Bullying. One of those words that you hear often and it has an instant effect on you. I had mainly associated bullying with the playground and childhood. Being a domestic violence survivor myself, I knew that partners could be bullies too but I would not have expected it to happen in the workplace. I mean – aren’t we all mature, responsible grown ups in the workplace? I’ve seen bullying in male dominated settings  but that was stopped by laws years ago and surely it wouldn’t happen in an office environment; it’s so civilized, right?

I am 47 years old, worked in offices for over 30 years, I’m a mother and a grandmother, I couldn’t possibly be bullied in the workplace, but I was, for over 2 years and it destroyed me. My life was a mess and I couldn’t see a way out.

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I was a personal assistant for a female professional in fancy offices. I was very experienced and good at my job. Sounds familiar? Not long after I started working there, I was asked to take over accounts to bring the company’s mess under control.

I was experienced and had a proven track record of achieving results in a civilized manner and they employed another young lady to take over PA duties. It was up to me to train her too. That is when the bullying started.

I was doing the job of 2 full time people and 1 part timer, my days went from the 8 hour day to 10 hours then 12 and after that it could sometimes be 16 hours and Saturdays! Needless to say my family and friends were not impressed. I had apparently began to change my temperament and approach to life. They saw this but I didn’t.

work-bully-120111 I put it down to being tired, pressured and the stress of being constantly scrutinized by my boss. She would send emails and texts messages literally 24/7 going off on these abusive rants of how everything I was doing was ok but could be done better if I did it her way or any other way other than  mine!

There were the other messages too – the ‘nice’ ones saying: ‘thank you’ , ‘you are wonderful’, ‘I’d be lost without you’, etc. I felt good and like I was doing well at my job until other messages received reminding me that I was still stupid, incompetent and a burden to the business!

This behavior went on for 2 1/2 years.  During that time here was the highest turn over of staff I’ve ever seen in an office,  this included seasoned professionals – men and women and also administration staff. I was told by everybody I knew and people I didn’t know that I needed to get out, that she’s a bully and will destroy me  but still I stayed through some sense of misguided loyalty.

[quote_box_center]I couldn’t be a victim of bullying, I’m a grown woman, a mum and grandmother, I’ve been working for over 30 years![/quote_box_center] I was telling myself that she’s just a business owner and not too good at handling pressure and that I would be fine. How embarrassing to suggest I was been bullied and didn’t know it!!!

bully_crop380wDuring this time, I was abused and humiliated in front of other staff and clients. Ridiculed in writing to other professionals and the community for things that were just ‘my fault’ regardless of knowing nothing of the matter.

I began to feel incredibly unwell towards the end but couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was, I was exhausted, irrational, cranky, short tempered, unable to eat or sleep and my body was beginning to retaliate with all sorts of ailments.

The pressure was increasing –  I was doing PA duties, assisting with Reception (another receptionist quit!), doing accounts payable and receivable, general administration, training more new staff, dealing with a staff member that was known as a bully and a troublemaker ( up until now she was ‘manageable’), looking after IT and just doing whatever was thrown at me!

Subsequently, my health began to deteriorate.  I was in the office one morning, being pulled in several directions and I had a twist in my back/hip and a severe dose of the flu. On top of personal problems, that was it, I snapped! I immediately felt remorse and regret for my outburst and felt that I was done. I could no longer look around the office and not want to cry  and scream.  I packed up and went home.

The next day I spoke to my boss and she decided that I was incompetent and not worth keeping on because clearly I couldn’t cope! What the hell did she just say to me?

[quote_box_center]Instead of defending myself, I felt beaten and defeated. I was convinced I was worthless and every negative feeling became who I was. I had a complete break down and attempted suicide.[/quote_box_center] After six months of weekly meetings with my Psychologist and medication, I am now doing well.

theoneI no longer accept that what my former employer told me was true and a group of former work colleagues have supported me and also helped me realize that I was a victim of serious bullying!  I had protected all of them from her, helped train them and helped find them new jobs but was completely unable to help myself.

This nearly cost me my life and my future with my granddaughter – that’s not ok!! (Read: ‘Workplace Bullying: Is it Happening to You?’).

If you feel you are being bullied in the workplace, please do not take it! It may destroy you and your future, it’s just not worth it! You are better than that and deserve so much more. Find somebody in a position of authority at work that you can trust and ask for help, see your Doctor, call Lifeline or even at the very least, grab your best friend or close family member for a chat and get them to help you work through this.

Please do not be a victim, be strong and I promise you will get through it! There is so much more out there that will be better.

E.

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Psychologist, world citizen, mother - Effie is one half of the alwaysladies.com founding pair. She can bring to life any party with either a smile, or a strong opinion. If like us you can't get enough of Effie, visit her blog at www.thethinkingmomblog.com

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