Blogs by Karen Laura-Lee Wilson
The Connection between Schoolyard and Workplace Bullying
8/19/2011 7:20:51 PM
Workplace bullying is flourishing in Australia despite attempts to extinguish it. It is my view that schoolyard bullying, if unaddressed, leaves the victims vulnerable to being bullied as adults. Bullying is a serious problem in today's workplaces. People are too afraid to speak out because they can lose their jobs.
(Note: I compiled the notes listed below for an inaugural meeting on 17 August this year of a group that called itself "Challenge Bullies". Although the meeting was widely publicised only four people turned up. Why were there so few people attending?)
Below is what I read out to the group:
"Throughout my life I have experienced bouts of bullying. When I was six years old and living in Qld an older girl bullied me from my first day at school. This went on for months. She was the one I suspected stealing my raincoat. As a result of its loss my mother bashed me and sent me to bed without dinner.
I could not tell my parents because their marriage was disintegrating and they were too preoccupied with their own troubles to ask what was happening at school. Nor could I tell my teacher. She was just out of Teachers’ Training College and had to cope with a class of 55 students. I couldn’t tell her what was happening to me because she showed no empathy to her students. She instructed the students sitting either side of me to belt me should I write with my left hand.I was conditioned to write with my right hand even though I feel innately awkward doing so.
Next bout of bullying occurred at a prestigious high school from one of my teachers because I wasn’t doing well in some subjects. As well as belittling me in class she had me and other students remain behind after school so she could bash us in the back for our stupidity.
When I entered the workforce in 1961 I was not bullied until 1966, when I was temporarily working as a barmaid I was denied toilet breaks. At one pub I was sacked after I poured a glass of beer over the head of a customer who was propositioning me!
By 1974 I was living and working in Tasmania. At the university I was bullied by a female supervisor who piled huge amounts of documents on my desk to be photocopied by the end of the day. I worked right through morning tea and lunch break to complete the task. When my son was ill and unable to attend the crčche I phoned my workplace to tell them I could not come to work. As I had days in lieu owing to me I thought this would be OK. Next day I was called into the supervisor’s office and had strips torn off me for being absent from work. I was told “If you work and have small children you should hire a nanny. After your example we will reconsider employing married women”. When I returned to my desk that was in a public area I continuously cried so much that I was told to go home. I felt so humiliated by the callous treatment I received. It was then I decided to look for another job.
My next job in 1980 was far worse: I was placed in a library where I was in charge of 16 staff. The other applicant for the job was appointed my deputy. She undermined my authority from Day One. Bar one staff, the rest sided with her. Our supervisor was favourable to her. He was absent when I was interviewed for the job and on his return from overseas opposed me in every way. By mid-year my doctor put me on two weeks leave. The end of that of that year a manager gave me an ultimatum: either resign or be transferred to a lesser-paid job. I took the latter because of financial circumstances.
I fared better in the new job. My boss was supportive. Nonetheless a female staff member of higher rank bullied me. On one occasion I happened to injure a hamstring at work. I was in so much pain a took a shortcut through the bullies’ office to get to the toilet. Tears streamed down my face from the pain as she confronted me and told me off. She would not listen to my explanation. A male staff member fetched frozen peas and placed them on the back of my knee to alleviate the pain. This happened in 1985. (In the last week I came across this woman in a shop and she walked directly in my path, and forcefully hit me on the shoulder.)
In 1985 I was transferred to an all female section. Staff refused to talk to me. A newcomer to the section was told by my colleagues : “We don’t speak to Karen”. She was appalled by this treatment and refused to go along with them. I applied for a transfer and I was posted at a high school. I was there seven years. One female staff member flouted library rules and insisted that her class use the library when I was doing the annual stocktake. This meant I was unable to complete the stocktake by the end of the school term and had to finish off the work in the school holidays. My library aide who had no library qualifications reported to staff library policy decisions she did not agree with. She humiliated me in front of Parent Help by writing on the office whiteboard every time I forgot to take my library keys to work and back-mouthed me about my “mistakes”.. She also told the students where I lived. Towards the end of my employment there, the majority of the senior staff was unsupportive when I experiencing violence, abuse, threats and sexual harassment in the workplace from students. Without support, I suffered a breakdown and was becoming suicidal. My doctor placed me on stress leave. A staff member told me that the library aide admitted I experienced abuse in the library but “She couldn’t handle it” and laughed.
In all I had six weeks stress leave. I was granted workers’ compensation and was placed in a supernumerary position, working part-time. I was regularly seeing a psychologist. Some staff were unsympathetic about my position. In the meantime, I still hadn’t recovered from my breakdown. I suffered insomnia, nightmares, panic attacks and lacked concentration One colleague, who nominated herself as my mentor, used me to run errands for her. I was given menial tasks. Any job I did well received no acknowledgement.
I was advised to apply for jobs. One job for which I had experience and qualifications was frozen when I applied. It was later given to a librarian who had no university qualifications. (She had been acting in the position for 18 months.) Every time I submitted an application, the job was withdrawn. After nearly two years of trying to get up to full-time work and battling prejudice I was getting nowhere. My doctor said that trying to work in a hostile workplace exacerbated my symptoms and removed me from the workplace in 1997.
Since then, I have worked voluntarily for different organisations and groups. On rare occasions I see a psychiatrist and attend a weekly mediation group for support."
Just today, my son phoned to say he is applying for another job because the manager is a bully and well entrenched in her dictatorial ways.
More Blogs by Karen Laura-Lee Wilson
Holiday in Queensland - Tuesday, October 22, 2013
Discarded Clothes - Saturday, August 31, 2013
Party Time - Monday, August 19, 2013
Alone in the Dark - Sunday, August 11, 2013
Anniversaries: Past and Present - Friday, July 26, 2013
Adjusting to Bella - Sunday, July 21, 2013
The Coming of Bella - Tuesday, July 16, 2013
The Ethics of Abortion - Thursday, June 20, 2013
Ted's Itinerary - Monday, March 18, 2013
Entertaining Ted - Thursday, March 14, 2013
Entertaiing Ted - Thursday, March 14, 2013
A Hectic Week Ahead - Monday, March 11, 2013
Whew! - Monday, February 18, 2013
The Christmas Season - Sunday, December 30, 2012
Post Colonoscopy Operation - Thursday, November 29, 2012
Fasting for the Procedure - Tuesday, November 27, 2012
One Day at a Time - Wednesday, November 21, 2012
Hurricane Sandy's Massiive Impact - Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Update of Illness in the Family - Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Illness in the Family - Thursday, October 25, 2012
The Price of Getting Older - Friday, October 19, 2012
Thursdays - Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Abduction - Friday, September 28, 2012
More Than a Coincidence - Monday, August 27, 2012
Notes on My Recent Cruise in Europe - Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Mindfulness Exercise - Sunday, August 12, 2012
Cruising along the Danube and Rhine Rivers - Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Honouring the Life of James Gavin Paterson - Wednesday, July 04, 2012
10 Days to Go - Saturday, May 26, 2012
Autumn Lingers - Wednesday, May 09, 2012
Holiday of a Life Time - Sunday, March 11, 2012
Compassion for Native Animals - Saturday, February 18, 2012
A Bit of Chichat - Monday, January 09, 2012
Christmas Time - Friday, December 09, 2011
Health Issues and Other Matters - Friday, October 07, 2011
What's Happening in Hobart - Sunday, September 11, 2011
Wake-Up Call - Saturday, August 27, 2011
The Connection between Schoolyard and Workplace Bullying - Friday, August 19, 2011
Winter in Tasmania - Friday, August 05, 2011
A Synopsis of My Talk at the Republic Bar on 3rd July - Monday, July 04, 2011
The Rigours of Life - Friday, July 01, 2011
Update on My writing and Other matters - Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Such Is Life - Wednesday, June 15, 2011