Workplace Bullying - Support Thread

(134 Posts)
daisychain01 Fri 23-Nov-18 18:00:56

Bullying at work is rife. I won't number-crunch but it costs employers £M / annum, and it costs employees dearly in terms of harm to their mental wellbeing and finances if they are driven out of their job.

If you have experienced any of the following, you are likely to have been subjected to bullying:

Being made to feel worthless, inadequate, useless at your job, incompetent, making you doubt yourself and your capabilities.

Being compared negatively to colleagues, esp more junior to you, "If they can work faster/pick things up quicker/understand things easier, why can't you?"

Being isolated, disenfranchised, ignored, often as a form of punishment, while colleagues are treated noticeably fairly and courteously.

Being set up to fail, being given objectives then changing them so radically it makes your job untenable. Feeling "damned if you do, damned if you don't". Whatever you try to do, they want the opposite.

Being given authority, but then disempowered, by going over your head to your direct reports, often in front of them.

Subject to derogatory sexist remarks, designed to minimise contribution skills and qualifications. This is harassment, for which you have protection in law.

Bullying is insidious, difficult to detect or prove. It is invariably minimised by the perpetrator with comments like "I didn't mean it like that", "you're just too sensitive, can't you take a joke?", "sorry I was having an off-day".

Bullying is a form of emotional abuse.

This thread is a safe place for a handhold or to seek practical advice. It isn't always necessary to resign to escape, there are other ways. It will depend on the individual situation. You may not want to share all the details, don't worry about the AIBU dripfeed, you won't be ostracised on here if you need to keep things brief, change a few details or giving disclosure only to your comfort level.

OP’s posts: |
TwiceMagic Fri 23-Nov-18 18:15:51

This is a timely thread. I was off work for 6 months starting just under a year ago due to a toxic culture of harassment and bullying within my team. There was an HR-led investigation and I had been hoping things had improved. However this week it has emerged that the same kind of shit is still going on.

I work in higher education and the bullying takes the form of colleagues actively undermining me (and others) with the students, completely unnecessary interference in my work, and even actively engineering and encouraging student complaints against me (and other colleagues). I’d been keeping my head down but I discovered by accident that the principal bully has been allowed to stir up trouble for modules run by other people by undertaking a secret evaluation of our modules. This is in addition to the standard procedures within the university, and none of the colleagues affected were informed that this would be happening, given any chance to input (or right of reply), nor informed of the outcome. Instead we found out by accident from the students. When I asked about it afterwards, I was lied to about what had happened too.

It’s hugely unprofessional, totally undermining and creates a culture where the students feel entitled to ‘bitch’ to some of their lecturers about others. That’s not good for anyone, including the students (who need to learn skills to function in a professional environment). It creates an atmosphere where you feel you cannot do anything right and that there’s a sword of Damocles hanging over you.

I’ve contacted my union about it because I’m not willing to be made ill because of workplace bullying again.

daisychain01 Fri 23-Nov-18 18:48:06

TwiceMagic you must feel gutted to have been targeted by, not just one, but several colleagues. And so many examples of bullying behaviours in your post. That's disgraceful.

The other traits of bullying I meant to mention are cowardice and micromanagement and interference when none is required. It's unacceptable that several people are colluding in this, undermining your authority with your students so your standing with them is diminished.

I hope your union can give you specific support to represent your best interests with your senior management.

OP’s posts: |
TwiceMagic Fri 23-Nov-18 19:51:24

I hope so. It’s an unacceptable situation. It’s not just me affected. There is a group of us affected, but I’ve had the worst of it and for the longest time.

The main bullying colleague has purposefully engineered student complaints against me every single academic year for the last 5 years. It astounds me that someone in a leadership role who knows this would give that colleague another opportunity to do it. And then lie to me to pretend they hadn’t. But that colleague is under a lot of pressure and appears to be quite easily manipulated by those who want to.

It’s a bit of an own goal given the recent HR involvement about exactly this sort of thing. Y

I honestly don’t know how the people causing trouble have either the time or motivation to bother with any of this. I’ve got far too much to do to be interfering in my colleagues’ work.

NameChanger22 Fri 23-Nov-18 20:01:20

I was bullied for years at work. It was sometimes subtle, sometimes not. There were lots of different tactics used. I had to be on guard all the time. There were other people bullied out of their jobs before me by the same bully. It has badly affected my confidence and health. I don't feel like anyone would want to employ me anywhere else now, so I've stayed. It has also affected other people we work with.

In the end I reported it and now the bullying has almost stopped. The bully is still there though. I'm not sure how much I was believed by the people I reported it to because the bully makes friends in high places and is a good actor. I'm glad I didn't lose my job but I some stress related problems now.

yorkshirepud44 Fri 23-Nov-18 20:07:39

Timely for me too. I've recently whistleblown on a very senior bully and following an investigation, she's gone. I am still in shock.

We're now dealing with the aftermath.

Micromanagement and incessant interference were definitely factors. She also undermined everyone and set up situations deliberately to encourage people to clash. Awful.

I was so fortunate that the other directors were amazing and supportive throughout. I know it's not always like that.

TwiceMagic Fri 23-Nov-18 20:28:30

I’m glad that things seem to have worked out (more or less) for both of you. It must be so helpful when you have support from (and any faith in) senior management.

Limelight Fri 23-Nov-18 22:02:07

Wow, when you accidentally come across a thread at exactly the right time.

I'm less than three months into a job with an incredibly challenging boss. It's only the last couple of days that I've started to be able to understand his behaviour (to everyone frankly) within the context of bullying. On the surface he's a very gentle, kind man. I knew him before I worked for him and have always had huge respect for him. But the reality is extraordinary.

He micromanages because he doesn't trust anyone but also because it makes him feel powerful I think. He is a complete victim and takes every problem that arises, every mistake or intervention (made by staff, stakeholders, or frankly the bloody government) as a personal assault on him. You cannot challenge him because he is so thin-skinned that it will haunt you for days. But he is also seemingly oblivious to the impact he has on other people. And years of this has had a huge impact on what is a broken demoralised team. There are very unclear areas of responsibility and no delegated responsibility, just a 7000 item long to do list, all marked urgent. It's impossible for anyone to actually succeed.

I'm number 2 in the org and am in an entirely new role designed to bring some more strategic oomph at a point where we're going through change. He simultaneously wants me there and is threatened by me. Every time I speak when other team members are there he says something along the lines of 'well obviously we've been doing that for many years and it's always been fine.' But when it"s just me and him, he goes completely the other way - 'I don't know how to do this', 'please help' etc. I don't know whether I'm coming or going.

Oh and you'll like this. If anyone gets anything wrong (and we are apparently all about blame in this org), they are required to personally apologise to him...

I am emotionally exhausted. The job is totally doable I think with time and headspace. But managing such a fragile ego is desperately hard. He's retiring in 18 months and the question I'm asking myself on an almost daily basis is can I hold on for that long?

Isleepinahedgefund Fri 23-Nov-18 22:25:28

@Limelight , honestly I'd get out of there ASAP. Preserve yourself- you're feeling like this after three months, what will it have done to you after three years? What is he stays past 18 months? This person is not someone who can be changed or reasoned with. I'd suggest you get on the YouTube and watch some videos about narcissists.

My experience as a recipient of workplace bullying is so bad that people don't believe any of us when we get into the details. It was a group situation - one manager bullying us all and being actively encouraged and condoned by his manager. Firearms were involved (bog standard office job....) It got sorted and they were eventually both fired (mainly through my efforts) but my mental health has suffered lifelong impairments because of the prolonged and extreme situation. Given the time and situation again, I would leave when I saw what it was I was in.

daisychain01 Sat 24-Nov-18 05:48:32

I agree with you @Isleep re changing the situation as soon as possible.

Being in a workplace bullying situation is no different to being subjected to an abusive relationship, that person wields power over their 'victim' ( I use the word reservedly) and the best way forward is to shift the balance of power. Trouble is, the higher up the corporate ladder they are, the more difficult it becomes.

The disturbing thing is that a toxic manager with authority can set a negative culture which permeates through the entire organisation and enables others to follow suit.

OP’s posts: |
SilentShadows Sun 25-Nov-18 18:25:40

This is exactly what I'm going through at the moment, almost to the letter of what you've decribed above @daisychain01. The bully is one of my line managers, and I've pretty much made the decision I don't want to stay in my job any longer because of it. I have enough emotional drama with ill family members, elderly parents (etc - the usual that we all go through) that I don't want to feel unhappy in my career. I'm meeting with a recruiter tomorrow to try and get something new - wish me luck.

Hugs to everyone else going through the same

daisychain01 Sun 25-Nov-18 21:49:57

@SilentShadows - You do not deserve to be bullied out of your job, but it is empowering to decide for yourself that you are not prepared to put up with being treated badly any longer.

All the very best in getting a job where you can be happy and fulfilled.

OP’s posts: |
YouCantTourniquetTheTaint Sun 25-Nov-18 21:58:34

I had been a team leader for 4 years, i then had a hedious breakup and it really affected my mental health. And i had a dip in my mental health and it affected my job.

Anyway a new assistant manager was employed and she hated me. She then employed her favourites and did everything she could to get rid of me. Even feeding her best friend the answers to the interview for becoming a team leader in training.

It got to the point where people i had worked with for years stopped speaking to me, it was absolutely toxic.

I left and could have taken them to a tribunal, but I didn't have the money. It still affects me now. Its unbelievable just how much it has affected me.

Its absolutely horrible and my heart goes out to anyone going through it.

Pass1818 Tue 27-Nov-18 19:26:34

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My Sweet Husband is being bullied at work, and i cant help him1
Today 19:22 Pass1818

Hi all,
My husband has been with his current employer for a little over a year. He loved it and got on with everyone.
There was one guy there, that got very carried away with practical jokes with my husband, like, putting condoms (that was made to look used) all over his vehicle, pull his own pants down and rub his bottom all over my husbands seat, jump out from corners and scare my husband, to the point OH (husband) fell down the stairs... all this was in front of others. This did see the guy in trouble as he videoed himself scaring my OH and put it on social media. He ended up with a final written warning. But because of this, all the bullying was brought to managements attention and although OH made a statement, he decided to give the guy the benefit of the doubt and dropped it.
However, management decided to send an email out and a few of OH colleagues got wind of this email and now 5 of them are not talking to him (we are talking weeks) makes snidey comments to him and word has it, have been plotting to 'engineer' an incident which will undoubtedly be so my OH would lose his job.
At hearing that my OH decided to let management know of the rumour, purely to cover his own back. However, management are now turning on OH, asking of he is paranoid, that he could make the effort with the 5 men not talking to him.
My OH just called me and ive never heard him so low. Im scared for him, scared for our family. The job is a good job (no prospects but thats the nature of the job) good money, and fits in with our home routine.
What can i do? How can i make this better for him? More to the point, how can he make it better for him without him having to leave his job?

Im very worried

daisychain01 Wed 28-Nov-18 04:37:29

As your DH has only been employed there for a year, he is unfortunately in a weak position even though he was a victim of dreadful bullying. Let's be realistic, management could engineer a reason to get rid of him, to sweep this awful episode under the carpet as it has become very messy.

The practical joke was so extreme I'm amazed they only gave the joker a final written warning, it ought to have been gross misconduct and instant dismissal, for bring the firm into disrepute. The joker must have been of significant value to them not to have ejected him immediately.

Unless your DH has evidence they have discriminated against him for some reason eg protected characteristic like race, sex, disability, for which he is protected from Day 1, the only alternative is for him to submit a grievance against the joker so they can consider the full facts from his perspective and ensure they have it in writing that he isn't the trouble maker, was subject to humiliation and just wants to put the whole episode behind him and get on with his job.

Obviously you can't directly intervene to make things better, other than support him and show him you believe he wasn't to blame for the dreadful circumstances. It would make me lose faith in that employer because they don't seem very supportive of him.

OP’s posts: |
Pass1818 Wed 28-Nov-18 06:55:19

Thank you

Luckily, there are people at my OH work who are very aware of what is going on, but unfortunately none of them are coming forward to raise it to management, only urging my OH to do it.
Unfortunately, my OH is being bullied by about 5 other men, 1 of which is a manager so i now see, that the company would rather remove my OH than deal with the problem as its easier. So, im guessing my OH will be managed out somehow.

Everything is being written down but my husband cant proceed with a grievance against the company and management until he has left as it will get very very awkward.
To top this situation, ive just finished an IVF cycle that went royally wrong and we have just put formal complaint in at the clinic so being at home for him at the min isnt fun either.
I can see he is started to show signs of depression and i worry this is the start of the spiral 😥 such a shit time x

daisychain01 Wed 28-Nov-18 08:12:44

I think it could be a good time for your OH to pull out all the stops to get a new job and move forward.

Go, before he's pushed, approach.

OP’s posts: |
Arkengarthdale Wed 28-Nov-18 10:52:16

Hi daisychain

You helped with advice a few years ago when I was being very badly bullied at work. I did get out eventually and I fought and fought for the bullies to be dealt with, but of course I failed being one person up against an organisation. ultimately the cost to my health was severe and I still struggle with PTSD.

I was able to find another job eventually and a very good one too, but that has now come to an end and I'm on the job market again.

My problem is references and if anyone has advice, I'd be very grateful. I left the bullying employer with a settlement agreement including an agreed reference. However, there is now nobody left in HR that I dealt with, and a recent reference request to Head of HR has been returned saying I must give my line manager's details. I didn't have a line manager for 3 of the 4 years I was employed and then I only met the new one twice as I was removed from my post whilst a grievance I raised was ongoing and off sick when it affected me badly.

How do I get the employer to honour the settlement agreement? Should I just go straight to an employment lawyer to write a very stiff letter? The union was useless unfortunately, and the rep I dealt with has also left.

Thanks for any advice.

If I were to have had my time again I would have walked earlier before the devastation to my health, or paid for a really good employment lawyer (if I could have found one). That would be my advice to anyone else facing it. Find alternative employment before damage is done.

daisychain01 Wed 28-Nov-18 21:57:49

Hi Ark it's good to hear from you. I'm glad you found a new job after your awful experience.

Firstly, if you received a settlement agreement from that employer which included a reference, a new prospective employer should be able to use it without further need to contact the company directly. May I ask why did you need to get in touch with them directly? Ideally the reference should give you the chance to bypass them.

Secondly, can you give your last employer ( the nice one,) as a reference or are you already doing that?

I hope your job search goes well, fingers crossed! flowers

OP’s posts: |
gamble1961 Wed 28-Nov-18 22:14:14

This happened to me. I fought and fought on for years in a very toxic environment but was signed off sick and never went back. I've tried and just can't bring myself to sit in front of a potential new employer and prove myself again.
I did go down the tribunal route and won on constructive & unfair dismissal, sex discrimination and harassment.
It's been an extremely expensive few years of legal fees and I'm awaiting settlement.

It's all just so wrong.

Arkengarthdale Wed 28-Nov-18 22:27:16

Thanks for input daisychain. I didn't get a hard copy of the reference, it was an agreed text that would be used when a prospective employer applied for a reference for me from the crappy employer.

I have always had to provide my two most recent employers for a reference. I do get a fab reference for the job I've just left, but I always need two. Don't know how to get round this, and I fear it makes me look flaky even though I've made a reasonable recovery.

Arkengarthdale Wed 28-Nov-18 22:28:10

And I'm so sorry to hear your story gamble. Hope you are able to get over it thanks

OutOntheTilez Wed 28-Nov-18 23:06:53


Is it possible that you can just ask those people (at the crappy employer), to provide your prospective employer with a confirmation of your full name, position you held at that company, and your start and end dates? I’ve worked at a couple of companies over the years where the “company policy,” when asked to provide a reference, was to give that most basic information. It didn’t matter on what grounds the employee left / was terminated. Good or bad, that was the policy.

The employer may be hemming and hawing because they’re afraid they’ll be asked for full-on details, which will make them look bad. But providing only the basics of your time with them under the guise of “it’s company policy” would get them off the hook.

Not that you want to do those boneheads any favors, but hopefully you’ll get a great job and never have to deal with them again.

I wish you luck.

daisychain01 Thu 29-Nov-18 23:01:57

The employer may be hemming and hawing because they’re afraid they’ll be asked for full-on details, which will make them look bad.

The fact is they aren't hesitating because they will look bad. It's because the terms of a Settlement Agreement includes a confidentiality clause, which is a legal vow of silence, on both sides employer and employee. To say anything other than the agreed reference wording would be to breach confidentiality.

Ark normally if a reference is agreed, it is included in the confidentiality agreement document, to form part of the legal undertaking. Did you get a copy of that? If you can dig it out and take it to a solicitor they could advise the most cost efficient method of getting enforcement. A letter may be all you need.

You could also seek advice on whether to disclose to a prospective employer that your previous employment was subject to a SA as this often makes a new recruiter less prying as to reasons for leaving and it is by no means a negative thing nowadays as they have become very common.

OP’s posts: |
SilentShadows Tue 04-Dec-18 21:39:29

Just posting for a handhold and some support from you lovely people - saw the recruiter last week and there's nothing readily available at my level in my field at the moment, so I need to be patient for the right job to come along. Means I have to stick out the situation a little bit longer. Anyone have any advice on how to hold my nerve and composure to do my job when my line manager is awful to me?

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