If you’ve read my last column, you’ll know that I’ve spent a while researching bullying in-depth. To say that it’s been interesting as well as shocking would be a tremendous understatement on my account. Reading statistics, flicking through countless articles and interviewing victims of this heinous activity has taught me a lot about the subject.
While most people usually associate bullying with the younger generation, others would be surprised to know that grown men and women, ADULTS, also take part and fall victim to it.
In fact, according to statistics, bullying in the workplace has happened more in the past 5 years than ever before, and I’ve got a ‘sneaky’ feeling that social networking has a little something to do with this.
I’m not against social networking. I’m openly honest that I’m probably addicted in more ways than one, but I can’t help but notice that it is giving people more ways to bully the people that are weaker than them. It’s not necessarily used as much in workplace bullying as it is in others, but it’s very real and it’s still happening.
I met up with two people, both at the age of 29, who opened up about their experiences of bullying in the workplace. Choosing to remain anonymous (understandably) I’ll choose to call them ‘Jack’ and ‘Jill’! (Creative, I know.)
Jack started work in a highly popular business in Cardiff in the summer of 2011, and had no idea of what was to come!
“When I started work, I felt great. I could finally afford my own place and begin to build a life for me and my girlfriend. We had a child on the way at the time, and I finally felt like I had found a place for myself in the world, like I was a part of something special!”
“But then three months in I was promoted, and started work a couple of floors up with a whole new team. At first it was okay. Obviously I was a little nervous, but when people around the office first started throwing comments my way, I thought it was harmless banter. Something which I was used to around my own friends!”
It wasn’t long before something more serious was brought to Jack’s attention by a fellow co worker.
“I had found out through someone in the office that they had been posting things about me on Facebook. When I looked for myself I saw some pretty hurtful things. For some reason they had started calling me ‘loner’ and ‘gayboy’, probably because I’d made a good friend with a gay male in the office, one of the only people who’d actually treated me nice!”
It wasn’t long before the comments started getting worse and more frequent. Seeking advice on this difficult situation, his girlfriend and friends all told Jack that telling the boss would probably be the best idea.
“For me, telling the boss made me feel weak, like I was running to the teacher at school to complain about schoolyard problems, but when I finally opened up it was a huge relief. I got moved to a different section on the building and I’m now with people who respect me.”
“The people who bullied me were given serious warnings, and when it continued, they were fired. I’m not sorry it came to that, because bullying is a very horrible situation to be in. I woke up not wanting to go to work every morning because of people who thought it was ‘funny’ to pick on another person for no apparent reason!”
Jack has now been promoted again and is happy with his job, his girlfriend, his baby daughter and his co workers.
“You may feel weak running to your boss as an adult, but if you feel you’re being bullied in work then it’s something I advise doing. Taking care of the situation yourself could lead to you losing your job, and nobody wants that. Just do whatever you need to do, and you’ll find yourself smiling every morning before work!”
As for Jill, the bullying started three months after she’d finished university when she landed herself an internship at a prestigious ad firm in a big city.
“I couldn’t wait to begin. You hear horror stories about students who leave uni and go on to work somewhere that they don’t want, so getting this internship was a dream come true!”
She was ready to give it everything she had, but after a couple of weeks, she began to feel that people in the office were laughing about her everytime she was walking past.
“It sounds silly to say, I know. You don’t think that grown adults in a professional environment would go out of their way to make fun of somebody else. I didn’t even have that in college or university. But it was true!”
Since she was born, Jill has had a birthmark on her forehead, something which she had been picked on for her whole life.
“Of course in Primary and Secondary school people were horrible about it. Everyone gets bullied there, but after leaving I learned that people weren’t so horrible!
“I had confidence! I embraced my flaws and began to love myself for being me! But after a few weeks I overheard two people in the smoking area mention my birthmark and the insults began. I was horrified. I wanted to run into a corner and cry. In just a few short seconds, the past 5 or 6 years of building my confidence came crashing down and I felt like a little defenceless child again!”
Months had passed and Jill held her head high, ignoring the comments and focusing on her career!
“When you’re in a professional environment, especially when you’re working to achieve your goals, you need to learn to ignore the people who try to put you down and make you feel like you’re not good enough. In the long run, all that matters is your work, and how hard and passionate you are towards your dreams and goals.”
“I didn’t tell the boss. I felt that it was too much, but personally I prefer to handle situations myself. But for those of you who feel you can’t take it then seek help and advice. We don’t deserve to be bullied. We don’t deserve to feel like we’re not good enough. We’re all different and that’s what makes us special. There isn’t anybody exactly the same as you on this planet so embrace that fact and go get everything you deserve!”
Jill is now working full time for the company and has been promoted twice since. She is happy with her life and the team around her. She is also expecting her first baby with her long term partner which she couldn’t be more excited about!
So that’s bullying in the workplace. It’s very real and it’s surprisingly common. Don’t stand for it. Bullying is WRONG! Take every action until your bullies have been made to realise this. Be brave!
Part 3 is coming soon where I will be investigating the stories and facts behind Domestic Bullying.
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