Bullying in the workplace is no joke.
Have you ever been bullied at your job? Or have you ever witnessed bullying in your workplace? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you’re definitely not alone.
According to a recent study conducted by TopResume, 96 percent of professionals have felt bullied at work, with 71 percent feeling bullied by a boss and 25 percent dealing with toxic co-workers. We know what you might be thinking — it’s that common? Unfortunately, yes. From lying to name-calling to truly inappropriate comments about one’s personal life, bullying at work takes all forms and can affect anyone.
Don’t believe us? Keeping reading for these workplace bullying horror stories submitted by professionals just like you.
My manager/direct supervisor would constantly comment on my food choices (fruit has too much sugar), my body (my arms were too toned), and my clothing choices (the shoes I wore looked like nurses shoes). She’d constantly tell me I dressed like a granny, and ridicule me for anything and everything. She once told me I was “too big” for a work shirt and gave me one once she felt I had lost enough weight. I was a size 8, and then was a size 4 when she deemed me worthy of a shirt. She started talking politics with one of her friends in the office and made the announcement that I didn’t like their candidate, and her friend asked me if I needed my a** kicked.
A co-worker kept pointing out my fat and insulted what I ate most days. One time she told me to skip lunch because I had such a "fatty sandwich” [for breakfast]. I was eating a small Starbucks egg and cheese sandwich.
Co-workers from hell
I was repeatedly laughed at and called the “B” word by some of my co-workers. When I brought it to the attention of two of my supervisors, they did nothing. They didn't even acknowledge the email that I sent them. Instead, they came over to my desk the next day and told me that the co-worker in question (who had been visiting from another department when I was called the derogatory name) was asked not to come back to our department. Nothing was said to my co-workers who were sitting around gossiping and allowing the bullying. Two months later I was fired for having a panic attack. I was eight months away from having 30 years with the company.
I was placed with this woman on the night shift. The next time I saw her, she yelled across the hospital 'howdy, F**KER.' I assume she thought this was amusing because it sounds similar to my last name. It didn't just stop there. For months and months, she only referred to me as f*cker. On one of my shifts, she told me a story about a little “retarded” kid in her daughter's class at school. She made fun of his Harry high pants and odd socks. Next shift she came over to me to show me a photo of the special kid from her daughter's class. The kid in the photo was my 5-year-old cousin. I said nothing. She went on to trash talk my aunty and her husband. I left my job shortly after as I felt too uncomfortable and embarrassed to go into work.
I was bullied, belittled and verbally abused by my co-workers. I had a co-worker come up to me on numerous occasions and speak to me in an aggressive and bullying way about how she WANTS things done HER way. She said to me "you need to do it like I told you" then she proceeds to walk away and says "God damn how f***ing hard is it for her to do as she is told?" Another occasion, I had to ask a co-worker a question and she put her hand in my face and said, "No, not now.” I felt so disrespected and hurt. I was humiliated and felt verbally attacked by that statement. I cried every day, even after I came home from work. I would be sick to my stomach every morning before I went into the office. My nerves were on edge all day. I spoke to my boss on many occasions, but there were no steps taken to try to fix the situation or to stop the bullying towards me. Needless to say, I resigned from that position because it was affecting my health, my self-confidence and self-worth. I was harassed every day by one or two of the three bullies. As another co-worker called them "mean girls" because we didn't "fit in" with their clique. I am unemployed, but I am free of those bullies.
The old boys club
When I was younger, I went to work in the traditionally male-dominated fire department as a paramedic. I was the only woman in one department, and in another was one of 16 women in a 550 person department. I had men who were kind and helpful; however, I also had men who did their best to make my life difficult. I had one captain attempt to get me fired because I was not better than all the men in the engine company he commanded (some of which were men who had been in the department for years). I was the butt of suggestive jokes told loud enough for me to hear and permanently assigned the jobs most disliked in the profession. The worst part of the experience were some of the wives of my co-workers. An example: When I answered the station phone (remember no cell phones back then), one wife called me the station whore.
I worked in a place with an old boys club mentality for years, and I was a director who set policies for my department. Instead of having my back, the CEO, who was my boss, yelled at me in front of another employee saying "why can't you just be nicer?" because that employee had gone to him complaining that they didn't like the policy I had put in place. I also had a peer who, when I was pregnant, would go around and pretend to snap rubber gloves at his wrist and tell me he was ready to deliver the baby. It was awkward and uncomfortable. He did this to other pregnant women too, and we all felt the same way.
That’s not OK
Working in Silicon Valley, I didn't expect that being gay would raise an issue with anyone. After three years with the company (and being out), I brought my other half to the company holiday party. On the following Monday, peers from another department stood outside my office and cracked some really disgusting gay and AIDS jokes, yukking it up all the while. At lunchtime, I sought out one of our HR reps, who was also gay. He cautioned me to not make this into an issue as he didn't think it would go well for me in the long run.
At the time I was in a biracial relationship. I had talked about my partner and how great they were and everyone was happy for me, until they saw his picture. That’s when the “jokes” started. I’m sure you can imagine the great creativity in references to “long produce” (didn’t help that I worked in the food industry), leaving chocolate on my desk, etc. Even after the relationship ultimately ended, the most extreme “joke” by far was the suggestion that I should dress like a gorilla for Halloween because I “liked black.” At first, I tried to play it off, assuming people would get over it and move on, but I eventually had to make it clear that it was inappropriate and made me uncomfortable. After that, everyone started saying I was “too sensitive” and “had to learn to take a joke.”
Anger management issues
I had a co-worker who was promoted to a supervisory position. She then spent the next six months chasing off anyone who had more knowledge and experience than she did. The way she did that was by accusing employees of things that they didn’t do, putting notes into the personnel files, calling them names, and humiliating as many people as she could. On my last day, she had an employee in her office behind a closed door, and everyone could hear her screaming at the top of her lungs. HR refused to do anything about the situation. I had to leave for my own sanity.
I had been working at my company for almost 5 years when my boss was replaced by a woman who was at least 20 years younger than both of us. She would humiliate/berate me in front of staff, text me 24/7 and keep texting if I didn't respond immediately, pound her fists on the desk, blame me for everything, throw the "F" bomb around casually, and much more. She was a nightmare. I reported her to HR. They "investigated" (internally, lol) and I was terminated.
My supervisor above me would harass myself and the team I worked with almost every day. She would call me out, treat me as if I were a child, test our intelligence, etc... We would work our butts off to be at the top and she would treat us as if we were employees who didn't know what we were doing, acted as if we were lazy (we weren't), and everything under the micromanager book. It was awful; I gained 40 lbs and my hair started falling out. There were others having problems as well.
Related: 7 Tips for Handling a Bully at Work
Boss made me come to work on a snow day, told me everyone else was there. When I finally made it in, after mastering icy steps at home and walking to metro over icy sidewalks, no one else was there.
I had a supervisor who would accuse me of stealing any time money was short or missing, even if I had never been anywhere near the money. He once lost $100 in five dollar bills and I had to either pay it or lose my job.
I think this goes beyond bullying, but I used to work at a boarding school. I collapsed in my on-campus apartment from complications from a work-related injury, and the new CEO refused medical attention (and wouldn't allow anyone else to call an ambulance) for almost three days. After I survived three weeks in ICU and another three weeks in a rehab hospital, he came up with ridiculous requirements for me to be able to return to work (notes from all the specialists who had treated me, a copy of my complete medical record for the board to review, etc), then demoted me and cut my pay in half, then terminated my position, then refused to forward my mail after I moved out of my campus apartment (which meant I couldn't collect unemployment), then changed the school's health insurance provider without telling me so that I went two months without the health insurance coverage I'd paid for through COBRA, and finally lied on responses to my EEOC claim.
I had just been promoted to Deputy Editor after being with the magazine for 10 years. At the same time, my Editor-in-Chief retired and was replaced with a much younger woman who had less experience than me, but had more television and online experience. Once we started working together she began bullying me by taking away some perks that I had acquired over time, syncing my calendar to hers, taking over my meetings, belittling me in the meetings, asking me to do things that were clearly part of her job, and then changing the deadlines so I could never accurately finish on time with all my other duties. She literally sat me down one week to tell me that she knew I was upset that she was my boss because she was much younger and inexperienced. When I tried to answer respectfully, she went crazy and raised her voice and demanded that I go to HR because I had disrespected her. HR got involved. They put a shadow on me so in every meeting someone had to be there with us, which was humiliating. She sent me texts over the weekend reprimanding me. When I spoke with HR, nothing mattered. They said HR is here to protect management and they’d investigate further. Then, they blindsided me with a meeting with my boss, my boss’ boss, and HR. They created a file which was bogus. When I asked to be able to prove them wrong because I had the same paper trail that could prove all her crazy demands and how I had tried to fulfill them and be respectful, they said that they didn’t need it. She cried at the meeting. I quit.
Feeling trapped by bullies at your job? It doesn’t hurt to make sure your resume is ready for your next job opportunity with a free critique.