An advocate asks: where’s the professional and community understanding of workplace bullying?

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My workplace bullying started in May of 2010 when my then husband was on his second deployment to Afghanistan. I worked as an Executive Administrator for seven years coordinating sales training schools.

In September of 2010, my position became full time. After signing the paperwork, the sabotage increased. Management orchestrated it and recruited sales training managers, salespeople in the field, and possibly even a vendor. I just found out the term for this is “mobbing.”

  • Things on my documents changed (limo pickup times, rooming lists, etc.)
  • Laptop crashed, suspicious issues with computer
  • Important papers were taken off my desk
  • Excluded from meetings
  • Blamed for mistakes that others made
  • Workload increased
  • Last minute requests increased
  • Emails deleted

This was the first time ever in my life that my work was sabotaged. I was in complete shock that people actually behaved this way. I could not imagine doing this to anyone. I had always received positive reviews, and each sales school ran smoothly. I was responsible for coordinating all the behind-the-scenes logistics (hotel, ground transportation, dinners, room set-up, home study, etc.). I would take care of all the logistics once the agenda was set. It went on “auto pilot,” as I heard one of the sales training managers tell someone.

I knew going to Human Resources would just make matters worse so instead I started documenting everything. I did confront my manager at one point who just laughed it off. When the sabotage increased to an intolerable level, I ended up going to Human Resources, who sent me to the EAP office and told me they were going to investigate it. I ended up taking a leave of absence for a month from all the stress. When I returned, I was given no other option but to keep working with the same manager. Their “investigation” turned into them promoting this manager. I was there a couple more months until the sabotage started again. I decided to give my two week notice. I just wanted to leave on good terms, but it appeared they wanted to be able to say something negative about my performance before I left, so the sabotage continued to increase. I ended up seeing my primary care doctor and had high blood pressure. I left the company in March of 2011 without another position. Since then I have just wanted to move on, but the sabotage has followed me to every job after. So I figured the only solution was to work for myself. During this time, I have gone through a divorce and am now a single mother.

It should be every citizen’s right to financially provide for their families without their job being severely sabotaged. Many targets are injured first by bullying and second by the substantial lack of professional and community understanding.

 


Share your workplace bullying story. Email to info@mahealthyworkplace.com in one page along with an optional photo:

Where did you work and what did you do?
How did the bullying begin? What tactics were used?
How did you feel?
How did it escalate?
How did your employer react (or not react)?
What was the impact on you?
What was the impact on the organization?
Why do you want workplace bullying legislation to pass?
What advice do you have for others going through bullying at work?

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Now healing, a telecom worker describes getting bullied on the job

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I work for a large telecommunications company. In 2013, offshoring hit my office hard, and I jumped ship, leaving my office job to go to a field position. Because of the contract under which I work, with no experience under my belt, I was able to skip to the highest level of field tech, which generated hard feelings amongst techs who had been in the field longer than myself who were trying to attain the level at which I was automatically placed.

Little did I know what drama this was to incur.

I am also female in my senior years. I was first put under the best supervisor in the field, which gave me a false sense of security because he shielded me from the situation I
had unknowingly placed myself. He moved on, and I had another great supervisor who moved on as well.

Then I was placed under a rookie supervisor who 1) did everything his boss told him to do — including bullying me — and 2) did not know how to train a new person so resorted to bullying techniques to protect his ego.

Every morning, after our 15 minute mandatory meeting, he would single me out and say to me “meet me in my office.” I would go into his office, and it would give him enough time to get the nastiest job he could find and put it behind me so that when I dispatched, it would be a guaranteed bad day for me.

We work in teams and have to ask our supervisor for helper tickets, and this bullying supervisor denied my requests for helper tickets, forcing me to work alone in potentially dangerous situations with no help. I work beside high voltage lines, which we are supposed to test before we climb. It came time to climb, so I tested the pole, and it tested
positive for live foreign voltage. As per protocol, I called my supervisor to tell him that we had a “hot” pole. He told me to get my ass up the pole. It was a false reading and I was fine, but I really believed I could die and nobody had ever explained false reading to me, nor did he bother when this happened.

I was singled out, threatened, discriminated against, humiliated, and pranked every day. It came from everywhere. It was endless. I felt like I was in hell. I could see no end in sight. I didn’t know what to do. Every morning when I woke up, I couldn’t believe I had to go through this again and I contemplated suicide upon awakening and throughout my day which worked because it made me fearless.

My tools came up missing all of the time. I was always getting suspended for safety violations (I spent one of these suspensions getting a high safety certification, and that was the end of that!) Because I was on suspension, more often than not my tools were in
disarray because my co-workers were allowed to go through them and borrow what they wanted. Sometimes I did not have the correct tools for the job. You get the picture.

I am also a female veteran, without VA services at the time, which put me at greater risk of committing suicide than the average person.

I CANNOT BELIEVE I survived this!

I am happy to say I am on the other side of this and am surrounded by my fellow veterans who have taken it upon themselves to help me rebuild my confidence and grow into the best version of myself possible.

I can only hope that my story can help somebody get through their hard time as well.

During this time, I quit drinking. I now have over three years of sobriety and have never been more grateful in my life.

 


Share your workplace bullying story. Email to info@mahealthyworkplace.com in one page along with an optional photo:

Where did you work and what did you do?
How did the bullying begin? What tactics were used?
How did you feel?
How did it escalate?
How did your employer react (or not react)?
What was the impact on you?
What was the impact on the organization?
Why do you want workplace bullying legislation to pass?
What advice do you have for others going through bullying at work?

One advocate describes near-constant terror working at a restaurant

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A restaurant I used to work at was run by seemingly brainwashed people who all thought along the same line. If you disagreed with them, they either fired you on the spot or they made life difficult. A lot of people quit.

Most of the staff (except the select) were miserable at work:

  • One employee was fired on a rumor that she said something unflattering about the owner.
  • Meanwhile one male employee failed to show up for a shift but he kept his job. When the female employee did the same thing (she had a flat tire), she was fired on the spot.
  • One employee was fired for making a mistake with a credit card. (This was one month after the brand new restaurant opened).
  • One employee was threatened with termination because she came in late when her daughter’s dental appointment ran late.
  • A rumor was started that two employees were sleeping together, and the female only was reprimanded.
  • Another rumor started that an employee was huffing hairspray. A raid of her belongings turned up pump hairspray (not aerosol), and she was publicly reprimanded. (Her only crime was looking good at work.)

At one point, the manager decided to test everyone on their menu knowledge, and a consequence of failure was immediate suspension until the employees retook and passed the test. When it was pointed out that if even one person was sent home, the workload increased for the rest. If more than one was sent home, it would be critical. Test day came, and a few things happened:

  • Two employees were so nervous and stressed that they quit.
  • Management learned they did not print enough tests for all employees to take the test on the same day.
  • There were questions on the test that only Back of House (BOH) would know, yet this was a Front of House (FOH) test on menu knowledge (but these answers were not on the menu.)
  • Answers were marked incorrect if they were “not right enough.” For the question, “What is a banger?” I answered “a banger is a fat, English sausage.” This was not considered to be right enough. The answer they were looking for was “a banger is an English sausage made with meat and whey.”

Our beer menu literally changed daily, yet we were required to know the beers in the flights (on test day, the current flights were different than the flights I had memorized. We needed to know the current flights.)

The test was much worse for the bar staff. Their recipes were literally removed days BEFORE their test. At least the servers could use a takeout menu at home.

Any mistake was exaggerated and distorted to the point of lunacy. Once, a table of mine had to wait 5 minutes before I got there to greet them. (I was busy with other tables.) The hostesses assigned that table to another server (a select). The server apologized for the ten minute wait (within my hearing range). The people at the table were unfazed, said they understood it was busy and it was only a five minute wait. This server took their order and went to the bar, telling the manager at the bar that the table she had to take over was unhappy and that they had a 20 minute wait. What this server was unaware of is that the hosts note the seating time, and it was only four minutes.

Once, the manager found all the servers rolling silverware (except the select) before shift. This angered her and caused her to immediately declare that servers were not allowed to roll silverware until they were cut from the floor. We told her very timidly (we did not want to lose our jobs) that such a policy would result in us running out of silverware during rush. This logical presentation of facts left her unfazed, and we ran out of rolled silverware during rush.

The conduct of the manager, BOH manager, and owner was unusual. The owner would take beer into the kitchen with him and drink while on the expo line. After the rush, he could be found listening to the band and getting very drunk. The manager would drink after shift at the bar, flirting with her boyfriend and getting drunk, frequently putting her head down and resting. The BOH manager was sadistic. He magnified all mistakes and hammered his point home, publicly calling out servers who made mistakes and making them appear stupid. Getting yelled at, having rumors started about you, and public humiliation were literally all part of a day’s work.

When workplace bullying remains unchecked, it gets remarkably out of control and borders on ridiculous. But we targets lived it. We went to work in near-constant terror. Would we lose our jobs today? Would the select start new rumors? What would we be accused of now? Would the owner get drunk and be mean? What new horror would find us unprepared? Truly, it sent me into therapy.

 


Share your workplace bullying story. Email to info@mahealthyworkplace.com in one page along with an optional photo:

Where did you work and what did you do?
How did the bullying begin? What tactics were used?
How did you feel?
How did it escalate?
How did your employer react (or not react)?
What was the impact on you?
What was the impact on the organization?
Why do you want workplace bullying legislation to pass?
What advice do you have for others going through bullying at work?

Next steps for workplace bullying legislation in Massachusetts

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We’re getting ahead of the next legislation session this year to let every single state legislator know about the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill and put it on their radars while it’s quiet at the State House.

We’ll ask for their support and co-sponsorship for the next session now — and then we’ll ask again in January when we get new co-sponsors and start the process over again.

Now that we know who will serve in the Massachusetts Legislature, schedule a meeting with your state legislators in the next month or so — even if you’ve contacted them before — and share with them your story and why you want protections for workplace bullying targets. If you haven’t already, put your story together in the next month and schedule meetings with them.

Contacting your legislators

New Legislators

Senators
Senator Barry Finegold (2nd Essex and Middlesex replacing Barbara L’Italien)
Senator Becca Rausch (Norfolk, Bristol, Middlesex replacing Richard Ross)

Representatives
Rep. Dan Carey (2nd Hampshire serving Easthampton, Granby, Hadley, and South Hadley replacing John Scibak)
Rep. Richard Haggerty (30th Middlesex serving Reading and Woburn replacing James Dwyer)
Rep. Kathleen LaNatra (12th Plymouth  serving Kingston, Plymouth, Halifax, Duxbury, Middleboro, and Plympton filling a vacancy)
Rep. David Leboeuf (17th Worcester serving Leicester and Worcester replacing Kate Campanale)
Rep. Christina Minicucci (14th Essex serving Haverhill, Lawrence, Methuen, and North Andover and replacing Diana DiZoglio, longtime supporter who became State Senator replacing Kathleen O’Connor Ives)
Rep. Normal Orrall (12th Bristol serving Berkley, Taunton, Lakeville, and Middleborough and replacing Keiko Orrall)
Rep. Dave Robertson (19th Middlesex serving Tewksbury and Wilmington filling a vacancy)
Rep. Alyson Sullivan (7th Plymouth serving Abington, East Bridgewater, and Whitman and replacing Geoff Diehl)

Two new state reps won in the primaries in September:
Rep. Nika Elugardo (15th Suffolk serving parts of Boston replacing Jeff Sánchez)
Rep. Jon Santiago (9th Suffolk serving parts of Boston replacing Byron Rushing)

If we’re missing any new state legislators on this list, email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com.


Current Legislators

Since information may not be up-to-date, read through the list of new state legislators above before checking the link below, and then contact your state legislators.

Find your Massachusetts state legislators »

If you want to do more or you’re in another state

We’ve compiled a list of current legislators who supported the Healthy Workplace Bill last session (and who didn’t) with links to their Facebook pages. Call, email, Facebook message, or post on their Facebook wall and/or page:

“Will you support legislation to make severe cases of workplace bullying illegal in Massachusetts?”

The public nature of the question encourages a response from legislators. Report back their response, if any.

Read the list »
See a list of supporters on our Facebook page (we’ll keep updating it) »

 

Get your story in the packet for legislators at the hearing next spring

We’re assembling a booklet of written testimony from workplace bullying targets for legislators for the next legislative session starting in January. If we can include your story in our testimony packet, email it in one page to Greg at gsorozan@nage.org by the end of this month.

Feel free to use this framework if it’s helpful:
Where did you work and what did you do?
How did the bullying begin? What tactics were used?
How did you feel?
How did it escalate?
How did your employer react (or not react)?
What was the impact on you?
What was the impact on the organization?
Why do you want workplace bullying legislation to pass?
What advice do you have for others going through bullying at work?

The new state legislators who could help pass workplace bullying legislation

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Several new state legislators won their seats on Tuesday. We now have an opportunity to reach out to these leaders about the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill to ask for their support and co-sponsorship ahead of the new legislation session starting in January:

Senators
Senator Barry Finegold (2nd Essex and Middlesex replacing Barbara L’Italien)
Senator Becca Rausch (Norfolk, Bristol, Middlesex replacing Richard Ross)

Representatives
Rep. David Argosky (17th Worcester serving Leicester and Worcester replacing Kate Campanale)
Rep. Richard Haggerty (30th Middlesex serving Reading and Woburn replacing James Dwyer)
Rep. Kathleen LaNatra (12th Plymouth serving Kingston, Plymouth, Halifax, Duxbury, Middleboro, and Plympton filling a vacancy)
Rep. David Leboeuf (17th Worcester serving parts of Worcester replacing Kate Campanale)
Rep. Christina Minicucci (14th Essex serving Haverhill, Lawrence, Methuen, and North Andover and replacing Diana DiZoglio, longtime supporter who became State Senator replacing Kathleen O’Connor Ives)
Rep. Normal Orrall (12th Bristol serving Berkley, Taunton, Lakeville, and Middleborough and replacing Keiko Orrall)
Rep. Dave Robertson (19th Middlesex serving Tewksbury and Wilmington filling a vacancy)
Rep. Alyson Sullivan (7th Plymouth serving Abington, East Bridgewater, and Whitman and replacing Geoff Diehl)

Two new state reps won in the primaries in September:
Rep. Nika Elugardo (15th Suffolk serving parts of Boston replacing Jeff Sánchez)
Rep. Jon Santiago (9th Suffolk serving parts of Boston replacing Byron Rushing)

If we’re missing any new state legislators on this list, email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com.

Now’s the time to tell your story
Now that we know who will serve in the Massachusetts Legislature, schedule a meeting with your state legislator in the next month or so— even if you’ve contacted him or her before — and share with him or her your story and why you want protections for workplace bullying targets.

Find your state legislators »

If you need help scheduling a meeting, email us at info@mahealthyworkplace.com.

A Commonwealth employee passes away on the job after administrators allegedly refused to accept her doctor’s note

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My late sister-in-law was a long-term and highly regarded employee of DDS and was ready to retire in a few months. She had some attendance problems due to significant illness and provided her employers with doctor’s notes stating that she was impaired and needed to go on an intermittent Leave of Absence as per her condition. She was a 35+-year employee.
She was told that her doctor’s note would not be accepted and that she had to report to work or she would be terminated.
Laurie was single and could not afford to lose her job. She reported for duty on third shift and was instructed to work alone, although she felt uncomfortable doing so.
She suffered a stroke and died that evening on duty following an argument with her supervisor. 
The center fought the family, whose lawyer told them what my lawyer told me: you cannot afford to fight the Commonwealth.
Due to my own egregious situation, I had worked with the union and recalled a similar incident a year before where an employee’s doctor note was not accepted, and she deceased on duty. My sister-in-law was the second fatality of this practice. What bothered me most is that I was informed by the family that the administration had questioned Laurie a month prior to her death and specifically asked if she’d been talking to me. My MCAD complaints had been getting quite a bit of publicity, and I had recently transferred to DMH (where they could not get me, but my personnel record was “lost” for the first year and I could not retire without seniority. It was later found in DDS after a friend who worked in DDS supported me).

I cannot express my total shock and aversion for a system that I had previously had much faith in when I heard that my sister had deceased on duty following administrative harassment emanating from an agency and facility that I had placed my trust in and had regarded highly for over 30 years.

When I worked for DMH as a peer counselor, I would find on a frighteningly consistent basis people reporting anxiety, depression, and even suicidal ideation regarding turmoil and harassment in their workplace.
We must impress upon our legislators how egregious and widespread this workplace bullying phenomena is and how it affects not only their Massachusetts workforce but the mental health of many of their constituents as well. As a DMH counselor, I personally supported many victims who reported to emergency services and crisis stabilization units where I worked. Currently, as a part time peer counselor working for a private vendor agency in crisis stabilization, I continue to see these individuals fairly consistently.
If I didn’t have my own personal experience as well as my experience working on the front lines in the mental health field, I would never know that workplace bullying existed and, quite honestly, I would likely have thought it was much ado about nothing and also that it would be too costly an undertaking for the Commonwealth. Today, after all that I have experienced, I realize that it is too costly for the Commonwealth NOT to prevent workplace bullying.

 


Share your workplace bullying story. Email to info@mahealthyworkplace.com in one page along with an optional photo:

Where did you work and what did you do?
How did the bullying begin? What tactics were used?
How did you feel?
How did it escalate?
How did your employer react (or not react)?
What was the impact on you?
What was the impact on the organization?
Why do you want workplace bullying legislation to pass?
What advice do you have for others going through bullying at work?

State Senator Paul Feeney to continue fighting for workplace bullying targets

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Workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill champion in Massachusetts, State Senator Paul Feeney (D) was re-elected last night.

Representing the Bristol & Norfolk district, Feeney was elected to the State Senate in a special election last session, serving a partial term. Yet he progressed the bill by bringing it up during Senate Budget discussions, marking the first time ever the bill was brought up on the Senate floor.

This session will give Feeney an opportunity to push for workplace bullying legislation for a full term.

Stay tuned for a list of new and returning state legislators who we can talk with about this much-needed legislation in the coming weeks.