Thursday, 17 January 2019

Being belittled & bullied in the workplace

I've touched on feeling lonely, unhappy and belittled in the workplace before but after sitting down in a cafe before Christmas and overhearing a group of grown women laughing loudly about a work colleague of theirs who was having a breakdown, it reminded me that this is a subject that never really goes away. One that always needs to be discussed; an important reminder to all that there are lots of cruel people out there who regularly make people's lives hell in the workplace. For this post I decided to just be honest and talk about my experiences with being belittled and bullied in the workplace, because people in this position, going through the same situations, need to know they're not alone. One of my mum's friends made it clear to her recently that they didn't like some of the things I said in a blog post, but I won't let my voice be stripped away by other people's opinions. This post has been a long time coming and I hope it helps anyone out there who is feeling belittled and bullied at work. You're never alone, and hopefully by sharing my story it can provide others out there suffering with some comfort. ♥︎

"Next time Sophie, you can clear up the sick."

My boss said to me, in front of the whole office who were gathered for a meeting. Someone had been sick in our building and the boss was huffy she'd been the one who had to deal with it. Her insinuation was that I was the dogsbody of the office and therefore next time I was the one who should clear up any sick. Funnily enough, I don't remember "sick clearer" in my job description when I applied for the job. As her words stung the air I felt myself flush red. I felt belittled, lacking in courage to speak up about this kind of treatment. To challenge it head on and ask why I was always the one singled out? But I knew why - I was the youngest person in the office and also the most willing. Always keen to just plaster on a smile, act like everything was fine, even when it was the wrong thing to do.


During this job I was bullied. It was common knowledge, yet sod all was done about it. Alongside that, I was constantly belittled, patronised, criticised and singled out. A few of them knew they could get away with treating me like that because try as I might, I couldn't find the strength to stand up for myself. Early on I became aware that certain colleagues would spend any free time they could bitching about other members of staff which I found exhausting and I was always paranoid of what they'd be saying about me when I was out of the room.

The boss was quite predictable, she'd often sweep into the office, address the whole room and turn her back on me, blanking me entirely - but if she needed an errand running? Yep, you guessed it! She was suddenly interested in me then! Funny that. I remember once she made a mistake on payroll, yet she blamed it on me. "It seems I've been paying you too much money..." she said, narrowing her eyes at me and using this I'm so angry, I'm the boss and I'm so justified in feeling oh so angry kind of tone. "I'm not very happy about it, as you can imagine. But I won't make you pay any of it back." That's very nice of you, I thought sarcastically. In reality I gave her a "thank you so much, and I'm so sorry about that." Why was I sorry?! I have no idea. I went back into the office shaking, telling everyone what had happened and feeling all the while like I'd done something terrible. When I got home and told my boyfriend he was furious about the way I'd been treated. So many times did he want to go in to my work and give them what for due to the way I was being treated but I stopped him, not wanting to make a scene.


Humiliated in front of the whole office 
One member of staff constantly made comments concerning my weight, introducing me as "this is Sophie, she doesn't eat or drink" to someone coming in for an interview in front of the whole office, humiliating me in the process. Remarks were made about my naturally slim frame, insinuations that I didn't eat. Sly remarks about things I did and didn't do at the weekends, my social life, everything and anything she felt like criticising. Once she screamed at me in front of the whole office for not using these new phone systems we had yet I hadn't even been given training and had no clue what to do. That was pretty much the last straw. I think this woman led quite a sad life and often took her home-related stress out on her job. Everyone was on tenterhooks in the mornings in case she was in one of her "moods". She could be a laugh sometimes, and kind other times, but it was a shame as I never had the energy or strength to stand up to her when she was emitting bullying behaviour. Once another well-meaning colleague dragged me into the manager's office because she'd witnessed the way the woman was speaking to me like dirt. When confronted with this news, and realising she'd upset me, the woman laughed it off, making me feel like I was in the wrong; being too over-sensitive and blowing things out of proportion. I felt embarrassed and guilty, as if I was just making a big fuss about nothing.


Ignored for saying hello?!  
My voice was never heard in that place. I was only useful when they wanted me to do something. Occasionally relatives of staff members would turn up. I remember once saying "Hi,' in a friendly, cheery voice to one relative of a fellow colleague. I actually couldn't have cared less about her, but I tried my best to be polite anyway. She just smirked at me, looking me up and down and completely ignoring me without a word. This happened a few other times too. I felt like I still needed to bother, yet hated the fact that this person could be so unbearably rude. Once we were sorting out brochures and she'd come to help and she whinged "Can't Sophie do it?!" while everyone looked on and laughed, humouring her. It made me laugh to see this girl follow me on a few of my social media accounts, why on earth she'd want to follow me when I wasn't even worthy of a "hello" all those years back is beyond me, but it made me smile nevertheless.

Reduced to tears 
Rubbish days were a regular occurrence, I remember one staff member spoke to me once in such a nasty manner that I was unable to help myself and broke down in tears behind some filing cabinets. I was heaped with parcels for the post office that weren't even work-related; all for another colleague's daughter. She found it quite funny, I think. Like a good girl I'd take them without complaint and do as I was told. There were some good moments, some general laughs and nice days and I loved a few of the colleagues I worked with but unfortunately the bullying coupled with the general lack of respect and deflating treatment made me dread every day at that job. My weekends were miserable, full of dread as soon as Sunday reared its ugly head, and my working week was unbearable. Thank goodness the job propelled me to do one thing - start writing my first novel as a form of escape from all the misery I felt.

Spoken to like dirt 
It was a hard lesson to learn; especially after going through rough spells at both sixth form and college where bullying was concerned, I just couldn't believe it was happening yet again - in an adult workplace. "Tell Sophie a woman makes my life utter hell at work and I'm fifty-four!" My mum's friend passed the message via a phone call with my mum, a message to reassure me that I wasn't alone in the way I was feeling or what I was dealing with. This woman is nothing but a lovely, warm, kind, outgoing and sweet lady who you couldn't imagine anyone wanting to bully. I can imagine she'd stick to her guns and stand her ground, not take any flannel from anyone if pushed. Yet this fellow colleague treated her like dirt, put her down at every opportunity and picked on her for no apparent reason. It was hurtful to know she was the target of bullying too, yet strangely reassuring to realise I wasn't going through it on my own. Perhaps if she was going through it too it didn't make the bullying I was dealing with my fault? Didn't make me completely useless or deserving of the treatment I was being subjected to? I'd never really heard of bullying happening in the workplace before, perhaps not to the extent I realise it does now.

Not taken seriously when I spoke out about bullying 
It was a shame as I absolutely adored a few people at that job, and felt almost close to tears when I did leave because there were some genuinely lovely members of staff there who had helped me and been so nice to me. When pressed on why I was leaving, I told the boss about  the woman's behaviour and how it had affected me, but all the boss was concerned about was getting me out of her office before this woman came back and saw us discussing something serious. She did not give a toss, she couldn't have cared less if she tried. That said it all, really.

What are the next steps to take when you're being bullied at work?

  • Don't suffer in silence - report it. Easier said than done, as I've already been there before and never reported it (not until I was leaving and it was too late, anyway). But no one deserves to be scared to go to work or dreading the week ahead or even calling in sick because you can't face things. All the while this behaviour goes unreported the bully will carry on with their behaviour and you'll have to suffer in silence. Any professional company should take you seriously and take the relevant action needed to improve your working life. 
  • Make sure you write everything down. This will give your manager, HR or whoever you're discussing the bullying with a clear idea of what's been going on and noting everything will give you a better and more solid ground for discussing what's been happening. Often it's easy to forget, overlook or miss important points, so be clear on the events and situations surrounding the bullying at work you're dealing with. 
  • If you're not being taken seriously, report to higher management. This would have been tricky for me to have done at the job I left because there was no higher management. Only an unprofessional boss who saw the bullying as nothing but an interference - she didn't want to call out the woman in question on her behaviour as she knew how difficult and argumentative she could be. I was leaving, which made things very convenient for her; she didn't need to do anything about it. If your company has an HR department as your boss isn't taking your claims seriously, then seeing HR would be the next step.
  • With any meeting or claim you are entitled to representation from someone in your company, be it a close colleague, someone from HR. If you can't trust your next in line manager then as mentioned HR. You can write to your HR department too, if speaking to them face to face is difficult. If your company has a Counsellor Rep that can be a good step. Anyone impartial who can witness the events of the meeting. The manager cannot then make lies up or pull the wool over your eyes (as some do), if someone else is there witnessing the meeting and what's being said. 
  • Worst case scenario and you are unable to speak to anyone in your company about the bullying or you aren't being taken seriously then you can contact the Citizens Advice Bureau. My boyfriend as a manger, advised me for this post that if the bullying continues and there's no sign of it stopping or being dealt with, the next step can be a case of claiming constructive dismissal if you are unable to work at your job any more due to bullying. 

And lastly, remember: 
You are not being "too sensitive", if someone's behaviour is ruining your work life, it's unacceptable for it to carry on happening.
It's not a case of "you need to toughen up", if someone is causing grief at work it's a case of "it needs to stop". We are often made to feel too sensitive or too emotional, when bullying is what needs to stop, not our emotions.
Bullies are good at twisting things, they'll make you feel guilty and apologetic for their own behaviour. They'll upset you and make out you're overreacting, or downplay it. It doesn't justify anything.

Putting a stop to bullying in the workplace is something I feel truly passionate about. I've always thought, and I'm not sure how, but that I'd love to somehow make a difference in changing things. It still happens so much, too much and so much more needs to be done to improve bullying in the workplace. People suffer in silence everyday, others become ill because of it, some leave an otherwise happy job because someone is making their life hell and it isn't being taken seriously. Please don't suffer in silence if you are being bullied in the workplace. Tell someone you trust ♥︎

Stand up ➕ Speak out 


"Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke." 

Related post: 

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Topshop pink faux fur coat & mental health

As soon as I saw this pink faux fur coat on the rails in Topshop, I knew it was destiny calling my name. Why have only a hint of pink when you can have a full blown love affair with the colour? I'm not big on winter clothes, so this season it's been a lottery win to have found some faux fur fashion pieces that keep me cosy and make me feel sassy at the same time. I'm keeping my fashion blogger radar on pink alert for some other vibrant gems that might help update my winter wardrobe a little, but to be completely honest, I'm just not interested in winter style unless it's as fun and funky as this cute pink faux fur coat is. This pink ice cream dress matched dreamily against the pink coat and of course I had to bring back my Dollskill candyland sunglasses, forever keen to inject some sugar into proceedings. Add in my fluffy heart bag from Accessorize and slogan heels from asos, this outfit became my seventh heaven. This has to be one of my favourite outfits, very Barbie-esque. Talking of Barbie, is anyone else excited about Margot Robbie's role in the new Barbie film? The casting is spot-on! 

I took a blogging break because I needed some time away and found Christmas pretty tough to cope with. I haven't been doing my best mental health wise, even though I'm now feeling a lot more like myself. For a long while I felt very low, crying lots and struggling to manage at all. People assume things like "you've got your own home now, what have you got to feel down about" which doesn't help and results in more feelings of guilt and isolation. I've felt a bit cut-off from a lot of people since moving which hasn't made me feel like I really have too many people willing to reach out or even remain in contact. I don't want to be so downbeat, and even feel a bit worried when I talk frankly on here as I think some people connect honesty with negativity when it's just a case of getting it all out of my system, but there's no point putting on a false facade of everything being POSITIVE POSITIVE POSITIVE when life just isn't always like that. 

I'm getting back on track, even though horrible things like two men turning up on my doorstep yesterday, threatening to cut our water off because they'd made an error about our house being unoccupied when it clearly isn't - can set me back again. I was on my own in the house and had no idea what to do and was shaking all over once I finally got rid of them. We made a complaint and apparently the men who came to the house had logged me down as seeming "quite upset and distressed", which ironically is how I've felt over the whole festive period. These photos however, remind me of a happy day where I felt like a million dollars, and I know there'll be days like that in the future, too.

During Christmas we did take a trip to Swindon though which resulted in a lot of happiness. It's a near 3 hour drive away from where we live and has always been a comforting place when in need of some solace and inner peace. When I saw the signs indicating Swindon I felt like crying with relief because it just felt like the escape I needed from all the anxiety and depression that had swallowed me whole. Our cosy home from home, with a garden full of promise and a silver Buddha that's uplifting for the spirit. I love that garden so much. We went to Butterfly World, a tropical haven of tranquility which was nice and hot (my idea of heaven). We also went out for cocktails to a restaurant we love, and I even had a mini fashion shoot in the garden, trying on my sassy summer clothes and styling some new season Skinnydip London bags I got for Christmas, which definitely gave me the boost I needed. We spent some time sampling some Costa Christmas drinks before coming home from our short break. 

This winter SAD has hit me like a brick, but there are a few really happy and exciting things I'll be telling you all about soon that have kept me going. Despite those bad days, I know spring isn't too far off now and since New Year is over, I can finally look forward to holidays I actually enjoy with a passion; like Valentine's and Easter. 
We now live about ten minutes or so away from one of our favourite castles, and cupcake cafes, so those'll provide comfort and cakes when there are more dark clouds than rainbows. I'm also looking forward to all the dreamy flower displays the castle will have come spring. What can we do in life but try our best, keep going & hold our heads high. I just want to feel like myself again, but I'm getting there ♥︎


Monday, 17 December 2018

Elan cafe: a Christmas review

Elan Cafe was my next Instagrammable hot-spot to hit, so back in late November mum and I took a trip there. There are four Elan Cafes to choose from (with a fifth just this minute opened) we opted for the Knightsbridge branch as it looked like the prettiest and was also the easiest one for us to travel to. From gorgeous flower walls to pink lattes, to divine sugary treats, I hoped it would be magical and magical it was! A total blogger babes dream. Turns out going to Elan cafe during the Christmas period was the right move to make; as we entered the cafe I was enchanted by their pretty pink Christmas tree, a sparkly tower of unicorn heaven! To say I wanted to steal it and take it home with me is an understatement. 
We took our seats by the flower wall located right next to the pink Christmas tree (lots of pictures were taken). Their sparkly Christmas menu was filled with delicious festive fun and I decided to opt for a woodfire hot chocolate which came topped with marshmallows, and a slab of their chocolate and cherry cake. Mum had the strawberry cake but couldn't be talked into getting a beetroot latte which was the pinkest drink on the menu. Despite persuasive attempts from both me and the guy working there, she went for a normal latte instead (boo!) 

Wrapped up in my pink fluffy faux fur coat, there was a fantastic friendly atmosphere that punctuated the cafe; from the Britney Spears and N*sync Christmas classics blasting out of the speakers to the welcoming and upbeat staff who were lovely and made us long to go back as soon as we stepped out into the cold. Mum and I were heart-eyed over our massive cakes, so huge in their heaven that we had to take them home. I admired all the dreamy baubles on the tree; spellbinding shocking pink, glittering angel wings, flower power and unicorns adorning the tree. 
Elan Cafe was a winter wonderland welcome that I'm sure is just as sparkly during any given season. I've seen via Instagram that yet another branch has opened which I hope to visit in the New Year, it looks like Valentine paradise! As you probably know by now Peggy Porschen is my number one cafe and pink haven in London, but Elan Cafe definitely came in at a close second for sure. 
I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful Saint Aymes cafe last week too which I also loved. Eyes peeled for a review coming sometime next year! Making it my mission to discover all the pink gems London has to offer, I hope to unearth lots more fabulous cafes in 2019. I've converted a good few people into Peggy Porschen addicts this year and I can't wait to find lots of other insta-worthy haunts soon! ♥︎

Related posts:

Have you been to Elan Cafe before?
Let me know if you've got any favourite pink cafes!