What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

Bullied By Stealth

by Vanessa
(Melbourne, Vic, Australia)

I worked as a bookkeeper in a Legal and Conveyancing Office in my hometown for 14 years. Unfortunately, although I knew something was obviously wrong, I stayed there for far too long. I couldn’t comprehend that people could treat each other in such a mean, nasty and devious manner. This abhorrent conduct towards me crept up stealthily probably in the first couple of years of my employment. This treatment made me feel like a loser.

There were two main bullies in the office – One being the Boss and the other was a staff member. I would describe the male boss as a narcissist. The female staff bully would collude with the boss to make my working life unpleasant, obviously with the intention to eradicate me. I now know once they choose you as their target, they will continue their mistreatment until they rid you from the office. The staff bully would be pleasant to my face, but as soon as my back was turned she would say underhanded things about me. I should have wised up earlier as she often ‘bitched’ about other co-workers in the office. It was obvious somebody was running to the boss, when I was out of earshot, as the boss would approach me maliciously for things that I had thought I had innocently expressed in private.

The bullying/mobbing I experienced was very subtle and probably not all that obvious to the outsider. This insidious behavior crept up on me slowly over time. By the time I realized something was terribly wrong, it was too late and my days/months/years (depending on how long I would put up with it) were numbered.

The rest of the staff, which was about 10 or so, soon followed the bullies’ lead, which I now know as ‘mobbing’. I was the target and there would be nothing I could do to change that. Even the staff members, who I thought I got along with, seemed to change in their attitude towards me. I could sense that something had shifted and they seemed disinterested in anything I had to say. So eventually I had nobody to turn to and therefore felt very isolated. It seemed as though there was some malicious rumor going around about me and that I was not worth knowing. As far as I was aware I had done nothing wrong. I could not understand why they would choose me to victimize.

This is a sample of some of the things I experienced at work:

• When entering the office in the morning everybody received a warm “good morning (name)”, from the boss. All I received was a cold unsmiling “hello” if I could not be avoided, or no hello or good morning at all. I gave up saying ‘good morning’ over time, after receiving no response.

• The only time the boss used my name was when he yelled out to me from his office when he wanted me for something. I was then to attend his office to find out what he wanted.

• The boss did not direct or instigate any conversation with me, but spoke to the other staff members, in a friendly manner, whilst I was in the room.

• Exclusion – I was not invited to some events by co-workers, at their home or charity events in the office. I felt very sad and very isolated.

• Not invited to the new bank premises, even though I attended there nearly every day. A couple of the Solicitors were invited instead, even though they had very little to do with the bank.

• I would be Invited to a work lunch by the boss, but then ignored.

• Excessive workload – kept piling the work up even though it was impossible to complete the tasks given. I wrote a long letter pleading my case, but it did not make any difference.

• Another employee was employed to assist with my job without my knowledge. I thought that this was unfair, so I mentioned it to some of the staff (including the bully). The boss later came and yelled at me and said “It is my business I can do what I want”. I was then asked to show the new employee what I did, even though I didn’t have time. I had an uneasy feeling that by teaching her what I knew that I was doing myself out of a job. I was right to feel that way. She was told by the boss what a great job she was doing – I was never told that.

• The staff chatted and talked loudly to each other, or on the phone, most of the day, which I found problematic because I couldn’t concentrate on my enormous workload. The boss did erect some boards to absorb the noise, on one wall, but of course, they made no difference. There was not much conversation directed at me and when I spoke the staff were all of a sudden too busy to listen and a lot of the time turned their backs.

• I purchased an ipod, at my own expense, so I could block out the noise. The boss then told me if we had a fire or an emergency I would not hear it, so he seemed to begrudge me using it.

• Eventually the boss allowed me to listen to my ipod, but did not appear happy about it. It seemed he didn’t like it because it was a solution and not his idea. I didn’t really think it was an acceptable solution, but I felt like I had no other choice. I was also told there was no other location in the office that I could work in. I therefore was forced to stay where I was in an extremely noisy atmosphere.

• The staff would not provide me with their work hours, which made it difficult to do their weekly pay. Doing the pays was another task that was thrust upon me, when I couldn’t cope with the massive workload I already had.
I then had to spend time going to the staff individually to get their hours, which was time consuming. I was told by the boss to give them normal pay unless they advised me otherwise.
The boss was not forthcoming in providing me with the information to do the pays effectively. He appeared agitated when I asked for help on how to complete some of the tasks and did not spend the time to instruct me properly.

• I wasn’t included in some of the teachings of a new computer program. Only invited to attend some of the lessons even though I was expected to do the work, but had little understanding of how it was supposed to operate as was not asked to attend or included in all the lessons.

• One of the bookkeeping programs was set up on the computer downstairs so I could work down there without any interruptions. When completed I was told by the boss that it took me too long, even though I was very pleased with my accomplishment in the short time allocated.

• The boss often accused me of things and blamed me for things that were not my fault. He was highly, unnecessarily critical of me.

• The boss did not stick up for me when difficult clients were verbally abusing me on the phone. Tended to let me take the rap and implied that it was my fault.

• I needed his signature, especially for the trust account, on numerous occasions so I could complete my tasks. I would put the paperwork in his tray for the signatures. He would sometimes return them late causing great angst and further complications for myself.

• I was expected to attend the bank to obtain bank cheques for the Conveyancing staff, which resulted in me falling behind in my other tasks.

• Many clients would deposit funds directly into the bosses trust (bank) account and some of these were to be invested. It was very confusing and time-consuming when there was no reference. The boss did not insist on references, making my work more difficult. Being Trust monies I did not want to allocate it incorrectly. It appeared that the boss was deliberately making my job more difficult than it needed to be.

• Was not included in a performance review. I did receive a pay rise, but it seemed like I was deliberately avoided in any conversation, assessment or appraisal. The pay rise was never mentioned to me. It just appeared in my weekly pay as the boss made the computer adjustment. It appeared from what the other staff said (not directly to me) that they had had the opportunity for a formal appraisal.

• Informed on a few occasions that the boss had been saying negative things about me behind my back.
On my last day at work an incident was intentionally directed at me, by the boss, in front of co-workers, which was extremely humiliating – I was seated at my desk and the boss was standing over me, shaking his finger and berating me in a raised voice, which I found to be belittling, intimidating, demeaning, degrading and it was done in an accusatory and offensive manner – all for something that was not my fault.
It was obvious that this was his way of forcing me out. I left the office and was extremely shaken and upset by this treatment. Not one staff member stood up for me or followed up on my wellbeing. I had worked there for 14 years. It is now nearly a year ago.

Initially I was relieved but I found I could not sleep, felt anxious, would startle easily, got headaches, heart palpitations and I did not want to be alone. It felt like some sort of grieving process.

To this day I do not understand why I was the target of such hostile and unfriendly behavior. I find that this undermining conduct erodes your self-esteem I have a fear that it may happen again if I can gain the courage and are lucky enough to land another job, especially with no reference.

My biggest regret is that I didn’t leave sooner. I am now 52 and unemployed.

Thank you for this opportunity to express some of what happened to me. I find it therapeutic and strangely enough, a comfort to know I am not alone and that this insidious treatment does happen to many others. I wish them well.

Comments for Bullied By Stealth

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good news

Dear Bullied by Stealth:

You were a bookkeeper; that's great! It's an occupation service always needed. (by government service, private industry of all sizes, and non profit groups. Have you considered; at age 52, going back to the classroom to update that skill with numbers to become a CPA (Accountant) or if not a CPA. Certified Public Accountant; a general accountant. (I think there are those two distinctions) If you became a CPA; you could conceivable work for yourself helping others with finches.

If you remained a bookkeeper; look for employ where that need is SO MUCH in demand: Bank teller, BookKeeper in a bank, keeping the books for a non profit organization (while going for a degree as CPA)

If Australia's laws are like American; and you are female and over 50; know that 'the law' says a business cannot simply terminate a person's employ without good reason. NOT that you or many over 50 would fight if employment were PROFESSIONALLY ended and they could go on 'with reference' (business has reasons they don't want to continue with an employee or employees;..but business in general FEARS the worst for themselves and so, I believe, they try to FORCE SOMEONE to leave on their own; or rile them emotionally that the person' says something wrong; and thus CAN BE DISMISSED. Any word; can be cause … in a WACKO love of money world.

So…HERE'S HOW TO HANDLE THIS…and this is my latest BIG insight… Rather than be disappointed in the actions of those others TO you; SEE the actions of THE ONE who lives IN YOU and how YOU were able to manage 'them' …as you ought.

Patience, Self Control, Kindness, doing the GOOD even if they know not what GOOD is, continual forgiveness; such that you offered up your hurts in union with THE ONE who takes all our hurts… and asking for them TO RECEIVE the GRACE to amend their lives. If you could do any or all of the above; Congratulations; you showed YOUR FAITH in THE LIFE within.

Now; don't lose TRUST or FAITH in that GOOD LIFE; Glorify that GOOD LIFE by (pray over it) get another job, if married and you have spouse and family; take time off and enjoy family life, as spouse supports, as you enjoy life; you are permitted to smile wide at the thought of 'them' still hunched over their desks (getting verbally abused by another; and yes…unless your boss was THE BOSS; he works for another)

I know it is difficult to understand why some are as they are; when you were taught what is good. You and I, we were blessed to know such good, and unfortunately; many had not such upbringing. Tis really sad for them. So…now thinking this way…who is really the 'sad case' / not YOU.

GOD took care of you in that employ and GOD will always take care of you…unless you LEAVE HIM. Don't leave Him for 'the ways of a relative few' with the real problem.

Take a long vacation out of the area; rest your mind, and then come back TO GO AT IT AGAIN. (you have many more years to give)

Prayers and thoughts are with you
by: Cathy Scannell

I just read your post and can so relate. I too worked in an office where I was responsible for payroll and had the unfortunate experience of someone else being trained in, supposedly in case I was off on sick leave, to do my job! When the system was upgraded I was ousted out and the other lady took my position! I agree with the previous poster, the people who conduct themselves in this manner deserve our sympathy and forgiveness, they are very sad individuals. I believe they see something in their victim, some beautiful characteristic or even physical attribute and because they are not so blessed themselves, their only course of action is to undermine you.
If you cannot find it in your heart to forgive them at the moment, say a little prayer for them, that God may forgive them for abusing a fellow human being in this way.
Meanwhile try to move on with your own life, be good and kind to yourself. Try to get in a little exercise every day. Watch your diet and consumption of alcohol and if you smoke try to cut down. If you do not feel well enough yo re-enter the work force you could try volunteering for a charity, if you are not under too much pressure financially. It will get you out of the house and help you to mix with people and slowly you will build up your confidence. I am happy to say that I too am 52, have a part-time job and am happier than I have been in a long while but only because I took charge of my own happiness and followed an exercise and nutrition plan as well as everything else I've put here. I will pray that you recover your life. Take good care of yourself

Bullied by Slealth
by: Anonymous

Thank you Lizzy for your kind words.

I really appreciate your thoughtful response.

I did make an attempt with a government agency here for an 'unfair dismissal' claim whereby there was a three-way telephone conference call - myself and my solicitor, govt agency and my ex-boss. I had to listen and not interrupt while my boss slandered me further. It was two months since I had left work and I was so rattled. Unfortunately it was unsuccessful and the next step was a tribunal. The agency said that usually they are successful at this stage, but they obviously had not dealt with the likes of my boss very often. He's a win at all costs kind of guy. He doesn't care who he tramples in the process. As I had a great fear of facing him again and he said that the rest of the staff would back him up, I thought I would not take it further and concentrate on getting better myself. Who knows how long the tribunal would take to be heard and what if the outcome was not to my liking. So I thought it best to let go and begin my healing process.

Unfortunately my boss, is the boss of the small company and he is also a solicitor.

I have been thinking that I might get away from bookkeeping altogether and might try doing something else completely different. Being a bookkeeper is rather an isolating job, I fear that the bullying could easily happen again.

I now go to the gym and I think I might take you up on your wonderful idea of going on a holiday.

Thanks, once again.
Nice to know that there are nice, caring, thoughtful people out there.


Dear Down Under (meaning from Australia) …you can be down under geographically but don't let anyone keep you down. Yes; take some time off. By the way, how long were you with this employer? If it is considerable years; that does play in your favor when looking for another job.

As to changing occupations, that is up to you; however, remember, it wasn't the occupation that was the problem, it was the business. So…if you went into such field because you REALLY like number crunching and are quality (two attributes in bookkeeping) My goodness there isn't a business around that doesn't need a bookkeeper. (where ever one lives)

Maybe you are onto something about not being isolated. For that, you might consider being not just bookkeeper but Front Desk reception (take phone calls, keep the books of a SMALL place, being front and center and around others; you are isolated but not isolated. No one tries anything where witnesses are abundant. (play it shrewd…meaning be wise as to the broken way of humanity in general, but be innocent like a dove; i.e.: INNOCENT: neither 'too trusting' of mankind but NOT to be a deceiver or to 'act like' that which you know is 'sad'. Be INNOCENT of doing anything 'suspect' of harm. WISE IN THE WAYS OF GOOD.

And; while your boss was intimidating you as to how he has so many to back him up should you take your case before a tribunal…YOU ARE CORRECT to WALK AWAY and let him believe he 'won.' You know he hasn't won and sooner or later "what goes around comes around" (The man NEEDS to see the LIGHT and receive the grace of God to his mind; So…be bigger than he, and offer up in union with the the sufferings of THE ONE so that…GOD WINS BOTH OF YOU; to be ONE IN SPIRIT someday…LONG WAY off but SOME DAY…in THE KINGDOM.

Remember THE MISSION we are here for…to assist in that reconciling process 'man and God' / yes we are.

It's just a job and if you are good (you sound it) another WILL COME…even BETTER.

Thank you Cathy
by: Vanessa

Thank you Cathy for your encouraging words and thank you for taking the time to respond.

You sound like you have moved on from your experience and are much happier for it.

I shall endeavor to follow your advice and hopefully will end up in a much happier place and far from those that I worked with that caused harm.

As I live in the same area where I worked, I still drive past the office and have an uneasy feeling. Sometimes I deliberately drive another way so I don't have to pass there. I also do not venture to the local shops, in case I bump into one of my ex-co-workers, or others in the town that have been influenced against me. Nearly 12 months on and I still live like this. Hopefully, eventually I shall move on from this mindset and not let it worry me.

Thank you again for your kind advice.

Bullied by Slealth
by: Anonymous

Thank you Cathy for your helpful advice. I will follow your advice and move forward, as you have, and be much happier for it. I am finding over time it is getting easier to deal with. I guess the issues on their own seem trivial, but when you are fronted with this uncaring behavior day after day it wears you down.

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