Thursday, November 13, 2014

Surviving Workplace Bullying: A serial bully in action


Things look different the farther away we get from a situation.  Hindsight gives us the chance to look back on an incident or an experience from a different perspective.  This is what I'm doing in today's post looking back on the difficulties the co-worker I believe was serial bully #1 had in retaining a partner.

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As the two articles I accessed via a google search using the words serial bullying yesterday lined up almost as a perfect match to what I experienced in the workplace, the twin temptations are to start regurgitating the material word for word and/or go off on a new train detailing exactly what serial bullying is linking it to incidents that happened in my workplace rather than telling my story without embellishment.

I had started on a series of telling my story regarding the various aspects of bullying.  That I do believe that it started with a serial bully and and then progressed to pairing.  And that there was  an element of vicarious bullying in the mix before my experience finally culminated in the aspect of bullying called mobbing.

Rather than veering off into exposing the research of what serial bullying, what it is, etc., I've decided for the moment to focus on my own experience with the bullies whom I encountered in the workplace and who I believe exhibit the phenomena called serial bullying.

I've already introduced the first co-worker, the one who started the ball rolling.

I had intended by this time to go on to the second person.  However, before I move on, I want to delve just a little deeper into the pattern history of person #1.  You see, it's the pattern that defines whether a person is a serial bully or not.  It's not just one incident taken out of context, but many incidents throughout this person's work history that will either prove or disprove if this employee fits the criterion of being a serial bully.

I believe this particular co-worker does.

Basically, a serial bully is a person who targets one person, gets them fired - or whatever - and then moves on to someone else.  Ad nausea.

So let's look into person #1 just a little bit deeper.

When I first started at that workplace, person #1 worked in tandem with a lovely young lady, always smiling, who was pregnant.  She left for maternity leave but never came back as she had found another job before her mat leave ended.  This sounds plausible enough.  However, in our company, the wages, perks, benefits, etc. were pretty good.  Much better than many other employers for the same types of job.  People just didn't leave for no good reason.  Generally speaking, of course.

Another employee from my office jumped at the chance to get on a regular day shift; however, after a period of time, she brought a complaint to HR that that the person I've identified as person #1 made her feel small and belittled her.  After the complaint was made, she left suddenly on sick leave.  She never came back.

Eventually a replacement was found.  The posting was for a temporary position as the employee was still on sick leave and had not resigned as of yet.  Our job was to train the new employee first on our job so that she would get a better understanding of the dynamics involved when she got to her job.  There were personality issues with her from the git go.  She was in everyone's face.  When her time came to go back to the other office and be trained on her position and work with person #1, person #1 had a fit.  She hated this woman and everything about her from the beginning and complained bitterly about her.  Ironically, the new employee didn't last very long and suddenly disappeared from the scene.

The posting went up again and another employee from another department which was being moved out of town requiring a commute of approximately 45 minutes jumped at the chance to stay in our facility.  Again the posting was for a temporary position in hopes that the first employee would eventually be able to return to work.  Again, we trained her first before passing her on to serial bully #1.  There were some issues, but frankly no one is perfect.  She was hard working, loyal and reliable.  But person #1 disliked her.  A lot.  And made no bones about that to us.  After another fairly short period of time, a posting for a permanent position in our office came up and she jumped at the chance for a permanent position in our facility.  Thus leaving person #1 without a co-worker - again.

The posting went up again.  This time, a young man from the plant took the posting as he wanted to go from the plant where the product was made to an office job.  He lasted approximately two, maybe three, weeks and then suddenly disappeared.

It was at this point that I made my "fatal" mistake of saying what I thought was in jest:  "So he couldn't hack you either?

The comment she never forgave me for.  The comment that caused her to put her "I don't get angry, I get even" philosophy into action.

The comment that made me office enemy #1 to her and - eventually - to my entire office as well.

Somewhere in the time spectrum, the first employee did resign and the posting became permanent.  A lovely young lady came in.  At this point, I was off on night shift for something like four weeks learning a different job, so I had nothing to do with training her or getting to know her.

Looking back, I realize that since I was gone during what I now realized was a crucial period of change in our office with new employees coming in and old ones leaving, I had unwittingly allowed an environment where new dynamics friendships, alliances not only formed but flourished.

Alliances that were so strong that they could not be broken - and eventually progressed to the point of no return in my struggle to survive.

However, I struggled on for four long years.

The story, though, is not quite over yet.  This young woman seemed to work out well.  She worked the same shifts/hours as her co-worker.  She worked afternoons when her co-worker/mentor worked afternoons; days when she worked days.  They were kind of like the Bobsey Twins.  Always together.  Therefore, it was a bit of a surprise when after approximately a year, this young lady left to go back to school.

So the posting went up again.  This time, since it was now a permanent posting, the woman who had done it for a short time when it was temporary and had moved to a permanent posting within my office, the woman person #1 hated, applied for and got the posting for a second time.  Ironically, her hours stayed with normal business hours.  She never worked afternoons.  I think this may have been the reason why this lady lasted.  That and the fact that she had a thick hide.  She was still there when I left.

Looking at the pattern, we have six people who came and went, most of them within weeks or months after taking the posting, in a period of approximately one to two years.  Was person #1 just having a really bad run of luck with people who applied for and got the job?  Or was she a serial bully?

One can look at each of the co-workers who left.  One got another job.  One got sick and went on disability.  One left to go back to school.  These are plausible.  BUT ... there are so many of them.  One after the other.  And then, there are the two people we really can't account for as to why they suddenly disappeared off the radar screen.  We never heard from - or about - them again.  They just "disappeared".

 Until tomorrow ....


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