’ and coming back with a new suit. Nothing like that. I can drive about 7 minutes and end up at an old shopping mall – but the choice is just not there, nor is the quality. I may have become a snob? No. I just finally started investing in some decent quality clothes before I left my previous job – so going back to clothes that fall apart after a couple of washes is hard to do. Once again, it’s turning out to be GREAT for my purse strings!

  • I get to drive to and from work by myself.

For something like 5 years Denis and I drove to and from work together. Towards the end, Denis was stressing me out every day as he would get stressed out on the road, and he had developed a bit of a road rage problem – along with everyone else.

I now drive myself to and from work – which is weird! I can listen to whatever I like on the stereo, I can have the air con on as high or low as I want, and I get to work on time, arriving pretty stress free. The unforeseen bonus of this has been that Denis tells me he has been arriving at work less stressed. Hmmmm. One could read many things into that.

For years I avoided it like the plague, and when you work in project management, that is an awesome feat. Don’t get me wrong – I have used it. Its just that I find it annoying, cumbersome and ugly, and I see no point to it other than as another reporting tool that – in more cases than one – is used to display incorrect information in the name of adhering to ‘governance’ requirements.

So, I now need to deal with my nemesis. And really – it’s nowhere near as bad as I had thought.

  • I am also being forced to deal with numbers and finances.

I loathe numbers more than I loathe Microsoft Project and mushrooms. I truly struggle with them. I AM a words person. Its like there is something in my brain that forms a roadblocks every time it is confronted with a spreadsheet full of numbers and formulas.

I now have to deal with the hatred – or I could go as far as calling it a fear, for I have felt sick and stressed out all week due to the thought of having to deal with financial models involving millions of dollars.

I’m now trying to not become so anxious every time I open up a god damn spreadsheet. I actually felt relieved this morning when some concerns I had were validated. I was actually on the right track! So, on Monday morning I will tackle my fear in an attempt to overcome my issues with numbers once and for all.


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  • I learnt this week that I have become stronger.

I had a confrontation with a colleague this week – yes, in week 5, of which I could have just sat there and took, being the new employee, passive and reluctant to get involved and speak up, wanting everyone to like me and to make a name for myself. But I opened my mouth and challenged what my colleague and I were being told to do.

I did succeed in making a name for myself. A few of my work colleagues have now started referring to me – ‘lovingly’ – as the troll who lives under the bridge. I sit just outside their office, so I take it I’m now their guardian who scares people away and prevents them from entering their office? Once upon a time I would have been upset at being called a troll. I now quite like it and joke that I’m going to start doing my hair in the style of those little troll dolls that used to be so popular!

New Chapter – Day 1

Day 1 of a new chapter in my life – it was okay. I did have an epiphany of sorts, which has left me feeling like I’m in a state of flux. I’ve realised what I want to do – or rather what I don’t want to do.

There’s something not appealing about being squished into an unnaturally cold, fluorescent environment in one spot from 8 till 5. Don’t get me wrong, at the moment I am somewhere that is a hundred times better than where I just came from, and I already feel so much more relaxed and confident in myself. It’s just that I now realise I can do so much more, I just lack guts. I’ve always been a calculated risk taker – way too calculated. Plus I’m stubbornly independent, which tends to control whatever it is I do.

I know where it comes from. It stems back to my upbringing. Immigrant, farming and mining roots. Witnessing Mum struggle – foregoing dinner to feed us kids, stranded without any transport, wearing hand-me-downs for years, having a strict father who controlled the money coming in, witnessing chronic gamblers and drug takers fritter away their and others income, supporting myself through full-time University working full-time, supporting an ex-partner who worked part-time, took drugs and didn’t drive, working hard and saving to go travelling, running out of money, getting stranded overseas and then having to work in a disturbing and violent environment. All the time hardly ever asking for help, and accepting that the only road was the hard road, and the only life was the hard life.

I now realise that life can be a whole lot easier. I also know that there is nothing wrong with asking for help. I understand that the path one takes doesn’t have to be hard, but that life will deliver highs and lows. I just need to allow myself to relax, to go with the flow, and to follow my heart – instead of listening to my head all the time.

That Light at the End of the Tunnel

OMG it’s like Christmas or the last day of school. I woke up so many times last night, had night sweats, and then woke up early with butterflies in my stomach and this feeling on excitement, anticipation and nervousness of what the day ahead will hold.

Then I sat there playing with the dog, and staring at my partner willing him to wake up, to only freak him out when he opened his eyes and saw me staring at him wide-eyed. I guess it was a kind of psycho moment…

Today is my last day in my job, that for those that know me personally has been – what can I say politely – ‘challenging’. To cut a long story short I finally summonsed the courage to resign, after finding a new job.

Which brings me to now. I can imagine this afternoon, walking out of those doors, the feeling of relief. The way I’m feeling now, I predict the following. I’m either going to cry my heart out tonight – not badly, just as a form of release I would imagine, or I’m going to collapse (my throat is already feeling funky so the inevitable release of stress in the form of illness, as my body tends to do, is probably on its way). But, I don’t mind, as I can finally see that light at the end of the tunnel, and I have never felt so relieved.


New Beginnings