I guess I’m lucky to have not experienced getting bullied at school. It must be because I have been in the company of good classmates that turned into good friends. But I couldn’t say the same for work. When I was a young student, I was an introvert but talkative, soft-spoken yet loud, studious and equally naughty, and jumping from one classroom to another in the hopes of being everyone’s friend. Because my family moved several places, from elementary to high school and up until college I would find myself adjusting to new environments and meeting new faces, but thankfully worked my up to the best classes. But nothing can prepare me when it was time to join the workforce and get a taste of what it’s like to earn a living.
The first time I lined up to apply for work, I got rejected simply because I didn’t come from one of the preferred universities. More than being discriminated against, I felt bullied by the recruitment staff who didn’t even give me a chance for an interview but just looked at the CV I submitted and unapologetically announced “Next!” I felt devastated and discouraged but moved on. My parents may not have spent millions of pesos in tuition fees, but I graduated from the Polytechnic University of the Philippines, recently a top school of choice by local employers, with graduates that are noted to be very hardworking and often going the extra mile in their jobs. That company that was picking on applicants? They’ve been closed down several years ago after many cases of unfair labor practices were filed and they lost and went bankrupt.
I worked as an operations assistant (read: male secretary) for an engineering department of an entertainment company. I was bullied by no less than the boss, the chief engineer, who had no qualms of making you feel so little and mediocre every single day for not having a “science degree” and for expecting you to make mistakes all the time. While I lasted working there for less than a year, the bullying apparently stopped when the boss realized how important I was to his department. I got sick and couldn’t go to work for more than a week which made him realize he couldn’t run the department without the “menial” assistance of his male secretary. I resigned about a month later, but the sweetest revenge is when the bully boss asked to be taught the work that I did.
The worst thing is when you’re bullied for just doing your job right. I’m of course proud of my years of experience working my way up starting out as a technical writer, sticking to the software consulting company that shifted its business to offshore outsourced services later being tasked as product specialist, and then getting promoted as a customer service manager. My direct report and immediate superior who happens to be the VP didn’t like my guts and would almost always find a way to discredit my work. But you know as they say if you do honest work there’s no way somebody, even people of higher position, can bully you down. I submitted a deck that the boss overhauled without consulting me and proceeded to present it to the owner but was not only rejected but got a beating of sorts for showing a ridiculously bad idea. It was a well-researched presentation as is if only I was given the chance to discuss it with him thoroughly. He realized his huge mistake and somewhat had a change of heart since. As if he didn’t have any choice but to give me the proper treatment as a colleague. He still hated my guts but we’ve worked together on a lot of projects that turned out to be successful. After four years with the company, I decided to take a leap of faith and accept an offer to work abroad as a consultant. A few days before my last day, the boss has mistakenly announced my promotion to a senior position at the company’s Christmas party.
Unfortunately, bullying has become far too common in the workplace and remains unnoticed and somewhat becomes acceptable company practice or office culture. These are nonverbal, verbal, psychological, and sometimes physical abuse that a typical employee would think is part of the onboarding process or just so one can get in and be part of the team. Aside from health issues, there’s undue stress, and it impacts productivity because of such bullying.
In my case, I was always determined and working hard to prove myself and didn’t want to waste my time worrying about the bullies. But bullying anywhere is never OK. Good thing most companies today, will have in place a policy against any type or form of bullying, especially harassment. But if you or you know anyone who’s being bullied, harassed, or abused at work, the first thing to do is to document all of it and report it to the higher-ups or HR. If such is ignored or no action is immediately taken, you can always contact the Department of Labor and Employment.
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