Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bullying

Sometimes I wonder if I had a target painted on my back when I was younger. I've already blogged a bit about my experiences with childhood bullying, but I don't think I've ever really talked about my experiences being bullied in the workplace as a young adult.

This news article today brought back some painfully uncomfortable memories. It's sad what this woman's coworkers put her through and I'm really glad the courts sided with her. Back when I was going through the same thing, no one had ever sued their company for bullying. Heck, parents hadn't even started suing schools yet for what their kids were being put through.

...

I've made three attempts now to verbalize the environment I was in and what precipitated the bullying and I can't seem to condense the experience into a reasonably readable length. There were so many contributing factors:

  • government contractor with unscrupulous billing practices
  • Staffed with retired military men who had a low opinion of women in the work place
  • Me being one of only 3 females hired for her BRAINS by the only manager with ethics in the whole joint and the only non-blond, curvy, flirtatious, slutty clerk in the bunch (I stood out like a sore thumb).
  • My boss treating me like I had a brain and giving me free reign to do my job as I saw fit and never chased me around my desk.
  • My refusal to participate in the games they played with the billable hours on our contracts.
  • The fact that they came in at 6am and hung out in the lunch room having coffee, chatting, and eating breakfast until 10am before they started "working" and I arrived at 9am and hit the ground running. (If I ate, I ate at my desk while working.)
  • The fact that they all left early (supposedly because they came IN so early...feh) and I would stay late to finish various tasks (and avoid the same traffic mess that made me late in the mornings).
  • The pretty blond clerk clique were probably jealous of my autonomy, the fact that my boss valued me so highly (and never chased me around my desk or flirted with me), and my shy, introverted nature made me a natural target.

So they all came after me. They tried to spread rumors about me. They sneered over what I wore to work. They would loudly comment about my weight and accused me of lying about having a boyfriend. Every crappy project that came across the executive secretary's desk and should have been doled out equally amongst all the clerks...they were ALL given to me. My work load was staggering while they all hung around the head clerk's desk, did their nails, listened to the radio and made loud catty comments about me.

I finally decided to confront them all (VERY hard since I am the most non-confrontational person you will ever meet.) They flat out told me they were trying to either get me to quit or get me fired. I spent more and more time crying in the ladies room as the months dragged on. My immediate boss tried to intervene on my behalf and went to the executive secretary's boss to see if he could get the clerk clique to back off. That just made things worse (the head honcho was having an affair with his secretary).

What took the heat off me? Sadly, the girls turned their attention to a new target when the good old boy managers hired a hot new receptionist. All the managers (except mine) stopped paying attention to their clerks and focused all their VERY UNWANTED attention on the new girl at the front desk. She was beautiful, friendly, vivacious and, at first, she fended off the offensive flirting and advances with good humor. In the end, she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against one of the managers and the company.

She had a strong case and a star witness (ME!). I lived vicariously through her and was very happy when she won a large settlement against the company. I left the company long before she was forced to go on a medical leave of absence (stress from the constant harassment had set off a medical condition in her called Chrone's Disease.) and before she brought her lawsuit. Me? I had moved to New Jersey to get married. I was more than happy to go back to Massachusetts to give a deposition and be a witness for her.

Damn...I got all verbose again. Oh well. Any way, good for you Helen Green! I hope you actually GET your settlement and any effort at appeal from your former employer fails miserably!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

wow becki, what crap you endured, such a shame. i hate cliques like that too and people targeting one person just shows their own insecurities it seems. good for you to help the other girl, sounds to me though, there should have been two suits, not one. netti

Magogo's Musings, too said...

I am amazed at your fortitude. I was harassed by a woman no one in the agency wanted to stand up to. I did make a stand, and it was the end of my comradship with the others. I asked to work in another site, and soon left the agency completely, which I can see nopwwas their loss, not mine! Bullying hurts, and causes a lot of harm wherever it happens. Margo

Karen Funk Blocher said...

Wow. Good for you, standing up for yourself and later for the harassed receptionist. I hate that kind of stuff, but fortunately haven'thad to endire anything nearly that bad since high school or earlier.