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Impact of workplace bullying

  • 20-06-2020 10:16am
    Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭

    Hi I am just posting here Incase someone has been through similar and come out the other side or if anyone has any advice/words of wisdom.

    I am 32 year old female and in my current job for 11 years since I graduated. When I graduated. I always got on quite well there until last year when a new person started. She went for a promotion pretty soon after commencing work and she didn’t get it. I worked in a very small area only working closely with 3 other people all in varying seniority.
    Soon after she failed in getting promotion her mood turned against everyone but myself and another workmate were most in the firing line. If a decision was made she didn’t like she would walk out slamming the door. For about 4 months anytime I or the other workmate spoke, she would stand there arms folded staring ya out of it. I ignored it and just thought if I got on with my job it would all go away. Overtime this escalated. On numerous occasions she shouted at me for work that she perceives I had done wrong. I had policy and managers backing that I was correct in my actions and told her this. After a lot of this happening, some of which was witnessed by others and if not they witnessed it towards other colleagues, it really began to affect me.
    I was told on occasions that I was a horrible person, completely incompetent and an awful human being. I was intimidated in the sense that if I went to the sink/microwave and she was there she would stand staring at me with her arms folded. It was a case of everyone being able to see what she was doing but it wasn’t acted upon until too late and she received a formal warning. This person also spread untrue and vicious rumours about me among people and it was only when this came to light that things got serious. At this stage she seemed to ease off on the other colleague and I got the brunt of everything. I ended up being petrified of her and took 3 days off on two occasions for stress leave. At one stage I had to be collected from work as I had a panic attack which is something I never suffered with and I hope I never will again.

    This person left the job soon after and I applied for a couple of jobs but my confidence was so low after everything I wouldn’t have expected anyone to hire me. I am applying for jobs again at the moment and I do have excellent references from my current workplace. I just worry about the impact this has had on me as a person. I did counselling sessions which helped but I feel it has changed me so much as a person. I have developed anxiety when I meet new people and I can’t stop thinking if I said/did something wrong for days after meeting them. I berate myself for letting all the awful behaviour happen and I am angry that it was left too late to deal with. At night, sometimes I wake up and replay certain events in my head that happened and can’t get back to sleep. I have lost all confidence and sometimes when I’m out and about I can’t wait to get home as I find that comforting rather than worrying about saying/doing the wrong thing.

    I would like to resolve or improve this as I want to come across as confident when applying for new jobs as I feel I’m in a better headspace now than when I initially applied but I still have a long way to go. I would like to get the old me back but the whole experience has drained me so much. I thought after nearly 2 years that I would think of it less and less but I don’t. Is this PTSD or just a normal reaction to what happened?
    I am prepared to read any books/articles that people may recommend or any advice would be brilliant.

    Thanks for reading.


  • Registered Users Posts: 258 ✭✭Wanderer19

    I'm sorry you went through that. Very poor of the management to let it go so far, and for so long.

    I'm no expert, but would recommend more counselling to give you the chance to talk it out, plus some up-skilling to help with the practical side of confidence.

    Would it be helpful to you to go to your boss/he and let them know how their lack of support has effected you? There needs to be better policies in place so this can't happen to others.

    Best wishes x

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,208 ✭✭✭Batgurl

    You need counselling. You said you did them but why did you stop them? Counselling isnt just about talking. You should be learning methods to cope with your anxiety. You need to go back and work with your councillor on ways to manage the emotions when they feel like they are overwhelming you.

    You should also seek professional medical advise about whether medication may help your physical symptoms.

  • Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,197 Mod ✭✭✭✭HildaOgdenx

    I echo what the previous posters have said about returning to counselling. This sounds like it was a long and sustained period of bullying and what you are experiencing could be compared to ptsd, as you have said. I would also recommend a chat with your GP, as pp mentioned.

    There's also some reading material that might help. Snakes in Suits by Paul Babiak and Robert D. Hare is one book that springs to mind, that I have seen recommended elsewhere. Have a look at the synopsis of it, it will give you an idea of whether or not it would be applicable or helpful to your own situation.

    Mind yourself.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,272 ✭✭✭qwerty13

    That sounds awful, and I’m so sorry that it has happened to you - but I’m confused: why are you trying to leave your current workplace if the bully has left? Are there other reasons for leaving?

  • Registered Users Posts: 389 ✭✭the14thwarrior

    I am sorry you went through this.
    There is a lot of information on the internet, including toxic people and work relationships. I recommend reading through as much as possible.
    a few sessions with a counsellor will also help
    it does take time, and sometimes the more you think about it, and berate yourself for it, the more you suffer and the cycle repeats itself.
    angry at yourself, angry at her, your bosses, anxiety, fear, stress, there are a lot of emotions.

    what really helped me was reading and counselling.
    understanding what a victim is, and why it might have happened to you

    I still think about what happens me. I really do. But it took time and I needed to make changes. I too left my job. Because I needed a fresh start, with new people and tried to put that behind me. I really valued talking to professionals about it

    and i had one or two key understanding friends, who had experience of dealing with toxic people and who were not as soft as I was.

    I know now I will never go back to that person I was, and time has taught me how to not put myself in situations that someone might bully me, how to stand for myself, reduce my sensitivity to others, i learned about polices and the law, I learned how to deal with toxic people. and I'm still learning.

    the sooner you talk to someone the better.
    and learn about victims and bullying.

    its not easy to get over it. it took me a few years.
    but I'm glad you were brave to post onto boards.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 111 ✭✭sunshinew

    I really feel for you OP. It's such an awful experience that can be hard for some people to understand if they haven't experienced it. I went through something very similar but I am coming out the other side. I had to leave a job I loved after 10 years in a small industry that I had spent 8 years training to get into. I went from a confident, competent person to a shriveling wreck in a constant state of anxiety, doubting everything I did, being gaslit and set up to fail. The feeling of pure dread all the time. I had no option but to leave.

    I took a sideways move to another job just to get out, stayed a year and then pushed myself to reach for a much better paid job in a more prestigious company so screw the bullies! Revenge is a life well lived.

    I am not the person I was though, for better or worse. My anxiety has improved but not gone away. I don't like that i still carry a lot of bitterness towards my bullies as I would have been a forgiving person before this.

    However, on the positive, I also learned a lot about myself... I've re-framed it as "an opportunity for growth". I've been left more wary of people but maybe more savvy of office politics. I don't get involved in gossip. Not everybody needs to be my friend, but they do need to respect me. I bombed a few interviews while trying to switch jobs. I found my anxiety had left me feeling the need to over compensate, be overly deferential and appear needy at interview. For the interview for my current job, I did a linkedin learning course on confidence in interviews. It was a ridiculous over the top American course but it actually really helped with me "acting relaxed" in my interview. "breathe, smile, pause before answering".

    I also often listen to sleep hypnosis videos on youtube to help me fall asleep. Michael Sealey is good but there are loads to choose from. There are ones for confidence building, healing etc. TBH I don't really know what he says because I'm out like a light in 5 mins no matter how wound up I might have been.

    Anyway I could write 17 pages on this. But just to say, your bully was obviously a deeply unhappy immature person that had to spread her toxicity to others. The fact is affected you so much shows you are an empathetic kind-hearted person that cares about people around them. That's a lovely trait to have.

    Constant anxiety has a physical effect on you and it will take time to re-calibrate. Good luck with it. It's not easy but put yourself number one for a while and look after yourself.

  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    Thanks for all the helpful replies and for taking the time to write them.

    To the poster who asked why I was leaving my job. I’m leaving for a few reasons as I feel I need a fresh start and a new challenge. I’ve been there a while now and I’m ready to move on to somewhere new. I do feel aswell that a new start in a new workplace will help me move on.

    I actually spent 6 months doing counselling sessions fortnightly. They were really helpful and I did get my confidence back to a certain extent. I can go for weeks without thinking of what happened and then there are days where it really upsets me and I keep overthinking and wondering why she hated me so much and what I did to deserve how she treated me. I still take up in the middle of the night thinking about it all and I have had nightmares about meeting her again.

    I guess I thought at this stage I’d have moved on and be dealing with it better as it’s well over a year ago now.

  • Registered Users Posts: 389 ✭✭the14thwarrior

    please read more about victims and toxic people.
    keep reading books and articles, and stories by people
    you may be better able to understand or realise that she would have picked on you for lots of reasons, usually its the strong, pleasant, good people. occasionally weak people but this is not the case.

    what i learned was traits that victims have, the bullys don't, and they gravitates towards that. It might have been your optimism, your friendliness, your popular, strong family ties, supportive partner. There will be something in you that she did not have or does not have. Perhaps she honed in on you for this reason. It sounds silly, but its absolutly true. so think about that.

    it is really true; when people say she is jelous of you, we don't listen. because we think that is not true, its something we say to a five year old. but you have something she doesn't, or can never have, or wanted, and she was determined to bully you for it.

    as for being over it, i can tell you, if you want to, you will get over it.
    but after 10 years i still remember, and give a little rant now and then, and when i did bump into her the first time i smiled brightly and said how are you in a strong loud voice and kept walking. albeit a bit shaky. the second time i saw her i didn't say how are you, i barely looked at her, just enough for her to know i was there, but that took me a lot of years and confidence and understanding that .......... it was not me ........ it was her......... and i will not give her the satisifaction of winning...... ever....... so keep reading and educating yourself.
    don't play the victim anymore
    don't let her win

  • Registered Users Posts: 111 ✭✭sunshinew

    Be kind to yourself OP. You sound like you're doing great, you've a plan to challenge yourself, and it's understandable to still get upset. I'm 3 years on and I still get worked up thinking about it. I have to force myself to think of something else or I'll end up down a hole imagining scenarios where I'll have the perfect speech to put her in her place. All the feelings come back and I realise I'm only damaging myself. I think it's a constant process to keep healthy habits and it's normal to have the odd slip up.
    I heard on the grapevine that my bully most likely won't have her contract renewed due to covid and I'm not gona lie.... It made my day!

  • Registered Users Posts: 5,319 ✭✭✭JustAThought

    Workplace Relations Comission : Im not sure how long you have after the events happened or the realisation that you have been affected by the events - but you could have a claim against your management for not addressing it or protecting you from her.May not help your reference prospects but could give you the deposit for a house and give you some peace.

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  • Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,799 Mod ✭✭✭✭Hannibal_Smith

    My son is getting grief from a kid online. Now I know it's nothing close to what you've experienced and I am in no way trying to compare the two on that level. But I told him that when someone had an issue with you like that it's generally jealousy over something. It's nothing you've done, it's their reaction to you just playing a game. I told him you don't change how you look at yourself, change how you treat that kid. He's the only one in the wrong.

    I can't comprehend how a grown adult can behave so unprofessionally in work. I know it happens and when I've seen it happen, I've always jumped in. Standing at the sink with her arms folded? Seriously who does that? She should be embarrassed for herself.

    You did nothing wrong, you didn't cause this. Nothing you did brought it on you. In fact you had the company on your side. You were doing your job and doing it well. Don't let it affect how you see yourself. It's her that you need to see in a bad light, not you.

    I'm sure that's all easier said than done, but hope it helps..

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,394 ✭✭✭ManOfMystery

    Myself and my wife work for the same company, both in (very different) senior roles. Our firm has thousands of employees worldwide and hundreds in the building we operate from.

    Unfortunately workplace bullying is more common than you think, as are those awkward workmates who can't just get on with their job without causing angst amongst colleagues because of their unreasonable behaviour.

    In my experience sadly, and I acknowledge that this may be due to my locale's workplace laws and workplace culture, HR for the most part seem terrified of actually disciplining anyone. I imagine this situation has evolved due to the large sums of compensation being handed over after tribunals over unfair dismissal. In some cases, dismissal IS warranted but it seems to take a brave person nowadays to stand up to a colleague/employee who is not meeting the standards expected of them and actually go through the HR process.

    You did nothing wrong here. Her behaviour was a reflection of her own shortcomings, her inability to take responsibility or see differing points of view, her lack of anger management, and her general bullying behaviour.

    People don't bully others because they're happy. They do it when they have something seriously lacking in their own life and try to derive some sense of control from their perceived superiority over others to compensate for it. I think your reaction to all of this shows that you are a considerate and sensitive person, and I certainly wouldn't understate it or say you were overreacting.