You never see them coming, the workplace bullies. You never think it will happen to you in a million years but it can and if it does, it's not the end of the world...
Most of you guys will know me as a happy go lucky character. I'm the kind of person who finds the positives in the most difficult of situations; the kind of person who smiles for the fun of it and because well... Why wouldn't I smile? I wear bright colours and do silly things because life is for living and when I can I will live it as much as I can. I will fidget when I should be still and I will search for fun at all times to escape boredom at all costs.
Thats the way you know me and that's the way I always was, apart from a three year period about five years ago. It was genuinely the most depressing time of my life; I spent every waking minute worried about who I was. I worried about what I was doing with my life and I worried about if I was ANY value to anyone and anything and this all stemmed from my job at the time.
I was supervisor in a global shoe store, one of those places that are instantly recognisable on the high street. I was proud to tell people where I worked because I was sold a dream; I was going to work my way up the company and into the corporate levels; I was trained into the companies systems, I was assimilated into its values and I would never have dreamt of leaving in my first six months or indeed at all. The pay was competitive and I was a brilliant salesperson, frequently near the top of the global charts. The world was my oyster right...
Not for long... Soon I was given a promotion of sorts; I would move to a new location open in the city centre where I would have more exposure to the high street, to customers and to the company hierarchy. Things were going well for me at the time until I started working for a new manager... There I was in the peak of my 'power' in the company, I was training new staff members into their roles, I opened and closed the store and came in early to take deliveries before the crack of dawn. These activities meant I moved my whole life into the city that I would come to love for a job I loved, until I started to get beat down mentally.
It started slowly at first, I actually thought that I was in the wrong. I started thinking I was having memory problems, some sort of work related Alzheimer's. I was actually worried. It was little things like 'forgetting' to do things and having to be constantly reminded that I had 'forgotten' this and 'forgotten' that. I started writing down on my palms things I was tasked to do and that was when I realised I was being toyed with. I wasn't 'forgetting' anything. I was being told I had forgotten to do things that I wasn't being told to do. This was strange in itself but in my naïveté I somehow didn't read too much into it.
Things got worse; there was a snide remark here and a snide remark there, "what are you doing?", "you're not good enough for this job", "why did you ever get promoted?" And the one that would stay with me well after the working day was done, "you're useless"... And then she would walk away like it was the most normal thing in the world to belittle me. I worked harder obviously. I worked harder than I ever did and I worked very hard already. However instead of working hard because I loved my job, I worked harder because I didn't want to be on the receiving end of a "children could do this job better than you".
Things got worse. The snide remarks started to happen in front of my co workers, people I was meant to be supervising. They would look at me and I have no idea what went on behind their eyes. Did they think she was right? Did they feel sorry for me? Both of those things were things I didn't want and it hurt. My job became a chore over that year in that store and you know what? It got worse again; this manager (and I don't know if she can call herself a manager of people) would get people to say things to me. She had people gang up on me.
I felt like shit.
I felt like the weak shit you don't bother scraping off your shoe, you just wipe on a grassy patch. While it may not sound like much to you, the effects of being the victim of workplace bullying are extremely harmful. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep and to be honest I felt like I wasn't capable of doing anything right. What was my response? One day, I went into a normal day at work and I looked around. I felt horrible and just walked up and gave over my keys and my badge, packed my stuff up and left. I left to no job and no certainties. I just left.
Some people may say I lost and maybe they're right. Some people will say I should have done or said something and maybe they are right but the only reason I am writing this is because nothing has changed. The same manager is still there and she has blazed a trail through scores of people in the last five years. She has abused and bullied them mentally and recently it has gotten worse and escalated from verbal abuse to physical. She has been reported and nothing has happened. So here I am writing away, being reminded of the darkest year of my life and what do I have to show for it? I learned a lot about myself; I learned to talk to the people closest to me, I learned that I can walk away from negativity. I learned that I can still smile. I learned that when a door closes, open it because that's how doors work.
I walked away from my bully, just like I would have on the school playground and I'm in a much better place; I have been able to be at my most creative, I have almost completed a degree and I have a job with a large financial firm where the culture is perfectly conducive for personal and professional growth.
I am writing this on the off chance that if you're reading this and are in a situation similar to mine, there are options for you. You are not useless, you are not pathetic, you are pretty awesome in your own way. Talk to someone you trust, just talk and you will get through it. The bully shouldn't win and doesn't win.
I am Timi