No, You’re Not Crazy! Workplace Bullying Is Real

woman looking upset at work

In the women’s bathroom Melanie splashed cold water on her face and carefully placed eye drops in both of her eyes to hide the crying that she had done in the bathroom stall. She put on her glasses and decided that she would just “blame it on her allergies” if people asked why her eyes were swollen and puffy.

New to the school system, Melanie was just yelled at by her new supervisor, Ms. Robinson, for collaborating with one of her colleagues. Even though Melanie thought it was acceptable to talk to her more seasoned colleagues for advice, Ms. Robinson made it clear that Melanie should only ask her for tips. However, Ms. Robinson always yelled at Melanie and put her down any time she asked a question!

Melanie had years of prior experience as a school counselor with another school system. Ms. Robinson, who is African American, seemed to always treat Melanie, who is also African American, as if she had no prior training or expertise. Ms. Robinson often made negative comments about Melanie’s prior school system by referring to it as “the ghetto school system”.

Ms. Robinson made a point to come to Melanie’s school without warning to conduct impromptu “evaluation and observation sessions”. During one evaluation, Ms. Robinson inappropriately commented on Melanie’s hair by asking if her hairstyle included fake hair (weave).

Melanie felt that she was being treated unfairly because the other counselors did not receive as many evaluation sessions. Other counselor’s evaluation sessions were planned and not impromptu. Furthermore, other counselors typically collaborated with each other by phone, email or in person, not solely with Ms. Robinson. The last straw was when Ms. Robinson gave Melanie a low evaluation score with no reasonable explanation. Melanie felt that Ms. Robinson possibly disliked her because of the reputation of her previous school system and treated her unfairly.

Melanie could not prove that her mistreatment was based on race or gender, because Ms. Robinson was also an African American female. Frustrated, isolated, and unable to gain support in her new school system, Melanie considered resigning due to not being a “good fit”.

Melanie’s situation is not uncommon in the workplace, especially in these current economic times. According to Dr. Ruth Namie of the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), “Work Shouldn’t Hurt!” Work should be a place where excellence and productivity are expected. There should be expectations and accountability. However, managers should not create or encourage hostile work environments that cause psychological harm to employees. Research supports that abusive work environments lose productivity because abused employees lose motivation, take sick leave, and ultimately quit due to the abuse.

How does that make any dollars or sense?