The Murky Waters Of Work Place Bullying And Harassment

After a year of debating whether or not to write this post, I decided to grow some balls and click publish.

Not going to lie but I am rather scared of the reaction this may or not receive.

That being said, I feel like I’m at a stage in my life where I finally feel ready to talk about what really happened last year and previous experiences of work place bullying and bullying in general.

I’m sure a lot of you have been waiting for this juicy post… well, if you know me in real life anyway.

I fully support anti-bullying and want to raise awareness of what I went through.

We must not allow this to keep on happening at work. HR should be doing everything in their power to ensure bullying is not an acceptable behaviour from adults in a position of power and manipulation.

I’ve experienced bullying not once but twice during my years of work.

You would naturally think bullying stops after school ends, but no, bullies continue in the workplace too. Whether that’s a 55 year old woman, a man, or even a bunch of girls.

It’s disgusting and it needs to stop. We’re adults for gods sake.

I’m the type of person that can take ‘banter’ and jokes about myself and you know what? I give it equally back! However, when it becomes really personal, being harassed, belittled, laughed at and excluded – it effects you mentally.

You’re in a place where you’re there 5 days a week and that’s when it becomes a problem, because there is no escape from bullies, unless you leave. It’s suffocating!

As awful as physical bullying is, I sometimes think emotional mental bullying can be worse.

My first experience of bullying was at school. I was bullied for being ‘anorexic’ and taunted for my looks/appearance by a bunch of girls that ‘were’ my friends. They made my life hell to put it lightly.
This went on from year 9 right the way through to year 11. It was pretty draining to be honest.

It started to affect my attendance as it was about 95%, then shot down to around 40/50% over those last two vital years of education. My teachers were concerned and said I was going to fail my GCSEs but I shrugged it off and passed anyway.

The thought of being at school was emotionally draining, I didn’t want to face it and I did everything in my power to hide away and escape.

After that experience, I became very timid and shy. And, quite distrusting of girls in general.
However, I formed some great friendships with a bunch of ladies at university. I finally became confident again!

I then entered the work place and I was bullied by a manager. I thought, god not again… however, this time I had some balls and I fought back (not physically of course).

Probably not the best of ideas as I’m very passionate and speak strongly when someone wrongs me or talks down to me (INFJ traits ahoy).

I was in my early twenties at the time and to be frank I was fed up of being treated like a piece of shit – treat me like an equal and you will gain my respect. There was absolutely no reason for this hatred what so ever, the only thing I could think of was jealously? Or a position of power that had simply gone to someones head.

A few things happened over time and one day I turned up for work and she was gone – I was told she got moved to another store for several reasons and complaints.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t relieved, but I felt bad for her too. Damn me (typical INFJ) for being sympathetic towards bullies…  I thought she is probably dealing with personal stuff and taking it out on easy targets like myself. But it wasn’t the right way to treat people and karma will catch up with you.

Anyway, after that whole sha-bang and being content at work with new managers for another year or so, I was then offered my first proper job as a Digital Designer.

I loved it, absolutely loved it when I first joined – even though I was drowning in work after 8 months in. However after a year or so of being there, changes were made, new people entered the building and things weren’t right.

Our dynamic and team changed, and all of a sudden there was a burst of unexpected pressures.

I was bullied by a 55 year old woman… yes aged 55, would you believe it?! I was told on numerous occasions and I quote “I wasn’t working hard enough and needed to be put on a performance review”, I was told I was basically shit at my job (and other colleagues who were my friends at the time “apparently” said the same, as she told me…), she also told me that I should quit if I was ‘unhappy’ and that Joe didn’t love me because he wasn’t supporting the decision of allowing me to quit (yes, you heard that right… don’t drag my relationship into this Sandra* (that’s her code name, obviously I’m not going to reveal who it was), so unbelievably unprofessional – I didn’t quit because I’m not a quitter, it’s not in my Scorpio/INFJ nature, and I was  honestly content with my work – I loved design. Sandra* believe it or not you (and others) were the problem, but of course I couldn’t say that. I actually remember I had a panic attack right in front of her after that conversation, I couldn’t breathe.  I was so shocked what was coming from her mouth in our one to one).

Sandra* belittled me in multiple meetings, told me I had a “bad attitude”, asked if I planned my endometriosis operation back in end of July – early August last year when I returned to work (actually lolling at this… how can you plan an operation?!), wouldn’t give me training to become a Senior Designer even though she wrote a document that she would make steps to help me achieve that position, was given a ridiculous workload that I couldn’t manage (I was a “Digital Designer” yet I was managing 16 if not more accounts on social media (design, planning, writing copy and scheduling), planning, designing and sending emails, designing for web, documenting analytics, and doing in house photography and video – crazy right?! You sure I’m not working hard enough Sandra?! Because that list says otherwise dear.
Most of those jobs weren’t on my job description either.

The icing on the cake was I almost got a disciplinary for my sickness/occasional time off, but strongly argued against it as I have chronic illnesses – they didn’t have a leg to stand on with that and would of got themselves into trouble if they went ahead with it. So saved themselves there!

Despite everything that happened, we had two people join our team to help me out – which was good news. We really got on well and worked well as a team – the Digital Marketing Executive and SEO/PPC Executive! I think these changes happened before the bullying and harassment started though. But, there’s a possibility I could be wrong.

To top off everything, in my final weeks of leaving, management piled on more work! You would think my work load would decrease when you’re leaving, oh no… they panicked and they wanted to stress me to the point of exhaustion. They wanted me to basically do “3 months worth of work in my one month notice period” lol.

At the time, I said I will do what I can but that’s unachievable to be honest, but they made me feel like the bad guy because I was leaving. I was micro-managed to an insane degree in those few weeks.
Good way to treat your employees eh – regardless of whether they are leaving or not!

Some of the management should get awards for exploitation and bullying and harassment. (sorry not sorry).

Not only did all of this happen with said 55 year old woman, but some of my “team mates” began excluding me from lunch – purposely asking out loud if everyone but me was ready to go downstairs for lunch, alongside numerous remarks, bitchy comments and turning more colleagues from other teams against me with rumours.

The ring leader of that group – was close to Sandra*, so it was pretty clear what was going on.

I over heard these colleagues say ‘she needs to just go’ – multiple times (when I was peacefully getting on with my work with my headphones in trying to ignore everything…).

I was laughed at, my appearance was mocked, I lost a shit ton of weight through stress and I was forced to move seats to sit with another team because “someone needed to sit in my old place”…. turns out it was a load of bullshit and no-one sat there for months! Apart from when a freelance designer joined 4 months later. Says it all really! They clearly did not want me to be a part of that team. The lot of them. Why though? That is something I still question. Was I hated so much that they purposely wanted to torment me and force me out? If anything that says A LOT about the marketing team, as well as other departments who didn’t need to be involved.

If they read this, which I’m sure some will (as gossip travels fast) – yes you’re damn right you should not of been fed lies and rumours about me, it’s unprofessional to be spreading rumours without knowing the FACTS and without listening to two sides of the story. BUT, you believed them and then made horrible judgements and remarks at me. An elephant never forgets.

Any who, so be it – I didn’t argue (lost my passion to question their motives the longer it went on…) and so I moved seats.  I worked well with my new team – at first I was a little awkward because of everything of what had happened but I opened up to one or two of them eventually.

It was refreshing to be surrounded by like-minded people and I’m still in contact with them. I appreciate that they made my work life more enjoyable and helped to support where they could. I actually loved coming in to work 2-3 months prior to leaving as we were bonding so well.

But, the cherry on the cake was the final two weeks – the exhaustion, the stress, the tears, my high blood pressure, the insomnia (literally slept 2 hours a night for 2 weeks solid), the hallucinations from little sleep and panic attack’s lead me to be in hospital for 3 weeks, so I left early and couldn’t start my new job on said date as was planned.

*update*: I voiced my concerns to HR about the ridiculous workload at the time and it was sorted, however higher management was still pressurising me after this was said. I mean… I have no words.

Joe and I had to cancel our holiday to Santorini too… but we got our money back on insurance, phew.

Regardless of everything that went on,  my new employer and manager were so understanding. No questions were asked why I was in hospital and that’s how it should be anyway.

At the time I couldn’t speak to them as I was recovering in hospital but my husband was an absolute angel discussing everything with my line manager and HR.

I’m so grateful for how things turned out because I’m so happy now. In a little bubble of happiness where I love going into work every single day.

What makes me sad and disappointed in myself is that I didn’t speak up and I’m really upset that I invited some of these colleagues to my wedding because I thought they were my friends and I truly loved their company. How wrong was I? (Instant INFJ door slam to some after that).

I let them do this to me for a year and more – until I realised it wasn’t worth it and I wasn’t going to let them get to me anymore. I put my energy in to other relationships and got back to my ‘old happy self’.
I said to myself in those final months, if I find my ideal perfect role, then what will be will be and with my luck, my wish came true after one interview.

It’s also worth mentioning, other colleagues who I was friendly with left for similar reasons – “the bullying culture” in that work environment. It wasn’t just in marketing, it happened in customer services and in sales.

I think perhaps because it was a beauty company and there were a lot of females who had that ‘high school catty exterior’ still, as well as some being young – but age shouldn’t matter. The company I work for now has A LOT of females and I haven’t seen much cattiness since I’ve been there – however, I don’t know all the departments.

We all support each other and do bits of each others jobs and work as a team. I’m all about female empowerment and women supporting women. Girl power!

It’s strange to think, I was a completely different person a year ago. You wouldn’t of even recognised me.
I was in such a bad way in hospital that they wouldn’t discharge me for 3 whole weeks (do you know how deliberating that was) and looked an absolute state.

The good side was that I was discharged before my birthday and Joe, my friends and family spoiled me rotten when I got out.

It was of course tough the first couple of months after coming out of hospital, but I settled into my job well, I was immediately supported with HTML training and made friends easily.

My manager was aware of doctors and hospital appointments and said it was absolutely fine – again with no questions asked. Something that was frown upon in my last job as they wanted to know every detail of why, what, where. (Super invasive)!

It’s safe to say, that change needed to happen and there were better things on the horizon for me.

When I look back and talk about it all, it sounds absolutely insane but everything that I mentioned happened and much much more. I mean I could list a thousand other things they did to me, but this post is getting ridiculously long…

As I mentioned above, I’m actually in a really good place right now – I love waking up and going into work every single day because my girls make me laugh as soon as I walk through the door and it’s the perfect balanced environment – how a company should be run.

I may or not be here today if I didn’t make those changes. So, I’m forever grateful for those who helped me get through that god awful time.

I believe everything happens for a reason, and these paths make you stronger and develop you into the person you become today.

I strongly support anti-bullying in the work place. Verbal, written and physical is simply not acceptable. If there was an anti bullying community, you’d bet I’d be on it!

HR need to do more in supporting anti-bullying as some are afraid to speak up, and some even commit suicide because of it. I know I was kicking myself that I didn’t speak up about it before I left.

HR probably didn’t have a clue what was going on, but perhaps the HR director could suspect why I was leaving as I was asked ‘why are you going for a similar role at another company’ before I left… ‘Ah no reason, just close to home’ …bullshit, but sort of true. Also, what I found weird, was I didn’t have an exit interview!

Truthfully what are HR going to do when you’re leaving? To them you don’t matter anymore so what’s the point bringing up what’s happened to you?

I just needed to remove myself from that toxic environment in the most graceful way I could.

I hope I never experience bullying again, but I sure know how to handle those situations now.

If you ever experience bullying at school or in the work place, speak up, write down everything – times, dates and print off communications that support your case. Sometimes other employees will support you if they’ve witnessed it and they don’t mind getting involved.

If it’s verbal it’s quite tricky to prove – this is why higher management use these ‘tactics’, because it’s your word against them.
I suppose you could record them, but, I’m pretty sure that’s illegal in the UK and against basic human rights ;). Personally I wouldn’t risk recording anyone as it’s a breach of privacy – you could be done for legal reasons recording/filming without the person’s consent and it can be considered a criminal offence, so be careful.

As well as this, in the unlikely hood, but if a company is breaking privacy laws by digging for personal information or manipulating information on personal devices – then this is on a whole other spectrum. Don’t get me started on the amount of laws on this part!

Anyway, do try and resolve the issue first hand – there may be miscommunication and a reason for their behaviour towards you. Ask them to go for a coffee and have an informal chat.

If it’s continuous, you’ve tried to make amends, and it’s ruining your work life, go directly to HR – no matter how high up the manager is. At that level, they should know better anyway.

If it isn’t resolved, you can take further action – whether that’s a formal compliant or legal action (if they are breaking the law by discrimination – which includes disability, age, gender, religion or belief, pregnancy/maternity, privacy and more. There may be something against unfair treatment for medical conditions too, but I’m not 100% sure on that one).

You may be questioning why I know so much and that’s because I happen to know my shit (lol), I research till I have facts and Joe’s mum works for the government so I know my rights which I’m sharing with you to support anyone going through something similar.

Right, emotions are running high and this will be the first and last time I talk about this on here.

Peace and love, but mostly importantly, don’t put up with bullying in the work place, speak up! Bullies will not win, karma eventually takes it’s toll. Keep your head high, be strong and rise above them!

If you’re being bullied in the work place and don’t feel supported by HR at work, have a read of this from Mind. Another great website is this. Also have a read of this on Gov.uk, and last but by no means least the NHS on work place bullying. If HR aren’t being supportive, I strongly suggest leaving for your own sainty.

Alternatively, please do message me on social media if you need someone to talk to – I’ll be your buddy and will help you get through challenging times!

P.S I’m still awaiting a personal apology from my last job… I think I’ll be waiting till I die to be honest haha. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else there – especially those who I was friends with.

Little update: I forgot to also mention that in my final week of being at my previous job, I noticed a few things that weren’t right on my computer and other devices (not mentioning devices until I know for certain).

‘Slack’ the application (a group chat – bit like msn) had been removed – which definitely wasn’t my doing so someone (who must of known my password – only management or I.T would know) had been on my computer and removed it. As well as a few other things… I’m curious to know why did they remove Slack? And why tinker with my computer? But, by the time I’d left, I couldn’t be bothered to investigate it to find the truth.

AND I couldn’t seem to access my emails from home that final week (I think they may have blocked my i.p address – god knows how they would have that information though? Unless… my theory was right all along…) and I couldn’t check my pay slips on their payroll website that week too, so so weird. Fishy AF.

I suppose a part of me wants to know what really happened after I left because I had zero contact with anyone and blocked pretty much everyone I worked with but a mere few (the ones I could trust anyway).

I have an inkling my computer was investigated though. I mean, If I were HR and a Managing Director, I would want to know what went on in those last weeks, months and even years.

If that was me – I would of gotten to the bottom of it. Because it could of been easily resolved much earlier on. I’m very forgiving and believe to see good in everyone, but if my values, beliefs and trust is broken then… well… all I have to say is, those people are inhumane and have no compassion for their employees. If that’s the case – move on, find an employer that respects you.

I will say though 2017 was the WORST year of my life, but I got through it!

I guess I’ll never know the “truth” behind it all… Anyway, this chapter in my life is now closed.

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14 Comments

  1. Katie
    November 4, 2018 / 7:09 am

    I found this through your Instagram as I’m dealing with bullying at work too. So thank you for this.

    Your last job sounds horrendous – how did that woman get away with speaking and degrading you like that? I would of sued them if that was me. That’s definitely bullying and harassment! And to most give you a disapliary for your chronic illness is a joke. They sound awful.
    I’m happy to hear youre in a better place now though sweetie. You seem like such a lovely person! Gorgeous outfit by the way, youre stunning. Xx

    • zoey
      Author
      November 4, 2018 / 7:31 am

      At times it was but I ignored it most of the time, I just can’t believe I put up with it for so long. And gutted I didn’t go to HR about it at the time. But it was hard because so many were involved and thought I’d be a burden talking to HR. I just had that strong mentality of “sucking it up” even though I would go home and cry almost every day for a year.

      I think what didn’t help was I was so strong minded, so I thought I could resolve it by myself but I couldn’t at times as people “higher” up ruined this for me and stirred things. I think what makes me upset was that I was promised help to progress and train to become a senior designer in writing which I have somewhere, but I was denied this support and it strung with on going personal attacks that I wasn’t good enough to become senior, even though I proved my case and was doing a senior role anyway. It was exhausting!

      Any job and manager should help you be the best you can be to help you reach your goals.

      I didn’t sue because I liked and respected the managing directors and that would seem like an attack on them and their business rather than other management that should of been giving a warning. Also, I didn’t have the energy. I wanted to move on with my life in a graceful manner and put it behind me.

      This was really hard for me to open up and talk about, and probably why it’s taking me a year – two years. But, I hope my story can help someone who is being bullied in the work place and make a wrong a right.
      There’s no doubt in the back of my mind this will anger/upset some people and I’m waiting for the hate from them, but it will show their true colours if they attack.

      Thank you for your kind words, means a lot x

  2. Lucy
    November 4, 2018 / 8:32 am

    So proud of you writing this Zoey, I know it must of been hard for you. xx

    • zoey
      Author
      November 4, 2018 / 8:34 am

      Thank you so much, means a lot :). Anything to help try and raise awareness for others. x

  3. Marilyn
    November 4, 2018 / 9:12 am

    Well done Zoey xx

    • zoey
      Author
      November 4, 2018 / 9:17 am

      Thank you :)! See you next weekend! xxx

  4. November 4, 2018 / 10:35 am

    you are so strong and talking about your experience is so right. I have been very lucky and never have been bullied at work, school is a different story though. However, I have experienced the serious effects of bullying at work with many of my friends and its truly heartbreaking.
    ❤︎

    http://www.elenaisabelle.com

    • zoey
      Author
      November 4, 2018 / 10:54 am

      Thank you so much lovely! It’s horrible that it happens to so many. A lot of my friends and family members have been through it too. Heart breaking. x

  5. Beth
    November 4, 2018 / 10:54 am

    I’m glad you’ve reached such a better place, you do look so much happier and healthier 😸
    I hope that writing this has helped you let go of that place. I totally get it and as an ENFJ personality type I will often find that gem of ‘but this thing they did was nice’ or ‘I know they’re finding it rough’ and am too forgiving of this.. it’s why it’s important to get it out of your system. I hope the writing of this has helped heal those last few wounds so you can continue to enjoy your current place with the security that you are stronger and more savvy to it than before xx

    • zoey
      Author
      November 4, 2018 / 11:07 am

      Thanks Beth :).

      It has for sure, it’s closure for me. I needed to say my piece and move on swiftly with my life! Oooo, I think you’re the same as one of my work wives – a more extraverted version of me!

      Yeah I was the same which is why it took me so long to leave! I was like “but I really get on with x, y and z”, I liked the managing directors and generally loved the job itself. Plus I’m mega stubborn and can go through anything – I’ve had a lot to deal with in my life and I’m strong as hell. I know you went through something sort of similar – so talking to you last year really helped me so thanks for that – appreciate it :).

      Most definitely! Over and out haha :). xx

  6. Kirsty
    November 4, 2018 / 10:31 pm

    Zoey, that is really serious about what you said about your computer. If they removed, changed things around or plotted against you, you would have a very good battle in court. Companies are not allowed to remove and manipulate anything, everything can be traced if you took action.
    You would need evidence of that happening.

    From what I’ve read here, there are a bunch of laws that they may have broken. Sorry you went through this, I wouldn’t of had the strength to deal with that and I would of wanted justice.

    • zoey
      Author
      November 4, 2018 / 10:47 pm

      It’s just weird, isn’t it? It’s like they were trying to hide things. Well that’s how it feels and looks to me and I’m pretty good at reading situations.

      I do have evidence but wouldn’t use it because it would be an attack on the company (who I don’t have a problem with – it’s sone of the management I had my issues with) and I haven’t got the time and energy to waste fighting it anyway. I believe in karma and it will come, it always does.

      I often think, sometimes they thought they could out-smart me, problem is I notice everything and more. Im pretty tech savy myself too. My husband is a developer and I know a lot about I.T anyway. I did it for GCSE and was going to do it at a level.

      When I was working there the security was awful – without going into too much detail, anyone could log on to my emails and read them. How unsafe can you get? So I’m glad I raised that at work for them to fix. I had nothing to hide of course, but there were emails about my medical conditions to HR and the thought of anyone potentially accessing my emails to have a nosey was wrong in my eyes.

      Justice would be great but honestly I just wanted to say my piece, raise awareness and try and help stop bullying in work places. I love charity work and want to do more on the side – anti bullying holds a special place in my heart. As well as other charities.

      It’s worth mentioning that I don’t intend to upset and anger anyone, I’ve moved on with my life, as I’m sure they have too and I’m really happy. Happiness and respect was all I ever wanted, and I have that. x

  7. November 6, 2018 / 7:01 pm

    I was bullied at work horribly quite a few years ago. I tried to talk to HR about it but it didn’t go anywhere. I eventually quit the job. It was awful! I think this is so much more common than people think! Thanks for sharing your story!

    http://www.poutineandprada.com

    • zoey
      Author
      November 6, 2018 / 9:26 pm

      Thanks for commenting love! I’m so sorry to hear that you had to quit. Some of my friends had to as well as it was unbearable.

      There were definitely times where I thought the same, but forced myself to get through it. I honestly don’t know how I did it. Emotionally and mentally abused for 1-2 years, why did I put up with that?! x

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