Each week of this Bullying Awareness Month the BAT QWL Team, along with the National Workplace Bullying Coalition, will share a story from the upcoming NWBC anthology of workplace survival stories. This is the first of those stories.
I am a single female; my bully was a female supervisor. After reading about bullying, I learned that women bully often and as a means of social ranking and work differently together than men. I worked in a school with over 160 teachers, so the administration put department heads in charge of teachers in their department. The administration was physically and administratively distant from my situation I hope that may be why they did nothing. There were five vice principals and one principal that changed during the 12 years of my experience.
I experienced many of the classic symptoms of bullying in the work place; exclusion, ignoring, pitting employees against each other, stealing my things, having things thrown at me, deceit, shaming, blame, criticism, intrusion, bad boundaries, shift goals, campaigning against me on and on. I involved a male union leader and his response was to have a meeting. He concluded that, "Now that we have cleared the air we can start a new year". I looked at him and realized he had no clue that in girl world bullying never stops.
As the years went on I had to get a regional union leader involved, and we looked at work place harassment and discrimination. I was encouraged to follow every rule and to document everything in hopes that we could file a grievance. I was told that proving a hostile work place was difficult, that it was a broad term. We were not able to prove a hostile work place. The district did not have a policy against work place bullying, but had a bullying policy for students. On several occasions I was able to show that my department head was unprofessional and she was talked to. My male administration’s stance was to avoid conflict so they did not get involved. I asked often why they did not have a conference with the two of us when conflicts came up, but that never happened. I did have a female administrator say, "She is bullying you, she is teaching the new people how to treat you". She was correct, and she was only at our school for 3 years.
I experienced loss of sleep, hair loss, stomach problems, eating problems, muscle problems and my stress changed who I was with the students. I educated myself about bullying, it helped to gain perspective. It helped that other teachers saw what was happening and experienced some of it. I meditated, prayed, got away as often as I could, learned ways to respond that set boundaries and developed a plan to leave because I could get no support from the administration. I am now retired. I retired as soon as I was able.
I asked myself many times what was my lesson, was it karma, what would I do different, what helped. I would recommend educating yourself, being prepared for an uphill battle, proving bullying is as difficult as proving innocence as a rape victim.
Do your job and do it well, the bully will work to find anything wrong. Stay calm, try not to every be alone with the bully, be willing to get up and leave a situation when the bully finds you alone, say, "I am uncomfortable, may we please discuss this in the presence of a third party". Know that the bully will never change, they will never be your friend and you can't trust them, they will always change their answer to unsettle you. They are broken it is not about you.
You may be able to survive the situation but there will be a cost so make a plan. Identify the situation, analyze what policies are in place and administration is willing and able to do. Ask yourself what are your options; and what is the cost to your health, relationships and well-being. Develop a support group you can debrief to, eat nutritiously, stay fit, get spiritual help and use many different exercises to let go of the negative energy that came at you, don't let it steal from your here and now.
1. Trust your gut that something is wrong
2. Educate yourself about bullying
3. Document, Document, Document
4. Develop a support system
5. Develop a plan
This story and many others will be included in the NWBC upcoming anthology. Find out more about this anthology and the other work of the NWBC by visiting: http://www.workplacebullyingcoalition.org/