Douglas Bastard's Rants of Rage

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This article was written on 02 Mar 2018, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Workplace bullying

I want to say something about workplace bullying before my employed life restarts and what has gone before is forgotten under a weight of change. This is important, perhaps because adult men think they can’t be bullied and because we spend, on average, forty hours a week at work. What happens there will determine what mood we are in, how we feel when we are not there and our sense of self.

Workplace bullying is not someone pissing in your lunchbox and shitting in your coat pocket, although I’m prepared to believe that this happens. Instead, it is a systematic and concerted attempt by a group of individuals or, more often, one individual in a position of power to make doing your job difficult to the point of impossibility or to make you doubt yourself on some deep and fundamental level.

The reasons why people do this are unknown to me. I was bullied at school by someone with the brains and wit of unusually stupid soup, and would never want anyone I had responsibility for to feel a hundredth of what I felt. You would have to ask a workplace bully and my guess is that they would say they were doing it for the good of whatever enterprise they were engaged in.

It goes without saying that this is nonsense. They do it because they’re bullies and because that predisposes them to bully. Justifications for it are no more than excuses. Any work they are engaged in does not merit the treatment that they mete out to subordinates, but this is in many ways the paradox of bullying. They secretly fear they’re worthless pieces of human detritus. By bullying, they guarantee this fear becomes the truth.

Some months ago, I was interviewed for a job on a magazine. I completed a writing test and was interviewed by the editor. And during the interview, I had a strange reaction. I felt that I wanted to stand up, approach the editor and beat the absolute living crap out of him because he was rude and arrogant. Obviously, I didn’t. There are laws in this country about beating the crap out of people, which means it generally isn’t seen as being a good idea.

This was strange, but I stuck the sensation at the back of my mind. In time, I was offered the job, but in a strange way. The editor called me and said that my writing test wasn’t very good, but he was going to offer me the job anyway. It seemed odd that you would give work to someone who wasn’t very good, but again, I chose to overlook this. I was freelance and they were offering £30,000 which, as the editor said, was because I wasn’t up to much. I accepted.

And in so doing, I put myself in a place where I was bullied for the next four months. It started on my first day. I was given as assignment, despite not knowing the company, which I did to the best of my abilities, but which I was continually told was not good enough and flawed. I naturally had no support or help. And my writing test was left on my desk, all its deficiencies highlighted in red pen.

This set the template for what followed. I wasn’t working hard enough. I wasn’t working fast enough. My copy was too complex. There were too many polysyllabic words. The structure was too complex. I was too much of a stylist. At each monthly review with my line manager, the editor’s thoughts were handed down like holy writ for me to abide by.

At the three month review, the editor himself sat in. I was called pompous and arrogant, my writing style was traduced and I was told that my contract would be withheld for a further two months until I proved myself. ‘Bugger this,’ I thought. I had started applying for jobs around Christmas, some of which said ‘no’ and some of which were taking a while to come back with an offer. Finally, I gathered up my courage, and asked one of them what the status of my application was. They offered me the job.

The next day, a Saturday, I sent an email resigning. Even though it was a weekend I was told very quickly that I needn’t come back in. I would have a paid week at home and should not return. My possessions were returned to me, by post, in a jiffy bag.

Here endeth the lesson. Or not. He’s still in place, bullying his staff and behaving like a diminutive Hitler, where he’s been for about 12 years. Everyone I met in the industry asked if the stories about him being a massive prick are true and it turns out that yes, they are. He is disliked in the company as well and those he imagines respect him do not.

Did he ever get physically violent with me? Of course not. Was he rude and abusive? Yes. Did he undermine me? Yes. Did I see him undermine the other staff? Yes. Did he bully by proxy, passing on negative comments through my line manager? Yes.

My inclination is to go back to the office, jump him coming out and beat him half to death, but of course, I won’t. I promised my partner I wouldn’t and I don’t want to break the law. There are much better ways to get revenge that aren’t as satisfying in the short term by perhaps more devastating by virtue of being wholly legal. In the past, I’d have shrugged my shoulders and written it off to experience, but not now.

Revenge, as they say, is a dish best served cold. This will take months, as I intend to go through open, legal channels, to wit the HR department of the company and my union, neither of which work quickly. Bullies thrive because they don’t fear repercussions and, as I hope to show my particular bully, that can and will change.

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