Posts Tagged ‘Kalola’


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: Australian Attorney

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Dear Kalola,

I am a partner in a major law firm. At the time I was bullied I was one of two female partners in the regional office in which I worked. For three years before that I had been the only female partner. In total, there were about 17 partners in the regional office, and 150 staff.

The bully was another partner, who was also the manager of the regional office.

The campaign escalated over a period of about three years, but this is a summary of the types of things which happened:

  • at the weekly partners meetings, during which each partner was asked to detail what they had been doing, he would either pass over me, or if I did speak, look down while I spoke, and either harrumph when I had finished and change the subject, or make a belittling comment
  • If there was good client feedback about a partner, the usual position was that it would be mentioned at those meetings or more broadly. If I got good client feedback (which was not uncommon), nothing was said
  • there was one important client of the firm which had a manager who, for reasons he would not articulate, would not give me any work (so there was no negative feedback, even though it was sought; he would just not give me any work). The fact that I did not get work from this client was mentioned at least once in every two weeks in a public forum
  • when I won large retainers from clients (not infrequent), this manager would tell me the work should be done by another partner
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Let’s Talk with Kalola Special: Whistle-blowers

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

The fight for justice against corruption is never easy. It never has been and never will be. It exacts a toll on our self, our families, our friends, and especially our children. In the end, I believe, as in my case, the price we pay is well worth holding on to our dignity.” … Frank Serpico

By Tom Hays and Colleen Long
April 28,2013

NEW YORK (AP) — After Officer Pedro Serrano decided to testify in federal court about what he sees as wrongdoing within the New York Police Department, a rat sticker appeared on his locker.

That was the least of his problems.

Serrano claims he’s been harassed, micromanaged and eventually transferred to a different precinct and put on the overnight shift.

“It hasn’t been a picnic,” he said in an interview this week. “They have their methods of dealing with someone like me.”

Serrano and other whistle-blowers took the stand in a civil rights case challenging some of the 5 million streets stops made by police in the past decade using a tactic known as stop and frisk. They believe illegal quotas are behind some wrongful stops of black and Hispanic men.

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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Clinic Nurse

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Glo’s Advice

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Music Teacher

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

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Let’s Talk with Kalola: Two Person Job

Monday, July 23rd, 2012

Another Let's Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI's blog readers. Here we go!

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Let’s Talk with Kalola : Government Landscape Designer

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Here’s the launch of our new feature, Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

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Let’s Talk service replaces the WBI Forum for targets of workplace bullying

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

We retired the WBI Forum and replaced it with a chance to tell your story via the new Let’s Talk service for targets of workplace bullying. If selected to illustrate a key aspect of bullying in the workplace, your story will be published on the WBI blog along with comments by Kalola. Try it today.

Kalola has an M.A. in Counseling (specialty: job, career counseling) and is a member of the American Counseling Association. Kalola’s firsthand experience with bullying and her public service work in government and higher education give her a learned perspective on the practical solutions to workplace bullying.

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