What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

Baby Business Boss from Hell

by Smiling Fighter
(Sydney)

I was running a number of country units for a baby business (YEP!) in Europe. Joining this "lifestyle" company my then boss already proved to be extremely disorganized, divide and conquerish, plus sexually harassing and demoting staff on a regular basis. I witnessed this from day one as he called me into his office and made it clear that I should exclude such-and-such from my attention but should get as much information from her as possible as he would fire her in due course. Needless to say I was shocked! I was speechless that very moment as it was day 1 but reality-checked with a colleague who had joined this meeting. She confirmed his divide and conquer strategies and warned me that this was his way to control information amongst people as it was a small company and him being the owner he wanted to stay "on top" (irony of the word...). I then (1) challenged him verbally in a non-confrontational way by asking questions, hoping to lead him to a more sensible behavior. (2) I put it down in writing in my weekly report that I would object to such behavior. (3) Informed HR (4) I informed his target person and ensured her I would stay on neutral grounds for now but would support her if need be. But that was only the start. It grew a lot worse!

Being a startup run and owned by this guy and his unethical methods the business was very dysfunctional. As on the surface it´s a well-known international lifestyle brand everyone patted everyone´s back but underneath it was cutthroat. I became the boss of a team that already had a (ring)leader who then bullied me with her group as she had expected a promotion and had likewise been bullied by the owner. I felt compassion for her and the team and did my best to listen to them, support them, but likewise provide managerial structure and fair measuring standards so they could quantify their successes towards HQ. But my predecessor was probably also a borderliner (which I hadn´t come across before). So despite my efforts of making it a better place to work at it all backfired with the silent treatment, exclusion, falsified or withheld information, collusion with customers and HQ colleagues etc.

BTW for the owner, one "efficient" means of controlling people was to sound out customers and play them off against employees in a ruthless staged way, completely wearing you out as he would set you up NEVER to win, they WANTED to exhaust you (needless to say that the same denunciation culture perfectly worked inside the company as well). So the team wouldn´t support me. But also HQ wouldn´t. And neither would my boss (surprise!) on whatever project or daily work I had to tackle. Imagine this with goals that were three times as high as your predecessor´s and that you were fixed on those early when joining and having insufficient information (I pointed out they were impossibly high but whatever!). Plus no training AT ALL: everything I learned in this company from day 1, IT, industry workings or internal processes I taught myself by putting in extra hours. For more than a year (!!!) I worked double shifts (thousands of hours...). But even better: I also found out that the sexually harassed girl wouldn´t help, because (surprise!) she was actually PART of the game...

When after a year a new boss arrived I was thrilled. He was sympathetic, gave me hope, relieved me from this excessive revenue budget. For exactly 2 weeks. Then, unnoticed by naive me, he sounded me out, did the love-bombing thing (which I confronted very early but soon turned into heavy sexual harassment), had my team undermined and set up against me, constantly gave contradictory assignments, used different information for me and others, piled up work on my shoulders (fewer staff, more work, tighter deadlines, confusing or withheld information), exhausted and demoted me to the extreme etc. By the time I realised that he was the "evil enemy" though, my team and senior management were already on his side and game over. I was so exhausted that I could only FUNCTION, barely think. I was an independent successful person and he simply couldn´t stand it. I was also easy prey as I had been so easily been fixed to these excessive revenue goals which I had proved being unrealistic right from the start. So in the end they called it underperformance. Good for me though that I had mirrored and thus copies of every single file and email I had ever written in this company so I could press charges.

Interesting to point out, that already briefly afterwards staff were being sent to "courses", were completely terrified by a surveillance and denunciation culture that became more and more established with email, internet and phone usage being monitored. This felt like big brother more than once... The Wikipedia information on "mind control" might help you in addition to bullying resources to understand this... :o)

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