What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

Target Practice

My boyfriend owns a small landscaping business, and I have helped him run it for eight years. I am currently attending school as my B.S. was exactly that when it came to finding a job-B.S. I often accompany him on jobs, and am trained on most, though not all, of the equipment. I can handle the majority of the physical labor, and have no problem getting my hands dirty. Working in the great outdoors used to be enjoyable.

This past spring we hired a man I'll call "Larry." He was recently let go from a medical sales position in which he was making six figures a year, and basically running the show. In a period of six months, this man lost not only his job, but his vehicle, his beach condo, his savings, not to mention his sense of security, well-being, and self-worth. Despite our personality differences, and his sometimes deplorable behavior, I still feel for this guy, and want to help him out.

The first few days he seemed reasonably normal and professional. As time passed, the layers of the onion were peeled away, and he emitted the tear-producing chemicals wherever he could.

Within the first week of working, he glared over at me as I was mowing, and made a motion with the trimmer as if he was going to decapitate me, and muttered to my boyfriend, "Here, let me solve your problem."

He once put the wrong type of gas in a piece of machinery, and proceeded to blame me for the mistake. (I have definitely made mistakes at work, owned up to them, and learned from them.) He has a knack for impersonations, and he took on the persona of a gameshow host, and said, "Bob, I think we have a winner. Ding! Ding! Ding! Could it be Heather that put the wrong gas in the blower? All signs point to yes!" I have been doing this job for eight years. The gas cans are clearly marked. I think I know which type of gas goes in the machinery by now.

One day we were driving to another job site, and, out of the blue, he says, "My friend told me I was going to be working with hot women this summer. Do you have anyone else working with you?" Then, a few minutes later, he blurted out, "I'm going to hell for staring at that fourteen-year-old girl. I need to get laid." (He is forty-one.) Guys will be guys, right?

Another day, he pointed to a bus for handicapped children and sneered, "Hey, you should know those, didn't you ride the short bus to school?" Comments like these became more frequent as time went on. He once told me, "Aw, you're just one of the guys" and playfully punched me in the arm. Then he asked me if people thought I was post-op (meaning a sex change from a female to a male) and chuckled.

His mood swings became more readily apparent, and he informed us that he is bipolar and unable to afford his medication. I understand that there are people who have mental health issues, and tried to keep that in the back of my mind when he would spout off or throw a temper tantrum.

He constantly rolls his eyes and shakes his head when I am performing tasks at work. He makes fun of me behind my back, and thinks I can't see his one-man sideshows.

Fall eventually came, and we were putting fertilizer down on our clients' lawns. We use a manual fertilizer, and I was pushing it along, as I usually do, and I look over, and he is watching me and laughing. He tells me, "I feel like I am watching the handicapped at the Special Olympics." He kept laughing and walked away.

I was backing the mower off the trailer, which I have done countless times before without causing any injuries or accidents. He shook his head, and asked, "Did your mother have any children that survived?"

The latest situation involved a trimming job. Again, a schoolbus for the handicapped passed by, and his comment was such: "Hey, you know that bus, where we're all winners, even when we're losers."

You might think I am pathetic for tallying all of these comments, but I needed to vent. I used to complain to my boyfriend about his behavior and comments, some of which he made in front of him! I do know my boyfriend keeps this guy on because, as of now, he has nowhere else to go, and reliable, hard-working people are hard to come by in this field. Both of us have soft spots for the downtrodden also. How I deal with this guy? I simply don't react to any of his comments or tantrums. I have found the best reaction is no reaction. He might have run a large multi-million dollar company, but the ball is still in my court.

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Target Practice
by: Linda Guirey

Goodness - why are you letting this guy stay? I know what you said in your post, but there is no excuse for this abuse - ever. Your boyfriend seems to be too silent - why is he not taking this guy to task as most managers would, tell this guy that those comments are unacceptable and that if the guy continues, he will have to let him go.

Then the next step is up to the guy. It's no longer your problem. If they guy chooses to continue to verbally abuse you, then he deserves to lose his job. There are many people out there willing to take his place, that would treat you with respect.

I'm sorry, but I wouldn't give this guy any more leniency. He needs to be warned, told what the consequences are going to be if he continues, or if there is any retaliation against you and then if he still continues, he is out. He has a choice. If he needs the job that much, then he can stop being abusive.

Linda Guirey - Professional Speaker, facilitator, business coach and humor consultant

by: Anonymous

I have asked the boyfriend to say something to him, but his response was, "He is just joking around. Guys do that to one another. That's how you know you are one of the group. If I really thought he was insulting you I would say something."
This employee is currently in the middle of interviewing for a promising job opportunity, so hopefully he will move on, unfortunate for new victims.
Thank you for confirming the fact that I am not being overly sensitive, though. I do think this man is rude and disrespectful, and needs to come to some stark realizations about his behavior, and how he treats people. The boyfriend has a huge issue with confrontation, this I have always known. I cannot get him to even stand up for himself sometimes.
I don't know why someone would want to make someone who is trying to help them out feel so awful. It just boggles my mind.

Target Practice
by: Linda Guirey

Well, hopefully this abusive man moves on very quickly. What your boyfriend doesn't understand is that although he says that this abusive worker is just 'kidding around' etc, your boyfriend needs to understand that everyone responds differently and therefore if you are being hurt and offended by the remarks and behavior, then that is all that counts, and it must be addressed.

The behavior needs to be addressed immediately if this guy doesn't move on and your boyfriend needs to understand that any name calling, insults and intimidation is unacceptable if it is unwanted (which clearly it is) and unwarranted (again absolutely no doubt!).

If your boyfriend doesn't like confrontation, then tell him to get someone in that he knows and trusts, to do the hard stuff for him. There is nothing wrong with that.

I hope it all improves for you very soon.

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