The Victims' Stories

The Lobotomised Corporate Hyena

The corporate hyena in this case is a person who had been emotionally very volatile and unstable and then he underwent a lobotomy. It is not clear whether this had been an attempt to get rid of the temper tantrums.

Now, years later, the staff came to me - he is as devious and conniving as ever before, but what they can't stomach is the fact that, due to the lobotomy he does not show any emotion - whether angry or happy and that is even more confusing - they don't know what he's up to.

He happens to remain in that position with the full backing of management, because he is still very brilliant and can work up to 20 hours non-stop and without getting tired: as a result of the lobotomy.

Interestingly enough, the lobotomised Hyena's behaviour has no hair-raising stories about screaming, shouting etc. but the fear he puts into his staff have the same reaction - they have depression, nervous breakdowns and anxiety attacks.

Examples of workplace bullying and how it affects the targets/victims

The story of Donna who fought back resiliently and brilliantly

I have regularly approached going to work feeling vibrant and confident, always looking forward to the rewarding and challenging aspects of my job(s).

I was employed on September 25th, 1996 as a receptionist for a Power Tool and Fastener Company, and after 7 months I was quickly promoted to the General Motors department as a clerk. I began working in the Accounting Department on May 11, 1998 for the controller of this company. I had at first held the highest respect and admiration for this person, who not only was my supervisor, but also the gentleman who hired me and has complimented me for my efficiency and productivity.

My respect and admiration changed for him when I witnessed him being a bully on numerous occasions, one that really stands out was in, March 1999, when I witnessed this man, holding a putter, (the one you use for golfing which had been modified. The putter part was taken off, and a claw hammer was welded in its place), over the head of the receptionist, shaking it back and forth. At any time he could have lost control of it and hit her, but he didn't care. It looked to me like he enjoyed this kind of behaviour and the more you showed that you were scared, the more this behaviour continued. He knew she was scared of it and as far as I can see that was his way of making her listen to him and motivate her.

On October 22, 1999, the controller had physically assaulted me. He was having one of his famous heated, abusive language discussions on the phone with our branch manager. When he got off the phone, he took his shoe off and threw it at the open door in his office. I had asked him not to do that again as it had scared me, at which time I got out of my desk and went to the filing cabinet to put away my posting journal, he came out of his office and without any warning kicked me in the buttocks. He used enough force that it lifted me off my heels. When I had turned around he acted like I had kicked him in the groin and then he started laughing and walked away. This was all in clear view of the receptionist who sat there with her mouth handing open and stating, "I can't believe he just kicked you". I was in extreme shock and disbelief that he had abused me in such a manor. Although I was visibly shaken and upset, I finished my shift. There was only 15 minutes left to go and I was scared to leave at this point feeling he would do something else.

After leaving the building my drive home seemed endless, as the tears, hurtfulness and humiliating feelings were now overwhelming me. At first, I thought it would be more advisable if I did nothing at all, as I feared for my job. I felt deep in my heart that he would not to be reprimanded by the owners of the company and I felt he should be held accountable for his actions therefore; I proceeded with assault charges against him.

I sought medical consultation with my family doctor the following day after experiencing severe back pain and stiffness. My doctor informed me that I had sustained a soft tissue back injury and swelling on either side of my spine. He explained the pain I was experiencing would get worse before it improved, within 1 week that pain had more then doubled and at times I was barely able to move. Within that time period I started experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression and my Doctor prescribed a mild tranquilliser, and a referral for psychotherapy treatments for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

My range of symptoms were: sleep interruption, recurrent distressing dreams, decreased appetite resulting in weight loss, crying spells, indecision, inability to focus or concentrate, fatigue, irritability, agitation, nervousness, lost sense of humour, menstrual difficulties, stress headaches, shame, embarrassment, and left feeling, very guilty. I had also lost the joy and interest in my everyday activities, which included time, spent with close family members especially my daughter. I focused what little energy I had left, on trying to avoid thoughts or feelings associated with my trauma. My symptoms of withdrawal and detachment, as well as my decreased interest, sadness, agitation, and my fear of leaving our residence have impacted my family greatly and my husband has had to ensure that the everyday needs and responsibilities of our 10-year-old daughter were maintained.

As a Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (Workers Compensation Board as it is called in Canada) Certified Health & Safety Representative for this company, I am extremely disappointed and disillusioned that my basic rights of safety in the workplace were violated. I am further upset by the fact that I did not receive support or validation of my abuse and because I feel unable to return to a safe working environment. I am experiencing anticipatory anxiety at the thought of returning to work if this man continues to be in their employ. I fear a real possibility of a recurrence or a, retaliation from him due to the charges I have pursued against him.

I feel a strong need to return to my normal way of life which includes returning to my former position at this company which I thoroughly enjoyed and found rewarding. Part of my healing process would be the affirmation that I am not the one being punished, as I have done nothing wrong.

My feelings towards this man, now, are not of respect or admiration, but of a person who demonstrates, unconscionable and unacceptable conduct, a costly, counterproductive phenomenon that destroys the lives and careers of individuals like myself and has drained this company of a skilled and dedicated employee.

With continued Psychotherapy I am hoping to gain back my trust of men, especially those in authoritative and managerial positions. With the help and support of my family and therapist I view myself as a human being that will be able to take the needed steps forward in the healing process and regain control of my life.

I would like to thank all of you who have listened to my situation and welcome any advice you can give. My case is still pending mediation with WSIB and I am afraid the final outcome for me won't be a positive one. The accused will be in court on March 6th for sentencing.

I am still having difficulties with this, but I know I can move on. With the support from others who have encountered a bully in their life will be the ones to help me get through this and also be my best advisors.

- Donna fought back resiliently and got her day at the tribunal. She had been compensated for the injury to her.

Joanne's ordeal

I am suffering awfully from the physical and emotional trauma of long-term bullying at my workplace. I was recruited to a new position 9 months ago, based on my high level of competence and achievement. In the interview, I made it very clear that I was active and progressive on the job, and my (to-be) supervisor said that it was wonderful and that the organization really needed that.

It became immediately apparent that my supervisor was tormenting by office mate. Within days, he began telling me terrible stories of long-term over-control, hostility, powerlessness, and harassment and jibed me about being stupid enough to leave my former job to end up in this awful place. He explained why there was a high-turnover rate. It also became clear that there were health hazards -- I am a severe asthmatic and was being constantly exposed to irritating fumes, which caused me to become ill. I feared I would have to quit, and be without a job in a very tight labour market.

My supervisor played my co-worker and I off of each other -- praising me, treating me nicely, while snarling at and insulting my co-worker. It was clear he was highly stressed. His work performance was suffering under the strain. I am ashamed to say that at the time I "bought" that he was incompetent, and that I was doing all the right things and would do well on the job.

The strain and constant battling, and the constant griping of my co-worker, and then adding the health problems, created a tremendous strain. I was highly stressed and feeling hopeless about my situation.

My co-worker got another job. In spite of his continual torment of him, my supervisor was openly shocked that he had left! As we were still on good terms at the time, my supervisor confided in me that me telephoned his new supervisor week AFTER he started the job and blasted him! He also told me that he had made my co-worker cry during his annual evaluation.

Although abuse was intermittent before, it became chronic after a new hire for the office, a "nice" competent worker. With some unknown shift, I became the new scapegoat in the office. I was subjected to harsh criticism on trivialities, condescension, openly accused of incompetence ("nothing works since you've come here"), and worst of all, forced to work the equipment that adversely effected my health, because it was part of my job description. I was still in compliance mode, trying to get along, still stunned, and cooperated everywhere I could, with consequences to my health. I have missed some 15 days due to the effects of the fumes. I was too intimidated by his hostility to know what to do. He denied that there was any health risk, and constantly thwarted my efforts to avoid the fumes.

My attitude quickly changed with a series of events: my supervisor exploded his temper over a trivial matter. He was reprimanding me, and used the F-word. I was totally shocked. He slammed a manual in front of me and demanded that I learn how to work the fume-emitting equipment. I calmly said I would not, as I have an associated health problem.

The following morning he arrived at the office in already foul mood, and ordered myself, my co-worker and a part-time employee to witness a demonstration in which he applied a powerful solvent to the heating element of a piece of equipment to clean off adhering plastics. I politely excused myself. He was furious at me. I was subjected to the strong fumes in the office all day, resulting in the worst respiratory attack of my life outside of an anaphylactic attack. It was this outrage -- the deliberate exposure to a known irritant in a hostile manner -- that motivated me to finally act. I visited my doctor, who was outraged by the story, and advised me to quit, gave me medical affirmation of my problem, and advised me to act.

I reported the incident to our HR department, and they passed it on to Worker's Comp. Even with all of this pending, my supervisor *continued* to insist that I work the equipment. I now openly refused, and then had to turn to another government agency, which protects workers with disabilities. The man who took the report was outraged. He said that not only was the health violation outrageous, but that the harassment I was subjected to was equally serious. He asked me if it was sexual in nature -- it is not. My supervisor is quite democratic in his choice of targets of torment. It is long-term -- years in duration, and there is a high turnover rate of employees.

Anyway, the government agency has great power in this situation, and our department had to immediately comply. I had been advised to file an official complaint with the head of the department, but instead agreed to speak with her assistant (my supervisor's boss). He listened sympathetically, took lots of notes, said he would work on it. He sought confirmation from my co-worker, and got it. When he called me back for another meeting, I got the sense he had merely "reported" my complaint to my supervisor, but had not issued any disciplinary action.

My supervisor did not speak to me at first the next day, but within hours resumed his characteristic hostile, shouting, controlling, and demeaning behaviour. In a bizarre twist, he shouted at me that I was no longer to work the fume emitting equipment! I was stunned, but am not a confrontational person and did not point out the obvious absurdity in this, or call him on his offensive behaviour. For the rest of the day, he closely monitored me, literally watching over my shoulder. When I complained that he was making me nervous, he refused to budge and said I would survive. Not wanting to be unpleasant, and still obviously easily bullied!!, I did not protest further.

Judging from his behaviour, he has no insight into his behaviour, and was not reprimanded or disciplined by his superior for his actions (illegal in our Employee Code of Behaviour which prohibits Hostile and Abusive Language). He is also extremely angry with me and is attempting retaliation. I aided this somewhat by my passive reactions to his latest abuses.

I have been involved on an exhaustive job hunt. I will have to relocate, but it seems a small inconvenience compared to my daily torture. I pray daily that I will find a new job and will not be deprived of an income because I have been unable to withstand the torture of a sadistic, vindictive bully.

I have been discussing with co-workers possible strategies for making our lives more bearable. But there is no real law about workplace bullying that is not sexual or racial, etc. I think as well that his superior will do nothing to stop the abuse (he is something of an abuser himself....)

I have been sapped of my strength, peace of mind, self-esteem. The work that I used to love passionately has now become an over controlled ordeal to be endured. Despite my successful performance on the job and enthusiasm of clients, my supervisor treats me as though I were dirt.

I have begun seeing a counsellor. I take sedatives regularly. I have begun a course of antidepressants. I can't sleep, can't relax, can't enjoy, and can't eat. I have a never-ending pain in my chest. I am nervous, anxious and jumpy. I am studying all the resources I can on workplace bullying, but reliving the experiences is a torment in itself.

I consider just quitting. To save myself, as this is destroying me. I wonder if I have the strength to go on. I have no idea where to turn now.

IF I don't just quit, the strategy I was considering employing was simple non-compliance with my supervisor's torment. If he shouts, demeans, insults, and denies my highly stressed state which is the consequence of his actions, I was going to just walk out of the room, and stay out for 15 minutes. As often as necessary. And in front of our clients too. Let them fire me! If they care more about trivialities, and do not confront and punish obviously abusive and prohibited behaviours -- well?

I am sorry to go on so. But I am suffering deeply. I am a hard worker, and unfortunately someone whose self-image largely depends on their level of achievement. There is no stopping the torment, as everything I do is wrong. There are no rules. I am constantly walking a minefield, never knowing what is going to set off a torrent of vicious abuse.

I don't know how much more I can take. I am a broken person. I do not know how I can heal from this long-term emotional torment. I feel as though I must have a long rest to recover my health and sanity.

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