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What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

I Had the Guts to Tell Him, After Ten Years

by Justin Reid
(St. John's Newfoundland, Canada)

My name is Justin. I'm a thirty-seven-year-old man living in eastern Canada, and I have a bullying story to tell.

Around ten years ago, I needed work and asked my uncle, the owner of a roofing company, if he needed a worker. I had no prior roofing experience, but he agreed to have me along on a few roofing jobs to help out. About a week in, we had a job shingling the roof of a small shed in a residential backyard. About ten other men in their thirties and forties were doing other landscaping work there as well. I was trying to nail some shingles on the roof, but as I was inexperienced I struggled with it. My uncle quickly noticed this and called the other men over to watch me fumble with the shingles. "Hey fellas, come look!" "Havin' a bit of trouble with it, are ya?" "You might have to take a hammer and some nails home tonight and practice!" Everyone, including my uncle, was just standing there all around me, smiling and laughing. I had never felt so embarrassed and ashamed in my whole life. I remember saying, "You guys are assholes. You do it then if you're so good at it." My uncle just kept smiling and chuckling at me. So I just sat there, refusing to do it while they were staring at me. Eventually, they all got bored and walked away. I left work on the verge of tears and never came back the next day. I also never mentioned it to my uncle after.

I remembered it again tonight while talking to my disabled brother (whom I live with and look after) while talking about my work experiences. I got so annoyed just telling him what happened that I said, "You know what? I want to ask him why he did that to me, his own nephew." So I called him. I made small talk and chatted about the family. Then I confronted him about it.

"So Glen, you remember when I was doing roofing work for you years ago?"

"Oh man, that was a while back. Think I remember a bit of it."

"Yeah, when we were shingling that little shed with some other guys. I couldn't nail the shingles on right and you called them over to watch."

"Ha ha yeah, I remember now."

"And you were laughing and cracking jokes about how I should take a hammer and nails home to practice. I was just wondering why you did that to me."

"What? Oh I was just carrying on, didn't mean anything by it. I did that to the other guys working for me too."

"That was really embarrassing. I wanted to just put down my tools and walk home."
"Ha ha, I didn't mean to do that to ya."

"And I couldn't understand why you would do that to me. I mean you're my uncle, and you made fun of me in front of all these guys, having a big laugh."


"I couldn't understand why my uncle would bully me like that. I felt like I was worth less than a worm. Like, shouldn't my uncle love me? I didn't want to come back the next day."
"*Sigh*, yeah."

"Anyway, I thought about that every now and then and wanted to talk about it with you. Hope you're doing ok."

Made other small talk, said goodbye, hung up.

I felt so good the moment I hung up. Didn't raise my voice, didn't insult, just clearly said what I wanted to say all these years. I realized that people like that, who act tough and pretend nothing bothers them, they aren't big men. A big man is someone with the guts to stand up and say what he thinks. I feel like the bigger man now.

Comments for I Had the Guts to Tell Him, After Ten Years

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Bless you
by: Anonymous

When you get hurt by strangers is horrible, when it's done by loved ones, is worse, I feel u, Bless you!

No kidding!
by: Susan

Hi Justin, It sounds like your uncle may have just been kidding you in a good natured way, but his words really hurt you. This is a good reminder that we all need to be careful and not kid around with someone unless we are sure they understand our intent!

I've been on both sides of the issue. I've innocently joked with someone before and hurt their feelings, and I've had my feelings hurt when someone joked about me.

I wouldn't be so hard on your uncle now. However, he sounds like he could be rather tactless with his jokes, so don't let him hurt you!

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