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: 


  1. Fantastic post! Very honest, brave & I'm so glad you're no longer in that toxic environment. I know this story too well from when I worked in retail in my teens & early 20s, the bitchiness was insane. I experienced it in office environments too but luckily I was more confident & told them where to go. With some of these bosses, you are right, they do have personal issues which they bring in to work. You being a lovely, well natured & younger person would've been an ideal target for those who are on a power trip. I can also relate to the catty comments about your weight. I had slimmed down due to an exercise regime & started a new job at this hotel when I was younger. Two of the girls who were bigger than me always banged on about my weight. They would follow me around the kitchen at work during lunch to see what I had on my plate & watch me eat it. As I say, I was young at the time but now heads would roll lol. I don't take crap off of anyone anymore. Don't worry about the bullies from your work cause karma will come back around for them. Loved this post & so glad you left that place. Much love as always queen & thank you for bringing this important subject to the table, bullying in the workplace really needs dealt with x

  2. This is a brilliant informative and so helpful. <3

  3. I'm so sad to read what you going through at your job! I have the same situation at my first job, I was the youngest in company, just finished college and started work! I really like my job, but one of my college wasn't like me. Everything start like joke, but day after day was even worst and worst. I even think to get quit, but we get new manager and everything changed. But today I remember that period of my life and now I know that never again I can't let that someone act on that way with me.
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  4. Jesus Sophie. Some people are just rotten to the core. You know, when it comes to being nasty, I can somewhat excuse teens or younger children because they just don't know any better (and probably weren't taught manners either). BUT when it comes to adults - even young adults I am always bewildered by this. How at such an age can someone carry on like this? How could you verbally insult someone and not feel like a shitty human? There is just no excuse for it. Not at this age. I am so sorry you endured this torture. You didn't deserve it. No one does. I've worked in a horribly work environment, in my younger years and it forever repelled me from "conventional" forms of work; much to my financial detriment at times. I worked for someone who promised me the world; travel and bonuses like laptops etc and in the end was constantly verbally abused and treated like a second class citizen. To be fair to my boss, she came from a country (I don't want to label) that is notorious for treating others in the workplace as beneath them. There was a massive culture difference between the workers and her. And for this reason, many people rarely stayed for longer than three months. Staff turnaround was a big issue and I am sure still is today. Stupidly I stayed on for years and endured her madness. I was paid very little, complained many times to Fair Work Australia and never got anywhere. We were forced to work in silence and would get yelled at if we engaged in conversation. Conversation that wasn't started or involved her. The say I walked out, and I mean, I got up and walked out when she told me "if you don't like what I tell you to do, you know where the door is" was one of the greatest moments of my life. I don't think I've ever felt as liberated as I did that day. It taught me major life lessons. On how to be treated and how to treat others too. But also that I would NEVER, EVER work for anyone (where possible) ever again. My current position (aside from writing, which truthfully isn't financially as lucrative as I wish it would be) is perfect for me as I am on the road and have a manager I report to via telephone. No pressure of having someone breathe down my back and watching me. Which is something that I've grown to despise most. You're very brave in sharing this, I know it will touch and help so many people out there. When we think of bullying we naturally associate this with school yard behaviour. And when you think of it, it should only be (not really, let's eradicate this nuisance all together) a school yard issue. Because as adults we should bloody know how to act and treat each other by now.


  5. First of all I am so sorry you had to go through that! What an awful lady and place to work! Thank God you are out of that situation. Hopefully if someone is going through this too they will read this post and feel much more confident in how to deal with it so you should be very proud you are able to help. Keep writing what you want babe and fuck anyone that doesn't like it <3 xx

  6. Well done for speaking so honestly about this topic! I wouldn't worry about what others think, you are writing from the heart and being truthful. It makes me sad to think of those people being so awful and getting away with their behavior - I wonder what they are up to now and if there has been any repercussions. You are so lovely so I imagine there was a little bit of jealousy on their part! I'm so glad you don't have to be stuck in that awful environment anymore! ♥♥♥

  7. I'm sorry that you had such a bad time at work, it doesn't sound like they were very respectful of your role at all and just wanted you to do everything - I am glad you are no longer working there! I've gone through periods of needing to be guarded in what I say or do at work and I'm definitely not 100% myself there, but I am loving the team I'm in now - to the extent that I have other managers I've worked with coming up and asking me if I think that the 'management technique' they are considering is part of the reason why the team is working so well, haha! Someone called our team a family the other day and it really feels like it is! :)

    Hope that you are having a wonderful weekend :) Our summer heatwave is continuing, today we just rested at home in the aircon!

    Away From The Blue Blog

  8. So sorry you had to endure this at your work place. Omg!! The nerve of that boss of yours though and colleague. Thank God you're no more in that unhealthy environment. You're brave for sharing this and thank you so much for the tips. It is really helpful, Sophie dear. Many people suffer in silence because they're scared of losing their job, but what's the point of that? Once again, thank you!
    Have a blessed week ahead. :-)

  9. I am sorry that you had to go through all this! Bullying is the worst and people in power need to realise this. I hope since leaving you have found you have found happiness again. Thank you for being so honest xx

  10. Wow, I am so sorry to hear about how horrible people have been to you. I have experienced belittling but I nipped that in the bud real quick. It was scary and difficult when I first started in corporate offices because I was the youngest one there and my work is usually dominated by men and there are only a few women in my office before. I have had to get the CEO in check at a pass workplace because he was ridiculously sexist. Afterwards, it all worked in my favour in the end because I had to speak up and get him straight. I hope you find happiness in the near future! Know that we stand behind you, and thanks for sharing your story dear. <3

  11. Sophie, this is such an important post and one I can sadly relate to. I can't believe you were subject to such horrific behaviour; going through that must have been awful and I commend your resilience of putting up with it everyday. I think it's so easy, when telling other people about bullying in the workplace, for them to say 'just stick up for yourself'. But in that environment, it's worse than school. Work should be a professional place where you can do your job in a healthy environment - bullying should be the last thing you have to deal with. It still baffles me how people can be so awfully cruel. Keep shining Sophie ♥️♥️♥️

  12. Well done for making this post and helping others with this, Sophie. It's a horrible thing to have to go through and when there's issues with colleagues like that, it's terrible, makes you not want to get up in the morning. You're right in the fact that the person must be so unhappy and upset with their own life that they have to bring others down, because if they were genuinely happy, they wouldn't feel the need to treat anyone badly. Whenever I've been a victim of bullying, I always tell myself that, that it's about them and not me. It's not my fault they have an issue. As I've gotten older, that's where I'm at now. Of course it doesn't stop the melt downs and feelings when I was younger, but with age comes patience I have found. I'm glad you're in a better place now.
    Raindrops of Sapphire

  13. This is such a sad tale :( I cannot believe these things happen in an adult world! so awful. Hope you are in a better job now!

    thanks for your honest words and sharing your story.

  14. I'm sorry to hear you weren't treated very well in a previous role Sophie, so glad you're not working there anymore! It's crazy to think how poorly some people treat others. On a brighter note, I hope you have a fabulous weekend babe - fingers crossed for some sunshine, haha! :) x

  15. Such a great post Sophie and so glad you have written it as you can bet there are a lot of people out there going through this right now and need to hear that they aren't the only ones. I can remember a sort of attitude when I was in my early to mid-twenties, that bullies in the workplace was a fact of life and the sooner I got used to it, the better. As if that somehow excuses some people to treat others like dirt! It's this attitude I think that's almost more damaging than the bullying itself, and I hope now it starts to change. Opening up about it is definitely the first step so again, well done for writing this! x

    Kate Louise Blogs

  16. It is absolutely amazing that you're raising awareness for such an important matter, you're really brave for sharing your story (I can imagine it wasn't easy) and I am very proud of you my love! I can't pinpoint the source but I've actually heard that bullying in the workplace is fairly common, it's just that people don't talk about it. Bullying is always addressed in the context of schools but what do people think, that bullying just stops when people turn 18?! What you said about your mother's friend is so true, I can't believe someone would do that to any person, especially not to someone as lovely and caring as you. Your boss sounds very unprofessional, she was clearly not doing her job right. That's why HR departments should not be underrated. Dividing power is always a good safety mechanism. As you know my school experience had some parallels to your work situation. Apart from that, I once had a boss who was a bully (but in a very twisted way), luckily it was a holiday job and only that one person (although most people followed his lead), I can only imagine how horrible it must feel to have that over a long period of time. You are so strong for sharing your story and writing this post, I know this post will help many people xxx

  17. This is very helpful! Thank you! x

  18. oh my im so sorry you had to go thought this!!! its horid!! its great you are writing about it tho !!! you are amazing and beautiful <3