Leaders and bullies

Many moons ago, my confidence was at its lowest. For a few years my leader had convinced me that I was worthless. I remember the feeling of hate I had for my job and at the same time how lucky I felt to have that job, because I was so useless that nobody in their right mind would give me another chance.

If you know me well and read this, you’re probably thinking that this is a fictional story, in fact I am an extremely (too much some say) confident person. But no, this is the truth, I was at my lowest and the reason was that my leader had bullied me into a ghost.

When, after years of pain, through the help of a colleague and the support of my friends I saw what was happening to me and realised the psychological violence I had been subjected to, I decided that leaving the company was not enough and I wanted to do the right thing by coming clean on what had happened.

I went to talk to my leader’s boss and explained what happened. By then I had an overwhelming amount of data that unequivocally proved that systematic psychological warfare had been used against me. Not only me for that matter, other people were receiving the same treatment.

My leader’s boss was very sympathetic and said that I was not the first one that reported that behaviour. He also ensured he was going to act upon my complaint.

Little I knew, he was playing a game. He delayed and delayed his intervention, once even faking that his flight had been cancelled on the day we were meant to meet Human Resources (I checked with the airport and no flights had been cancelled that morning). That Same day i had to go to a doctor, because my depression had reached a point in which I was unable to face going to work.

Eventually, tired, disappointed and broken, I decided to simply leave it as it was as I knew i was trapped between a bully and a spineless bully enabler.

That was that, i left and life went on.

Nobody loves a bully, bullies are massive problems for organisations, but worse than bullies are unhelpful knowing managers that by not acting and stopping the bullying perpetuate a culture that accepts it.

If people are afraid to talk about things, true leaders will investigate and find out why it is happening and when they find out that the problem is a bully, they will act promptly. If I found out that one of my people was a bully, i would try to help him trough coaching, and if it didn’t work I would have to defend the other people and the bully would have to go, no two ways about it.

When a leader does not act firmly, also sends a signal to his people that bullying is ok. When this happens, bullying becomes part of the organisational culture. Leaders, it is your responsibility to make that not happen.


9 thoughts on “Leaders and bullies

  1. I’m so sorry that you, and possibly many others, have had to endure unacceptable behaviour like this. It really shouldn’t happen, but does. My own experience is of a bully who bullied all their colleagues and a ‘management’ that were probably too scared to take direct action. One day the bully tried to bully the wrong person in front of a room full of witnesses. That person raised a complaint, dismissed the offer from local ‘management’ to sort the issue and insisted that the matter was dealt with by HR. The matter was dealt with by HR and the bully was dismissed. I just wish that every situation involving a bully had such brave people to take such action and rid work environments of the curse of bullying and those that perpetrate it.
    Is the most concerning thing though that there was no offer of help to those affected by the incident? Whereas the effect on the ‘wrong person’ was possibly marginal the effect on some of the ‘witnesses’ was not. Everyone affected should have been offered help rather than having to invoke non-professional self help.

  2. Many years ago, maybe, but I’d wager the memories are still clear, hurtful and still yet to be resolved. Some things can affect us deeply and I’m one of the first to shout help. Not everyone does though.

  3. If I am a good human being, it’s only because of the help I’ve received to enable me to be so. Getting help from the right help givers is so important, just as important as giving help to those that don’t ask for it, but really need it.
    My father has, perhaps unknowingly, helped me. He has never ever spoken to me about his WW2 experiences of D-Day and the push into Germany. His Grandson, yes, he can speak to, but not his son. Made me realise the trauma some folk go through and how well they can hide it, even if it eats away at them daily, how they can’t accept help and it is really up to them to choose any help given and the giver of any help.
    I’ve been very lucky. I just hope that some folk can be just as lucky.

  4. I hope your piece leads folk to type ‘help with workplace bullying’ into Google.
    I was surprised just how much help is out there, if only others knew and/or sought it out.
    I suspect though that when you’re in the middle of it using Google is not the first thing that comes to mind. Perhaps it will now. I hope so.

  5. Same happened to me. I was lucky enough to find another job and leave, but the damage was done: it took me some months to recover mi self-esteem. Still today I have surges of strong rage coming up when I rember that.

    • Sorry to hear that Alberto, i understand your frustration as i have felt it for many years. I now have only love for my bulies as i understand that being in the head of a bully must be very painful. It must be painful to be in a situation where to deal with the world the only thing we can do is lash out at other people, it must be very sad and lonely. I empathise with the bullies and want to help them.

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