This morning I opened Facebook and saw a picture that a friend posted. One of the people in the photo was my old boss. I know that I am likely just a blip in her memory, but to me she is a trigger. Seeing that picture triggered a bunch of bad memories, and made me realize that those experiences created a path of behaviour that continued for years.
After high school I completed courses in aesthetics, makeup artistry, and nail technology. I had several years experience before I moved across the country for a new military posting. I was happy to find a job within my first week at our new location at what was the most popular salon in the area. The salon was run by a (at the time) husband and wife team who’s goal was to have a family like working environment. Being that I just moved away from my family, this drew me in. It was not to last.
A year later they hired another military wife. She was a hairstylist who took a course in nails which you would think would bond us together. It didn’t. From day one she acted like I was her competition and started talking behind my back to both my clients and colleagues. She found opportunities to isolate me, and verbally attack me. She made up stories, and told them to my old boss as truth. She told me it was her goal to get rid of her competition.
I went forward to my boss. She told me that it was just a “personality conflict”, and asked me to be nice to her at all costs. She was having a challenging time with her marriage, and she is likely she was just taking it out on me. My bully’s behaviour then got worse. I went forward again and was told maybe it was my fault. At this point I realized that my boss was enabling her behaviour. It was time to leave.
The good news was this prompted me to go back to school and start a new career. When I put in my resignation, my bully used it as an opportunity to continue her torment. She openly verbally attacked me in front of my employer. She started threatening other employees that if they remained friends with me that she would make the boss turn against them too. It worked…I left a career I loved and lost my friends, but I had a new start. The bad thing was I carried this with me, and suffered from a lack of trust.
The cycle continued in other work places. When I would be introduced to a toxic individual my first thought was a fear response. I was fearful that I would be attacked, and when it would occur that my employer would not ensure a safe workplace. Sadly, I was usually right. My next situation occurred soon after I was introduced to a known workplace bully. I was told that he “only likes you if your a blonde with a tight ass”, and to “…tell him to fuck off…that’s what we all do…” Neither of these was ok with me. I made a choice that when his behaviour towards me was not acceptable to tell him so, and say for him to speak to his boss about the issues he has with me. That went down like a sledgehammer to the head. It triggered him to be worse. He started reporting me to Management for things that did not occur. When approached about it I would bring forward witnesses that would state what he was saying was not true, and that he in fact was bullying me. I was told by my boss, his boss, and the Human Resources Manager that “it was a personality conflict”, and maybe I was doing something to make him do this. It wasn’t until he physically threatened me in front of multiple witnesses that they took it seriously, but I am sure this now is only a blip in time for them too.
In any workplace, there will be conflict. Someone will not get along with someone else. It is a bosses responsibility to know or reasonably should know this is occurring, and it is their job to ensure that everyone involved or affected are safe. The purpose of my tale is not to scare you into saying nothing. If this is happening to you speak up, and continue to go forward to your boss, or bosses boss until you are safe. Do not allow yourself to be gaslighted into thinking it is you. If you see this happening to someone you work with speak up. Do not allow workplace bullying and violence be a blip.