Sandy’s Bullying Experience

I’ve been working with Sandy, a lovely young woman who is being bullied at work. Now, I’m not talking about appropriate direction or correction. I’m talking things like:

  • Refusing to teach her how to use an invoicing system and making her call the supplier for training so she ‘learns it the right we, because we use shortcuts’. Then getting angry at her for not doing the invoices.
  • She had made it clear what her work hours were before being hired, because she is a single mum of a young son. Despite the agreed hours, she was scheduled to do events on evenings/weekends. When she raised with this her employer, they told her to just ‘get a babysitter’.
  • Asking her to check on the status of a matter, without specifying a requirement to use a particular method for getting the update—then getting angry that she called to get the update rather than visiting the place personally.

Sandy is devastated. She worked hard to get back into the workforce after her ex left her bankrupt. She worked long hours to get herself finally stable, and recently reached a stage where she could work in her desired field. She was so excited when she started this job, but now her employers are picking away at the self-esteem she’s worked very hard to regain after her split. Sandy contacted me last night, devastated by the latest work debacle. ‘I can’t sleep, I feel sick—I just can’t face going in there tomorrow.’ I’ve been expecting this moment, because in my experience, there are a few stages bullying victims go through. There’s the denial stage (‘it’s not as bad as I think’), the ‘I can handle it’ stage, which often involves hiding the abuse from others because the bully has been very good at making the victim feel ashamed or responsible for the abuse somehow. Then there’s the ‘bunny in the headlights’ stage when the victim realises how bad the abuse is, but feels helpless to do anything about it. Finally there’s an incident which pushes the victim to make a change or take action, and it can be something like Sandy was experiencing. Her body was telling her no, and she physically could not go on. During the weeks leading up to this, she’d been fighting the reality of the situation because she wasn’t willing to give up on her dream. ‘I’m no quitter,’ she’d say. In situations like this though, that laudable work ethic can be a double-edged sword, because it can see you put up with behavior that is totally unacceptable. Now, many people stay in such situations because they don’t have a financial choice. But Sandy was lucky enough to still be in contact with her old manager, who has been telling her for weeks ‘if it doesn’t work out, we’ll take you back in a heartbeat.’ ‘But it will be taking a step back,’ Sandy said to me. In this situation though, Sandy’s mental and physical health was being badly affected. Thank goodness Sandy has an out, and she’s only been experiencing this for a few months. Some people experience this behavior for years, and I’ve helped a number of them. The impact of dealing with such behavior for an extended period left them permanently affected by their experience, and some had to leave the workforce as a result. So please, if you are in a similar situation to Sandy, don’t wait years to get help! One of the most important things to do is to talk to someone early on. Talk to HR, your union, or a trusted colleague- keep notes, too. But don’t try and handle it all alone. You need support! I know Sandy will make it in her chosen career. But now she’s going to do it safely, and ensure she’s healthy for herself and her son. And I know that somewhere out there is an employer waiting for a gem like her to come work for them. Just like they are for you if you are in a similar situation. If Sandy’s story resonates, please book in for a free 20 minute Skype call with me. I’d love to show you how I might help you. Darcy xo PS- If you’d like posts like these sent straight to your inbox, you can sign up here:

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