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Mon 16 August 2021

The Impact of a Workplace Bully

Meet the incredible Jane.

I had been a loyal employee for eight years, four of which I had been in a supervisor role when an incident occurred with my manager. A customer had made a request that was not possible without the manager using her discretionary powers to override company policy. The manager declined this request, and I subsequently followed the policy. However, later the manager was not happy with my action, and as a result, the manager proceeded to scream, berate and belittle me in front of other staff and customers. My manager was hostile, physically intimidating, verbally abusive and downright manipulative. If you cooperated, you would get the shifts you wanted or the leave you applied for but once you stood up to her, you became the next target.

I made formal complaints, but that didn’t help. The manager was actively disruptive of the investigative process, having complete disregard for the HR directive to cease contact with me. The manager’s husband would even stalk and intimidate me in the supermarket and shopping centres. Frustratingly, senior management supported me privately but defended the manager in public and refused to enforce any consequences for the manager’s actions. This went on for years.

This toxic work environment and ongoing bullying and harassment left me with crippling anxiety, terrified to leave the house, and with no self-worth or confidence in my abilities.

Despite an independent investigation determining that this manager was in the wrong, the manager declared in mediation that she would not be changing her management style. Today, this manager is still employed by the same company and potentially still negatively impacts those she manages.

To make it worse, in trying to get support, I bounced from one person to the next, having to re-tell my story but I never got the tools to work through my experiences. Finally changing GP’s, I once again shared my experiences and was appropriately heard for the first time and supported to develop the skills to walk away from that workplace and start the long road of healing.

Eight years later, I still experience crippling anxiety, struggle with self-esteem, and I don’t handle group or social situations well. Even though I will always have anxiety, I now realise how much sharing my story has helped me recover. I can finally recognise how courageous I was to walk away and how strong I am for simply surviving - despite the times it all felt too much.

My advice to anyone experiencing any bullying or harassment is to speak up and keep talking until you find someone who really listens. Most importantly, I want people to understand that bullying and harassment goes well beyond the schoolyard, and it doesn’t have to be an extreme situation like mine. It can be unkind words, gossip, innuendo or even unwanted attention, but the damage can be just as significant. So, surround yourself with positive people and remove the toxic ones. Make the hard decisions that will protect you, because you are worthy of safety and security, and no one should ever be made to doubt that.