When the topic of bullying arises, it is often thought of as only concerning youth. However, my first incidence of bullying only happened as a young adult at my first ‘real’ job.
It started off with a former supervisor taking advantage of the fact that I didn’t know my rights as a unionized employee. I was 19 and had never had a unionized position before; my understanding was simply that I couldn’t be easily fired; they needed a good reason. For the majority of what followed, I just thought I was paying my dues..
Through conversations with other employees, I was made aware that certain practices were not allowed. The catch is, they are if the employee agrees to and/or doesn’t object to them but I didn’t know that we could say no. I was encouraged to speak to a union rep.
Armed with new information and a better understanding of my rights, the next time my supervisor attempted to infringe upon them, I stood up for myself. Unfortunately for me, this just made working in that particular department worse and not only did the bullying continue but it intensified.
I was often blamed for errors that occurred when I wasn’t even working. I was often called and woken up after a night shift to be lectured about unimportant work details. I was publicly humiliated by being yelled at and sent home for an issue that had been previously resolved and documented. My wardrobe was often criticized even though it usually followed the dress code. The few times it did not, it was because we were in an area that was not temperature-controlled and it was freezing. And after working both weekends and lots of OT for months on end, I was told I called in sick too often.
Most people encouraged me to switch departments but I was pretty stubborn. I adored my colleagues and enjoyed the challenge of my job and I was good at it; I wasn’t about to let a bully be the reason I left.
It took 7 years before I finally gave up and switched departments. My supervisor had made coming into work a dreaded experience and I just couldn’t put myself through that anymore. I was tired of feeling on edge all the time; I was tired of the panic attacks and stress created by this person.
Bullying definitely has lasting effects on people. Even though I moved to a new department with a new supervisor, I still had a hard time going to her with any issues that came up. I was so overwhelmed when I started, I almost went back to my previous department because I assumed my new supervisor wasn’t someone I could approach for help either. Thankfully, that first meeting happened (due in large part to new colleagues that wanted me to stay) and we were able to find a solution at the time.
My second major incidence was during a marketing class. I started off really excited by the content I was learning and the new group I had formed. It was a few weeks in (after the DNE* date of course) when true colours started to show.
The Control Freak that needed to ace this particular class to make up for horrendous grades the previous semester emerged and ruined what had been a pretty good group, at least for me. The others didn’t seem to mind so much. They either agreed or stayed silent. I, on the other hand, like to contribute and be part of the process. But then I started getting left out of meetings and major decisions started happening between 2-3 of the 6 of us. So much for working as a team.
The last straw for me was when I and another group member worked on part of the project that we had more background knowledge in and CF redid it before handing it in to our professor. No group vote, she just decided it wasn’t up to scratch and did her version of how it should be. When confronted about it, she denied doing it. It wasn’t exactly hard to prove as both versions were different but it turns out that wasn’t the only thing she lied about, so I shouldn’t really have been that surprised.
There was more at stake for me than just my grades, although they are very important to me. Dropping the class was not an option (I had to maintain full-time status to be eligible to study abroad) and skipping the project, which would have resulted in failing the class, wasn’t an option either. Thankfully, I was able to switch groups after discussing the issue with my professor.
Bullying is detrimental at any age. Don’t think growing up changes that. As adults, we may have more ways to cope but it can still have a pretty big impact on a person even if we don’t let it show.
Have you ever been bullied?
Let me know in the comments!
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