I have stayed silent too long, yet I feel like I’m going out on a limb sharing what I’m about to share- being bullied in the workplace.
I worked in Health Care for most of my adult life, that is until I we moved, and I decided it was best to stay home with my children. I worked as a Respiratory Technician, and Cardiac Lab Technician for most of my career at our local hospital in Ohio. I learned these jobs are not for the faint of heart. I learned to suck it up, because you must maintain your composure at all times when working with patients and their families. You must stay strong for them. Not always an easy task when you are working with a diverse group of health care professionals who are trying to save a person’s life. We were a team, and we were all able to pull it together for the sake of the patient; who’s life was a priority. There were times we all had melt downs after the fact, but not in public and we were fairly supportive of one another.
Fast forward… After my children left for college I decided I would like to get back into the workforce to build my resume, and just get out of the house! I wanted to learn something new, and I also decided that I wanted a job that did not require holidays and weekends. I have always been a confident person (put ego aside), which gave me the confidence to seek a position in an environment completely different from health care. I applied for a position that sounded very interesting, and with ease got the job.
When I interviewed for this particular position which was 24 hours per week without any benefits and paid under 10.00 per hour I asked specific questions, because I did not want to take on a job without being honest up front.
The questions I presented
- Will it be a problem if I take time off without much warning, because I have a family member who is under the care of a specialist, and I can’t miss any appointments.
- This family member may require hospitalization, which will not allow notice in advance, are you sure this wont be a problem?
- My husband runs his own Company and rarely takes time off for himself. Will it be an issue if he free’s up time, and we are able to take a vacation? I went on to to say, that on average he takes 2 weeks off approximately every 2-3 years.
- I also asked if there would be any conflict if I took time off to visit my son and his family who happen to live 1500 miles away.
What I was told during the interview after presenting my question’s
This is a part time job without benefits, the pay is low so I have no problem granting time off . The boss I interviewed with went on to say, it’s a low key atmosphere here, and there are always enough people to fill in and do the job if you are not able to be here. This sounded like the perfect job at that time in my life due to so many circumstances which were beyond my control. I should have known it was too good to be true.
The first year was great, but everything went down hill from that point on
- I was told who to talk to, and who to avoid very early on. I took it with a grain of salt for the first year. Because, I’m not a follower and tend to think of myself as a free thinker, I relied on my own experiences with others in this small office to make my OWN impressions.
- When I became friendly with those who were looked down upon by my superiors, the atmosphere began to change.
- My superiors began to hide along walls which were close to me and other coworkers who were not liked, and listen to our very boring & quick conversations.
- I was accused of errors I didn’t make, and I would be accused in front of others. Luckily I was able to prove I did not make the errors I was accused of.
- And I also found out my boss was talking about me to my coworkers- a few who were part of her ‘gang’ began to shun me.
Can we say awkward??
- My boss began to ignore me. I thought it was my imagination until a few months went by, and she would hang her head when walking past my desk to leave the building. I would say hi to her, but after a period of time I realized her silence was very intentional.
- A bit over a year into my job my mom developed late stage Lung Cancer. She did not live in the same state, but I was granted some extra time here and there to take her to her radiation appointments and be there for her when she was hospitalized. “My bad, I should have foreseen the unforeseen.”
- My office experience took a turn for the worse after my mom was diagnosed.
- I smelled natural gas for a period of 4 days or more and told my boss about this, she kept telling me no one else smelled it. I told her it was strong, and I was feeling ill about and hour into my afternoon shift. After 4 days of complaining as she walked by my desk with her head lowered she uttered, “Call the gas company if you feel your smelling gas.”
- I called the gas company within 15 minutes of her departure and stayed by myself in the office a good hour and a half waiting for the gas company to arrive, they found the leak (coming from a vent right over my head). It was a 35% gas leak. The gas company turned off the gas to the building and I had the Tech call her to inform her.
- They repaired gas lines to our building, but unfortunately I smelled gas within a day or so after they were done with their work. Again, I informed her and nothing was done. This time I took it upon myself to call the gas company. They found a leak again from the same vent and shut the gas off again. There were 3 incidences of gas leaks within a short period of time, the last incidence was detected by others as well, and they had to replace the heating element.
Combine my time off which was not supposed to be an issue, along with talking to certain employees my superior didn’t like, and reporting gas leaks that my boss refused to acknowledge and this led to what felt like a hostile work environment for me.
I was given extra ‘busy’ work. I was told I would need to fill out paper work the full time employees used to request time off and approval would be pending. I was also told to tell a coworker who sat next to me not to talk to me. I refused and finally told my boss that if she had an issue with this person talking to me then she needed to address it since she was the boss. I was ignored, and began having horrible anxiety attacks before it was time to go to work. Seriously, anxiety attacks over a job I took to get out of the home for the most? Yes anxiety was present, because I still took my job duties serious. I enjoyed the job, hated the atmosphere. I actually began to fear the atmosphere.
Needless to say, I left my job a little over 2 years into it. I felt like a loser! I had to keep reminding myself I was tough, because if you can work with trauma patients under extreme circumstances, believe me you do grow thick skin.
I found out from other employees that I was the 6th person to leave that particular position within 3 yrs. After I left a gal that also felt ostracized, and had worked for this office for almost 20 years quit her job too. She found employment with another company, and lost some of her wonderful full time benefits, however she is much happier now.
Since I left my job I’ve learned that my former boss lost 2 more employees. How does she get away with this? Well, the short answer is simple- her superior is a relative of hers. And, both my former boss along with her superior are good friends with the person who over sees the entire office along with a few other offices within this organization.
Bullying within the workplace is all too common, recent studies indicate that an estimated 54 million Americans have been bullied at some point in their career. If you feel your being bullied, there are signs to look for. Reach out to someone you can trust if that is possible. I wasn’t lucky enough to have that opportunity due to the tight nit organization I worked for.
I can happily say I don’t regret leaving. My life has changed for the better in so many ways. I don’t have the obstacles I had in the past which leave my next chapter wide open for more opportunities. I have much higher standards now, and one of those standards is the fact that I will get more background information on an organization prior to committing to them. I also know my skills, and past work experience is worth much more than 9.00 per hour without benefits. I will never allow anyone to bully me again.
Lessons can be tough to learn, but there are reasons we must experience hard times in order to find that path we were meant to follow with better things waiting just over the horizon.