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What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

An Unusual Case of Bullying

by Susan
(Home Counties)

I have a most unusual story of bullying.

It involves my local 'friendly' supermarket. I am a customer there and have been so for many years. Two women who have worked there for a long time seemed to decide that for some reason, they didn't like me and chose to ignore me or send me to Coventry. However, out of the two, there is one in particular who seems bent on causing trouble. She works at the checkout. The other just stacks shelves.

I am certain that the checkout operator gossips or says negative things about me, but there is no way I can prove it. All I do know is that, sometimes when she has been nearby opening bags and I have approached a checkout, the atmosphere seemed so icy you could have cut the air with a knife.

Also this particular checkout assistant has been unpleasant towards me and always walked away, or refused to help me with opening bags to put shopping in etc. In the end I thought I could solve the problem by simply staying away from her and using other checkouts, which I have been doing.

Furthermore, I ignored such behaviour on the grounds that some shop staff simply are that way inclined, and you can't make friends with everybody, although I do try my hardest to be pleasant with everyone in there.

However, a few weeks ago, things took a decidedly nasty turn. I had not been visiting the store during the hours that these two people are working there. But one day I turned up when they were there, and I could see the checkout assistant staring at me as I walked through the door.

I ignored her and carried on. But for the rest of that week whenever I went in there, they would seem to find every opportunity for walking past me and literally 'staring' me out until they passed by. And they were very unpleasant and unfriendly looks, as if designed to make me feel uncomfortable. The one who stacks the shelves even made a face at me by 'sneering' as she walked by and this happened on several occasions.

I got home and immediately phoned the Management and told them what was happening.

The Manager seemed supportive and asked me who they were. I asked to remain anonymous as I didn't want to make things worse. He said they would get back to me but so far I have heard nothing.

However, I feel something has been said to them, since I am no longer getting the provocative glares, but they still ignore me or freeze me out, which is something I never expected to change.

I am not sure if the story will end there. I am now often using my supermarket at different hours, preferably to avoid them.

But one things worries me. I am wondering if they will get the evening staff to join in with their bullying behaviour. Although I remained anonymous when I reported them, they must have their suspicions that it was me. I cannot imagine they are doing this to anybody else, and things could get worse.


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Update. April, 2nd, 2009.
by: Sue.

Just thought I'd post an update on the above story. The inevitable has happened. I've been getting strange 'vibes' from one or two of the other checkout staff, as if they are embarrassed or try to avoid looking at me.

Fortunately, I've been forcing them to be friendly by talking to and smiling at them. So far they end up by reciprocating. But I think the bullies have put it around that they've been reported by someone.

Strangely enough, one of the two I reported seems to have cut her hours back since my complaint.

However, the main antagonist refuses to budge. There's not much I can do now, except avoid them when I can and be as friendly to other shop staff as much as possible. Although I suspect the 'gossip' (if any) will continue.

Update, August 4th, 2009.
by: Susan

It seems to have started again, if IT ever stopped that is. I don't know exactly what is happening, or whether it is connected to what took place at the supermarket or not.

I have had a couple of neighbours down my street, who, lately, whenever they have seen me, have simply stood there, or when walking by, have decided to 'stare me out' until I am out of 'eyeshot'.

Both have been male and they live just a few doors away from me. One has decided to do this to me every time he sees me. Again these stares are not at all friendly. They are hostile and unwelcoming. One of them says nothing to me. He just glares, and glares, as if I have done something wrong.

Maybe it is just coincidence and has nothing to do with the supermarket.

After all, I do walk around a lot, and if other people walked around as much as I do, maybe they would experience the same thing.

The atmosphere when I walk into that shop now seems awful. About four of the shop staff seem not to want to talk or look at me, including one of the supervisors now.

I try to avoid the place as much as possible and go elswhere, but I still have to use it from time to time.

I am beginning to hate living in this area. I have asked my husband if he has considered moving, but that will have to be in the long term unfortunately. I just feel trapped.

I wasn't experiencing these weird incidents until after I made an 'anonymous' complaint about the shop bullies. They must have known who made the complaint, which proves to me I must be the only one. I find that terribly painful. Is the neighbours' behaviour just coincidence? I feel as if I should inform the police even though they can't do anything. Perhaps they should know what is going on anyway. But how can I prove it? I just don't know if I am right or simply paranoid.

Guess what now...
by: Anonymous

This thankfully, is not about the supermarket. I have learned how to avoid those people at least. I have read an article on this site by Margaret Jones about church bullying.

I have been attending a spiritualist church since July of this year. I can't say I am being bullied exactly, but as soon as I walked in a man approached me and started a conversation. Being as it was a church I thought I should reciprocate and return his friendliness. I thought he was just being welcoming to a newcomer like me who did not know anyone.

However, after a while I noticed that he habitually made a beeline for nearly evey woman who came into the church on her own. He will then sidle up to me gradually with her by his side until he's almost next to me. Then as soon as he gets the opportunity he drops her and homes in on me, even though I must have made it clear by now that I am not in the least bit interested in him.

In my case he just won't go away now. He's becoming a real pest lately and I know what it is about. The guy fancies me and doesn't want to let go, despite the fact that I introduced him to my husband. Unfortunately my hubbie doesn't want to attend the meetings so I have been forced to go on my own.

I wouldn't exactly call it bullying at this stage, but last time when I brushed him off (nicely) and said goodbye in order to leave, he got quite off-handed with me. I thought, 'Oh hell, what will he do next time?'

You know, sometimes I despair about the world outside. Why the hell don't I just do the sensible thing and stay at home? I can do everything on my computer. All I wanted to do was socialize with a group of mostly friendly and wonderful people and look what I get. A lonely old fool who acts like a social predator at church meetings. I didn't go there to get picked up by strange men.

In my still sensitized state I really could have done without this. Must I now be forced to fend off a male pest at church gatherings?

I'm not sure if I will stay there now. I noticed that some of the women who attend the meetings without a boyfriend or husband usually have another woman with them, either a female friend or relative. Do they know something I do not know? I can see the sense in this however. It seems that as a lone woman you're not even safe in a church nowadays. In my naivety I obviously still have a lot to learn, it seems.

Cheers for now,

you're not alone
by: susan

Hi Susan,

I thought i was the only one this happened to. I live in a small town with 2 markets. I like to shop the most at the one, but there are some very unfriendly people there. I think supermarket jobs are difficult and many people may be very unhappy there. I think they bully their own co-workers and then when they get bored maybe they go after certain customers.

It seems the harder i try to be nice, the more it irritates some of them. I get funny looks and unfriendliness. I notice them being nice to the people before me - so usually I end up feeling like its just me and I'm nuts. Now i try not to focus on it. I smile a little at them and don't bother talking to the mean ones. Some people are real nice and I try to focus on them.

I'm sorry this happens to you. You are not alone.

RE: You are not alone...
by: Sue

Thanks for your reply. When you go to the supermarket try to ignore any negativity.
In my case it got really nasty because two employees there started 'doing things' clearly directed at me when they caught me standing alone in one of the supermarket isles. They made sure no one else could see what they were doing. So I complained to the Management, pointing out the two antagonists.
As always happens in cases of mobbing, once you complain things seem to get worse for a while. It wasn't long before other people there started to join in the 'fun.' However, events seem to have quietened down a bit for me lately, as I think they realise that under no circumstances am I going to stop shopping there.
Having said that, I do tend to avoid using the shop as much as possible during the times the two main abusers are working there, as long as it does not inconvenience me in any way. Also, they both seem to have cut back on their own hours, recently.
If certain people start doing things they shouldn't when you are alone, go straight to the Management and complain.
It would be more than their job is worth to physically assault a customer while they are at their place of work. If you ARE assaulted in any way then call the police.
But do be careful about finding yourself alone with any of these people if you spot them outside their place of work.
Complain anonymously if you like and give the Management all the details, but do not get emotional and remain calm. (Also, expect some of the staff to be on friendly terms with the Management).
Whatever you do, don't give them an excuse to get you banned.
This is the advice that Anton gave to me, and I suggest you do the same.
But if they are just ignoring you at the checkout then ignore them back and go about your business as usual without reacting emotionally, because that is what they are looking for.
All the best and happy shopping.

by: Anonymous

You remind me of my first roommate in college, who was from a small town, and targeted because men took an interest in her. She is beautiful, vivacious, outgoing...and happily married. She had one previous boyfriend before her husband, whom she was in a loyal relationship with for six years. Girls would spread nasty and vicious rumors about her because their boyfriends and other men would stare at her, and some would come on to her and even make offensive remarks to and about her. She handled the unwanted attention with grace and intelligence, but had several breakdowns because the less beautiful girls were jealous.
I do think you are a victim of jealous women and small-minded people who make up a story where there is none. These people are probably bored with their lives, as many are in small towns, and are looking to create any excitement even if it it is at the expense of another. This man is unknowingly creating your pain. Have your tried ignoring him or giving him the cold shoulder? Good luck, as I live in a small town, and I have seen the workings of one.

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