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What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know

The Workplace Bully That Almost Destroyed Me

I first met the bully in 2003. I started at a small office after retiring from my chosen line of work due to a pair of critical incidents, one of which involved the off duty death of two co-workers. So I already was not in a good place in my life. When I was first introduced to this individual she barely acknowledged me and gave me a look like she smelled something foul, gave me her back and walked off. She would hardly ever speak to me, unless she was trying to get me to buy something from one of her multiple side-businesses. She quit a few months after I started and I did not really have to deal with her again until 2013.

I went to work for another office, unfortunately she was employed there. Things were actually okay for about year, I thought maybe she had matured and turned over a new leaf and was greatly relieved. Then one day I came to work and she was obviously very angry at me for something. Glaring at me, turning her back on me, stomping off, and slamming her door in my face. I had absolutely no idea what I had done so I finally confronted her about it. She got in my face and said I had treated her badly by using the wrong tone of voice the day before. I was at a complete loss. I hadn't been mean, snotty, or rude to her like she was accusing me of. She stayed mad for several days and then seemed to be okay again. Only problem was this cycle continued. She'd get mad and berate me for any little thing, wrong facial expression, wrong body language, wrong tone of voice, she'd tell me I didn't treat people right and I should be careful how I treat people. She'd tell me my behavior was unprofessional. She started pointing out minor errors in front of clients and my supervisors, she'd bad mouth me behind my back to my other co-workers. Suddenly I didn't have a single friend or ally in the office. She had managed to completely socially isolate me. To make matters worse she started to sabotage my work, she'd withhold information I needed, not tell me when clients called or pass on messages or information I needed. She would literally set me up to fail at any task I had to work on with her. If I so much as slipped up and missed getting a message or information to her in a timely manner I got berated for it and she'd go straight to the boss and complain.

I talked to my supervisor about it, but of course since she was the "high performing" assistant in the office by virtue of the subject area she was responsible for I got told if I felt I needed to quit then I needed to make that choice. My supervisor didn't witness the behavior from her and was unwilling to do anything about it. I ended up feeling like he simply did not believe me.

I stayed, but as time passed I started to feel like maybe it was my fault somehow. Like maybe I was doing something wrong. Like I was fatally flawed somehow. For a long time I let her crush and cruelly manipulate my self-esteem. Anytime I tried to confront her or assert myself the situation would get worse. She'd always make it out to be my fault, or she'd tell me it was my low self esteem that was the problem and I was just misreading the situation. Sometimes she made me feel like I was being paranoid. Then she'd go back to telling me I didn't treat people right, I was the bad person, I was not good with the clients. In hindsight I realize she was manipulating me in the worse sort of way, building me up a little just to tear me back down. The stress caused me to develop acid reflux and severe stomach problems and my migraines got worse. By this time I was beginning to genuinely hate myself.

Then we got a new staff member. Suddenly she was coming to me complaining about the new person. While it was a relief to get her focus off of me I was appalled at what she was doing to the new person. She was over critical, instead of teaching the new person the skills they needed she'd get angry when they didn't get it on the first try and badmouth them to everyone else in the office including me. She'd yell at them and instead of showing them what they were doing wrong, she'd fix it herself and storm off. It was horrible, we lost our new staff member in a few short months. This happened with every new staff member we'd get.

I got to the point where I just did what I had to do to co-exist and do my job. Sometimes that meant playing her game, agreeing with her off the wall conspiracy theories, listening to her sales pitches for her side businesses, or listening to her complain about the boss. I tried to get along with her, I even tried making friends when she wasn't picking on me, but nothing worked long term. She'd keep telling me she was "working on her" and she didn't want to be the person she was, and I was stupid enough to fall for it. I didn't want to go to work, I wanted to quit, I submitted job applications whenever I could, but could never get hired on anywhere else. My self esteem was so low and I was so unhappy that I'm pretty sure it was coming across in my interviews.

The work dynamic has changed now. We are in the same office building still but we no longer work for/share the same bosses. She has bad mouthed me to everyone in the building. I say Hi to people and I get sneers or stiff, hellos. I've had doors shut or slammed in my face. The boss I currently work for finally believes me. When the business partnership broke up and the plan was to share the assistants equally, I refused and submitted my resignation. It put me in a position where I knew the bullying was only going to get worse because the bully favored one of the bosses over the other. The boss she didn't like she had been bad mouthing behind his back to anyone who would listen for years. Funny thing was it was the same boss I had originally talked to about my problems with her. Suddenly out came the claws when she found out I had submitted my resignation, she started taking it out on the boss she didn't like. A few days later he approached me and asked if I just worked for him would I stay, the situation had been bad and I felt betrayed by literally everyone, including this particular boss who's initial advice to me was to submit my resignation if I couldn't handle things, so I said I needed to think about it.

I had already made plans and was working on the admissions process to graduate school. I had decided it was time to follow my dreams and finish my education, which made the bully even madder when she learned I'd gotten my foot tentatively in the door of the school I wanted to attend and took a summer class. She's always used my education against me, telling me my education was worthless and how education was a waste of time and money and how the only thing that matter was practical experience. According to her my accomplishments were worthless and meant nothing. I had been around people who had self-esteem issues when it came to their lack of education before, but this bully reached entirely new heights with it. I ended up feeling horrible about myself and my schooling.

The bullying hasn't exactly stopped since my job and boss are no longer associated with her or her boss. She still snipes at me in the hallway, makes rude and snotty comments at office gatherings, continues to bad mouth me and my current boss to anyone who will listen. Still points out every little mistake or typo I've ever made. She seems to be even angrier now because I chose to stay with the boss she hated.

I'd love to scream it is not fair at the top of my lungs sometimes, but it wouldn't do any good. I should have never given her permission to treat me the way she does. She took advantage of what was already my low self-esteem and stomped me into the ground. It took one of my graduate professors to remind me that I am actually an intelligent person who has a bright future if I want it. I decided I wasted it and I'm working on making it happen for me, I know the next few years are going to be tough though. She's created a hostile working environment for me and I almost feel like I have to hide in my office and avoid everyone else in the building to just get through the day at present.

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