Archive for the ‘Let’s Talk with Kalola’ Category


Let’s Talk with Kalola: Attorney Bullies

Friday, November 27th, 2015


Seek advice for your dilemma. Write to Kalola.

Dear Kalola:

I was a legal assistant with a well-respected legal organization for a little over four years. The bullying occurred primarily in the last three years and very intensively in the lastnine months. I was let go during the summer.

I was treated by the lead attorney and staff attorneys as if I was inferior. Although everyone in that office made mistakes, mine were the only mistakes that were brought to light. Each small mistake was blown into a huge mistake and was used to threaten my job. Sometimes I found out I wasn’t even the one who made the mistake.

My co-workerswere very clique-ish and juvenile. There were many whispered conversations behind closed doors. I was definitely not included in that clique and was isolated psychologically and physically. I was told not to talk about my family, while everyone else in the office was free to talk at length about theirs.

I was treated rudely by the supervisor and all my co-workers (five total). They told me I asked too many questions. I have worked in the legal field for over 18 years and have never worked with any attorneys who did not want to communicate with their support staff. Also, I was asking questions because the tasks were often poorly written, hard to understand, and incomplete. They refused to look at my Outlook tasks to see how my workload was before they assigned a large task claiming that they were too busy.

In the end, I believe that two of the attorneys were trying to get me to lose my temper and/or quit my job. One would assign me tasks, complete them herself, and then “forget” to tell me, wasting a lot of my time while I was already under pressure. Another would show up in my office several times a day and chastise me for some small error (that I may or may not have made) or yell at me for some small problem and then turn on her heel and leave my office before I could respond. I was treated differently in that it was a huge deal if I used any vacation or sick leave, while everyone else in the office called in sick leave weekly for any little ailment and were often paid for hours they were not actually working. I think this was behind the bullying. I got the feeling they thought I was going to expose them, which I had not planned to do.

I tried to talk about the problems I was having with the supervisor, but eventually stopped when the conclusion to each conversation was everything ended up as my fault. I was thinking about going to the HR department when I was terminated. I was also starting to think about looking for another job. The official reason was that I “made too many mistakes”. When I asked what those mistakes were, I was told “I don’t want to argue with you.”

The termination was very cold and impersonal. A few days later I received a termination letter (with typos) that still did not tell me what these mistakes were. To this day I do not know what these mistakes were, how they effected the office or client, or even find out if I did make the mistake.

My termination came as a huge shock to me. Although I was unhappy, I thought if I just did my best they couldn’t get rid of me. And I needed the income. The first few weeks after being terminated were really rough mentally and physically. I isolated myself in self-doubt and depression. In the first few days I called the crisis line but there was only so much they could do. I was smoking way too much and having trouble eating. I’ve lost about 15 pounds. My stress level made it hard to sleep and I’ve increased my over the counter sleep aid. I was terrified at first to interview because of my damaged self-confidence and trying to figure out how to tactfully tell potential employers “why” I lost my last job. I’ve used the resources at Worksource to get some questions answered and help brush up on my job search skills.

I see now that I was much more stressed and angry in my last job than I thought. I’m nicer now to family, friends, and strangers hat I know I am not bullied anymore. I spent the last three years being short-tempered after a long day of being treated rudely and walking on egg shells. I know my family and friends can see a difference in me now that I’m getting back on my feet.

I believe I lost my job due to office bullying. I never believed in the term before, but I now know how real and damaging it is. If I would have done anything different, it would to realize that office bullying does exist and acted differently (document abuse situations, look for a new job). Thanks to the support of family and friends, I’m doing better. Instead of waking up each morning in terror of “what am I going to do?” I wake up grateful that I’m not a target anymore. I haven’t landed on a new job yet, but I have lots of good experience, a lot of job applications out there, apply for everything I can and have been on several interviews. In fact while writing this I received an email scheduling a promising interview tomorrow morning. I know I have the chance to work in a happier, more respectful work environment. I deserve to be happy again.

If I could say anything to another abused worker, it would be to realize office bullying is real. Research it and be prepared to deal
with it if it happens to you. If it ends with a brutal termination, as it did with me, give yourself a little time to take care of yourself. Eat, breathe, sleep, and understand how important the healing process is. Reach out to friends and family, but realize not everyone will be able to be there all the time. Don’t get stuck – get moving on your job hunt and build back your confidence. The best revenge is to move on to something better with your head held high.

I was impressed to find the Workplace Bullying Institute website. It gave me hope that I’m not crazy and this problem truly exists. I am excited to see that there is an interest in proposing legislation that will address this problem. Targets should have some recourse in office bullying.

West Coast Worker
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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Exploiting Exempt Status

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015


Seek advice for your dilemma. Write to Kalola.

Dear Kalola:

I have been an executive assistant for a very demanding owner of a fast paced business. I wear different hats, from scheduler, recruiter, travel coordinator, IT supervisor, and personal assistant to punching bag. I’ve supported this person for twelve years, the company is small. FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) and other state statutes protecting employees do not apply to them.

I am salaried, work over 12 to 20 hours of unpaid overtime a week, which I’m told is part of my position. In all these years, I have been rewarded with two comp days. If I have to attend a doctor’s appointment, I am required to make up the time or use 1/2 day of my vacation time.

I have explained to my boss that exempt means exempt from overtime, but she classifies me as an exempt administrative employee. I try to give her information from the Department of Labor but she tells me she doesn’t need my input.

She micro-manages everything I do, and makes all the decisions. I use to supervise the file clerks, and receptionist but she eliminated those positions and I also fill in for those positions. I work 24/7 having to respond to email and emergencies on my vacation days. I get texts at 6:30 am asking to change flights and that they be in first class.

You ask why I have stayed so long? My age, my illness, my health has deteriorated due to the stress, I’m trying to get my daughter (I’m a single parent) her father passed away and I just need to get her to college. My employer knows my limitations so she feels she can insult me, humiliate me, do as she pleases and I am not going to leave. I know she is forcing me into quitting so that I don’t collect unemployment etc., which would be nothing.

My situation is comparable to domestic abuse, as she is getting too comfortable and has gone as far as grabbed with force files out of my hands, shoved back a file folder as I tried to place on her desk, which was for her own benefit, not mine.

There is no HR department, she owns and micro manages everything. I know she has disqualified me so many times from an exempt to a non-exempt employee, but I know if I seek help from the labor department, she will fire me. She will hire the best of attorneys money can buy, I’ve witnessed it before.

So many administrative assistants, executive assistants are abused each day. It doesn’t have to be physical abuse but the mental anguish these bosses put their assistants through is deplorable. I can go on and on, because there are so many instances, working 24 hours without a break or sleep, being yelled at for going home to take a shower and coming back. Exempt employees should not have to work 60-hour weeks and still be
treated poorly. This category is used to abuse employees into working without being compensated.

I am currently scheduling an appointment with a therapist because sometimes I feel like I’m going to have a nervous breakdown.

Abused and Exploited Exempt Employee

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Let’s Talk with Kalola: The Post Office Goes Postal

Friday, February 20th, 2015

Dear Kalola,

I worked for the USPS for over twenty-five years. I never had problems with coworkers and was considered a good employee. After suffering personal problems, I noticed a change towards me from my coworkers. After being told that we were going to move to a larger facility, I became very excited at the thought of meeting new people. After we moved to the new location, things got steadily worse. Since there was very little supervision this went on daily without notice. I thought that surely these new people had a mind of their own.That someone would like me. But it appeared that things were being said about me. Things being said that I didn't know about. It was obvious that the other people were choosing to believe what they were told. I am a quiet person who suffers from depression. I was getting worse by the day.

One day after having about enough, I went to the post master crying. Not only did he not take my side, the accused saw me crying. Because of my mental state, it was very difficult to control my emotions. Through gossip, I was told that they were out to get me fired.

I confessed to my supervisor one day that I drank alcohol before work to control my feelings. I was let go on the spot and have not been back since. This was last spring. I will not go back since I know that nothing has changed.

I was a subject of gossip. I was left out of daily routines. (People were told not to talk to me) also I had problems with parking that was very dangerous to myself. I was watched daily and told on to supervisors.

I can prove everything, because it is all true. My regret is that I had not used alcohol to handle my problems. But I know in my heart that I am the victim.

a former Postal Worker


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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Target Called 911-Bully Arrested

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Dear Kalola,

I was working in a trucking and logistics company, as a winery yard supervisor in California. From my first day on the job, I heard stories of our former supervisor and dispatcher who had been demoted to 'truck driver.' Word on the docks was that this guy was #1 workplace abuser who repeatedly threatened my coworkers and forced people to quit. Not on my watch.

His name was "X" and he quickly became my abuser. He was known to be very, very disgruntled for having been demoted, and everybody knew him as a ticking time bomb. But rather than submit to his abuses, I took them head-on and took an assertive and confident approach to him. All of my coworkers were afraid of him, walked on eggshells for him, and submitted to his abusive and angry whims. Not on my watch.

We began clashing from the first day on the job, when I did not listen to "his" instructions when I was the boss. He began to yell at me, point his finger in my face, and threaten my job from day 1. I filed internal complaints, and immediately experienced retaliation by his buddies in a satellite office of the company.

Over the period of three weeks, I filed internal complaints by writing and verbally, and this caused the ticking time bomb to explode. One evening, "X" was acting very paranoid, jittery, agitated. I sensed something bad was about to happen. He started to instigate our winery forklift drivers by saying that I was not "doing my job," and I confronted him by trying to "have a talk with him." He began to scream at me and use profanity, and I told him straight that he was not going to come down here and harass or bully me, or my coworkers. This set him off. The abuser quickly rushed me, got in my face, and punched me in the jaw. I called 9-1-1. He was arrested and is currently being prosecuted for workplace violence.

The fallout from this event has been particularly damaging to my career. We had heard all along that we could not tell our corporate office of this man's workplace abuses, because we would be 'forced to quit.' Yet I violated this workplace taboo and did exactly that, and took it a step further by having the criminal justice system step in and prosecute the known abuser.

Almost immediately, I have experienced workplace retaliation, demotion by our supervisors--who just happened to be his buddy--and have been told to drop the charges a number of times. I got OSHA and the US Department of Labor involved, and they have enough to charge my supervisor with a Whistleblower Retaliation charge in violation of Section 11(c) of the Federal OSH Act. The federal whistleblower protection program has been my only source of comfort in this whole mess, and I look forward to watching my abuser fry in a courtroom very soon.

California Worker


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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Nurse Reports Being Bullied and Sexually Harassed

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

Dear Kalola,

I am presently employed as a Registered Nurse in a large acute care hospital for two years. I have always had a good evaluation on paper, yet my co-workers and managers are constantly trying to demean me by making derogatory remarks regarding my work and private life. One of my managers stated that a patient complained that I did not treat him professionally, and then stated that she, the manager had heard this about me before. When I asked her to be more specific, she could not present me with any real facts regarding her statement and was just trying to intimidate me. I have also been touched inappropriately by staff without my permission after I had explained that I suffered from PTSD from a previous physical attack in the past and did not like to be touched. When my manager found out about my condition, she purposefully made it a point to touch me giving me a knowing look that this was the reason that she did this. It was intended to be cruel and abusive. One of my co-workers made sexual gestures to me without touching me but another one did touch me in my private areas. In this facility, nothing is kept confidential by the staff whether they are collegues or management and If you say anything to defend yourself, you will be under attack and it only makes it worse. I have been accused of things that were untrue, like substance abuse, which can be very detrimental to my employment, never mind the fact that I have been accused of affairs in the work place and out of the workplace, which is entirely untrue. I go for random drug tests and they have always been negative. I believe that someone outside my workplace has made accusations about me, but when I ask if I had a negative reference, they always say no. The remarks that are made to me are slanderous and I will take it to another level if I have to. I honestly don’t know what to do and would like some advice. I would like to find other employment, but I cannot take less pay, so there is a lot at stake.

Emma


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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Life After Bullying – Recovery

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

Dear Kalola,

I worked in the same grocery store for ten years total, taking a couple years off while I was in college. My first manager wasn’t exactly easy to get along with, mainly because of his short temper that mellowed out over the years, but I wouldn’t consider him a bully. But in October 2011 a new night manager was forced on our store who was friends with one of the corporate managers. The new night manager was given the manager’s position in March 2012, forcing the previous manager to step down to work the produce department before retiring.

The new manager based his entire style on threats and intimidation. In some cases our longest-standing workers were fired for thefts that never actually happened while one worker that I had turned in for stealing was promoted to assistant manager. In the two years that I suffered under this man’s reign of terror we went through three night managers. Some of the women told me that they were sexually harassed, but they were too scared to report anything to the corporate office. Every idea that I came up with for improvement in the store was stupid, unless someone else came up with the same idea later. The manager even went so far as to harass the customers with false accusations of stealing. I used to joke with employees to keep their receipts tattooed to their arms. During the first year under this manager our sales dropped 27%.

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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Worker is Exploring Taking Legal Action Against Her Employer

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

Dear Kalola,

I was bullied by my boss, and when I reported his insidious acts to Human Resources, he retaliated and placed me on a performance improvement plan and escalated his bullying towards me. When I complained to Human resources about the irregularity of the plan, and the fact that the bullying acts had only accelerated, I was advised to comply or lose my job.

My performance improvement plan was to last for three months, during which time my boss isolated me, excluded me from team meetings, stripped me of critical roles and took every opportunity he could get to humiliate me and call me names. At some point it was so depressing to go to work. Going to work was just to face more and more humiliation and isolation, and I developed body pains especially lower back and shoulder. The pains would never subside even when I was on the strongest of pain killers.

One day I felt I could not bear the thought of going to work. I called in sick and even sought medical attention. X-rays were carried out but the doctors could not find anything wrong and only prescribed pain killers. I decided to take time to clear my mind and assess whether I should quit my job. Surprisingly when I returned to work, my boss demanded that I produce my medical records for the day I was sick. Even though I knew that this was a violation of my privacy I handed him copies. Absurdly he accused me of falsifying the medical records and had disciplinary charges preferred against me. During the hearing he stated that he had gained access to my call records which to him proved that there was no way I could have been sick or sought medical help because according to him I was “roaming the town” based on my call records. Inwardly I was reeling from the fact that he had illegally obtained my call records, invaded my privacy, and had the audacity to discredit my defence and explanation. He demanded that the panel find me guilty. I got a warning letter and from that day he demanded that I no longer attend any divisional meeting. exactly one month later he asked Human resources to have me dismissed for failing to pass the improvement plan. I was dismissed and advised that I could exercise my right to appeal. I appealed against the dismissal. The appeal was never heard, and my dismissal was confirmed a month later.

On the whole the battle against a work place bully is an ugly one. They are usually in privileged positions of power which they abuse. A law suit against the company is the only option I have now. I am actively pursuing that right now.

Anita


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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Screaming Mimi

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

Dear Kalola,

I began a job a few months ago as a bookkeeper for a medium size company. There are 8 bookkeepers in the company. There is one bookkeeper that is terrorizing everyone and the owner of the company is doing nothing about it. She screams, swears, throws things and decides what part of her job she is going to do. The best I can figure is the owner is afraid of her because he hasn’t fired her. Instead he takes her work and makes other people do it. If you approach her on a bad day to give her work that belongs to her, she will throw it at you and tell you she isn’t doing it. Then she will sit there sing real loud or start laughing like something you would see in a horror film. She is doing it on purpose. She has told me the owner isn’t going to fire her so she will do whatever she wants. I have seen her make another employee cry and I know people have quit because they can’t deal with her.

My concern is a safety issue, what if one day she really does flip out? what if someone gets serious hurt. Who is going to be held responsible? I don’t have patience for bullies and I can’t believe in the year 2014, we do not have laws to protect us from such treatment. I really hope pressure can be put on our elective officials to get things moving.

I really enjoy the work I do but I refuse to allow someone to treat me like garbage or throw things at me. Not sure what will happen when she thinks she can treat me like she does everyone else.

Linda


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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Bullied in England

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

Dear Kalola,

My story started when a new manager came to run the store. I had been working at the store for 12 years. I am a good team leader popular with everybody, ie., staff and customers. I am helpful and willing to share my knowledge. I am diligent and industrious and willing to stand up against injustice.

The new manager began nit picking, criticism of trivial nature all the time asking me to show others my duties then took all my achievement.

I went sick and blamed myself. I was so depressed. I picked myself up and asked for a meeting. Went to the meeting, a new area manager told me straight away I was not up to job.

With all of the prolonged negative stress, I had very bad stress and a breakdown. Sorry out of space.

Jean


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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Did bullying occur? Did reverse racial/color discrimination occur?

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

Dear Kalola,

I am a production coordinator and I have worked in this position for two years. My bullying began in January when I got a new manager. Her reputation proceeded her but was never described as bullying. I gave her behavior a name after doing research based on my own experiences with her. My new manager is black and most of my co-workers are too. After doing this job for two years, I can't seem to do anything right or to please my manager, yet my teammates are praised endlessly for simply doing small jobs. My co-workers either go along with the program and suck up or say nothing, fearing they will be next. I filed an ethics complaint. Ethics said I had no hard proof of discrimination. HR has said they have had problems with my manager in the past and have worked with her successfully to correct her behavior. I was told I couldn't be moved because we all have to work together. I asked what my options were. I was told they hoped somewhere in the future, I would be willing to sit down at the table with my manager and meet her half way and agree to move forward. I asked for another option and was told, "I guess you could continue coming in to work and see if she gets any better." I did tell my manager's boss I thought she was a bully and if that was her personally, they were not going to change it. I continue to look for other opportunities within the company to move out of my current position. I don't feel HR has done anything to help me and is only keeping me in my position to have someone to report back to them my manager's improvement or lack of.I feel like am collateral damage.

South Carolina Worker


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