So, it’s been a mere three and a half months since I started my new job.
To be perfectly accurate, it was 105 days.
I got this new job, remember, because I am a human bucket of awesome. Remember? I started working as a writer and “social media manager” for a company that makes dresses. Cool huh? Someone was actually going to pay me MONEY to post on Facebook and write descriptions of clothes.
Yep. Well, 105 days later, and that bridge was burned in such a way that you’d think that raging inferno was caused by some old Irish woman’s cow. Burned that sucker to the ground, I did. Then salted the earth so nothing could grow again.
This is not a very easy post for me to write, because I want so badly to be snide and funny and quippy and silly. I want to joke about the trashy little office with perpetual stains on the floors and walls. I want to talk about the crazy attitudes and bemoaning and whining. I want to joke about the fact that so many people think feathers are a good embellishment, or the utterly terrible writing that I fixed on the website. I want to talk about the girl who mispronounced her own name (seriously, it was not a name with alternate pronunciations) or the girl who inexplicably seemed to form all of her sentences into questions.
We make clothes here?
Why are you asking me, you’ve been here for years, dumbass.
But I can’t really make too many jokes, really. And not just because I don’t want to trash my former employer and get sued all to hell, which I certainly do not.
Let me just tell the story.
The day that I interviewed, I had that cat-sees-a-ghost moment. You know what I am talking about, if you’ve ever had a cat (or a dog, probably). When you’re sitting there, minding your own business,
watching old episodes of One Tree Hill on DVD reading the classics, when suddenly your cat is staring at the wall. He’s pissed, too. Whatever is there is dangerous, and scary. You can’t see it, but you can feel it. You should flee. But that’s ridiculous. You go back to Lucas and Nathan and that damn Dan Scott Miss Havisham and Pip and try to shake it off, but danger is there, somewhere. You know it.
This happened when the Beast rolled into the room to interview me. She poured into her seat as if her skin was stuffed with play-doh instead of bones and muscle. When she opened her mouth, she barked.
I wanted to scram out of there. But this job seemed great, and I thought I was resisting for the wrong reasons.
I was offered. I accepted. I started. I enjoyed.
I paddled forward and wrote and posted and learned. Some people made me cock my head to the side, others made me smile. I was new to an office, new to a 40-hour-week a job, I hadn’t held a 9-5 gig…. ever. All my full-time jobs in my whole adult life had always been off hours and always included weekends. This was new.
I was having a blast.
It lasted 65 days. Exactly 65 days in, and 40 days before I lost it, this ship turned, and it turned on a dime.
I feel pretty certain that describing it in full detail would be boring as complete and utter hell. It would also be impossible, as I am not really sure what all happened. But I know the date. And on that day, out of nowhere, the screaming started. And it never. stopped. On that day, the Beast opened her massive jowls and uttered a robust roar of anger, over an error so minor that at the time, her howl literally made me jump because I was not expecting it. To say it was disproportionate to the situation at hand isn’t just an understatement, it’s a false statement. It wasn’t disproportionate, it was absurd.
It was more absurd in light of the fact that I actually had not made any mistake, and in fact, the person who HAD made an error tried in vain to accept the blame. The Beast would have none of it. I swear, she glanced around the room to make sure all eyes were upon her before unleashing a bellow of insults at me, then walking away as swiftly as a woman that vast could possibly go.
I was left with my mouth hanging wide.
I was livid.
I tried the rest of the day to calm myself down. We were in the middle of a project, and everyone was getting yelled at sooner or later. Maybe it was just my turn.
The next day, the roar was ten times as loud at two other poor souls, and I thought, sweet relief, I’m out of the line of fire. That lasted roughly five hours.
Then I was wrong, and awful, and terrible. Y’all. I cried in front of my immediate supervisor. I told him I wasn’t going to make it through this nonsense. I told Jim I wasn’t going to make it through this nonsense.
But I did. For 40 more days.
And in those 40 days, what happened was hard to explain. The snide looks. The comments. The “what are you doing?” I got assigned to a project I wasn’t qualified to work on. I stayed late while others clocked out at 5 p.m. on the dot. I was dismissed. I was sneered at. I carried on, thinking, huh…
My intention was to just push through, get some experience, and move on. I mean, wasn’t that my intention from the start? To take the experience from this job and move it into a new career opportunity.
Then, the ghost that the cat saw finally made itself known.
Someone from another department had picked up one of my responsibilities, without my knowledge. They started posting to one of our social media sites. I know that when I started, I was excited about what seemed like this unreal opportunity to get paid to post on Facebook. But as it turned out, there was legitimate marketing strategy behind the postings. Nothing was done just to be done, like when you punch up a picture of the scone you’re about to devour and type in “YUM SCONES!!” When you implement a social media marketing strategy, everything from the post itself to the language to the time of day you post to how long your sentences are to your tags are part of a plan. Willy nilly is not allowed.
For whatever reason, someone else was posting. And they weren’t following any of the protocols.
I sent out an e-mail.
There was only one way that someone else was posting, and that was if they had obtained passwords from the Beast. And I certainly didn’t want to mess with that, so my e-mail was professional. Hey, here’s a heads up, here is our marketing plan. Here are some tips to make sure what you post is following the plan we’ve been implementing for the past few months.
Yeah, the cat jumped all over that ghost.
The Beast took the opportunity to let me know that I do a terrible job (not true) and I post terrible boring things (not true) that no one likes (not accurate at all) and so she told someone else to post. I pointed out that we’d actually made a fair amount of gains in the social media realm, gains that could be counted in the forms of likes and follows and average views. Her reply? “Matter of opinion.” Keep in mind that telling me that was borderline stupid, it was a matter of math. One plus one is two, that makes more people following you on social media. That’s not an opinion.
She made a point to make that reply go to all. She made it a point to write all of this — this belittling nonsense about my terrible performance that was not at all terrible — in a reply all to everyone who had seen my original e-mail about how we are working to best utilize social media as a marketing tool. In short, I reached out to collaborate with co-workers. She reached out to tell me I’m a damn idiot.
Shake it off. Shake it off.
I shook it off for three more days.
Until I woke up on a Monday morning, and a woman with zero supervisory powers whatsoever over me had sent me a similar e-mail, on the same string that I had originally started. “If you can’t handle this job, we’ll do it for you,” she wrote. “You can’t even keep up, your work is mediocre at best.”
Until that moment, I had not even had a full conversation with this woman. She was not my superior. We weren’t in the same department. We didn’t even cross paths.
I lost it.
I almost broke the bathroom door down trying to get in to tell Jim I was quitting on the spot. Then I sat my ass down at the computer, and very nicely responded to the e-mail, by telling this young woman to kindly kiss my ass, and this job can suck a nutsack. I quit.
That’s an awful lot of story packed into a short space, and I realize it’s just mine. But you know what? It’s true. I have no idea what happened. I don’t know what happened from days 1 through 65, and then 66 to 105, that made it end this way.
And I have been sufficiently bummed all to hell ever since.
This morning, while I was whining a bit about it on the facepage, my friend Jill mentioned that workplace bullying is a real thing. And until she wrote that, I had never once considered that was what was happening to me.
So I looked into it.
Did you know female to female workplace bullying is more common than any other kind? And a sign that you’re being bullied is that you’re given an impossible task of doing a new job without training or time to learn new skills, but that work is never good enough for the boss.
Just like the project I was handed, when I wasn’t really qualified to do it, and doing it meant that I had to ignore the rest of my job.
Others signs of workplace bullying:
- You are constantly feeling agitated and anxious, experiencing a sense of doom, waiting for bad things to happen
- No matter what you do, you are never left alone to do your job without interference
- People feel justified screaming or yelling at you in front of others, but you are punished if you scream back
- You are shocked when accused of incompetence, despite a history of objective excellence, typically by someone who cannot do your job
- Everyone — co-workers, senior bosses, HR — agrees (in person and orally) that your tormentor is a jerk, but there is nothing they will do about it
I mean. Honestly. How did I not see that coming?
“Targets are more technically skilled than their bullies. They are the “go-to” veteran workers to whom new employees turn for guidance. Insecure bosses and co-workers can’t stand to share credit for the recognition of talent. Bully bosses steal credit from skilled targets.”
The Beast took credit for the increased social media traffic while denying that it had happened under my tenure. She told flat out lies about her involvement in my daily work, and she lied about my contributions.
“Targets are better liked, they have more social skills, and quite likely possess greater emotional intelligence. They have empathy (even for their bullies). Colleagues, customers, and management (with exception to the bullies and their sponsors) appreciate the warmth that the targets bring to the workplace.”
I was liked immediately. I even had empathy, right up until they lost their minds at me. I once offered to help out on a busy project, all the way up to fetching coffee. And you know what else? When it came to what I was doing, the writing, the learning, the posting… I was only getting better every day.
I was bullied.
My reaction was textbook. I was anxious. I cried. I just didn’t want to go to work. But I never thought about it in those terms. Because I’m not 16. I’m 39. I’m a 39-year-old woman who let a Beast and her toadies bully me right out of a perfectly good job that I was good at, and burn a bridge so far to the ground that the mythical phoenix itself ain’t ever rising out of that shit.
There were good things. My immediate supervisor was a good ear, and I found, hidden among the assholes, the uncool kids, a group of women who can’t seem to get on the Beast’s good side no matter what they do. They’re stuck, for one reason or another. And they’re being bullied.
I guess I figured that the whole bully thing was a good 25 years behind me, and that at this point in life, knowing who I am and how I am, I don’t seem — the type — to be bullied. But damn, y’all. People are dicks.
Now, for obvious reasons, I’m not going to actually SAY the name of my former employer. And for those of you who know it, how about you do me a favor and not get me sued, okay? It’s not really about them anyway. It’s about this nonsense. These assholes who wander the world as perfectly grown people who still decide to crap all over other people.
I didn’t really know it existed past a certain point in life. I can’t even pinpoint what triggered it, just that once it started, there was no stopping it. They were going to break me.
When I quit, the woman who had sent me the final e-mails replied, “Good. We need to get rid of dead weight.”
I don’t think she even knew my name.
I worked in news where I wrote stories about drug addicts who had stolen from their loved ones, and drunk drivers who had run over innocent people in the road. I’ve met men and women so petty that they’ll spend every last dime suing their former employers or their city leaders just to mess with them. I’ve been yelled at by strangers for standing in the wrong place. And once, when I lived in New Orleans, a complete stranger pushed me, with both hands, because I was in the way of where he wanted to walk.
I’ve always known people could be cold.
But I never realized they could be this openly, enthusiastically ugly.
Guess you’re never too old to learn.