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What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

Picking Sides

by Sharon

The bullying I experienced at my office was partly my fault. I am on the autism spectrum and behavior that would be a red flag for most people is not so obvious to me. I became what I thought to be very good friends with a coworker and she was the only person that I disclosed my autism diagnosis to. This person really didn't like me being friends with anyone else in the office. Sometimes she would get very angry including threatening to tell the whole office some very personal things regarding abuse I had suffered as a child if I didn't remember I was "her sidekick only". And, she would intentionally sabotage friendships I made with other coworkers. One night, she showed up at my house and made sexual advances (we are both married) and she was infuriated by my lack of reciprocity to these feelings.

Around the same time, I learned that she had told the several recently hired coworkers that they should avoid me because of my autism and that she had to "babysit me" in social situations. She also told management that I should not be considered for promotions because I couldn't handle the job with my condition. Both of these things are entirely untrue. When I eventually confronted her and told her her behavior was unacceptable, she became enraged and told me no one would ever believe me and that she would ruin my life, that she would make sure everyone in the office hated me. She had targeted other employees before and made them miserable, so I went to management and they said it was just my word against hers. They also said that policy required them to report the incident but for my own good they wouldn't. (The offender is very good friends with office management.) I went to the Ombudsman (university mediation) and was told that same sex female harassment would be embarrassing to report so I should just let it go.

For months after, she spread countless rumors about me including saying I had slept with several male coworkers. She turned coworker after coworker against me and the office became a miserable place to work. When I returned to management about the bullying, they laughed it off saying no one believed her and I should learn to get along with her. However, it was well known that new employees were told they had to "pick sides." And, there were coworkers that were friends with this woman who would not be in the same room with me. I eventually found another position but it is within the same organization and at meetings, former coworkers continue to treat me like a pariah. 5 months later I still have nightmares about this. I wish I would have stood up for myself. And, what's worse, is that the few people who remained friends with me are the new targets.

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