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YOUR VOICE: Bullying At Work

office bully

Ever fancied a fresh start or the chance to better yourself? Ever wanted an opportunity to express your skills and motivation to a new employer? Well that’s what Andrew felt he could do when he started his new job.

Unfortunately his drive and enthusiasm was assaulted by another’s inadequacies.

‘I took a leap of faith, left a long term job to try and improve my future prospects and take the uncertain step into a new job. I wanted to make a difference from day one, but I didn’t know there were others who were judging how I projected myself in my new role’.

Andrew was proud of his new job, met the new challenge presented to him with confidence and he progressed well. He approached his new colleagues with kindness, and that kindness was reciprocated by the majority of his co workers.  not all of them, however…

Soon his kindness and confidence were challenged. A member of staff had decided Andrew’s face didn’t fit. They felt they needed to keep an eye on this one, this new boy upstart, make sure he didn’t get too big for his boots in their already established office dynamic.

This particular member of staff had had eyes for the post Andrew had eventually got and had felt they had missed their rightful step up to promotion. A personal grievance had rooted itself and needed to become manifest.

The bullying started with name calling. Soon Andrew was christened with a derogatory nickname, ridiculing his appearance. The rest of the staff naively adopted this nickname thinking it was harmless fun, a spot of office banter, but it made Andrew feel isolated and paranoid.

He started wonder where the name had come from. Then, as days passed, Andrew and a two other colleagues were talking at the brew station. One asked Andrew where the nick name had come from. Andrew shrugged and said he had no idea. The other colleague stepped up and candidly gave up the name of the author and asked Andrew not to say who he had got the name from.

‘I started to doubt my own abilities.  Am I good at my job? I also asked myself what had I done wrong. Nothing, I thought i was just a nice guy. I felt I wasn’t in the clique, the right group. I didn’t know who to talk to or where to turn for help.’

‘Got a problem mate?’ asked his bully. Andrew found himself looking into his overbearing tormentor’s face, their tone firm and a wry smile sneering at the corners of their mouth. Short, sharp comments were thrown at Andrew in passing, not giving him the chance to respond, all the while chipping away at his self-esteem.

‘On the way home some evenings, I cried. I told my partner that i had been sneezing when I got home and they saw my red eyes. I was too embarrassed to tell my partner the truth, because I didn’t want show I was weak. I was embarrassed.  In retrospect, allowing myself to cry about it really fucking helped’.

It wasn’t long until physical threats were being made. Personal boundaries were broken. Little boxing jabs here and there. Hidden behind a cheeky joke front, the contact and pain made it clear of the bully’s true intent to cause harm.  It wasn’t a harmless bit of office banter any more. When the physical assaults started, Andrew decided to put a stop to it. This wasn’t going to happen to him and he wasn’t going to let it escalate.

‘I wasn’t going to take this. I was angry, upset. I wasn’t the weak one and I decided that I wasn’t going to let this person intimidate me. It was hard to come to the decision but I found a fist full of confidence and stood up for myself’.

Andrew went to the colleague who gave him the bully’s name, and also a few other work mates and asked them if they had experienced any intimidating or derogatory behaviour from his abuser. A few came forward but didn’t want to rock the boat. There were never any particular sophistication to the bullying, just familiar old school playground tactics.

‘I thought if the more people knew about what i had experienced, I’d find out if there was someone else who was in the same trouble. I had to be careful of the cliques. I felt I had to find allies’.

Andrew wanted to take things into his own hands at times, hit back, but he felt he was the better man and wouldn’t act in an aggressive way. He’d retaliate by using policy and advice. He consulted the company’s policies on bullying and also researched into unions and other support networks available to him.  Andrew would consult and talk about it as much as he could with people who could help him, providing him with the opportunity to deal with his anxieties and work on rebuilding his self-esteem.

With the support of his supervisor and an admission statement from a fellow victim, Andrew approached the company’s HR department. They took the complaints seriously and acted on the grievance with an in-depth investigation. The bully was removed due to gross misconduct after a period of suspension and disciplinary procedures.

‘The one thing I need to do now is tell my partner. I’ve kept it secret due to my embarrassment. I know it is a macho thing to say but i somehow feel that my manliness had been knocked out of me and I’m worried that my partner might not see me as the ‘strong man’ they thought they had married. I’m still me, but don’t want to be seen as being weak. So now it’s time to talk some more…’.

If you have been effected by bullying in the workplace, check out the Bullying UK site for more information about what to do next.  You can also call CALM and talk to our trained helpline staff about your situation, and they can offer advice and signposting to help near you.

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London: 0808 802 5858

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