Thursday, 21 January 2010


X is only three but if she complained about being bullied I think my first retort would be: "don’t be such a wimp”.

So it’s embarrassing to admit that I've been horribly bullied at work. I'd like to forget it. But I feel I’ve no choice but try talk to my former employers about what happened. It's not just the bullying, I just don't understand how this can be a fair business reorganisation.

I'm being asked to write a particularly aggressive little document called particulars. Which is basically: who did exactly what, when and where. Fair enough, they need to know (though it's not as if HR weren't involved) but, unlike some, it’s not in my nature to put the knife in.

Like domestic abuse, it's not so much about one killer incident but more the endless number of little indignities, rights removed and humiliating episodes. Much of it, like bruises under clothing, goes unnoticed. It takes another working mother to know exactly the stress caused by not knowing when you‘ll be able to get away every night, or not knowing until friday afternoon whether a weekend of work will be coming your way. 

There are many public incidents- the shouting, being called a liar, my role being diminished to that of the lowliest work placement junior. But the real humiliations were much quieter: not being able to speak in meetings that I had previously run, not being permitted to collaborate with people who’s respect I had enjoyed. It’s the embarrassment. In order not to drag others in to ones own problems I’d allow her to get her way. Was that weak?   She'd been hired in a role over me, so what could I do?

Interestingly one of the ways that this new creative, hired into a new role that was created over me when I was on adoption leave, used to cut me down was to talk to me as if I was a child. When I protested that she wasn’t allowing me to work on next years briefs, (I’m not as green as I’m cabbage- looking, I knew that meant that plans for me were limited) she snapped at me that I was ‘cheeky’ for questioning her decisions.

One of the hardest parts was seeing others treated in the same way. Watching my art director being totally disrespected when his work was so professional, yet not feeling able to stand up for him; a colleague, white-faced, having worked three weekends on the trot, being shouted at as if she was lazy or useless, when she was neither.

If this had been about bettering the work then I wouldn't be writing this. But it wasn't. I think it was about is was about bettering some new careers over other older ones. By some who should have known better.

When I was little my brother told me that there was a horrid, big boy who kept knocking him over in the playground. "Tell him not to, then tell the teacher," I remember telling him.

“Oh no, he said airily in a Just William sort of way, “me and my friends have got a much better way than that- we just lie down on the ground whenever he's around and then he can’t do nothing about it.”

Well, I lay down often and it didn't work for me. I stood up for myself often and that didn't work either. Any ideas on how to handle bullies at work? Let me know.

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