Have you ever heard of ‘workplace bullying’? Did you scoff when you heard the term? I’ll raise my hand and admit quite candidly that I did. Sucked my teeth, in fact. As far as I was concerned, there was no such thing as workplace bullying: only cowering, sniveling grown-ups who didn’t know how to get along with their co-workers and handle a bit of ribbing.
And then, as God in all His humor often subjects me to when I’m too quick to pass judgment, he plucked me out of my security and put in the place of those I was judging. That’s right folks, you heard it right. I have become the victim of workplace bullying.
I had to research the term to make sure my feelings of discomfort and disquiet were valid. Workplace bullying is defined by the department of labor as:
A persistent pattern of mistreatment from others in the workplace that causes harm. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation. This type of aggression is particularly difficult because, unlike the typical forms of school bullying, workplace bullies often operate within the established rules and policies of their organization and their society. Bullying in the workplace is in the majority of cases reported as having been perpetrated by someone in authority over the target. However, bullies can also be peers, and on occasion can be subordinates. Bullying can be covert or overt. It may be missed by superiors or known by many throughout the organization. Negative effects are not limited to the targeted individuals, and may lead to a decline in employee morale and a change in company culture.
Examples of bullying are:
- Unwarranted or invalid criticism
- Blame without factual justification
- Being treated differently than the rest of your work group
- Being sworn at
- Exclusion or social isolation
- Being shouted at or being humiliated
- Excessive monitoring or micro-managing
- Being given unrealistic deadlines for projects
Last week, I found myself subjected to numbers 1-6. Can you imagine? Me?!?! A whole me! I was shocked. I was ‘bullied’ before on my cleaning job by Big Lou (you might recall the Real Housekeepers of Atlanta series I wrote last year), but I just chalked that up to her being a crazy old lady who truly needed to get a life. Fortunately, I did not see my days ending with a mop and broom in my hands, and I was well on my way to voluntarily ending my days as a toilet scrubber in the Atlanta metropolis.
I suppose I should give you a bit of a background to catch you all up on how I got here. As all of my friends (and I guess all the regulars on this blog know), I exited the workforce in 2009 at the height of the Great Recession. I didn’t like my job and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to raise our kids, who my husband and I only really saw between 6-8 pm and on weekends. I took a few short term contracts whenever I got an itch for a “real paycheck”, but never anything long term.
This Christmas when I contracted meningitis and racked up a $43,000 medical bill, I decided that perhaps it would be a good opportunity to go back to work. After all, the kids were grown and essentially ‘independent’. It was the perfect motivation to head back to work and begin working on knocking down our debt.
So here I am at HP* (not to be confused with Hewlett-Packard), a boutique recruiting firm that I worked at once before. They brought me back as a team lead, which was thrilling and frightening, particularly since I’d been out of the traditional workforce for so long. However, my employer Wesley*, a really standup guy whom I’m sure suffers from adult ADHD had utter faith in my capabilities and so I set out to prove him right.
I was given a key to the building and our office suite, informed to lock up at 6 pm when the office closed, and told to go off and be a team lead. No training, no instructions…just a mandate to “go do”.
There were 5 other team leads at the company when I arrived. A sixth and seventh were added a few weeks after I arrived. One of those women promoted is Yvette. It is she and Chanell who are my tormentors.
Chanell thinks she runs the world. The reasons for her intense belief in her self-anointed mandate to govern all who come into her path are unclear. She was pleasant enough when I began. I generally keep my co-workers on a hi-and-bye basis until I can get a better sense on where they stand on important issues. Needless to say, we aren’t even running on a cordial basis ever since the incident – which then morphed into a string of incidents – let alone trying to develop an office relationship built on mutual respect.
There is a third player in this, whom all the angst seems centered around. His name is Jean Baptiste*, and has been with HP for a little over 2 years.
Has that whet your appetite? Great! Give me a day so I can finish the rest of the story.
-To be continued! –