What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

Colleagues Telling Lies About Me To Line Manager - Performance Now Being Scrutinised

by Gayle

I work as a Secretary for a City Council in Scotland. There are 4 secretaries that share an office, 2 of which were there for 2 years before me and another colleague started. The one that sits to my left, (the bully's name removed), started niggling me, ie asking what I'm doing, who was I on the phone to, even though we are the same grade seemed to be monitoring me. I am 37 years old and a very experienced secretary and this woman is 50, so we aren't exactly young girls. This niggling soon became shouting at me, belittling me, undermining me by speaking over me when I was speaking to someone, interrupting me on the phone etc etc. She accused me of having a dirty house, made snide comments about me being single and childless by saying "at least Leanne is young enough to change her mind", saying I should have a breast reduction because I look obscene, although we all wear the same corporate uniform. My colleague, the one who started at the same time as me, told me she had spoken to her when I was on holiday and told her that the way she speaks to me makes her squirm, by telling her she's nosey and cheeky. After a particularly nasty incident I told her that if she ever spoke to me like that again, I would take a Grievance out against her.

I was off sick as my mum had an accident and I had to take care of her when she came out of hospital in January. I was only off a week, but was finding it very stressful as I had to live with Mum while she recuperated at home. My mum broke her hip and couldn't walk unaided, so I very much did everything.

We were working together one day, just the 2 of us, and I was speaking to a colleague in another office. (the bully) complained about me being away from my desk and proceeded to shout at me about where had I been. She then went and made a complaint to our Line Manager who was new in position and had never managed anyone before.

The Line Manager then asked my other 2 colleagues to go and speak to her, and then she went to other offices to ask if anyone had any issues with me. She then went and spoke to my boss who was new to ask how they got on with me. My Line Manager then asked me to her office and told me about all these complaints which ranged from taking longer than my allocated time at lunch, being rude to people on the phone, throwing my arms in the air as if I couldn't cope with work.

This has gone on since February 2009 and my Line Manager is still monitoring me. She has now come up with a Workplan and is questioning my Capability. My Line Manager says it is informal and should finish by 31 December 2009, the anniversary of my Dad's death, which I reminded her about and she laughed and said "Go go out and get drunk afterwards." Nothing has been mentioned about it since. She told me last week it had been dismissed but more was to come.

I spoke to the person who they allege I had been rude to (she's a Police Detective Sergeant) and she doesn't know what they are talking about and is very angry about being involved. I told my Line Manager that I was throwing my arms in the air imitating Miss Piggy in the Muppets, it was just a joke, and that I took longer at lunchtime as I had been asked to arrange an impromptu meeting making me have to re-heat my lunch. I said to my Line Manager that these accusations are false and I feel that I can't win and she smirked "Yes that's right, you can't win".

I have been advised by a friend who works in HR to keep a diary on my colleagues and I've got dates and times of when they have left the office for 2 hours when they are supposed to have 1/2 an hour; one colleague regularly taking 5 or 6 calls on her mobile phone and texts but nothing is said. My colleague (the bully) said if I used my mobile phone that much she would complain about me.

I've caught my colleagues talking about me in the kitchen, giggling about me on the phone, stopped talking 3 times in one day when I walked into the office. They go on nights out and don't invite me, they discuss family and tv and if I try and join in they stop talking.

I went to see my GP and told him that recently I was waking up during the night and it felt like I was waking suddenly and unable to breathe and I start to cough, as if I'm gulping for air. It can feel frightening at times and can happen as much as three times a week. He said these are Anxiety Attacks and that I have to be careful as it can lead to Depression. He said that I should ignore my colleagues and leave them to their own devices and also should try and get away from the office at lunchtime and also to exercise as it promotes a feeling of wellbeing. He also said that GP's are seeing more of the same thing every week.

I am 37 years old and live alone in my own house with a mortgage, I can't afford to resign, especially in this current climate. I have 14 years service and don't want to lose out.

Can anyone advise me? Sorry it's long winded, but I am stressed and it is affecting all other areas of my life.

Comments for Colleagues Telling Lies About Me To Line Manager - Performance Now Being Scrutinised

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Classic Workplace Bullying
by: Anton

Hi Gayle,

What you are going through has many of the hallmarks of classic workplace bullying. Nitpicking, rude and insulting comments, exclusion and stopping conversations when you walk into the room.

It's also telling that the managers involved are incompetent and don't know what to do other than support the bully and get everyone else to come up with petty complaints to throw in your face.

I was, however, pleased to hear you have a friend in HR who advised you to document the bullying. That's good advise. With her support, the support of the police detective sergeant and coworkers you may yet be able to turn the tables on the bully.

You may want to have a look at the ebook "What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs To Know".

Another thing you mentioned has me concerned. You said you went to see your GP because "it felt like I was waking suddenly and unable to breathe and I start to cough, as if I'm gulping for air."

That sounds like it might be more than anxiety attacks and could be sleep apnea which can be a very serious condition. You can find more info about sleep apnea at SleepAidGuide.com here.

so sorry to hear
by: cathy

Hi Gayle, so sorry to hear your story. Do everything you can to boost your own self-esteem, go on courses for assertiveness and try to exercise regularly and get out with your friends. you are probably a threat to these people because you are good at your job, possibly very attractive and have a good personality. Only one person is behind the attacks, the rest are just following suit because she has a strong personality and they are possibly afraid that they will be her next target if they don't side with her. Also, you could look into the possibility of seeking a transfer out of that office to another department. As a person who suffered bullying and harrassment for years, I know only too well the debilitating effects on your health and your self esteem and if I had my time over again I would have run a thousand miles away from it. I will say a special prayer for you tonight xxxcathy

I sympathize with your situation
by: Chris

Gayle, I can really relate to you because I've been in a similar situation. You feel trapped. I found that being nice to bullies or ignoring them gets you nowhere. You need to make it not worth their while to approach you like that. It's difficult, but you need to stand up to them and cut them short in order to get them to stop. Documenting is also a good idea; but it won't really stop the bullying. Bullies are deranged people who love to make others suffer and be miserable. One person was doing this to me a while ago at a long-term job I had. I finally would gear up when she was approaching and stop her short before she had a chance to say anything. I'd say, "If you're going to speak to me, it better be respectfully, or don't bother!" This surprised her and stopped her. You need to look her in the eye, speak with a firm, low voice and not be afraid to wreck havoc on that perpetrator. Make yourself sound scarier than her. I also went to her and confronted her to her face when she least expected it. This stopped it for a while too. She was my same rank too but also older than me. We were both secretaries. My boss finally stepped in; and there were meetings which included other people. I put up with two years of this timewasting and finally took a buyout. I got married and my husband provided medical insurance for my son and me. I had been at that workplace for 10 yrs.; and it was a very good paying job. Life is too short. I changed my life for the better. It wasn't easy, but now I have peace. I also started my own cleaning business recently and am going back to college to get a 2-yr. degree in Business Management. Assertiveness helps a lot. You may also want to document her attacks using your cell phone to record both the audio and video occurences as proof. Good luck to you.

Be Clever
by: Anonymous


I have just come out of a similar situation to you and have just lodged proceedings against my former employer and 23 former colleagues.

No longer working at my former employer, all I can say is that it was the working environment that made me ill and that that is probably the case with you too - it's not your fault, it's theirs.

What you will probably find happening is that those who are bullying you are each jealous of you in some way and trying to drag you down to their levels - cowards hide in packs, lions stand alone. Trust no-one and place your confidence only in yourself when at work.

Keep a diary, forward suspicious e-mails to your private e-mail account then delete what you have sent from work from your work-based e-mail account so your employer does not find out, ask to see your personnel file and if there is anything in it that you are not happy with make a Data Protection Act request for a copy of it (use section 35 if necessary). Record and document everything take copies of everything you can get your hands on and do not worry about confidentiality clauses - get as much evidence as you can. Get a voice recorder and use it as often as you can - record everything. When your employer does something wrong and creates documents in relation to it(disciplinary on the basis of malicious gossip and rumour), walk out of your place of work, go home and draft a resignation letter then resign without notice and sue them without delay.

Your health is more important than a mortgage - try and find another job if you can and make it a priority - you are not in a healthy environment and the situation is too entrenched for it to get any better - if you do nothing, it will get worse if you raise complaints, it will get worse.

Be clever - catch them out without them knowing it and think of ways to get evidence without them knowing it. If they get you in trouble through lies, they will have no documentary evidence to prove their allegations and a court will see this - your employer will be liable for negligence and breach of trust and confidence for not stopping defamation if you can prove a malicious lie that your employer either supported or knew about and did not prevent.

Do not raise grievances - it will make things worse and you do not have to raise grievances to be able to bring any tribunal claim (this is law irrespective of what your contract of employment states).

Stay calm, keep in control, keep gathering evidence and then, when the time is right and the employer has breached the trust and confidence in the employment relationship, terminate the contract without delay and sue everyone you can. Watch them scramble around like cornered rats, force them to disclose evidence to you through repeated section 35 Data Protection Act requests and (if sex or race discrimination forms part of your claim) Questionnaires. Then make them destroy themselves in court.


by: Justice

Take her down a dark alley and beat the sh*t out of her...

by: Anonymous

the diary thing is very good as it gives a record of the events. have you tried to join/or a member of a union? l have recently found speaking to them very helpful. l have recently experienced this with a collegue who acted in this way but she left and it is sort of better now

good luck hope it all works out

by: Pat

Hi I do hope this has been resolved by now. I think this other woman is jealous of you and by being spiteful is her only way of dealing with it. The diary is a very good idea and you may want to put in writing to your line manager and HR that you are keeping a record of what has happened and that if it still persists you will be taking up a grievous complaint. Maybe then they will sit up and listen to you.

colleagues lies and bullying
by: Anne

I have same problem going on at the moment. I wonder what it is about me that attracts such behaviour since I suffered several such-like treatments from early school, and I am now 58 and the bully is 60+ and our workplace is facing closure.
It's crazy. I do not know what it is about or where it stems from but I suspect it is based on lies by a sneaky colleague who always gets in with the boss by carrying stories.
How do ppl who are so easily manipulated by others get into places of responsibility? How can they not see that they are putty in the hands of back-stabbers? It is beyond me.
When the former Line manager was there it was pointless going to him as he was so pally with some staff.
New Line manager is a woman and the unscrupulous honed in and made their mark. We expected her to be wiser than that by the way she presented. You never cease to be amazed.
Anyway, one or other of the seniors found someone to degrade from time to time. It is my turn, again. Even yesterday, K, made a snide remark in a full staffroom but I did not sit silent. I bounced back with 'are you making snide remarks concerning me?' she said No. I said 'Yes you are and you had better stop it'. so she did because all other staff were there, staff who know what she is doing to me and have been on the receiving end. But I will approach her about this tomorrow, I have permission from colleague to use her name concerning something K said about me to her.
Don't really want to go down the Grievance road but it would be enough for me to confront her and make her justify her actions, or attempt to. We always had a good working relationship so I can only conclude that the sneaky person is at the root of it as K seems to always be referring to him.
It is not always easy to stand up to them, I know that, but the older you get the less you fear. I can quite happily enjoy working alone, colleagues have to answer you when you communicate with them concerning work. I really enjoy making them have to speak to provide information, info they can't deny me.
I spent a lot of time feeling alone in the playground at school/s due to maybe only one bully in the group so that has stood to me I feel.
I try to instruct my grand daughter not to show weakness or sadness to them as this is what eggs them on.
She is not going to get away with this, I am collecting her behaviours up to confront her, and I will, quietly, firmly, with confidence. (((Even though I will be shaking inside))))

i know how difficult it is
by: sharon

Hi Gayle.
I always thought that it was me!
I wish i lived nearer to you and i would buy you a coffee. Its awlful what you are going through and i also think that a grievience is not the way to go. Im being treated really unfair by my line manager because another manager tells stories. Hes a bit more sneaky though and does it on the quiet. I only have 3 months to go before i get my NVQ3 in business managment so i can get out of there.
I also have sleepness nights and cry for no reason and because this happened in my previous job and i did not stick up for myself. i ended up getting the sack.My husband now thinks its me because it happened twice.
I would like to tell you exactly what to do but in your case with a mortgage by yourself its very hard to just walk out. I have a mortgage but at least have a husband to ease the hardship.
Constructive dismissal is really hard to prove and to win.Ive looked in to it alot. i even drunk a bottle of gin and drove my car on the motorway to a cliff but couldnt drive over it.
I would love to give you some advice that would help but i know there is nothing out there to help people like us.
I want you to seriously think about looking for another job as its never going to get better where you are now, ive been trying to change things at my work for the past two weeks and do get the occasional good day but it doesnt last.
In reality we are on our own and can only move on and never look back,i have a tear in my eye now just writing this as i can feel your pain and would give anything to help you.
Take care and god luck.
sharon age 44

by: Anonymous

I have same experence and its horrible as i see no way out. I have bills to pay. I hate having to sit in an environment with a clique. These are sneaky clique though that do everything behind my back.lies, slagging off, talk about me and stop talking when i walk in the room, text each other about me. One alpha female has made up stories about me saying iv done unprofessional things. I am more professional than her at work and my work is recognised where she is lazy and loud wanting attention all the time. Im always singled out a work and i dont know why this has happened to me. This is the 3rd time its happened, 2 times on my own and once with backup from similar colleagues.it seems bullies are in every department and ther is no getting away from them. I dont even know how to stay out of their attack radar? Also why always me? Im so drained by it all and suffer anxiety n depression due to all these experiences. How do i stop this from happening again? I too have had visions of driving off a cliff.

i thought it was just me.
by: Anonymous

Hi. Gosh i'm really sad to say this keeps happening to me also. So often in fact that i'm sure people in my family must also now think it's me who's causing the problem! I am a single female who is friendly, intelligent and attractive. Like a previous poster, i am also a homeowner, which i do think is a factor since i vaguely remember one bully (a senior manager who seemed to be paid a fortune to bully anyone who had any potential) even referring to this - as if to remind me how vulnerable i would be if i didn't have a job! lies, threats, anonymous complaints and failed promotions. I've had them all. I even discovered that a colleague was warned against defending me! If they want to get you they will. Whichever way possible. I'm amazed at how many people have allegedly complained to management about me over the years, yet not one of them has made their concerns known to me in the first instance and not once has management told me who has complained and what iam supposed to have said or done for it to have resulted in a complaint! And i note that most of these complaints come after i have done some great work! in short, they are jealous and think you shouldn't have it all and in being so, fail to consider how tough it may have been for you to get there. This is because they are unhappy in their own lives and self absorbed. pointing this out to them will only make them feel worse! do not try to reason with them either! just tell them to stop their behaviour and then walk away. They cannot argue with you if you are not there! this will not stop them. They will just hate you more for getting the upperhand, but you will not be dragged down to their level. Then report their behaviour to an appropriate manager. If this fails, as it has so often with me, resolve to find yourself a better job. I am really keen to have my own business. Whatever you choose - just remember...success is the best form of revenge!

Being bullied.. Does it mean I'm weak?
by: Anonymous

I have read through all the comments and can relate to each one in my own way. To start from the beginning when I joined the office I am in I had 15years exp in the organisation and went into a new dept within the job, so you can't say I was a new start. I had returned form long term sickness after having a major operation, and I wasn't accepted in the dept from the very beginning. I had a run in with a female who has been in the dept for about 6 years. One of the other women who is in her early 50's caught onto this and started talking to me about her behind her back. Now I spoke with her about this other girl and she was in agreement regarding her work ethic. After this I quickly became aware as to how two faced this older colleague was. I quickly caught on to what she was doing. I did notice that she makes herself look busy and talks about other colleagues and tries to lure you into her conversation. I first became aware something wasn't quite right when I returned after being off on holiday and then went on a course so I was away from the office for about 6 weeks. When I returned they had changed things themselves and if I went to look at some of the paper work this older colleague would tell me to leave it as it was all sorted, She also told me to 'shush' one day when I was asking her about something that had changed and she was getting flustered as she knew I was onto her and the other girls in the office. She did apologise to me about that but I quickly made her aware that if I had said that to her I would have been outcast. So here I am I did question something about work directly with her and another girl was in the office and heard what was going on . Nothing I would say was said bad or wrongly, but because I didn't accept it and spoke up that was it. It wasn't accepted. I have walked in on them talking about me and caught this older woman talking about me. I got so worried that I was getting paranoid I even took a recorder in to tape what was going on and I am right, when I would walk out the office, she would be saying malicious things about me. I also noticed that she is sending incomplete work with my name on it. I spoke to her about it and she apologised, I think I'm getting thrown under the bus. I tried to speak to my front line manager but it fell on deaf ears and she basically told me that maybe I like my own company. I am at a loss now, I find myself crying in the ladies toilet most days and I am all anxious and I have no confidence, They are constantly listening to my conversations esp the older one and I have caught her reading my work on the computer to see what I'm doing. She is very lazy but makes herself out to be busy doing very little. I have had to make an appointment with Occupational health as I am so so down about all of this. Now I know I'm not at work to make friends but I do want to work in a nice environment... This is a horrible situation...

Working with liars
by: Pat

I'm truly sorry for you & others in this position. I work for social services and I have been lied about by my supervisor who has discredited me to higher management. The complaints about my work are lies which I can disprove with colleagues statements or computer records. I was taken to a capability hearing but HR and another manager totally ignored my evidence. Two serious accusations were of neglect which management withdrew . They admitted there was no evidence. It is obviously a plan to get rid of me - I am 64 but wanted to carry on working for a while. This has made me very depressed and I was off sick for a year but was forced to return as I was cut to half pay. The Union has not been at all helpful I don't seem to be able to get it through people's' heads that it is not a "difference of opinion or unfair criticism" she has blatantly lied. I completely empathise with you - it is not easy to walk away from a job nowadays they are hard to find. I try to be positive cos I worry about my health but going to work has - as you must feel become a nightmare. I have never worked with such horrible people . I wish you good luck in the future

by: izzi

Aw poor sensitive people just got a written warning myself through nasty people so I went through every bit of there statements blew them out of the water and stunned management into silence because they did not go through evidence like I did good job I did cos they were going to get rid of me cause my accusers had been there longer got to go back and work with them now not looking forward to it

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