Finally Free After 2 Years!
I took the job with some trepidation because parts of it involved routine, administrative work, and I'm a highly skilled and experienced IT person (databases, tech support/Help Desk, consultant/project manager). But it was local, a nonprofit and I thought I could do real good there by bringing technology to an organization that desperately needed it.
For the first 6 months, I was left to my own devices, expected to know everything and train myself, even on a totally unfamiliar product, my Boss (female) and the part-timer (also female) said things like "You're so smart, you figure it out." and "I thought you knew how to do this", when I asked for training or help. But the real bullying began after that initial period. I experienced shouting at me in public, in front of customers, told I had effed stuff up, and how could I do such a stupid thing, and had fists pounded on my desk, papers flung off to the floor.
I asked the part-timer how could I respond differently to the Boss, and she said that there were only two ways to respond to the Boss, and one was tell her to eff off, and the other was to submit. I said I'm a professional, I can't do either of those, and she said, well, those are your only two choices, so you will have to pick. I asked her what did she do, and she said that sometimes she picked one, and sometimes she picked the other.
My mistake for the next year was to believe that I could change this nonsense, that I could use my process orientation skills, my experience on teams, and my education in re-engineering to change what I saw as a need for training, a managerial skills gap, if you like. Boy, was I wrong! She bullied me relentlessly, more after a Board member praised my work in public, more when teachers praised my work, more when she didn't understand some tech issue and I had to explain it, more when I objected to some degree she laid out at staff meetings.
She even went so far as to stand behind my chair, wedge herself between the wall and my chair, blocking my ability to get away from her, and put her hands on my neck and shake me. Creepy!
I became her object of torture. I was miserable, not sleeping, overreacting with family and friends, obsessing about how to deal with it, paranoid about everyone's motives, and afflicted with chronic migraines.
Two things happened to force me to seek professional help. Help that I'm still receiving after a year because of the after effects and because I still have to see that Jerk at community meetings. One was a resurgence of chronic migraines. I had them under control, with meds and biofeedback when I started the job. But after 6 months of bullying, I was having up to 3 a week, sometimes a run of 14 consecutive days, and they stopped responding to meds.
Two was when I fled the office, during one of her rages against me, and I realized I was physically and emotionally reacting the same way I had when I was in an abusive marriage, over 35 years ago. I was only married a year and a day, but when I put together the thought "this is what being married to what's his name felt like!", I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket, called a children's therapist I knew in the area and begged her to find me an employment or bullying specialist. She called back with a name and number in two hours, and I'm forever grateful.
Still, it took me from last June to this past March to get out, in spite of the fact that on my first day of therapy/counseling, I said, I've read the literature, and I know I have to leave, I know the Board won't help me, I know my family is sick of hearing about this, and seeing me in such pain, please help me get out of this situation, and also help me not repeat it in future. I knew I had to leave, that she would not change, and it still look me that long to get out. The leaving is a process, where I benefited from examining that awful marriage, my family life and my own attitudes. I was beaten down, demoralized and had low self-esteem and low self-confidence.
I run my own business now, and wake up smiling, and mostly migraine-free. But if I do see her, or have to attend a meeting with her, I get a migraine, feel sick, get angry all over again. I'm working on it, I've quit everything that involves her but one quarterly meeting for an org I belong to. I've told more people about my experience, now in a dispassionate way, more about bullying in the workplace, less about my reactions to it. And my side of the story is gaining support.
Without sites like this one and kickbully.com, I would still be living this nightmare. So I decided to write this post, to thank everyone who has contributed to discourse on workplace bullying, and to support, with my own story, those of us struggling to be free of their bully.