I worked in a middle school for years and dealt with bullying between students, but what do you do when it’s happening within the adults?? When it’s your own boss? I’ve had a few different “life is unfair” moments. This one takes the cake. When someone is promoted into a position that doesn’t suit them, everyone else ends up suffering through the mistake. Bullying in the work place exists.
I’ve written so many drafts about my bullying situation, but they are all so wordy. All I want to do is defend myself and explain what happened, but it’s just too many details.
Here is the shortest version of Why I Quit.
My boss was a bully. I saw him pick on so many others before me. They left because he made them miserable. The best teachers – poof! Gone. Experiencing it was a whole new world, and I realized why they resigned. There are a couple theories as to what brought on my situation, here is mine.
I taught at this school for 4 years before I moved into the Specialist position. Going from teacher to specialist within the same building is pretty rare. I had a foot in both worlds because I was leadership now, but still amongst my teacher friends and could still relate to them while taking on this new role.When the school acquired a new principal [in my 6th year there], things became really tough. The new guy was an unpredictable rollercoaster. One day he was on your side, and the next he was after you. One second he was praising you, and within the same breath he was tearing you down. So many of our best employees quit because he persistently targeted them.
He was pretty friendly with me at first, but I could see him bullying other employees. For years I compared him to a less funny version of Michael Scott. The targets were like Toby. For no reason at all, Michael Scott hated his guts. If you were
a cool kid, like Ryan, he tried to stay in your good graces. I was a “cool kid” because I was friends with teachers and administrators. If he and I were friends, maybe he could be a cool kid, too. Maybe I’d side with him and be able to get teachers to comply with certain things? That’s my theory.
As the years wore on, I became sadder, more stressed. My boss kept trying to be my friend. I went along with it, but we were not friends. I was simply playing the part. Daniel saw it, and so did a former co-worker who returned to the school. She described me as a “dimming light” of what I used to be. You know how when someone lays the truth out, the facts you were trying to ignore, you just start sobbing? It was like that.One day, he wronged my department and walked up behind me while I was complaining about it. This is the day it all started. The day he realized that we are not friends.
Watching someone get bullied is completely different from experiencing it first hand. It is an incredibly emotionally draining experience. When I was just a spectator I would advise people to stay away, fly under the radar, keep documentation, etc. Within the situation, it’s totally different. That kind of advice is helpful, but it doesn’t make your brain slow down. It doesn’t stop the anger from rising, or the pain of feeling belittled and useless. Once his radar was turned directly on me, nothing I did was good enough or exactly how he wanted it. After running my department hassle-free for the last 4 years, and even ending the most recent school year with top scores, somehow, I was now under the microscope.
At first I laughed off the ridiculous allegations. I was doing my own job and teaching at the time that all of this started. Issuing me a memo when I was going above and beyond? Insubordination? It was just so comical. So I openly laughed.
It continued this way for months. I would come in to rude emails burning a hole in my inbox. When I tried to shake them off and focus on my routines, he’d be waiting for me in the hallway. He attempted to [inaccurately] document our interactions until I began recording them, he raised his voice to me, expected me to drop everything and go to his office at a moment’s
notice, and brought in others to check up on my department and the way I ran it. It was insulting. The relentlessness of it all was tearing me down.
I finally reached my breaking point. I couldn’t laugh it off any longer. I wanted to quit every single day. And any particularly good days were in his absence. When I got home from work I’d take Advil PM and curl up into a ball. I missed roller derby practice because I was depressed, I stopped going to Crossfit. And I ate. A lot. My stomach hurt on the way to work, and once there, a friend of mine would skim my inbox for any surprises. I avoided the hallways, continued documenting everything, let my appearance go to crap, missed work, and cried. There was a lot of crying. There’s this quote in the movie To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar that kept running through my head: “Hun, do you like, ever not cry in this room?” because that’s what my office became. And even there I didn’t feel safe. I half expected to walk-in and he’d be standing there, all red and furious.
I used to be a happy, confident person, but after months of horrible treatment, the bulls-eye on my back…I started doubting myself. That’s when I knew something was wrong. I needed more options. I took my high school math certification test, and started looking for another job.
Like I said, I had seen this all happen before, but the most recent case was in a position similar to my own. One of my friends had just been pushed out the previous year, and I knew what was coming. I needed to be the one to take action. I filed a grievance and had the appropriate meetings. I even spoke with my teachers’ union at the time. I was going to be happy, damnit, but I wasn’t going to let him get off Scott-free. I had to have a mediation type meeting, which was not helpful. At all. Things didn’t change. Sure, he forced his radar off of me for about 2 seconds while he picked on a friend of mine instead. I wouldn’t wish that kind of stress and depression on anyone else. Changing the target does not resolve the problem. The problem is the bully.
So I left. I left an incredible department and a very familial school in December. Leaving education mid-year is frowned upon, it draws attention, and that’s precisely what I wanted to do.
I sent my co-workers and friends a farewell email about why I was leaving. It was extremely diplomatic, but at the very end, I linked to a website about bullying in the work place.
I started that email in April 2014, and it took me until December to suck it up and make a move. I’m sad to have left such a loving group of people. I’m sad to have left the school where my teaching career began 9 years ago. But what makes me the
saddest is the fact that one person can completely ruin the way I felt about my work place. Maybe it’s still too fresh, but I can’t even bring myself to visit my friends yet. Seeing him would awaken the monster inside of me that I finally
shook off. I’m happy now. I’ve made so much progress, have my new routines, and get to hang out with my fur balls all day, while teaching math. How cool is that??
It’s taken months to write this post. I was on the fence about it, but people need to know. Bullying exists in the grown up world. In education. You don’t have to be stuck in a job. Especially if you are being disrespected! Give yourself options, seek out something new and different! Have more faith and confidence in yourself. I’m just glad I got out before the effects were long-term.
If you know anyone going through a similar experience, or are going through something like this yourself, please know you can do better. You deserve more respect than that. Devise an escape route. Then shock them with that two week notice. It was a pretty rad moment.
announcement // last day: goodbye // jan 2015 update // thank you
Oh my beautiful friend. My heart breaks that you had to go through all that. I really wish I could have taken you out for a coffee, a cry and a hug. I'm so glad that you found your new job (And I hope you're enjoying that?). I was being bullied towards the end of one of my old jobs, the colleague in question reduced me to tears in front of the rest of my team to the point that I nearly walked out there and then. When I handed in my notice to my manager, even though I had no idea where I was going next or what I was going to do, I feel that same elation that comes with the weigh being lifted. I felt the happiest I'd been in months!
I hope this post helps others too… any update to what happened with the grievance? ("Scott-free", hehe). I'm glad you're out of there!!
Good for you Feisty!! It's even better that you shared your experience. All too often those of us going through hard situations feel like we're all alone. You're so much stronger as a result of those hard years. I refer to my titanium plated backbone earned during my bullying experience at work, and everything else falls into perspective in light of it. There's great things ahead of you 🙂 xoxo
There is tear in my eyes right now. Makes me really mad that this kind of people even exist. And makes me really sad that you had to pass through that. But I'm glad that at least you get to leave all that crap and you are in a way better situation now. And I'm glad to that you were brave enought to write this post.
My mean, hiper-controling and usless boss is also a bully. Luckily for us he is not such an asshole as your ex-boss, but I know a few great people that already left the job because of him, and I've thinking about it too on the bad days even when I've been working here for just 6 months now and I know that I'm not going to be there more than a couple years…
Terrible people like them are spared almost everywhere, so as much far away from us, better. You did great.
Un abrazo muy fuerte!
This was a really powerful post. Im so glad that you shared this story with us, and Im glad I had an opportunity to see it. I hate that bullying can continue into adulthood, and Im SO glad that you did what you could to take a stand against it.
I understand this situation all to well we just went through this with my hubby's job in January. It's been so painful. We're not over it but we will get there.
I am so sorry for your experience! I had a friend who was also bullied in the workplace- so much so that she had PTSD. The stress from her past experiences took over her life and it was so hard to watch. I am so glad that you had the strength to do what you needed to do, and I'm sorry you will have the scars from it.
Girl, I feel you. I left my old job after three years because a girl I thought was my friend went on a crazy bullying escapade with me. Once I figured out that management wasn't going to do much about it, I chose to leave. And I filed a complaint as well. One of my other coworkers just left and told me that the place is really going downhill, so I know it's not just me. Just know that you're not alone, and you did the right thing! Now we both have jobs that make us happy and we can live life without that unnecessary pressure and stress. Cheers to that! Hope you're having a great day… thanks for sharing! – Sarah
I'm so sorry you had to go through this! 🙁
I'm so sorry that you had to experience that. I am a former student of yours and it's been 6 years and I never got the opportunity to thank you for all you did for your students. Your positive attitude brightened class. I'm commenting to let you know that you are appreciated and you were a fantastic teacher. Hope you're doing well 🙂
We miss you. God had bigger plans.
Feisty, I can't tell you how much this post means to me. I went through a VERY similar situation with my last job. Worked there ten years, very successful in my endeavors and was promoted by the new boss who came in. I was not ready for her level of deception, lies and manipulation. I stood by as one by one, she targeted good employees and ran them out the door. That was if she didn't destroy their reputation first and then fire them for fabricated reasons. I'm glad you got out, I'm glad you are healing. XO Lili!
Roxy! I am so so so sorry this happened to you! It is so amazing to me that while schools are so focused on making all their STUDENTS feel safe and supported that an administrator can foster such a environment of bullying. I am so sorry. Hug this weekend! xoxo
(also THANK YOU FOR SHARING! I know that in our profession sharing can be REALLY scary!)
Where the hell was the school board during all this?! The superintendent's job is to deal with bad principals, because absolutely this kind of bad management (I'm using that term because bullying is bad management, and because it's one of many horrible things people in power will do, in all industries) can steamroll a good school or district into a horrible one. I'm so sorry you went through that (although YAY that you were able to find a better situation) and I also want to wring your superintendent of school's neck for letting this go on.
I'm so sorry you had to go through that for so long! Good for you for sticking up for yourself and getting the hell out of there! Bad work environments take SUCH a toll on everything in your personal life. It's so important to take care of yourself and find something that works for you. Best of luck to you! Sending hugs and high fives!
Here via Kaelah Bee's Things I Love Thursday. I KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU ARE GOING THROUGH. I've kept mine very much on the down-low, but I recently made a huge career change after three years at one job, and workplace bullying was a big part of it. I know what you mean about feeling my heart drop when he came walking up, and the powerlessness that comes with it being someone who is in charge of you at work, the micromanaging, the twisting your words/feeling like you need to document everything. When I gave my two weeks' notice, I recorded it. My boss didn't say anything awful at the time, but I wanted to have proof of what -I- had said in case he made any trouble after the fact.
I feel you! I've been there! It's okay to walk away, it's GREAT.
When I pulled out of the parking lot of my last job for the final time, FLorence & The Machine's "Dog Days Are Over" started to play right as I left, and I cried I was so happy to be getting out of there.
I'm glad you posted this. I was bullied in my job as a social worker at a nursing home that I started as a bright eyed and bushy tailed intern. Everyone loved me. I did a fantastic job. And then my boss got jealous and started sabotaging me. She told people they weren't allowed to speak to me. Gossiped outside of the workplace for very serious mental health issues my now ex-husband was having. Told her boss that I was hiding files. Had the upper management take away my office, computer, and left me with only one drawer of a filing cabinet, although I did computer work a good half of the day. It was such a miserable time, and there was nothing I could do about it. I did the same as you, and put my resignation letter and they told me I did not have to work out my last two weeks, since they didn't want to pay me. Here's to happier times!
Thank you for writing this post. My cousin went through an identical situation and it nearly destroyed her. It was so bad that she had to quit without notice (and she was also in a high position), and then her former boss went on to belittle her to other employees after she left just to carry on the bullying. I wanted her to hire an attorney but she is so beaten down from it still she can barely make it through the day at her new job. It's still so fresh in her mind. 🙁
Thank you for writing this. While I consider my current work situation not as bad as what you experienced, I too am struggling with a manager at my current job. My first "real" job in my field, too. It's hard not to get disheartened! Cheers to you to moving on, and being happier!
I can't believe I'm just now seeing this post! I'm so sorry for everything you've had to go through and I want to thank you for sharing this. It's given me a little more strength to take on this current battle of mine. I really appreciate your honesty, we have a long way to go in education and it's daunting but I'm hopeful.
I can read this a million times and know exactly how you felt. Except that mine got so bad, I couldn’t even do the 2 weeks. I walked out. On a Friday. And never walked back in.
If I didn’t love my teachers so much I would have, too.
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