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Am I Being Bullied At Work? (sorry, long!)

(31 Posts)
SnookyPooky Tue 26-Mar-13 11:39:57

I?m 43 and started a new job three months ago. It is in a similar line of work to my previous job with most of my qualifications, skills and experience being transferrable. It is a step down in terms of position but better money, benefits etc.

I have never been bullied at work and am loathe to even think that I am now. I am a strong person, have been a manager/team leader in previous positions and have always maintained good relationships with my own staff and colleagues.

So I came into this new position with high hopes. I was initially shocked at the lack of training and guidance (which is still ongoing three months on), kind of learn as I go situation and it has taken me quite a while to get up to speed. Not for the lack of trying. I ask questions, try to take initiative, work hard and don?t clock watch. I still have a lot to learn but every day I am more confident.
My manager is pleased with my progress and has no issues with me at all.

It is a small team and all are lovely apart from one woman who is a little younger than me and has been there about 10 months or so. From the beginning she has been very negative about the company and the other staff. She told me not to trust anyone and to watch out for bitching. It was not what I was expecting to hear and IMO inappropriate to say such things to a new starter. Anyway I took little notice and got on with things.

So this woman has been bitching about me to a couple of my colleagues:
-I don?t know what I?m doing.
-She is having to do my work for me.
-Complained to my supervisor that I did something wrong. (I didn?t)
-Says as I was a manager in my previous job, I should know what I am doing.
-Complains that she is doing everything and I do nothing.

She has set me up with duff info, sent me on a wild goose chases and made me look like a numpty in front of my manager.

She offers to help me with my work then complains to the others about it. Asks me to do something then later tells me that I didn?t need to do it or that I have done it wrong. Has even made personal comments about my hair!
Undermines and lectures me about the smallest things. Really it is ridiculous.

All of this takes place out of the ear shot of our manager. To him she puts on a very girly, twee, helpful front. It's sickening to watch.

I complained to my manager a few weeks ago and he told her to shape up. She turned on the water works and claimed family problems. Classic.

So it is still ongoing, I don?t work with her every day ? probably three times a week but on those days I dread going to work. I feel sick and don't sleep well.

I have started to keep a diary and plan to speak to my manager at the next opportunity, he is a nice man but incredibly busy, he will listen but seems ineffectual at dealing with this woman. She is known for her bitchy ways but gets away with it.

I am not in UK (but am in Europe) so do not have the option of a TU, ACAS or any kind of HR support. I am a foreigner here, as are most of my colleagues apart from her.

Is this a mild form of bullying or am going mad?

flowery Tue 26-Mar-13 11:54:56

Well it might be bullying, which largely depends on whether you feel bullied or not. I don't actually think it makes a huge difference either way - it's not acceptable to you and that's enough.

I have to say though, in my experience in situations like this, complaining to your manager as a first port of call is rarely productive, as you have found. She is behaving this way towards you because she doesn't have any respect for you, and complaining to your manager will only have reinforced that in her mind.

That's not to say complaining to your manager is always the wrong thing to do, but because of the nature of this type of bullying situation, by far the most effective way to address it if at all possible is to do it yourself.

I would suggest you ask her to meet you for a coffee off premises, or something similar, and call her on it. Be very straight with her, and say you have noticed she seems to have a problem with you, but you feel it is important you can work well together so wanted to clear the air and find out what the issue is. Say you don't appreciate the way she has been behaving, and would prefer if she has a problem, that she tells you straight what it is so you can discuss it with her.

She may or may not respond to that, but at least the message is sent that you are not afraid of her, have noticed her behaviour and are not prepared to tolerate it.

SnookyPooky Tue 26-Mar-13 12:23:29

I am very mixed about the whole situation really. Because I have never been bullied at work before I don't know if I am being over sensitive.
My other colleagues agree that her behaviour is wrong but they have no faith in our management.

She would not respond well to a meet outside of work but have been thinking about calmly challenging her in future. I am looking for another job also just in case things don't improve.

flowery Tue 26-Mar-13 12:33:59

Certainly challenge her, but if you can manage a straight "what's this all about" conversation that can work wonders. If she wouldn't go off premises with you, do you have a meeting room or similar you can book for a private chat?

Lovemynailstoday Tue 26-Mar-13 14:05:45

Yes, you are being bullied. Classic case--you are new in the door and she feels threatened. I have been there and I put up with it for years before my health gave out and I walked away. Bosses generally are powerless to act. Sorry I can't be of more practical help. Just want you to know you are not imagining it.

The fact that you are good at your job and liked by the manager is just making her bully you more as this is always about perceived power. Look after yourself, and it probably is prudent to look around at other opportunities incase it comes to that.

SnookyPooky Tue 26-Mar-13 14:19:34

Thanks Flowery & Love. Am off today and tomorrow but I am stewing over this so much. Just had a call from work asking me about something that I did on Saturday. It was something that she told me to do and though I am not in any trouble at all, it has been questioned. So she has set me up again. I got a bit upset with my colleague over the phone so it will all likely come out now anyway on Thursday.
It is so frustrating, normally I am a strong person as I said in my OP but this has really affected me.

Lovemynailstoday Tue 26-Mar-13 14:28:13

I am very strong too, but it pushed a button and made me feel like a 5 year old. Really, no job is worth feeling like that. Although the bully is totally at fault it is management who have a duty to sort it out. I rarely think of my bully, but I do reflect often on the toothless management who could not help me out of a very difficult situation. Very frustrating, but I have moved on and it feels good.

SnookyPooky Tue 26-Mar-13 14:36:26

Indeed yes she has pushed a button in me and I feel like a school leaver in a first job. Not good......

LovesBeingWokenEveryNight Tue 26-Mar-13 14:41:20

Do you have to take instruction from her? Can you confirm what is required by email?

Lovemynailstoday Tue 26-Mar-13 14:44:16

Could she be moved to a different dept? On reflection, I wish I had given my boss an earlier ultimatum of "move her or I'm leaving". I stayed on way too long and so the bullying treatment became the norm and people knew it was happening but accepted it/worked around it.

SnookyPooky Tue 26-Mar-13 14:54:03

Love, we don't have our own e-mail accounts (or even PC's), it's not that sort of work and she is not senior to me, just more experienced. The rest of us are hoping that she will leave soon, apparently her CV is a mile long, she doesn't stay long in her jobs. I suppose she could be moved to another team, never thought of that actually....

Lovemynailstoday Tue 26-Mar-13 15:31:03

Try to nip it in the bud by being upfront with your boss. There are lots of posts about bullying on MN and a common theme is the focus on how awful life becomes as "the victim". You can burn up a lot of negative energy that way. Any decent boss will value your input and try hard to keep a good employee (like you!). Best of luck.

SnookyPooky Wed 27-Mar-13 05:17:18

I've been called in for a half day training today so possible I may have chance to talk to my manager. Have been doing some research on the net and indeed yes she is a classic case, grrrr.

Bluelightsandsirens Sun 31-Mar-13 22:40:02

Snooky how are things now? I'm going through similar and you have had some great replies.

I wish I could be more assertive, I have more responsibility than the women that causes me no end of grief but she pushes a button in me that makes me fumble around her, so annoying!

Lovemynailstoday Mon 01-Apr-13 14:06:07

OP, I am also thinking of you and hoping things are going well. Bluelights--interesting to hear your experience-- my bully was also junior to me but still had incredible power to hurt.

SnookyPooky Mon 01-Apr-13 17:30:28

Thanks both, I broke down a bit on the phone to my manager yesterday. I couldn't really talk so I am hoping to have a proper sit down with him tomorrow.
Her behaviour was bad up until lunchtime yesterday then in the afternoon she was fine. She knows how to turn on the charm.
I am very lucky that I have lovely colleagues so when she is off I am much better.
I hope that I can clear things up a bit tomorrow.

Snooky - Good luck. let us know how you get on.

SnookyPooky Wed 03-Apr-13 06:14:34

Well I had a chat with my manager yesterday and he was incredibly supportive. He was aware that she and I had differences prior to this but I think he had just thought she was being bossy. He used the word 'bully', not me, so I was glad that it has been recognised. I gave him some examples of her nasty comments and behaviour etc and he was great. Also has clarified my role as it was rather ambiguous before because she was taking it on herself to hijack some of my work.

I told him that I am not a soft arse and that I had never had this happen to me before, I am a strong person normally but had tried to keep the peace so as not to look bad. He understood.

We are very understaffed at the moment, a key member of the team left recently and has not been replaced yet and we are also waiting for two temps to start. He said that in normal circumstances she would have been given the boot over this, but it would put massive stress on us remaining three if that happened. We are in a service industry and our customers and we would suffer greatly. I know that nobody is indispensable but have to agree with him on this. I'm not sure how he is going to proceed with her now and I didn't ask. Probably words today, I am off till Saturday so won't see her till then.

I am not in UK but am lucky to have UK educated managers. The manager above mine, who is over all of us is also aware and supportive.
So we will see what happens now.

I am of the mind that 'give her enough rope and she will hang herself' and also that she will likely resign anyway soon because she is a job jumper, probably because this has happened before and she is a serial bully.

I am going to up my game massively now and call her on any comments or inappropriate behaviour.

Thanks all.

Lovemynailstoday Wed 03-Apr-13 10:46:57

Snooky--that sounds great. Glad to hear your manager is supportive. I think you are right in terms of "once a bully, always a bully". They don't or can't change. Best of luck.

SnookyPooky Wed 03-Apr-13 11:10:49

Thanks Love. I am a little worried that she will bring on the charm or waterworks and turn it around on me, if so hopefully they will see through her.
Will update at the weekend.....

Strongandcourageous Thu 04-Apr-13 18:19:40

It makes a change to hear that your manager is supportive and hope he will be very firm with her. If she still continues to bully then I agree with love that you need to give an ultimatum. You should not have to continue to endure this appalling stress because they are short-staffed.

SnookyPooky Thu 04-Apr-13 21:12:53

I agree Strong, if this was happening at my previous employer she would have been out, or at least on a final written warning. Regardless that it would leave the rest of us in it.

Bluelightsandsirens Thu 04-Apr-13 21:30:33

Glad to hear your meeting went well although I don't agree hat staffing issues should be considered!

SnookyPooky Fri 05-Apr-13 06:59:45

Now that it is Friday and I am back in tomorrow I am starting to fret a bit. Luckily my manager is also working tomorrow so it should be ok.
As I said, at my previous job she would have been out, I understand my managers reasons for not doing this and the stress would be awful for everyone.However after thinking about it, it does give out the message that she is untouchable and that they may be tippy-toeing around her. Gah.

Lovemynailstoday Fri 05-Apr-13 11:36:18

Remember Snooky--the "stress" of being overworked because she is booted out (hopefully) is very different from the soul destroying stress of being bullied. They are two different things. I really hope you get a good result--try not to fret too much in anticipation--it will not change the outcome.

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