Standing up to bullies as an adult

When I was tormented as a child I had no resources. No escape. I just had to sit down and take it.

Not so as an adult.

Some years back I was extremely unlucky and went to work for one absolutely horrendous employer after having worked for another shitty one just before.

I will not reveal the name of these companies – I don’t want to be sued – but I can reveal one is an ”IT company” you have all heard of, and the other you have most likely not heard of. The reason I put ”IT company” in quotation marks is because they are a third rate company that only hire the people that can’t be hired anywhere else, and are well known for treating their employees like garbage.

While I worked for the ”IT company” I experienced being lied to, isolated, bullied and treated like an object. And all for the privilege of being paid far below living wage! I wasn’t the only one to suffer – the company is a revolving door for that very reason – but it did a number on my mental health.

But I’m not going to write about ”IT company”, not at this occation at least. This is only to set the scene.

I had just left ”IT company” and joined the other company. I will call this company Useless. The place was weird from the very beginning.

In the job description they demanded at least 3 years of experience in the profession I was interviewing for, yet I got the job with only one year of experience under my belt. During the introduction on the first day for all the newbies, the manager kept on telling us we should not read the reviews for Useless on Glassdoor, that they had real trouble keeping people, but that was all the fault of lazy and unreliable millennials. I think you can see where this is going.

So I started working there, and immediately noticed a number of problems. The main one that the workload was far too big for my small team to handle. There simply wasn’t enough hours in the day to do everything. During the first meeting my team had with the manager and the team lead, my colleague told them this, and was told in a rude manner that this workload was perfectly easy to handle, that they had told her how to do this, and they could not understand why everything wasn’t being done. I sat there in silent shock.

Before I continue this story I should probably name the characters.

The manager I will call Karen – not original, I know, but she really is the stereotypical Karen, in every sense of the word. Imagine an overweight boomer with the stereotypical karen haircut. She is rude, demeaning and cold to anyone she deems ”beneath” her. That’s my manager. My team lead I will call Sub-karen, because she’s also a Karen, but without the same power as the manager. Sub-karen and Karen had been friends for many years, and it was Karen who gave sub-karen the job in Useless to begin with.

The problems with this job just kept on appearing the longer I worked there.

The workload was not manageble, and every time I raised my concern I was cut off by Karen or sub-karen and told this was easily manageble and every other team could handle it. The fact that the other teams were much bigger and had many more people to help out, not to mention they worked on different systems, was completely irrelevant. But more concerning was the wrongful information they fed me, followed by denial and gaslighting when I pointed out they had told me something completely different earlier. No, they never said that, it was I that never listened!

This all came to a head when I dared to tell sub-karen that the way she told me to do a task was flat out wrong, as I was following Karen’s direct orders, which was the opposit. Sub-karen hauled me into a conference room and yelled at me, berating me for contradicting her and insulted my work and all the labour I had put in. Told me I needed to think about if this was the right position for me.

This was the exact point I stopped caring and decided I was going to make them pay. I was not going to tolerate being treated this way any longer.

I immediately contacted the recruiter that forwarded my resume to them. Told her everything. They looped in HR. I made an official complaint against sub-karen. I had already heard from several of my colleagues that there had been many complaints against sub-karen and Karen. I was appalled this had been allowed to continue, I said.

After the whole official complaint was kicked into gear, sub-karen and Karen would barely acknowledge me. They never said anything to me outside of the weekly meetings, and then it was only to sneer at me. I didn’t care anymore. I dropped the whole meek lowly employee demeneor I had given them the first couple of months. When they asked if I had worked late to try to catch up, I laughed at them. Told them if they wanted me to work overtime they had to pay me (we were not paid any overtime, ever). When they asked why I didn’t do all the tasks only three people could realistically handle, I looked at them like they were stupid and smiled at them like they were small children saying something naive and adorable.

They didn’t do anything about it. From the moment I complained they ignored me. I had demonstrated i wasn’t scared of them. And like typical bullies they ran for cover.

Of course this didn’t lead to any major repercussions for Karen and sub-karen. HR dismissed the whole thing and I was let go. But karma was catching up to them.

When I left they no longer hired people with experience in the profession we worked in. Useless, who pretended they only hired the best of the best, had to hire whatever random person the recruitment agencies managed to find. Their rating on Glassdoor had tanked. Their reputation in the city we were in was completely destroyed.

It was so bad that people were warning each other against Useless, and the horror stories from people who were unfortunate enough to have worked there spread far and wide. I did my part, and warned anyone that bothered to listen to never ever work for Useless.

And now? They have not recovered. They still only hire people that can’t get a job anywhere else. Recruiters refuse to work with them, because most people leave within a few days to a few weeks.

And as for me, I still give them a little jab with my poisonous pen once in a while. I have written my scalding reviews on every job site there is. I know they read these, because they have tried to write their own pathetic reviews in response. I laugh and silently thank them for confirming my words are bothering them.

As an adult I can do all this. It is not much, but I took back some of the power. It felt good.

Of course, I was in the fortunate position that I didn’t depend on this job to survive. I knew I would never use them as a reference. So many victims out there don’t have this luxury. To all bullying victims out there who are currently suffering under a bully boss: If your employer don’t have any strings on you, there is no reason you should act corteous towards them. Respect is earned, and is a two way street. If someone try to make your life miserable, you don’t owe them anything.

You are not a bad person for standing up for yourself.

Living in Stepford

The suburban neighbourhood I grew up in was a very typical one for that area and time period. Think well off but not upper middle class and lower middle class.

On the surface a quiet, nice area perfect for families with children. The school was close enough for all the students to walk there, and we had several shopping malls at a short driving distance.

And the concensus was that this area was just so nice. If someone dared to mention how there had been several instances of creepy guys trying to lure kids into their car under the pretext of driving them home (happened to one of my classmates), that teenagers would stop second- and third graders on their way to school and not let them get there on time (happened to my sibling), or that kids would try to push one of their peers into the road in front of a fast moving car (happened to me), people would just shrug and brush it off with “That’s awful, but that happens everywhere.”

I realise these examples are pretty tame compared to what happens in other areal in other parts of the world. I will not play the game of “Who’s worst off?”.

But it was just so nice, you know? Everything was just picture perfect. Everyone knew, if not each other than at least of each other, and everybody got along just great. In school all the children got along just great and my school scoret brilliantly on the wellness check they did every year, so there.

We all got along just great. It was great. It was fine. Just smile.

I think it was this environment that made me allergic to hypocrisy and false niceness. I simply can’t stand it. If I get as much as a whiff of someone turning a blind eye to a problem or brush off real issues because they find it unpleasant, I immediately despise that person.

Some may call it harsh. I call it realism. So far this immediate distase has never been wrong. Any person who display such behaviour has turned out to be as fake as their niceness later on.

This is the only positive effect I have found from my years of relentlessly being bullied. I learned not to give such people my time.

It has saved me a lot of trouble.