Workplace Bullying Is On The Rise – By Lisette Felix

 

Bullying In The Workplace

 

Lisette Felix Reveals What It Feels Like To Be Intimidated At Work.

Insidious

It was a sophisticated attack. One that started with the comment ‘I’m glad you’ve come to our team although Harriet, one of the newer younger team members, thinks that you should be our Assistant’. ‘Of course, I wouldn’t hear of that; we are all the same grade, I told her that I would not have you doing that as we are going to tackle the work equally.’ Be aware of any member of the team pro-porting to be your best friend who ‘has your back’ even before you have decided whether or not you need an ally. Her words were met with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that had started to increase existentially. I should have cut my losses there and then, instead I simply smiled and confirmed, given time and training I would be able to work towards being a team player, but I did not disrespect the colleague who had apparently called for me to do a job that was lower than the expectations of my grade. After all, Harriet may not have said what my dear friend and ‘back-watcher’ said she had said. My second mistake…

 

The job description had not been completed when I arrived in the new department and changed again during my tenure, finally becoming the job description that Harriet had suggested in the first place – an Assistant to the team. This was humiliating. I was no longer in a position of decision-making, the point hit home, it was crushing.

What I did not realize was that, even before I was transferred to this new department, my dear ‘friend and ‘back-watcher’, had already started her strategic plan to dis-stabilize me and ‘return me back to where I came from’.

I had worked hard to attain the number three position of the internal management team and my sympathetic but professional approach in dealing with colleagues was not appreciated by all who worked with me. One person, in particular, felt threatened, as it later transpired, because I had set a precedent he was now expected to follow and, which he felt he should not. I was too kind etc..etc., He had found an ally in my ‘friend and back-watcher’. They would often be seen in the corridor talking in whispers about work presumably.. quickly recovering their professional demeanor when I appeared to be within earshot.

Progress getting to grips with my new assignment was slow. The b description had changed completely from what my predecessor had done. In total it changed three times in the space of a few months. The systems in place to transfer an individual from one internal department to another, dragged on for a few months and required a lot of ‘red tape’ to allow me access to different/new databases to allow me to carry out my job effectively. Learning to use an aspect of a software that I had never used before for this new purpose was challenging and it was expected that I trained in situ., since my trainer /friend and back-watcher’ was rude and impatient and; for the most part, this was fine with me simply because, for most of my working career, I had learned jobs simply by ‘picking it up as I went along’.

My ‘friend and back-watcher’, now ‘persecutor’ harassed me daily about being too slow. When I tried to stay behind in my own time to sit quietly to go through the processes and rigors of the work; which was not hard, but one simply needed some quiet time to grasp it, she would complain to my superiors, behind my back, that I was staying late and therefore was unable to finish work in the time allowed. I would then be summoned to their offices and informed that I could not stay late to work on files. Other staff in the office stayed late to complete work. This all occurred less than three months into the job.

The stress was enormous and the situation just got worse, as the quality of my work suffered. Before six months into the job, I was told that I needed more sustained supervision and that I was required to attend monthly progress meetings to assess my production levels. That wasn’t all, my conversations with other colleagues were monitored if I asked their opinion on how they had approached tasks. I was then reproached for not putting my questions or concerns to ‘my friend and back-watcher’, who should be my only point of reference. Meetings I had arranged with Interns and other members of staff were canceled without my knowledge; which meant that I would have to take time out of my day to attend them and take the notes. Striking yet more vicious blows to my already crumbling self-confidence. My anxiety levels, not to mention my blood pressure peaked to dangerous levels. My complaints of harassment and unfair treatment fell on deaf ears. Letters incorrectly typed; in a style not compliant with the company’s practices, were typed with my initials on them. Nobody looked into the fact that such documents did not originate from my computer. Something that would have been so easy to check.

The stress was enormous and the situation just got worse, as the quality of my work suffered. Before six months into the job, I was told that I needed more sustained supervision and that I was required to attend monthly progress meetings to assess my production levels. That wasn’t all, my conversations with other colleagues were monitored if I asked their opinion on how they had approached tasks. I was then reproached for not putting my questions or concerns to ‘my friend and back-watcher’, who should be my only point of reference. Meetings I had arranged with Interns and other members of staff were canceled without my knowledge; which meant that I would have to take time out of my day to attend them and take the notes. Striking yet more vicious blows to my already crumbling self-confidence. My anxiety levels, not to mention my blood pressure peaked to dangerous levels. My complaints of harassment and unfair treatment fell on deaf ears. Letters incorrectly typed; in a style not compliant with the company’s practices, were typed with my initials on them. Nobody looked into the fact that such documents did not originate from my computer. Something that would have been so easy to check.

All the time, I was determined to fight on…

What I have learned:-

Write a diary of events.
Encourage perpetrators to record their negatives comments by sending them an e-mail and asking them to confirm an instruction by e-mail.
Try to have witnesses (other colleagues/staff members) present when bullying takes place – not an easy one.
Find out who in your place work is tasked with dealing with these situations and put your complaint to them in writing and encourage them to respond in writing/write down their verbal responses or advice adding the date and time.
Get legal advice as soon as possible – don’t assume the situation will resolve itself or ‘ it will go away’. You lose valuable evidence that way, which cannot then be retrieved when you need to file a claim later on.

 

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