Hello friends. This post has taken me a while to write as it is another one of those “confessional” type posts. In a way I still feel uneasy about it and it still makes me angry, however I think I am in a place where I can tell this story.
About 6 years ago, I worked in a really horrible job. It was emotionally exhausting because of the large amount of responsibility, I received abuse on a daily basis and regularly came across rather distressing stories because quite frankly, people can be really horrible to people they know or apparently love. I won’t say what the name of this place is, let’s just call it “FS” – short for f***ing s*** (because that is exactly what this place was).
Not only was the job itself horrible, but it had a very horrible bullying culture. My manager was a MASSIVE bully, and I remember going to her office to explain things and I would literally run out of breath. I found her hard to speak to. She was loud, obnoxious and generally really freaking horrible. She stoked a lot of the bullying in the office and formed “alliances” with some of her employees.
My work colleagues were the real life version of the movie “Mean Girls”. A lot of them were around the same age as me. While I am someone who will just try and fly under the radar and get my work done, others wanted to be the boss from day one. They were EXTREMELY clique-y. I remember one day in particular, one of the girls standing up saying “ok we are going to have our princess lunch…who should come?” and then she picked out certain people to go with her (all the popular kids of course, never ever me).
At morning and afternoon tea, the very same girls would go out for “smoke” breaks where they bitched about everyone in the office – me being one of their victims. No matter how hard I tried to be nice to these girls, I could never win with them. Sure, they were nice to my face, but holy crap some of the things that got back to me were nothing short of upsetting.
I would go home nearly every day in tears. I would cry to my extremely supportive husband, saying I didn’t understand how they could be so horrible. I swore I was nice to them, as my motto in life is to be kind to people always. I questioned whether I was a horrible person, whether I was a boring person. I questioned whether I was likeable, and if I should change myself to be more likeable. I was extremely anxious going to work, pretty much every day feeling like I wanted to cry. I remember my sister coming to visit me on a morning tea break and I broke down crying to her because I absolutely hated the way I felt being at work. I was scared of not only my manager but because of my work colleagues.
I was put up a level at my work because I worked really, really hard. I put head down, trying to keep out of notice of anyone. I made it my ambition to go to work and get the work done, and focus on life outside of work. Unfortunately my being put up a level made me the target of more bitching and snide comments. I felt horrible for being put up a level because it made me more of a target. I remember my manager distinctly telling me that “I put you up a level because I thought you would fail”.
One day I went out to visit a client in the middle of nowhere. On the way back I stopped at lunch with my manager and I was eating a cake. She took a picture of me eating (it was good natured at the time) and sent it back to the girls at the office. When I got back to my desk, there was a printed picture of me sticky-taped to the computer with “piggy girl” written on it. I remember laughing (because everyone else was) but feeling really hollow in the inside. I didn’t want to be the girl who took offence to everything so I let it fly, but deep down it made me upset and angry. I still have the picture somewhere…I have no idea why I kept it. I will never know if it was actually just supposed to be a light-hearted joke or if it was something more sinister than that.
When my husband got a job out of town I was so, so, so happy to hand in my resignation letter. I felt the biggest sense of relief, however I was still feeling so broken from my experience there. On my last day we had a morning tea, and one of the other more popular girls was leaving on the same day. We were both given gift card – I was given a JB HiFi card (for those who don’t know, it is a store where you buy dvd’s, cd’s, other electronic goods) and the popular girl was given a card for Myer (an upper market department store). The explanation I got from the girl who bought the cards was “I got you a JB HiFi card because you don’t look like someone who shops at Myer”.
Look, I have depression and anxiety as I have posted about before. So I still don’t know if a part of me felt victimised because of my mental illness or if I was just making a big deal about nothing. All I know is that it has taken me a long, long time to feel comfortable with myself again and regain my confidence. I am now luckily at a point in my life where I don’t really care too much what people think of me, and if they don’t have time for me then I don’t have time for them.
I also just want to say, that in the midst of the really shitty work colleagues, there were a few really good eggs who were going through the same thing as I was. So I was always terribly grateful for their support, and their presence in what was one of the worst places I ever worked.
I also now work in a really supportive workplace, and have made some wonderful friends. Working where I work now has given me confidence that not every place is a shit-hole like the one I worked at 6 years ago.
So, why did I write this post??
Because I wanted to share my experience, but also because I wanted to let you know that if you are going through the same thing, or have gone through the same thing, you are not alone. You are a wonderful, unique individual and you deserve happiness. It is true when they say that bullies are generally just jealous or very insecure (of course knowing this doesn’t make you feel any better). Surround yourself with supportive people. Seek counselling. If you feel you are able to, find a way to deal with the bully through the correct channels (grievance procedure etc.). Don’t let the bullies win.
Peace and love,