Monday, April 22, 2013

When the Bully's In Your Head (Patty Blount)


I have a confession to make -- I was bullied as an adult. Can you imagine how embarrassing it is for the author of a book about bullying to admit? 

It was back in 1998. I’d gone back to work after spending several years home with my babies. I was working as an admin and after just a few months at the new job, I was promoted to executive secretary to two managers. Everything went well until a third manager was added to my list.

When he first joined the firm, we got along wonderfully. He treated me with kindness and respect and seemed impressed with my capabilities, encouraging me to do far more than my job description described. In fact, one of my projects prevented a wide-scale exodus by more than six design partners, upset that they hadn’t been paid in months. My performance on that project was recognized in an award ceremony.

But in his second year with us, all of this abruptly shifted. The kindness, the respect, the challenges – it all stopped. Instead, I was treated to daily abuse – everything from the way I shipped out packages to the way I talked was open for ridicule and ridicule he did – going so far as to halt a staff meeting to diagram the word ‘drawing’ on a white board so that I could learn how to correctly pronounce it.

And I took it.

He berated me for failing to give him a message fast enough. If I contacted him as soon as messages came in, I was scolded for being a nuisance. He asked me where a particular conference room was located while our building was being reconfigured. I spent twenty minutes drawing updated conference room maps, approached him with the hard copy and listened to him shout about my rudeness for interrupting him while he was talking to someone. A few minutes later, his boss called and I didn’t tell him immediately, so he screamed at me again for not giving him the message. “But you just told me never to interrupt you while you're talking to someone.”   

This went on for a year. A solid year of not only being told I was incapable of delivering good work but believing it. I tried to talk to human resources but he was a VP and I was… not. Who do you think they believed? I started a log of every minute of my day – what I did, who I was with, what was said. I brought that to HR. They sent me to a skill building course. I was outraged. I wanted to quit. I wanted to tell him to drop dead so badly but I needed the job.

I gave him all the power.

The course cost over a thousand dollars and you know what it did? It boosted my confidence to the point that I quit and never looked back.

(Aside: I later learned this boss deliberately set out to make me hate him to squash rumors that linked us romantically. I don't hate him. I just think he's an idiot.)

It’s been over a decade since this ordeal so why do I bring it up now? Because I can’t believe I listened to him, that I gave him the power to crush my spirit. Now that I’m published, I’ve noticed I still do this! I still let one bad review or a rejection bring all those feelings rushing back. It's like they're HIS voice telling me what a loser I am.   

I look at where I am today compared to then and I'm proud of what I've done. Now I can tell the mental bully to shut the hell up. I have the power. I have all the power. There's an old saying: 

Whether you think you can or think you can't -- you're right. 

9 comments:

  1. Wow! Patty. What a powerful story. I had heart palpitations just reading about what that jerk did. So inspiring that you were able to see it for what it was and take back control.

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  2. What a jerk. Ugh. And it sounds like HR wasn't doing its job, either. So glad you got out of that place!

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  3. It's hard to take back control, too. You did a marvelous thing here. I think it's especially hard for women (not to say it isn't for men, as well) to be assertive without any passive/ agressiveness. We go much of our childhoods being told, don't be greedy, don't be selfish, don't be bossy, and then told, you're smart, you can be anything, go do it! It's very hard to find balance. And then, along comes the idiot, who, in this case, clearly believes he's God's most precious gift to the Universe. WOW. Yeah, lesson learned. Btw, what was this course called? Can we all take it? ;) You rock, Patty!

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  4. Thank you for the awesome post, Patty! I've had my share of dysfunctional work places with bosses screaming at me. Some apologized later and confessed they had things happening in their own lives that had nothing to do with my job performance. Some were just jerks. (And looking back I can see that my impressive daydreaming skills that serve me so well as a writer did make me a pretty sucky secretary at times - ha!) But I'm glad you found the strength to leave an intolerable situation. You rock!!

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  5. bravo for getting out of there! and even more props for squishing that inner bully time and again!

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  6. Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments. The course Human Resources sent me to was The Dale Carnegie Course and it's open to the public. I highly recommend it for confidence building in any profession, but for authors specifically, it's a God-send, because so many of us are introverts who must, at some point, speak publicly.

    I still struggle with assertiveness -- I'm constantly worried that being too assertive will get me branded a 'bitch' but I'm in a different company now that has promoted me, rewarded me consistently, and listened to issues proactively, instead of simply telling me to 'deal with it.'

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  7. The excuse about trying to dispel rumors is just bizarre. A reasonable adult would've just talked to you like a human being: "Hey, there are these rumors which we both know are untrue, but for the sake of professionalism my manner is going to be much more formal and distant now; just wanted to let you know."

    Good for you for finding your power.

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  8. Hi, Jennifer -- I agree. It was pretty damn low to assume his reputation was worth more than mine.

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  9. What a powerful post, Patty! I LOVE that last line...

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