Wednesday, 10 August 2011

An open letter - bullying in the workplace

It’s been a while since I’ve written.  It’s because I’ve been busy and life is generally going well.   I’ve started a new job, which seems good so far.  However, it has made me reflect on a previous job that didn’t go so well.  I was bullied in the work place, I ended up in a very bad place, on Prozac and thoroughly destroyed internally; it took a lot to get back from that.  I have discussed this with my therapist, she suggested I write a letter to perpetrators to tell them how I felt, how they made me feel.  I’ve not been able to do this to date, but I’m feeling stronger now so here goes.

Dear M&M

You will never read this letter, you will never know how you made me feel.  I doubt I even cross your mind, and I’m sure you are not aware of how you destroyed me.  You both think you are good and decent people, and I was just a hysterical woman who was bad at her job.

It has taken me over 7 years to get over this.  Everyday I hated going into that job, I used to spend Sunday afternoon’s on my bed crying because I didn’t want to go in.  I seriously considered crashing my car so I could be signed off work for a few weeks and not have to face it.   The only reason I didn’t do it was that I couldn’t work out how to crash the car and break my legs, but not be more seriously injured.  I didn’t want to die, I just didn’t want to go to work.   That was a ridiculous way to work and live, especially when it got to the point that I used to cry in the toilets at work.

Looking back,  I think we all just entered into a vicious downward cycle.  You criticised me; you always told me what I was doing wrong; you treated me like an idiot and talked down to me when it wasn’t necessary; you disappeared off for meetings without telling me what was going on.   The more you undermined me, the more I lost confidence and then the worse I started to perform.   The criticisms you made started to become valid, I doubted myself, I worked more slowly, I questioned the work I did.  

And then you all stopped speaking to me, I found that to be the worse thing.  I was in work for days on end and no-one spoke to me.  Literally no-one on my team would even say good morning or goodbye, I had to ask why you didn’t like me, what I had done to turn you against me.  To this day I don’t know the answer to that.  You seemed like decent people, slightly geeky and awkward, but decent.

In the end I complained about the bullying and I got fired.  No-one ever believed me, I started to wonder if it was all in my head, I agreed that I must have been rubbish, which is why I was ignored and why I was fired.  You thoroughly destroyed my confidence, until that point there were many things I doubted about myself, but my intelligence and ability to do my job wasn’t one of them.   The one thing I thought I was good at was job.  I’d always thought I might not be sporty, I might not be good at art, I might not be thin, but I am clever.   You convinced me I wasn’t clever, therefore I was nothing, I had nothing, I had no positives. 

You ought to know that in the year after I was fired, it often took a lot of strength to get out of bed, to talk to people, to face friends and family, because I was a big fat failure.    I have to thank a friend to whom I am eternally grateful, after I collapsed in tears all over her in the pub one evening and she as good as frogmarched me into the doctors for a diagnosis of depression and subsequent treatment.   But I was no longer me, I lost my confidence, my sense of humour, I was even unable to order from a menu for fear of making the wrong decision.

But what I have now learnt is that you were wrong, I’m not stupid, I am good in my job.    In the last 7 years, I have been promoted, I have significantly increased my salary, I have had consistently good feedback and reviews from managers, peers and more recently from teams I have managed.    Sometimes I still don’t believe them, sometimes I still worry that secretly everyone still thinks I am rubbish.  If I get called into an unexpected meeting with my senior management I still break out into a cold sweat, start shaking and worry that I am going to get my marching orders.   But I really should look at the statistics, I’ve once been hauled into a room unexpectedly and fired, I’ve been in a room with a manager countless times and not been fired.

It has taken a long time to get me back, and there have been blips, but I am back, you have not beaten me.  I don’t think that was ever your intention, I’m not sure you ever had any deliberate intentions in any of this, but there were just a lot of unintended consequences of your behaviour, which was thoughtless, ignorant and at times cruel.

I’ve no idea where you are now, or what you are doing, but if I’m honest I don’t wish you luck, I don’t want anything bad to happen to you, but let’s be frank I don’t want you to have the most amazing life ever, just managing like the rest of us will do me fine.

In the mean time, I’m back, I’m stronger and it will take more than 2 weak men to break me this time.



  1. Aw!
    Bully's are everywhere but when they are at work, where we spend most of our time it can feel like straight up ABUSE.
    Undelivered letters feel SO good once they are actually done. I have a practice of doing this myself and it really let's me process my emotions effectively rather than holding them hostage in a toxic way.
    I love the improvement I see in your self worth.
    You amaze me with all your strength.
    Big Love x

  2. This was a beautiful post! Glad to see you're back. I went through a similar experience and decided to fight back by creating videos and resource websites. Our "core being" is our most precious gift in life and no one has the right to attack that. - Bev

  3. God, it must have been awful for you. Hope the letter helped you.
    Just read your short story in your last post, it's really good, your a very good writer. Nat