Gather around kids, I have two stories to tell you today. After reading William Lloyd’s intimate post about his bullying experiences, I decided to add my own. Luckily I was never bullied in school, but out in the work force is a completely different story.
The Girls from Hell
There I was, a fresh-faced 14 years and 9 month old starting out on my first day of my first job. I had met the boss and he was a lovely man, instantly putting my overly anxious self at ease. So it was with only the faint sensation of nausea that I walked into the café for my first shift.
The boss wasn’t there. A giggling group of three girls were. I walked up to them, all knocky-kneed and trembling, to introduce myself.
One looked at me with faint disgust and asked, ‘What school do you go to?’
‘Ah, CLC. You know, Catholic Ladies’ College,’ I replied, well aware that outside schools called us ‘Catholic Lesbians College’.
She screwed up her nose, her mouth twisted and she said, ‘Oh,’ before turning back to the group, effectively shutting me out.
So began a year of being pushed around to do all the work, being ignored when I spoke and laughed at when I did anything wrong. It was a shame that the boss only worked during the week. I worked Sundays with those girls. They tried to get me fired four times. Once for working too slow I was told I needed to polish the chair legs and metal on the table until my face shone back at me. That takes a few hours when they are caked in grime. Another time for eating a sausage roll out of the warmer. The girls told me I could eat anything I wanted, which they did also, but they neglected to tell me not to do it in front of the boss. In fact they told me the boss was okay with it. Third time they said I was bullying them. Should have punched them in the face for that one. Lastly, apparently I was taking money from the till. Please, I’m way too much of a pansy to do that.
When I finally quit, they replaced me with another CLC girl and when I came back to return my uniform, the boss was working.
I thought it was odd to see him on a Sunday, until he asked, ‘Did those girls ever pick on you? It’s just that, the other girl from CLC has complained.’
‘Of course not,’ I said and walked out of the café, trying not to notice the new girl standing hunched over the bench as though she were protecting herself from the other girls, who were standing around laughing.
Biggest regret of my life. I left that girl to deal with what I had endured for a whole year.
Managers Have Loud Voices
I had moved on with my life. I worked at a supermarket, got on swimmingly with everyone and then I was promoted to assistant manager in the deli. That’s all good, I can handle it. But then the store manager left. The deli manager left. And I was left facing the most aggressive man I had ever met in my life.
This man became the store manager and I was required to take on the deli manager position until someone took over. I had been an assistant manager for two weeks. I barely knew the computers existed, let alone how to use the systems for ordering, rostering, waste and the how-to guide for being a manager.
So I made mistakes. Perfectly acceptable mistakes for someone who hadn’t been trained in the slightest.
And I got absolutely destroyed for it. This manager called me an idiot on several occasions, yelled at me in front of other employees and wouldn’t talk to me in the deli. He chose to talk to the only male deli assistant, who would then have to come to me and tell me everything that the man had just told him. Which I could hear because I was standing a metre away.
Other times, he would be the friendliest person in the store. He would encourage me to tell him everything that I needed help with and would promise that there would be more help for the deli. Then he would turn, use the information I had just told him against me, to make me feel worse.
For that whole month I was manager I would go home crying every night, questioning my whole stupid, pathetic existence. In the morning I would drive to work, hoping that I would get into a car accident, or an elephant would fall on my car, or anything would happen so I didn’t have to ever go back into that awful store.
A week after the deli manager finally came back to take the position, I quit. I walked out and didn’t look back. And once again, I did nothing. I could have torn that man to the ground. If it had happened now, I would have. Back then, I was a touch on the meek side.
So what have I learned?
1) A good manager is essential to keeping a workplace happy.
2) Sometimes people will hate you for the stupidest reasons, or no reason, and that sucks.
3) Screw being liked in the workplace. If someone’s picking on you, they’re never going to be your friend, so stop trying to do anything possible to make them like you.
4) Sometimes it’s better to just leave. Nothing is worth making you feel that unhappy (also solid advice for relationship dramas).
5) ALWAYS SPEAK UP! Don’t let that person get away with what they’re doing to you. Because when you leave, they just turn on someone else.