Workplace bullying: Recognition, response, recovery, renewal

During the past 15 years, I’ve become familiar with hundreds of personal stories about severe workplace bullying. I’ve seen, over and again, how bullying targets often face multiple challenges in terms of understanding and responding to their situations.

Many bullying targets go through similar stages on their path to a better place: Recognition, response, recovery, and renewal. Here are some brief thoughts on each:

Recognition

Being severely bullied at work can be a shock to the system. Especially if the bullying is more indirect, simply figuring out what’s happening can be a maddening challenge. “I didn’t know what hit me” is a common refrain from targets.

The term “workplace bullying” is gaining wider recognition, but many who experience it were not familiar with the term beforehand. For these people, there’s often a “shock of recognition” that occurs when they, say, stumble upon the website of the Workplace Bullying Institute or this blog. For many, discovering there’s such a thing as “workplace bullying” is a revelation, one that validates their experiences and impressions.

Processing this experience and its effects on one’s health and employment may take time, reflection, study, and perhaps professional help — even while the bullying behaviors themselves continue and sometimes escalate.

Response

The next step is to address the bullying itself. In this short post, I won’t attempt to discuss all the options and their limitations, but they range from internal reporting, to filing a legal complaint (though in the U.S., such possibilities are limited), to leaving the job. Unfortunately, the latter too often remains the most viable option in terms of removing the threat to one’s well-being.

There is no singular, “one size fits all” approach, so be wary of advice that suggests so. But do assess your options with the growing number of useful resources (see below) available to you.

Recovery

Workplace bullying can exact a heavy toll on one’s mental and physical health. If you are in this position, then recovering your health is a critically important stage.

If you’re currently a bullying target, you need to address any health problems as they arise and to engage in whatever safe coping strategies may be available.  As far as genuine recovery goes, it’s awfully hard to enter this stage until the threat is removed. Recovering from bullying while you’re still experiencing it is next to impossible.

Once you’re away from it, however, the process of healing can begin. It may be longer or shorter in duration. If, for example, the bullying has triggered clinical depression or symptoms consistent with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, this may be a longer term process. In any event, some combination of self-help and professional assistance may be useful.

Renewal

“Moving forward” is another phrase that rolls easily off the tongue, while in reality it often presents significant challenges.

It may mean getting another job or even searching out a new livelihood. And in many cases it will mean finding ways to deal with recurrent feelings of anger, fear, and resentment. This often is an ongoing process, rather than a sudden point of being “over it.” That’s why for many people, these stages can overlap, with hopefully less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff becoming prevalent over time.

Ultimately, though, people can and do find their way out of the darkness. In talking to targets of severe workplace bullying, I find that many were able to summon reserves of strength and resilience they didn’t know they possessed. These qualities led them to better places in their lives, away from the abuse that so undermined them.

***

A 5th “R”: Resources

The best overall self-help resource remains Gary and Ruth Namie’s The Bully at Work (rev. ed., 2009). Written in a straightforward, supportive, and conversational tone, it delivers a ton of information and insights about workplace bullying and useful advice. Some of this material also is available without charge at their Workplace Bullying Institute website. WBI’s professional coach, Jessi Eden Brown, offers short-term phone coaching to bullying targets for a reasonable fee.

In addition, I’ve collected various resources and posts in the Need Help? section of this blog, including a variety of blog posts that may be useful for targets assessing their options.

40 responses

  1. As I have stated previously, I had to resort to self-help via online blogs and purchased books because my Workers’ Comp caseworker refused to refer me to COURT MANDATED treatment. She would not speak to me in clear violation of the Court Order. Therefore, Workers’ Comp does NOT begin to handle or compensate for this seemingly epidemic bullying. I found myself reading about how prisoners endure solitary confinement last night and thought, Oh My God! That’s how I feel. The slightest external stimulus makes me cringe, makes me anxious, makes me angry! My point here is that WOC benefits are not sufficient, and that we targets already feel isolated, useless and sometimes really need and deserve proper treatment instead of being stonewalled.

    • Laurie, I understand your feelings and have endured years of WPBing. With the help of a good therapist and Drs I have managed to keep the bully from pushing me over the edge. I have thought about filing for workers comp instead of using unpaid family leave and am curious to know how that process works. My FMLA papers pinpoint the bully as the cause for deterioration of my physical and emotional health.

      • Dee….I am in Massachusetts FYI. Workers Comp allows for such injury, altho a ‘grey area’. I kept a journal of every instance of torment (multiple daily entries such that my co-workers, whom one cannot trust saw me pulling out the green book from my handbag), presented it to an attorney who took my case on contingency basis. I was sent to an impartial therapist. It was initially my MD who wanted to medicate me in order to help me tolerate the abuse. That was totally unacceptable to me. He wrote me a note stating that my health issues were ‘directly related to’ my job – this was very crucial. You have to know that no job is worth your health or your sanity and that HR has to respond and assist you with Worker’s Comp injury filings. In my case I was HR so that I had nowhere to turn but OUT!
        Make an exit strategy and then act on it. PLEASE DO NOT DOUBT YOURSELF!!! If I can help further let me know.

  2. DEE PS: You say you have FMLA documentation sufficient to be out of work, your HR Rep knows what this means and yet withholding what benefits you are entitled to….run THAT by an employment attorney – a good one will jump at that I would think.

      • Please do. NO JOB IS WORTH IT!!! I lost my home, my family is scattered geographically, and I am at the gracious mercy of family. Please act before you lose your confidence that you are a truly capable person and deserve so much better…IT’S TRUE! There are laws that protect us from this treatment in a marriage, in schools, hell even on the street, so acting against it in the workplace seems as though it should be a no-brainer. Do you research, I did. But if you want to fast-track and get the Hell out, call an attorney and speak the truth….there is no need to embellish any of the facts as they stand for themselves. KEEP ME POSTED! I will help any way I can as it related to my case (which is due to settle this week – Prayers Welcomed !!! 0:-)

  3. I am finding recovering is a difficult task. I wake up every morning in a cold sweat, seeing this man’s face screaming at me in a rage and feeling helpless given the entire workplace was dysfunctional and saw no problem with such abuse. At other times, he was my best friend. Like a roller coaster, for about eight years I endured this, day by day. At the same time, I was forced to work a humanly impossible schedule to the point I had no time to eat or sleep for many months in a row and attacked by a woman I did not know on an annual basis at my evaluation – while I was creating something new that brought the company millions of dollars that others saw as something they wanted, if they could just get me out of the way. After three decades of employment at this place and being in my late 50′s, with the stereotypical view these days that people in my age group are somehow unemployable, my hope of moving forward, or even surviving, is dismal. Although the physical symptoms of painful chest pains and the inability to hold down food have ceased, the mental torture remains inside my head. Fighting it would have destroyed any chances of future employment and there are no laws to protect anyway. This wasn’t just one person, it was an organization that considered abusing long term employees out the door was an economical benefit, and those who were most knowledgeable, efficient and hard workers were a detriment because they were decreasing those billable hours. My life has been destroyed without much hope of a future to rebuild. There are no laws to protect, nor morals or ethics in leadership to see what this does to people. All one can hope is that narcissistic leadership in this world will be eradicated and humanity is brought back into this world, in both the workplace and in government.

  4. KH: I, too, have the flashbacks, which lead to anxiety and then on to anger/fear/rage. My eating/sleeping habits are nothing I have ever experienced….some days showering, etc. is a hassle. I miss my routine and wonder just when I’ll have it back together again. I spend WAY too much time online looking for quasi-answers and quick fixes, but you and I both know that Is not reality. I am in the same age bracket as you and have yet to find an answer as to how to re-enter the workplace in a confident manner let alone explain why I left that job and haven’t worked after that job. It seems as though you, like me, still hold out hope of a RETURN to humanity, but when I watch the news my heart sinks. I do not understand why in today’s society when someone does the correct and moral thing they are considered a HERO when what they did should be second nature or at least a reflex. American society has lost its sense of community and help when you can, where you can and that really stinks. Your situation seems to be a matter of mobbing and discrimination (age/gender/COMPETENCE). Do not lose faith: there is Hope. Have you been treated?
    Hang in There! Oh and the thing I found hardest but truest was that IT’S OK TO ASK FOR HELP!!!

    • I sought treatment while living through the non-stop bullying in an attempt to cope and continue to produce at rapid speed and intellect through each attack, but now that I am unemployed and thus far unable to find employment at my age, I cannot afford it and continue to survive financially and pay the mortgage until I can sell. Where I will go once I do, I do not know. My life has been destroyed by the mob to make room for “someone.” Never knew who or why given it was done indirectly by a person who did not know me and I did not communicate with otherwise, but definitely was an expert on what I “think” although I had no idea what she was talking about, ever, and was not allowed to respond.

      • Dear KH: You are experiencing exactly what I am. I was in constant treatment with the counselor for our employees (EAP). I also saw other counselors and have still have a psychiatrist. I had to be put on clonazepam due to high anxiety and an anti-depressant. I am too unemployed and it is hard to find work at age 55. Have you been to job service with a counselor there? Had to cash in my 401K to keep making house payments. My job has been posted since I was “terminated”, which they changed to “separation”, and then “other”. I never “quit” but the unemployment judge (after 3 unemployment hearings, plus I had to get a lawyer for that) called it “quit for good reason. I could not believe they even fought me on unemployment. I had been working there for 23 years (always 100% on my yearly evaluations). I believe the bullying attempt at my workplace was purposefully done to make people quit, so they would not have to pay unemployment, and then replace older workers with lower-paid younger workers, benefits just starting, and nothing built up yet, i.e. vacation. I was almost to the top of my pay scale. I was also an expert in my field. I trained other workers and was well liked. I also was not allowed to respond and have a final “exit interview”. These people just care about saving money and that is the bottom line. I was mobbed too, lost friends, and now many coworkers ignore more. I was also well liked and I know my supervisor gave them some half-lie to make them wonder what happened. The only thing I can say is give it to God. It takes time to heal. I am still in the process. My counselor was fired too. My new counselor said that I am like a sponge taking in others’ problems because I care. She said I have to start thinking more about me because it is unhealthy to take on these things. Even with the EEOC; I gave it up. Good luck to you. It does take time to heal and survive financially and emotionally. I am selling on E-Bay, buy clothes, etc. at Salvation Army, Goodwill, etc. Use coupons. You should look into what might be out there for you mortgage-wise. I didn’t even care about cashing in my 401-K and I paid my mortgage as far ahead as possible because that is the most important payment to make. My life too was changed, but you have to let it go and move on. Go back to the the good things you know you can do and do not let this experience make you feel inadequate. Only the Best to You and others who are suffering from this awful treatment!

      • Thank you for your reply GEM. I agree, the purpose of the bullying is to try to get the long term, experienced out the door to “save money.” Health insurance costs are a large part of it, I fear, given rates are discriminatory. It is purposeful cruelty, and there are many where I worked who have suffered the same. Hard to heal when the place is still monitoring my Internet activity and passing around false rumors still after I have been gone for a time as those still there have told me. I see who searches on some of my website profiles, and the HR Director and IP Department are quite interested for some reason. Why, I don’t know? It’s not like they don’t know what they do to people, and I have said nothing anywhere on the Internet, other than here under initials, about my experience there. I was even “interviewed” by a company highly affiliated with my prior employer, which turned out to be an interrogation session about “what happened” with no future communication although I called to check the status. So, I fear I am going to have to walk away from my home and leave town just to have an ounce of hope given the power I had to face. These people are beyond ruthless. They don’t give up and do NOT want anyone to say a word about what they do, although it is well known in this city given the large number of highly respected employees who have suffered the abuse. Yes, my retirement money is cashed out and I’m living off that, until it runs out. Where to after that? No family to rely on. Alone… After devoting half my life to that place, sacrificing my personal life, as I raised children alone. Sad this nation has lost all site of humanity, morals and ethics to beef up that balance sheet by destroying people’s life’s work and lives.

  5. My life changed forever in December …I can relate to all that both of you are saying…have you all filed a complaint with the EEOC? My case has about 6 different provable levels…for the last three years I kept every text, email, voice mail– I never thought it would get as bad as it did..now I am in the waiting stage to see if we go to mediate, or the federal court with a jury. I would go into all of the details but here is a succinct list…I was (am) an educator
    Told to dye my hair
    Dress Casually and get rid of the heels and suits
    That I had suffered a mental breakdown fueled by jealousy
    Denied FMLA
    Forced on Medical Leave
    Leave was under the table, board had no idea

    Blocked Benefits and then the ultimate…..

    Forced through a fraudulent resignation….seriously…it is SO bad …I can’t remember who I was before this…

    It goes on and on and I have trouble having the stamina to keep writing, I am in treatment for PTSD and I just don’t know if I will ever be me again…but EEOC— file a report…

    • KDM: It sounds like you have a lot going on and I’m sorry you’re going through this, too. I guess what really strikes a chord with me is your statement(s) of not being able to remember who you were before this and don’t know if you will ever be you again….I think/feel that a lot as well. I do not believe that if someone has not been through this, had their sense of pride, self respect, confidence, TRUST IN OTHERS hammered out of you than they cannot possibly relate and will therefore label you, aka the mental breakdown theory. THAT MAKES ME ANGRY!!! It appears that you have done well to document, record, etc, all of your torment and that you indeed have Federal Laws on your side, but I am sensing that the legal part of this is not the priority and I agree totally. LIVES GET RUINED BY THIS! Families torn apart! It is my hope for you that your case gets mediated so that you do not have to re-live all of this in all of the ugly details. PLEASE PLEASE post your outcome – it will give others Hope and Confidence, both of which we all need to get through this. You will find Peace again, I promise.

    • When you’re dealing with a very powerful law firm, it is hopeless to fight. No attorney will stand next to you to help you.

  6. I would like to share with everyone a wise and kind letter from my uncle. It concerns the workplace bullying that I endured, and tried to stop for over 2 years.

    I recently told my lawyer and the EEOC Investigator that I was done. It was never the money that I was seeking; it was justice, and putting an end to all who endure bullying.

    In my uncle’s letter, below, I put blanks in personal and company information – even though it is obvious that this is hospital. I am at peace knowing I did as much as I could do. It was starting to eat away at me physically and emotionally, and I have decided to let go and give this to God.

    Dear _____,

    I would have to conclude the biggest loser in this has been _____, morally, financially, and administratively. The _____has changed from my experiences with it, i.e., as a youngster, and later with the surgical care I received during my tonsillectomy, and appendectomy. Most importantly, Sis, _____and I were all born there. Our mother taught us to respect it and its employees, which in my eyes consisted mainly of hard working _____laboring night and day as team members hoping for recognition by their superiors and by our Lord and Savior. Believe me they were recognized by all faiths in Fond du Lac, and applauded generously for their kindnesses to everyone. But this organization has now been taken over by a secular force engaged in “bulling” and with a culture more interested in profitability than genuine organizational teamwork and integrity. The administrative ethics of this _____has decayed, and “management” has deteriorated as reflected by the manner in which you and your associates have been treated during these EEOC/ERD hearings, and with an outcome that is disparaging, and sinful.

    As Always, My Love and Prayers are with you, and with those who suffered through this ordeal. They, hoping that you may be the successful one in alerting the higher echelon of_____management to the divisiveness that has existed, and will now continue to prevail amongst a very unhappy crew of bullied employees.

    In my opinion I felt that you did not do this for your sake alone, but also for the others who had left because of the bulling that was prevalent, and had to be exposed. In my mind you are a HERO who brought this sad, sad situation forward and exposed it the best that you could. Many times there are those in management who prefer not to rock the boat, just ignore it and it’ll go away. At _____this cell of management preferred to keep it hidden, but eventually it will fester and burst wide open. Hopefully, one day this totally unhealthy working environment will be recognized, and the situation resolved by management changes within _____.

    Love,

    Uncle _____

  7. I can testify to the major health threat that workplace course can cause. I developed not only major depression but PTSD as a result of a two-year course of workplace abuse orchestrated by my immediate supervisor and the manager above her (the two managers above the latter turned a blind eye). Both of these were women of almost exactly my same age (where is feminism in all this?).
    I have just been retired from the job (not voluntarily — that was the final stroke), but am determined first to restore my health and then to find ways I can be useful, however humble, by volunteering to work for the Healthy Workplace Movement. If anyone knows of any organizations or groups, including research groups, in the Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland area that has that focus please let me know. I have over 34 years experience as a labor lawyer and also a degree in psychology.
    Thank you — and my support and prayers for all those who have been subjected to workplace abuse — it can literally make your life hell — and affect your health negatively in major ways.
    No one should have to be subjected to a workplace abuse as a condition of employment — indeed the UN Statement of Human Rights includes a person’s right to be treated with fairness, dignity, and respect in the workplace. Employee rights are human rights; I don’t believe that perspective can be overemphasized. That is, I was not only targetted and bullied — and made ill, my human rights as defined by the UN were violated, as were and are those of all others who have or are being similarly mistreated.

    • Gail I am sorry this is happening to you. I have been mobbed as well. I am intrigued that the UN Statement of Human Rights makes this explicit claim. Are we as US citizens covered universally by this?

  8. Does it ever end? I have been gone for months, but am still being subjected to being monitored on the Internet, black balling and false accusations that my friends who still are subjected to the dysfunction tell me about. This punching bag for narcissistic ego satisfaction by the most powerful is worn out… I was interviewed for a position that I am very qualified for by an entity that has close ties to my prior employer, and it was quite obvious I was being questioned way too intently about “what happened” to be a serious interview. I tried to ford the questions and get back to the subject matter, but it was weird and quite obvious.

    Although I have contacted this prospective employer? about the status of the position, I received no communication back. This entity which services my prior employers’ EAP program searched my profile on an online source in my efforts to network before I applied for the job, along with the HR Dept. and the IP Dept. on multiple occasions. There is nothing to see? Other than on this site, I have said and done nothing on the Internet, despite false accusations, so does it ever end? I am sure they are concerned about an EEOC action and quite displeased that I won their appeal on the unemployment benefits because they accused me of misconduct for responding to the abuse after 8 years of living Hell, but I just don’t have the strength and am trying to heal. But how can I? When will they ever figure out I never did a thing wrong other than, as they told me, “worked too hard” although I had no control over what I was asked to do? Insane! I fear hopeless. I have no one to talk to, no where to go, and am so tired of the abuse. Sickening.

    • Dear KH, My deepest condolences and sympathy to you. NO ONE deserves
      this unethical conduct. Please know you have my ongoing prayers (I am a person
      of faith) as well as increased committment against workplace abuse – a lifetime commitment on my part.
      We stand together — and ultimately will prevail. It involves nothing less than human rights — employee rights are human rights, which we must adamantly stand by. GW

  9. I am a person of faith too, because that is what gets us through life. I would give anything to be able to commit myself against workplace abuse. I am an author, and about all I can do is write a book once I become healed enough to focus. People want answers, and I have none at this time. If there is any way I can help and survive financially, I would give my passion to that. People just look at us as a bunch of weak whiners, but of course they have never been through this torture. Thank you GW. I have always thought that the UN Declaration of Human Rights is relevant, but alas their main concern is the increase in non-communicable diseases these days (aka healthcare costs)… $$$

  10. Dear KH: I totally agree. I have tried, and I am sure mostly everyone on this site and others tried/tries too much to stop this awful workplace treatment. I wrote to President Obama (received a form letter response not about Healthy Workplace Bill – they misread and thought it was the HealthCare Bill)! I wrote to 2 state representatives (no answer). I wrote to our Governor (no response). I went to a town meeting and spoke to our Congressman (he never heard of the Healthy Workplace Bill), so I had me explain it to his Assistant. I even contacted news shows – NBC, CBS, ABC – no answer (thought it would be an excellent story). I tried to get others to sign 2 different petitions. I filed with the EEOC/ERD (had to end because it was sucking money and strength out of me). I tried to talk to the CEO of my company, while I was still employed. His Assistant said he would call me the next day (he NEVER not get back to me). It is extremely hard/frustrating to get anything going. I printed signs during Bullying Week. No one, except Dr. Yamada, those on this site, and many others are out there, seem to want to do anything to help stop this abuse. Even the EEOC Investigator told me that the Healthy Workplace Bill will probably never be a law. My lawyer did not give me any hope, excitement, or positivity (even though he took my case/money). It is like you are trapped in a box and cannot get out – extremely frustrating. No one knows the torture unless you experience yourself. This VERY serious bill needs to be passed into law. How hard can this really be? I was surprised that Ann Curry did not work harder on this. She is in the public eye. Like I have said, “I am letting go and giving it to God”. Perhaps he will find a way to guide us through the right channels and have the Healthy Workplace Bill become it’s rightful title – Healthy Workplace Law!

    • I am so sorry to read the posts on here. GEM, I completely understand your frustrations. Don’t give up on getting this bill passed, regardless of what your EEOC investigator said. I head up building awareness on this bill, and I can assure you that even if you didn’t hear back from your 2 state reps, our state legislators are hearing us.

      Regardless, we can never get loud enough, so spread the word about this bill to your friends and family in MA and encourage them to contact their state legislators also. Post a link to our website on your Facebook wall. Write a letter to the editor of your local paper. Tell people about it. Spread the word as much as you can. DO NOT GIVE UP HOPE. We have made major progress. In the last 3 sessions, we’ve grown from about 30 supporters to more than 3,000. We’ve gone from 1 legislative sponsor to 13 to 39. We are growing. We are getting heard. We have active advocates who write to me every couple of weeks asking for more flyers to hand out at T stops. People tell me that they’re spreading the word at work and see our flyers posted. Others are actively pursuing organizational sponsors. One advocate has helped with numerous mailings to organizational sponsors and keeps asking if she can do more.

      We won’t stop until we get this bill passed. I don’t care how many people get in our way.

  11. Dear Deb:

    One of my ideas was to hand out free T-shirts at some type of a large function; i.e., fair, community event, or a business.

    Are there individuals who would help pay for something like this as a tax write off?

    Would a T-shirt company make them at a reduced cost? I have seen T-shirts for sale on Bully Sites.

    Are there other types of advertising about passing the law; hats, etc.?

    I would love to make a cool design for the T-shirt that people would be excited to wear.

    We have a plumbing business. I could even try a few that way; start passing out just a few to family and friends first.

    This would be another way to get the word out.

    If anyone else has an idea(s), thoughts too?

    Thanks, GEM

    • GEM / DEB : Deb and I have tossed this around when preparing for the Hearing at the State House. I don’t know where you’re located but I was the Controller for a screen printer in Stoughton and they do TShirts there. Like I told Deb then they would need the design on a CD, the blank shirts (which I bought at Ocean State Job Lot and Michael’s for CHEAP). Let me know your (combined) thoughts about this and perhaps we can approach him together. And yes, I would start on a trial-sized initial order.

      • Laurie: I am working on the T-shirts through Vista Printing. I am going to order a few for friends and family. I have a feeling that your town of Stoughton is not in Wisconsin? I will post again when they are finished – not sure I can show the picture unless I change my cross picture into the T-shirt picture? I am also going to go to Congressman Petri’s office tomorrow and bring his Assistant a copy of these blogs and a copy of the article above from Dr. Yamada.

  12. Dr. Phil, Oprah? I think that the Paula Deen story is something to pursue, given the false accusations. A touching popular movie often gets the point across. It’s become a known issue, but hasn’t reached its peak. Being a nutcase, narcissist is not illegal, but the harm is very illegal, problem is connecting it without coming across as a weak whiner.

    • Along this thought….last June I emailed the personal assistant of Dr. OZ in the hope that he would address the very real physical effects of this abuse if not the psychological ones. At that time it was the show’s summer hiatus where they broadcast reruns. Do you suppose if “WE” all emailed and called, ETC relentlessly (but not naggingly) that we might get somewhere? I still have her email and phone number. Just a thought. I did not pursue at that time because my case was just heating up and my focus was needed there. (Little did I know I’d still be waiting for resolution ONE YEAR LATER).

  13. I encountered three workplace bullies in a row at three different jobs between the years of 2003 and 2011. All were females. I worked in the first job from 2003 to 2006. My position was a social services one for a small city council for the elderly. The director had been, if not a friend, at least a strong acquaintance for years before she hired me, and I had never seen this side of her so it blind-sided me. Her biggest form of abuse was giving me all her work to do and leaving me alone for weeks at a time to manage the entire department while she went on an extended medical leave and to a very expensive conference on the other side of the country. Did she share any useful information on her return? She did not. While she was gone for 3 months, she gave me no authority, so that when I made a judgment call on something she would check in long enough to disagree with it and reprimand me. She considered any questioning of her approach to be “insubordination.” She would hold “supervision” meetings where she went on and on about her medical problems, surgeries and such in graphic detail and I couldn’t escape. I became aware that there was money being stolen by other staff and when I approached her to cover my own “self” from getting accused, she told me “not to mention it again because I’m taking care of it.” She was taking care of it alright. When my mother died and I returned to work, she immediately accosted me when I came through the door and said ‘alot has happened while you were gone and I’ll need to meet with you to tell you when it has to be completed’. When I asked it it could wait until next week (I returned on a Friday) she said I seemed depressed and she was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to do my job. I filed a grievance and from there it escalated into a political issue for the entire city! The elders, who had complained to me about her incessantly, came out in force to support her! I was the bad guy and honestly, I felt like I was living in the Twilight Zone. I got sick with shingles and took some time off. She ultimately got fired but a few months later filed a lawsuit against me and the city because in her mind, she was entitled to work for that city for her whole life and I had deprived her. Thankfully it was handled by the city managers so that I did not have to attend court. I was grateful not to have to see her face again as it would have made me sick, literally. Looking back, I think that this director had medical problems that created a need to use, and no doubt abuse, pills.

    In 2007, I started another job which was in a small corporate setting as a long term care advocate. My “boss” was a 21 year old girl fresh out of school with no people skills. Her boss was a woman who was Queen of the Corporation with the big corner office and a window, and for some reason I would never be able to figure out she saw me as a threat and decided to target me after I was there about a month. Boss-girl did everything the Queen told her to do, which included sending me email after email about the work I was not getting done fast enough or correctly. Sometimes she would send me an email before I even had the chance to being a particular task. I was a nervous wreck every hour of every day. Boss girl wore high heels that clicked and clacked toward my cubicle when she was coming to reprimand me for something. Those in cubicles next to mine were able to hear her and two of them hated to see what was going on. The Queen summoned me to her office one day and spent three hours telling me how I was making her life difficult with all my mistakes. “I can only give you one more month to learn this job. Your sales quota is way down.” Sales quota? That was the first time I’d been told I was selling something. I thought I was helping elderly people and their families make an important decision about their loved one’s care. When the Queen asked me to write an evaluation of the Boss girl’s work performance that “would be kept confidential – and be honest,” I wrote that Boss girl was very efficient but lacked people skills, particularly as a supervisor. I was called into the Queen’s throne room within 2 hours of giving her my evaluation, and I was told to make an announcement at tomorrow’s “team” meeting that I had decided to resign. I said I would not do that, as it was not the truth, and the Queen said I was dismissed today then. I asked for my personnel records to be given to me and hinted at speaking with a labor lawyer. They did not give me a hard time about collecting unemployment. I found out later that the Queen drank a lot of wine when she was not at work.

    And now for boss #3. I got hired to be an addictions counselor and had a nice boss for awhile, until she left and was replaced by a pitbull. This boss LOVED power so much! And those above her gave her the task of “cleaning house.” She must have thought she had died and gone to heaven. She loved power suits and power boots, black, high-heeled ones that went up to the fat knee and made a Gestapo-like sound when she was coming down the stairs to the office to bring one of us up there for supervision. Supervision had nothing to do with support for the difficult job we were doing; it was about finding the latest mistake you had made and writing you up for it. I hated every day there.If I called in sick, I was harassed with voice messages at home. I got diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 and as dire as the surgery and treatment were, it was a break from the pitbull. She didn’t let a lttle cancer treatment stop her intimidation though. She called during my 2nd treatment and asked when I was going to come back full-time. She sent an email and said my hours were changing to nights and weekends. She sadly had to leave the job just as I was returning to work after treatment, and I thanked God for answering my prayers. She played mind games with me from up until the last hour she worked on her last day there. I saw right through her. I don’t think she has any addictions, except power.

  14. As I read through this conversation it echoes so many over the years. Good employees shredded emotionally and physically injured by workplace bullying. There is presently little official recourse except where a union contract provides grievance ability. We need to continue the fight for the healthy workplace bill which I see as the remaining human rights issue of this decade. As we continue to raise this issue wherever and whenever we can; more and more people are becoming aware of the problem and are opening up to helping us remedy it. When I look back to 1986 when I first encountered my bully, we have come so far! No one knew the term at that time so no one was looking at this issue as a problem. It felt so good to be able to label it and see it as a pattern of behavior not related to me or anyone else. As time goes on, therapists are becoming aware of the problem and treating workers more effectively. There is some balm for the pain. We may never have a complete and satisfactory solution, but we are making a difference! I pray for a vibrant job market so bullied workers have alternatives to staying bullied or personal poverty. My heart breaks for those who are impoverished and physically wrecked by this. Perhaps a little perspective on how long it takes to make social change is in order – with the recent Supreme Court decision, many gay people finally have the rights and benefits the rest of our society enjoys. How long did that fight last? We must keep working to the best of our abilities to create the kind of social change that will give every worker dignity at work.

  15. How can one heal when it does not stop, and you are being black balled and monitored, although you never did a thing ever to engender it? When the HR Department is part of it, and it continues after you have left employment. because you were labeled crazy for stating the truth about those in the highest position of power in hopes it would be resolved So you have no hope of going forward. I can’t fight it, I’m dealing with the most powerful, and have no funds to do so and still survive for any length of time, which is limited given I still have a mortgage and debts, and it is against my values to walk away. I have nowhere to go anyway, and am alone in this.

  16. I dearly wish these stories weren’t so familiar. But they bring nods of understanding from some of us because these behaviors — and their intensity, repetition, and ongoing nature — are much more common than some want to admit. I have shared this post and your comments with others. They constitute knowing testimony about what workplace bullying does to people.

    • Dear Dr. Yamada,

      I am going to also share these comments with the Assistant for Congressman Petrie from Wisconsin (his office is in our town). I attended one of Congressman Petrie’s Town Meetings and brought up the bill. His Assistant took time with me to better understand the bill. These recent posts may shed a better light on how we feel. Thank you for being such a great promoter and understanding what we are all going through. I have Faith that the Healthy Workplace Bill WILL become the Healthy Workplace Law. GEM

    • Well….here in Massachusetts I had my hearing yesterday 14 months after leaving the job. My former boss/business owner did not show – the ultimate coward – and the judge suggested that I accept the offer of settlement due to the fact that a trial would take upwards of a year and a half, and that my having to re-live the abuse would probably do more harm than good (to me). I ended up with 1.1 years of partial disability. This could have been more had the insurer’s caseworker not stonewalled me repeatedly when I contacted her for court-ordered treatment. At the time I was in no (emotional or psychological) position to be as tenacious as I normally would be. My advice to others is if you are not able to make that type of call, ask someone to do it for you even if it means their saying it’s you on the phone (all’s fair in love and WAR, right?). I did not receive any medical benefits going forward, either. My attorney says that I should ‘go out and tell (my) story wherever and whenever I can’ to educate others as to my experience and how I could have been more successful. I feel he could have done better, but since this is a new area of Worker’s Comp there are few precedences to cite. I guess Australia and Europe are miles ahead of the US in comparison. My closing thought is for targets of abuse to stay mad, whatever it takes, and do not give IN or give UP. Do NOT remain a silent victim and it is SO OKAY to ask for help. The right people will believe in you and step up for you. I vow to continue posting and monitoring all (I can’t believe how many there are) bullying-related blogs (they have been my sanity-check during all of this) because although I cannot prevent my abuser from ruining his employees’ lives day after day, I will make it known to him that what he has dolled out over 30+ years in business will indeed haunt him.

  17. Thank you for being support in an inhumane world that all of us on here have had and are continuing to have to live through because healing without closure or avenue to do so is difficult if not impossible. Abuse is abuse, whether you are a POW in a concentration camp, an abusive marriage or under an abusive boss; it is simply being forced into a position where your survival is at stake if you do not comply at the detriment of your spirit and soul and are being beaten down by someone who has mental issues who has complete control over you and others.

  18. Pingback: Pilant's Business Ethics » Blog Archive David Yamada Explains Workplace Bullying » Pilant's Business Ethics

  19. I totally support your blog. My only regret is that i didn’t have your resources and ur support system to bounce back while incuring a very hostile work environment on my job from 2004-2012. Unfortunately, I incurred health issues and ptsd; hence, i was illegally removed frm my assignment and forced to retire. Now, im being told tht its too late to file a claim with labor attorney against my former employer. Conclusion, it is taking me longer to recover to re-enter th job market again. I would like to advocate against workbullying. So, I am taking school courses in leadership skills, communications, labor law courses, and negotiations/mediation courses to regain my rights, get over my anger, and to regain ny self confidence.. Hopefully, i will shed the ptsd and help guide victims so thy can turn thr life around lead successful lives in their current work environments or give people back their dignity and confidence to head back out in th work force.

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