A Commonwealth employee waits for consequences for her workplace bully almost a year later

hourglass in close up photography

Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

I had worked in state government for about 18 years after having graduated from Boston College with a BS and an MBA from Bentley College.

I had been given a supervisory role within an IT group. Three months later, my director got transferred to another group, and another employee got promoted to be the director of my group.

I thought it was just a personality conflict at first. He started subtly criticizing everything I would do. He made me doubt my ability to do my job. He would ask me to do research, and then when I approached for clarification, he would say he didn’t tell me to do that. He would dictate how I supervised my team of 11 people and insisted on approving every request for vacation. Although I wrote out the performance appraisals for my team, he would not allow me to give the grades I thought were deserved. I was not allowed to put that anyone “exceeded expectations,” only “meets expectations,” even though I disagreed that some deserved the higher comment. In August of 2016, I received “exceeded expectations” on my own performance appraisal from him.

During this time, I began to realize that I was not the only person that my boss was “rubbing the wrong way” and that he was violating the bullying clause of union’s collective bargaining agreement. I met with some others in the group, and we decided we were going to complain about him. Having never had any friction with anyone else in
my 18 years in the job, we did not know the process, so I contacted an admin I trusted, and she set up a meeting with HR. Five of us met with HR, and notes were taken.

Five days after this meeting — and one month after having received an excellent performance appraisal — I met with my boss for a weekly check-in. He told me that he was considering a change and removing me from my supervisory position and placing me back as a team member. Oh, and I was also to trade my office for a cubicle as well after this demotion.

After doing some research, I filed a retaliation charge and agreed to mediation. The
employer’s representation immediately agreed to return me to my supervisory position if I wanted. But I did not want to work for the same boss. I wanted to transfer. There was an open position within the state that I had already noticed. I was able to transfer directly into that job within almost two months. My former boss was able to stay in his position, and I was concerned that the perception amongst colleagues was that I was demoted or did something wrong in some way. Why would anyone else ever lodge a complaint if they see that I got transferred out of the group while the perpetrator stayed in his position?

Shortly after transferring to my new team, I was contacted by HR to share my story as part of an investigation into my former boss because another complaint was filed against him. Three of us decided to compose a letter to the head of the division and outline the fact that there have been several complaints against this boss as well as several people who had transferred to different groups to get away.

Before sending this letter to the division head, it came to light that this exact situation happened in 2004-5 with an investigation into my former boss. A colleague who was working under him at that time contacted a bunch of people from back then, and
several written complaints surfaced. Several people during 2004-5 wrote out complaints about my former boss similar to those complaints from the current team including one letter to the Lt. Governor at the time. We included all of these complaints with our
letter to the division head.

Upon receipt of the letter, the division head assigned two people to investigate. This was September of 2017. They interviewed us and several other people, and another grievance was filed against my former boss as the investigation continued. It closed at the end of January 2018, with the investigators making some recommendations as to what should be done.

The investigation concluded at the end of January 2018 and as of the end of August 2018, the Commonwealth is refusing to produce the findings of the report. We are working with the union to file an Unfair Labor Practice complaint to force them to produce the report.

I am lucky because I have transferred out, but I have colleagues and friends who still work for him. I am fighting for them and others who may find themselves in a similar circumstance.

 


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?

Advertisements

A former state employee says “you don’t believe workplace bullying exists until it happens to you”

author blog create creative

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I was a 33-year Commonwealth employee who was bullied and driven to suicidal ideation, panic attacks, and gastric problems. I would grind my teeth in stressful situations and cracked a molar. I spent a night in the hospital for stress-associated illness. I was prescribed anti anxiety and anti depressive meds and had a gastric ulcer. I spent time sobbing in the ladies room. I nearly was killed on the highway after taking too many anxiety meds prescribed to me because I just couldn’t take the stress.

I wrote a book, published in 2015, related to my work. The new administration where I worked warned me not to write the book after previous administration gave me permission.

I was harassed with letters from my agency’s lawyers sent to my house, threatened with termination, and had disciplinary letters placed in my file containing statements that weren’t true. Every day I suffered some form of bullying and gaslighting. I incurred an industrial accident that was documented but not acknowledged.

Hearing impaired, I filed complaints with MCAD. My well-documented case was thrown out. I was an exemplary employee up until the administrative change in 2013 (also documented).

I am an author and have published five books, one in the academic genre and several journal articles.

I was able to get into another agency, as I had certification as a peer counselor, which saved my life. I was highly regarded in the new agency as I was in the previous agency prior to the administrative change. I was an exemplary employee who always overachieved. I designed and developed innovative programs that were on the cutting edge.

When I went to my new agency, my state employee file was mysteriously “lost.” It was difficult to get my seniority from my previous agency transferred to my new one, and I was nearly laid off during a privatization of my worksite. With my seniority, I was able to transfer to a hospital, where I was highly regarded and was up for promotion. My file was eventually located — in my previous agency — although they stated to my new agency that they did not previously have it. Files just don’t get lost in Boston.

I retired in January 2018. My 35+ year career as a state employee included positions such as program director, public relations, building manager, volunteer coordinator, and counselor.

During all of the bullying, I was awarded an honor from the House of Representatives for “hard work and dedication to public service.”

I was nearly a casualty. You don’t believe it can happen until it happens to you.

Please, for God’s sake, stop the 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?

An advocate asks: who’s holding companies accountable?

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My son was two years old when I was a temp for a company. It was near to impossible to get hired. I impressed HR so much that within two months, I was officially a full-time employee. For 16 years, I worked as a scheduler for one of the top 30 companies on Fortune 500. For 14 of those years, I was considered an above average or exceptional employee. I was an employee who always stepped up when a new project was on the horizon.

In March 2015, I was TOLD to perform a task that was unethical and against company policy and procedures by a newer member of HR. My company has mandatory training for the Code of Conduct and Ethics Policy. Every employee must sign agreeing to comply. Along with my own integrity and ethics, I refused the instructions and adhered to what I had signed. The decision to follow my companies’ policies was the beginning of the most mentally, emotionally, and financially devastating years of my life.

To cover up the mistake and lack of knowledge by HR, I was escorted off of my company’s property. The level of humiliation as I was forced to walk past my office building was overwhelming. I was only allowed to return by signing a discipline letter acknowledging an investigation was done. I went to my supervisor to show all policies and procedures in order have the false discipline letter removed. I did everything by the book, going up the chain of command, to no avail. A month later, I received an email from HR employee stating “I was correct”. Again, I asked to have letter removed, to no avail.

It was evident that I was being targeted. It started getting more stressful once the HR employee wanted to supervise the schedulers. As a direct report, I started to experience harassment/bullying daily. It ranged from being berated for hours behind closed doors to being singled out for my attire in front of my peers. Every day I would come into my office, I had to let my supervisor know I was there. I started to hate going into my office.

I made a formal complaint to her supervisor, the HR manager. On several occasions, I asked for some type of help to stop the bullying and berating by my supervisor. I made complaints to the Ethic Hotline. The company investigator did nothing. I continued to beg for relief to the HR manager, who did nothing. The more I asked for help, the more bullying was done. The HR manager was now telling me I wasn’t to speak to the local company manger. It became a war ground, and I realized that no one was going to stop it. I worked in HR, and THEY allowed the behavior. HR generally gives the training on ethics and ensures employees are behaving in accordance to the Companies Code of Conduct. They’re the department you are instructed to go to if you’re harassed. HR was not only allowing it. They were the bullies, the harassers, and the employees not adhering to the policies.

It finally broke me when I was told to either do as I am told or be terminated. I sat in my vehicle in hysterics for four hours unable to move. I called the company’s Employee Assistance Program as I couldn’t take the hostile and toxic environment anymore. That day I had thoughts of suicide. I couldn’t understand why this was happening or why my company was allowing it to happen. I started seeing a company-approved therapist who would send monthly updates of my status.

In the two years since that day, the bullying and coverup of the unethical behavior didn’t stop. I received FMLA letters stating my job was being filled, only to find out two months later that the letter was fabricated as I had been FMLA protected. I was denied on returning to work. I then reached out to Executive Board Employee for assistance as well as the corporate HR manager, the person who oversees ALL HR mangers. I requested a face-to-face meeting to eliminate any confusion. His response was to deny me a bonus and give me a non-performing review. I reached out to the CEO and sent him documentation that showed I had adhered to company polices and was being harassed and bullied daily. The Chief Compliant Officer threatened me to not contact anyone within the company again.

Here I sit alone, still an employee but not allowed to contact my employer and denied any form of income. I am an employee who was diagnosed by two separate therapists with C-PTSD and PTSD, a diagnosis that everyone from the local HR manager to the CEO was aware of and continued to not acknowledge along with the unethical treatment and mental abuse from the bullying and harassment. I have experienced nightmares, insomnia, depression, hostility, hopelessness, weight gain, financial devastation, and foreclosure of my home. I have lost my self-esteem and confidence and don’t go out in public due to shame. The legal definition of murder it the taking of one’s life. It doesn’t define life as physical. My life has been taken — emotionally, mentally, and financially. My employer has no less than committed murder.

A bully is defined as a person who uses strength or power to harm or intimidate those who are weaker. A synonym to bully is a tormenter. A tormenter is defined as someone who inflicts severe mental or physical suffering on someone. Then harassment is defined as aggressive pressure or intimidation. Bullying is much more severe. How is it that we have laws that forbid someone being harassed at work due to protected class but no laws for someone bullied? Per the EEOC, you MUST prove it is due to race, color, religious creed, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, ancestry, or protected whistleblower status. How would someone know WHY they are being harassed or bullied? Yet to get any help under The Civil Rights Act, a victim HAS to prove it was for one of the reasons listed.

Huge corporations almost always have an Ethics Policy, and part of that policy is keeping employees in a safe work environment. Then the public companies have investors, SEC, etc. to be accountable to, too. Yet who is holding the company accountable for the ethical treatment of the employees by the company?

Bullying is a severe enough epidemic that we have foundations/organizations for kids. We have campaigns on TV. While we want to keep kids safe and from harming themselves, what about their parents? Neither kids nor adults know why they have become a target. Kids and adults feel the same emotions. The only difference is that the adult has not one place to turn for help.  My job, my livelihood for 16 years, has been taken from me by a company of bullies who are in management positions, covering up for one another and their unethical behavior. When we can no longer provide for our families and have been mentally broken by bullies, it can lead to families destroyed. The employee either must face it daily or, in my case, mentally break down and go on disability. Some of us actually believed in our companies’ policy, the speeches, and the CEO to keep us safe.

The employees who are victims of bullying all share identifiable traits. Many studies and surveys have been done, and those traits are “skilled,” “hardworking,” “truthful,” “very competent,” “intelligent,” “professional,” and “ethical.” These are the people we are not protecting? How is that even possible? Shouldn’t these be traits that Americans and employers find valuable? In 2017, according to the EEOC reports, there were a total of 340,332 worker complaints. Also in 2017, per a Workplace Bullying Institute survey, there were 15 MILLION workers who experienced bullying and 4.35 MILLION who contemplated suicide. There are more people who are NOT protected because they can’t tell anyone the reasons why they are being bullied and abused. Just because a victim of a bully doesn’t know the reason for the abuse shouldn’t make the abuse acceptable.

Legislation needs to protect EVERYONE. Attorneys won’t take cases against companies unless they have one of those “reasons,” at least not on a contingency. Then when you don’t have income to pay an attorney, where does that leave you?

My life has forever been changed by bullying. Even though I am an American citizen who should be protected by The Civil Rights Act, I am not. Would government act if they woke up and found out that every citizen living in New Hampshire, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Vermont had committed suicide? If action would be taken to ensure that that many lives were not lost, then action needs to be taken to protect those bullied in the workplace as there are more people who have contemplated suicide in 2017 due to workplace bullying than who live in those four states.

I would like to be able to give advice to anyone else who is a victim of workplace bullying. I have read many articles, and most say to document, document, document.  That doesn’t matter. I have an 8-inch binder of documentation including policies, procedures, and admissions of guilt.  Yet no one helps. I have contacted all the government offices, state-elected officials, and the Health and Labor Board, and NO ONE will help.

The only thing that will make a difference is for a law to be put in place to assist.

We shouldn’t have our lives devastated because of bullies. We shouldn’t have to give up good-paying jobs for relief.

One advocate’s experience of workplace mobbing

blur bottle bright building

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I am being tagged for being myself.
The managers are aware of what is going on but say nothing.
They seem to get a kick out of it because I guess they expect me, being Black, to get up in their faces, swear, and knock someone out so they can get rid of me — or worse, locked up.
There was a layoff in June 2016, and my previous co-worker retired. Four months before she retired, the managers claimed there was no money but were able to hire and hide positions that were open and available. They did not share them with current employees. The director of the department claims “he hid the positions in case staff were laid off.”  So they re-hired this manipulative man who worked in another department. He now sits behind me.
From day one, we did not get along because he was friends with two other trouble-making men who I did not get along with and had an encounter with. From that day on, they would laugh at and talk about me.
They’ve spent 30 years doing the minimum, gossiping, and making others’ lives miserable. They hate to see anyone smiling and enjoying themselves. This co-worker is devious, manipulative, and immature. They go along to get along. All of the employees know what is going on but are afraid to get involved so that they will not be targeted — or they just don’t care because it’s not them on the receiving end. Some of them join in.
I would like to catch them on camera to show others that they should not go along with what is wrong.
The issue is that I mind my business. I observed who not to be around and who to and they don’t like that. I do not go to work looking for trouble or want any trouble to come my way because I’m being me.
This has been going on for at least several years. Enough is enough.

The word “bullying” should not be given power because bullies are cowards — insecure individuals reflecting their lack of insufficiency onto other strong individuals who they only hope they could be.

 


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?

How one advocate was fired for not taking part in the new manager’s clique

healthy clinic doctor health

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I’m a 54-year old psychiatric RN day charge nurse who worked for the same employer for over 23 years. I had a perfect record on all my evaluations up until about two years ago, when my supervisor of many years resigned after management asked her to do unethical things.

The new young male supervisor sided with bullies and believed whatever they said. The bullies hated me because I would not be a part of their unscrupulous tactics. The new supervisor loved one of the young, pretty nurses. After she would leave his office, he would dance around me singing “out with the old and in with the new!” This nurse, the secretary, and another nurse would constantly ask me “what would you do if you lost your job?” and “don’t you want to stay home with your new grandson?”

The harassment, ostracizing, and mind games came about swiftly. My schedule was changed from dayshift to 12-hour shifts. One of the main male bullies was moved to the dayshift. I was outnumbered by all the bullies at that point. Everyone on the dayshift wanted me out. My supervisor micromanaged me, stopped talking to me, sent his bullies to undermine my authority, and would put his hand in my face or point a finger in my face. He would tell me “I don’t want to hear it. One finger pointed at others, three fingers pointed at you, and if you ask me one more time about getting your day shifts back, I will put you on nights!”

One of the male nurses was abusive to me and the patients, didn’t do his work, and stayed on break. I knew he was in the clique but I reported him anyway. He was fired.

The bullying got worse after that. No one would help me. I was unable to eat or go to the restroom hardly. It was so busy that a couple of times I held it in too much and I urinated on myself. I had to go shower and put on hospital scrubs. No one would get up to help the patient, so I had to. I had papers or binders slammed on my desk angrily by the secretary or the male nurse who was eventually fired stating “here you go, charge nurse.” I was the only one not invited to the activity therapist’s birthday party. She came the next day sarcastically asking “did you see the great pictures of me taken at my birthday party? Oh, I forgot, you weren’t invited.”

I was ridiculed for my faith in God. I had a photo of the sacred heart of Jesus taped on my desk. The supervisor would laugh and say “huh, Jesus!” He would mock and laugh. The activity therapist told me “that picture of Jesus won’t help you!” When I would get in, my picture of Jesus would be covered up by another picture of Jesus with possums crawling over him, wearing a black leather vest smoking a cigarette. When I would get there in the morning, the techs would ignore me and never look up.

My supervisor’s supervisor told me she finds older nurses have trouble with change. I said “if I had trouble with change, I wouldn’t have handled being sold to three companies in the same hospital.” I was called into my supervisor’s office. He was rude, loud, and with an angry tone asked “are you going to quit? Are you sure you are not going to quit?” I told him “I am not a quitter.” The next day, I was called into his office with the chief nursing officer and put on possible termination following the outcome of the termination meeting. I asked them if they could call me on the phone to fire me since I did not want to cry and be upset while getting escorted out with the security guard like so many of the department heads and nurse managers who had been there the longest and were fired or forced to resign not long before.

He called me on Monday and fired me. I was devastated.

It has been close to a year, and I am just able to think more clearly and not cry all the time. The nightmares are less frequent.

I loved my career. The patients and the psychiatrists loved me. My job was my passion. It came naturally to me to give an abundance of love, caring, compassionate, and mercy to my patients and others.

No matter how badly I was treated, I always gave back kindness.

 


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?

Help take back the power after workplace bullying

two person playing chess

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Legislators not bringing the workplace anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill to a floor vote this session isn’t going to stop us from continuing to build our momentum and fighting for what’s right. Here’s what we already have in the works for next session:

  • We’re looking to bring attention to workplace bullying through the media. We have the attention of the Boston Globe Spotlight desk and other media outlets following a Cape Cod nurse taking his life after workplace bullying on June 7. If you have media connections, reach out to them or pass them along to info@mahealthyworkplace.com.
  • We’re gathering data. To build media and legislative support, we’re trying to understand how much workplace bullying has already cost the Commonwealth — and how much the Commonwealth can save if they have a workplace bullying law in place.
  • We’re building connections. We’re reaching out to groups who’ve been successful with moving pro-employee state legislation to see how they can help.

Now we’re looking for YOUR help. In September, we’ll hold meetings around the state to see how you can bring your connections and skills to the cause, pushed by volunteers only:

  • Do you have ideas you can execute? Are you an artist, photographer, event planner, speaker, or have an idea you could try out to increase awareness?
  • Do you have connections to reporters or pro-labor organizers?

Join us for one of these meetings. Click on the link for specific location details:

Central MA
Wednesday, September 5, 7pm
Panera Bread, Shrewsbury

Boston
Monday, September 17, 7pm
Panera Bread, Brookline

South Shore/Cape Cod
Wednesday, September 19, 7pm
Panera Bread, Plymouth

Western MA
Monday, September 24, 7pm*
Starbucks, Chicopee

North Shore
Tuesday, September 25, 7pm*
Panera Bread, North Andover

Join us to help put make severe cases of workplace bullying illegal once and for all.

*These dates were changed on August 21.

An advocate sees a pattern of abusive bosses

woman walking outdoor

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

Sara worked in the fashion industry for nine years. She just quit her job and started working for herself. “I feel a lot happier,” said Sara. Here’s her workplace bullying story, in her words:
It all started with this guy who hired me out of college. He was a big man with a heavy Irish accent. At first he was charming and patient. Then as the year went by, he had another agenda. He would rub my shoulders and try to touch me every chance he could get when I was alone.
Then there was several times he ran at me when I was in the elevator. He tried to grope me, and I was able to escape his grasp by closing the elevator. Several times, he tried to buy me lunch and dinner and showered me with gifts from Bergdorf Goodman — usually short skirts and jewelry, which I would always return. He was sleeping with the other three women in the office — but not me. I used to hear him having sex with them through the vent in my office. I always took a long lunch.
Then he started a new method of torturing me by dumping more responsibilities and work on my desk. I was forced to stay late everyday. He also dumped my coworkers’ (six people) work onto my desk.
It got increasingly bad with the abuse and harassment. He screamed at me, telling me I’m no good and worthless. Then came the final straw at the office holiday party. He groped my pregnant coworker on the dance floor. I was horrified when she ran off in tears. I decided from then on I was done. I got sick from the stress and had to be admitted to the hospital because I was dehydrated and underweight. It was one of the worst experiences of my life. I sent in my resignation letter, yet he called me for weeks leaving messages and empty promises.
I’ve also been assaulted at work — pushed in the showroom by a coworker. I called that worker out and told my boss at the time about it, but he turned a blind eye and didn’t reprimand or fire the guy. I only worked there for two months.
In one job, I worked retail six days a week. It was exhausting. One Saturday, my fiancé became ill, and I told my boss I had to leave immediately to go to the hospital to see him.  But my boss told me I wasn’t allowed to leave.
I worked for an employer texted and called me 24/7. It was riding into my personal life and affecting my well-being. I had a full-blown, crippling anxiety attack where I was covered in hives from head to toe and finally broke down. He was mistreating me, calling me a worthless, no-good, awful employee while I was the only one who was working late and taking on extra tasks during the weekend. It wasn’t until he grabbed my wrist, came up close into my face, and called me a “disappointment” at the end of the day that I decided to call it quits. I’ve developed PTSD. I was having nightmares from all the abuse, waking up in cold sweats during the night.
I’ve finally decided to throw in the towel and work for myself. I make less money, but my sanity and health are more important than being abused. All that matters is being happy, and I won’t let anyone take that away from me.
No more working for toxic bosses.