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Bullied: Your stories of bullying in the workplace

We asked and you told us. Here are some of your experiences of bullying in the workplace.

Christina Finn

A NUMBER OF tragic incidents in Ireland over the past number of months has pushed the subject of bullying into the headlines. 

We asked you to tell us your experiences and we were inundated with responses. Here are your experiences, in your words, of bullying at work.

Barry

I feel ashamed writing this, but as a 42-year-old gay man, you would expect that you would be equipped to deal with the slings and arrows of life. And when you hear about bullying in the media it’s usually about teenagers – you never hear about the bullying that goes on with adults. I have been working for the last decade or more for a large business. Like any employee who shows enthusiasm I have been promoted through the ranks, based on my hard work. The department I work in is totally male dominated. I do have a good working relationship with my colleagues, all but one. This man is my immediate boss who has done nothing but deride me for the last ten years in my current role and undermined me in work and public discussions. He negates my opinion in work matters and has even called me a faggot, bum bandit, queer, shirt lifter. He also stated that I am ‘probably an AIDS victim’. All of these incidences have happened when no one else is around.

Bullied because I’m homosexual

Last week, I was issued with new uniforms and yes, he had some comment about it. A comment on my size, topped with a sneering jibe. But the piece de resistance was a comment made in a heated argument, where he stated ‘everything was okay until you started working here in this department’. I have spoken to various senior members of management/human resources about this but nothing has happened. This person continues to get away with this because of his seniority. The last gay person in our business left because of harassment, defacing of his car, clothes and locker. The fact is my sexuality is but minute part of me as a whole person, it shouldn’t colour whom I am completely. There are days I come home fed up and feel suicidal, wondering what is it I’ve done wrong. But I’ve had enough, I’m tired of battling on day after day and I’ve decided to look for a new job.

Ger

I never thought bullying would happen to me. I work in a hotel and I am a pretty big guy. I held a position which made me very well informed (sometimes much more than my boss) and that made her really angry. I was accused of various forms of gross misconduct and numerous sackable offences by her, when eventually, I made a bullying/harassment case to her superior.

My story was swept under the carpet because my boss was higher up than I was. I even got disciplined for bullying her and making false claims of bullying against her. All was lost for me and it was on that day that I attempted suicide. Thankfully it was a failed attempt due to a very astute and loving wife. I was in psychiatric therapy for a long time and eventually I realised that I had to move away from her for my sanity and for my life! There is a reasonable ending to the story. With a lot of help from my union I brought a case against her and was cleared of all wrong doing – all punishments against me were scrapped. If you are getting bullied speak up quickly, don’t let it fester into a life or death decision like I did.

(Image via Shutterstock/Lisa S.)

Jessica

I have been bullied and honestly, it surprised me. As an adult who would have described herself as outgoing. I thought I was almost immune, having made it through school and college unscathed. But I had the misfortune to work with a woman who has literally made my life hell. She was insecure in the extreme, to the point that anyone who managed to do their job well, who had friends in work or generally just got on with people, became the subject of her vitriol. She broke the team I worked with and the people on it – slowly but surely over three-and-a-half years, she damaged the people around her.

Living hell

She would spread rumours about people (including in one case spreading a story that one of the guys on the team had a mental illness), call us names both to our face and behind our backs, tell us that none of us were any good at our jobs and were failures and routinely commented on people’s appearance. She even went so far as to threaten that if any of us left, she’d spread rumours across the city so that none of us would  be hired anywhere else. She was scaremongering because Dublin is so small and because we work in an industry where reputation is everything. Her view was that her rumours would out-perform our proven abilities.

Worse still it was in the public sector, where there was really a clear anti-bullying policy and ‘full commitment to dignity in the workplace’. It turns out that while the policy articulated very laudable principles, in practice (even after multiple complaints from the team) nothing was done, which gave her even more confidence that she was untouchable. She’ll be there until the end of time having destroyed people’s self-confidence, sense of worth and self-esteem in the meantime.

Bullying is real for all ages

Of nine of us who started, only three are left. Those still there only stay because the recession has meant it’s harder to move on. Some who left, left for unemployment – they couldn’t take it anymore and risked their financial security rather than their health. I was luckier. I moved on to another job and I am now in the private sector and I am  far happier for it. I finally realised that none of it was normal and my gut instinct on her wasn’t wrong. Bullying exists – it’s very real for all ages and is insidiously destructive if not addressed and the perpetrators severely disciplined. There needs to be a clear signal that it won’t be tolerated.

(Image via Shutterstock/Roger Jegg – Fotodesign-Jegg.de)

Bob

I’m 39 years old and now suffer from panic and anxiety disorder as a result of bullying  from two managers in my work place. The screaming in my face, name calling, dirty looks and basically been treated like a nobody for five years has taken its toll. I can no longer work and I’m not sure I ever will again. Bullies have destroyed my life and I’ve no idea how young kids cope, most of them don’t seem to be.

Charlotte

I have been a victim of bullying in the past as a child and an adult. Today, I was bullied for the fifth time this month by a co-worker. When I was a child I was very sick with a brain illness. Later in life, I took an office job. The office bully took a shine to me and delighted in humiliating me for every little error. If I put a file down on my desk she will yell the place down, abuse me and treat me like a bold child, if I laugh I am a ‘f****** mongo eejit’, if I cough or sneeze I get the box of tissues hurled at me, if she is around when I talk to clients, she talks over me and humiliates me in front of them.

I spoke up once to management and I was told that I would never have been hired if they had known about my brain damage. Needless to say, I lost the plot and put them right back in their place. Yet they let the bullying continue. I am a qualified executive in my field running busy departments, I speak three languages and assist in another department with absolutely no complaints from my bosses or my clients.

Some tell me to quit, but I won’t. I love my job. I am not the problem, my current bully is. I’m tougher, better, faster, kinder, more tolerant, more intelligent, more open and understanding than they are. Theses are qualities this co-worker sees and despises as she wants these qualities, but she has no way of ever getting them. These are qualities my partner, children, grandchilden, family, friends, bosses, clients see as absolutely spot on and tell me all the time.

All names have been changed for anonymity reasons. Over the next week TheJournal.ie will be highlighting other stories of bullying. More to follow…

If you have been effected by any of the issues mentioned and would like to talk to someone please call Console on the service’s 24-hour helpline at freephone 1800 201 890. People can also access the charity’s services by texting ‘HELP’ to 51444, or at its website: www.console.ie. The charity has full-time centres in Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick and Wexford, and also offers services in other counties. Its services are open to people of any age. You can also contact a Citizens Advice Bureau or the Equality Commission in Northern Ireland or the Equality Authority in Ireland for advice.

This article was originally published 6 March 2013

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