workplace bullying

All posts tagged workplace bullying

One Slice of My Life – Entry 6

Published April 19, 2014 by Vida Caramela

IMG_0227It’s been about two months since I wrote about the incident with the “mean girls” at my job, and how I planned to file a formal complaint about them. Well. I wrote a letter to my union, sharing with them what had occurred and requesting their assistance in handling the matter. I shared the letter with my supervisor, the “big shark”, who assured me, “don’t worry about it”.  I have to tell you the truth, I thought that they were going to retaliate, and that it would get ugly. I was advised by my union rep. not to say anything to any of them. and I didn’t.  I admit, I was paranoid at first. I thought for a minute, that they were giving me the cold shoulder when I entered the building, but by the end of the second week, it was just a pleasant “Good Morning”, and that’s all. Now, it’s even more collegial than that. It’s quite a lengthy story, but I think it’s worth the telling.

I had to stand my ground once again. This time with a couple of fathers who did not like the grades that their children got on their report cards. This one father wrote me an email that was clearly intended to intimidate me into changing his daughter’s grade. I don’t think you can truly understand unless I share a bit of it with you, so here goes (the names and dates have been changed to protect the guilty. he, he):

Dear Ms. Caramela:

        How come 93 + 101 + 95 + 95 + all completed assignments, homework and participations = 60??????????
        There is something very wrong with what you are doing to my daughter. If my daughter report is not corrected and given to her tomorrow, I will not only come that School X and make a scene, I’ll report this on going issues to the Board of Ed and all the media outlets that I have connection with, including 1010Wins, New York Post and the likes.

        You are failing my daugher and I know it’s all you this marking period as I know every single one of my daugher’s grades.

        If necessary, I’ll take an attorney and file a case against School X if this is not corrected tomorrow, March 20, 2014.

        VERY DISAPPOINTED OF YOU AND SCHOOL X FOR LETTING YOU GET AWAY WITH THIS!!!!!
Enough!
Mr. Z

Here is my response:

        Dear Mr. Z,

        I shared your concerns with Mrs. Y, the head of guidance. She informed me that she was going to set up a meeting with you to discuss your concerns and to find a way to help Jane to improve her performance in her class. The strategies  that we have tried in the past have not resulted in any improvements. She continues to score well on exams, but she struggles with  meeting assignment deadlines, and she continues to exhibit a pattern of missing assignments. Please contact Mrs. Y to set up a  meeting. She can be reached at 555-555-2255, extention 5555 Thank you.

        Sincerely,
        V. Caramela, Teacher

Here is his response to my letter:

        THIS IS NOT JANE’S ISSUE! THIS IS YOUR ISSUE!
        You are not telling the truth!
        She gave all her assignments in on time and were there were not graded on time.
        DO NOT POINT THE FIGURE TO MY DAUGHTER!!!

        My daughter’s performance is execellent.
        If you do as much as to point the figure to my daugher on this, it will be a media mess for School X.
        I had enough of you FAILING my child.  YOUR JOB IS TO TEACH…

        I REALLY BELIEVE YOU HAVE TOO MUCH ON YOUR PLATE AND YOU FAIL KIDS BECAUSE YOU GET AWAY WITH IT.

        IT HAS TO STOP!!!

        I’LL REACH OUT TO THE MEDIA IF MY DAUGHTER REPORT CARD IS NOT CORRECTED TOMORROW!

I did not respond to him after that. Instead, I notified the administrators and gathered the necessary documentation. Well, he sent one more email after that, all in caps, basically saying that I had done the same thing to his daughter the previous marking period. The next day, he showed up at the school. The administrators spoke to him. They pretty much left me out of it. The head of guidance only asked me if I had all my records. When I assured her that I did, she said “Okay”, and that was all I heard about it until I was called to my supervisor’s office and asked to give an account of what had transpired. I told my supervisor what happened, and she said that she was going to set up a meeting. On the morning of the meeting, the parent emailed us to cancel the meeting because he was ill.

Anyway, back to the story of the “mean girls”. The day after I got the threatening emails, it was Open School night. (I always have about twice the number of parents waiting to see me than time will allow). At the end of the night, one of the mean girls came and reported to me that the scene outside my room was priceless. To this day, I don’t know what she meant by that. She said,” . . . but you were appreciated, I can tell you that”. I didn’t know what that meant either. Then the following day, open school day, a parent showed up demanding that I see him right away, even though other parents had been waiting the whole time to see me. He had come and gone a few times, each time forfeiting his place in the line (that’s the rule, and a sign was right over the sign-in sheet as a reminder). He threatened to go to my supervisor. I told him he could, and asked him to set up a private appointment with me and guidance. He yelled, “No, I’m going to see you today!” Well, he waited until the last parent had left, and he came back. Technically, the conference time was over, but I saw him anyway. He made all kinds of accusations at the meeting, ranging from me giving a quiz on a day of the week when it was not best for his son because of domestic issues, to me only calling him when his son misbehaves, to his latest suspicion that I must be losing his son’s homework (this excuse seems to be the preferred one, these days, over the dog ate it). So, I calmly reminded him that we had spoken on several prior occasions about his child’s academic performance, and that I had informed him that his child was not turning in his assignments regularly, and that he was scoring low on tests no matter what day of the week it was. He continued to badger me, and I stayed firm, confident, and resolute in my intention to settle the issue. The phone rang while we were at it, and I did not answer. Well, it turns out that one of the mean girls realized that something was going on when she saw another father pacing back and forth in front of my door. She had the office call upstairs and when I didn’t answer, and one of my coworkers reported  that the same parent who was in my room had tried to intimidate him earlier, they called the head of security who had gone home for the day, to come back and handle the matter.  I think they got concerned because the parent is a really large fellow (over 6’3″), and last year he was arrested during an altercation with his ex-wife in a pharmacy. I didn’t feel physically threatened by him, but he must have gotten to me emotionally, because the meeting had lasted almost an hour when the security agent came and put him out. I was completely drained.

After that day, it was not only a pleasant “good morning”, from my former tormentors, but it was conversations about not letting the parents get away with intimidation tactics, speaking up about it more, answering the phone in my room to let people know I’m okay, pressing charges on parents who threaten me, etc. It kind of makes me wonder if I’m being made a pawn in another battle that’s been waging between the parents and the administration. I sure hope that’s not it. I just find it difficult to believe that their  concern for me is genuine. (Kind of reminds me of the mean girls in the movie Carrie, acting all nice before they dump the pig’s blood on her head.)

It’s just really odd the way the behaviors have changed towards me so dramatically. Whatever I’ve asked of the “big shark”  lately, she’s granted, which is a complete 180 from her response to me last year. In a future post, I plan to tell all about the miracle that turned the tides for me. I can’t say for sure that this one event changed everything, but it certainly set the ball in motion, and I am grateful for each and every moment of peace that it has brought. No matter what, though, I will continue to pray for peace, prepare for battle, and persevere through whatever comes. That’s how I’m livin’.

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One Slice of My Life – Entries 1-5

Published March 8, 2014 by Vida Caramela

IMG_0227(For those of you who’ve seen my blog before and checked out all of my pages, you’ve seen at least part of this one before, but it’s been updated recently, and I’ve decided to display all future updates in posts as well.)

I’m calling this new series “One Slice of My Life”. It’s all about me, and my personal struggle with bullying.

Get to know the person behind the posts as you read each portion of this, one, slice of my life.  Hope you like it :-)

  1. Getting my dukes up is a challenge, because it means always having to be alert, to plan ahead, and  to react quickly. None of this comes naturally to me. With effort, I’ve managed to “stay alert and plan ahead” pretty well, but I’m still not sure how to get the “react quickly” piece going. (Apr. 2013)
  2. On the positive side, things do seem to be getting better for me in my own personal struggle with bullying. Where I lack swiftness, I think I make up for it with determination. (May. 2013)
  3. It’s been almost 8 months since the shark lady at my job has shown any form of aggression towards me. Finally I can say for certain that the bully that plagued me for nearly seven months is no longer on my back.  I attribute it mostly to a miracle from God (I’ll tell you that story another time), and partly to the fight I put up by following all of the advice I posted in my blog. Yes, I was my own guinea pig, and I didn’t just survive the experiment, I triumphed. (Jan. 2014)
  4. I don’t consider myself a shark slayer, a title used in the movie Shark Tale, because the shark still lives, and she is still sinking her teeth into my coworkers each and every day. She’s just not sinking them into me — for now. I will never put my guard down. I will keep my dukes up at all times (Feb. 2014)
  5. Now that the shark is off my tail, regrettably I find myself in an equally vexatious circumstance that, once again, involves the “B-word”, and I’m not only talking about the word “bully”. This time, instead of a shark I’m up against a school of nasty piranha, a small group of women at my job, who have chosen to harass me. They mistook my smile and courteous manner for weakness, and began an insidious attack. This clan of grown up mean girls makes open remarks about my appearance as I pass them in the mornings. They watch me throughout the day to find something that they can use to get the shark back on my case. I didn’t want to appear overly sensitive, so I ignored their behavior for two months, and finally, one week ago, they went too far. They lodged a formal complaint against me for wearing a visible bandage. They told my supervisor that I was a risk to others because I was bleeding all over the place. When the supervisor came to investigate, he could clearly see that they had lied. I filed a formal complaint with the powers that be, and I am prepared to do whatever it takes to discourage any future such encounters.(Feb. 2014)

It’s Not Your Fault.

Published April 13, 2013 by Vida Caramela
A little validation

Drawing by Vidacaramela

Standing up to a Bully is never an easy thing to do.  It requires nerves of steel, and a thick skin. Whether you are the target of a bully, or an innocent bystander, chances are you will think more than twice before you act. It’s much easier to second guess yourself if you are the target, or to “blame the victim” if you are an observer. Since no one is perfect, the focus is shifted from the behavior of the bully, to the faults of the target. When this occurs, it needs to be recognized for what it really is… Fear.  It’s the battered wife who thinks she deserved the beating because she made her husband mad.  It’s the child who thinks she’s too fat, or ugly to deserve respect on the playground. Its the coworker who thinks his colleague who was humiliated by an administrator during the staff meeting, somehow earned it, because she’s new and she hasn’t been very friendly.  The truth is, a bully does not need a good reason to inflict pain. They get the sense of power when they do. When they can’t deal with their own pain, they unleash their pain on others, and fire at will. The devil doesn’t make them do it, and neither do the targets of their agression.

Act

Published April 13, 2013 by Vida Caramela
English: the picture consist of articles on bu...

English: the picture consist of articles on bullying, I obtained it from public domain. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Real change, requires real action. Laws, codes of conduct and consequences that make it difficult for bullies to to torment their targets indiscriminately are crucial factors in the fight to eradicate bullying. Legislation must be updated to address the latest forms of bullying that have arisen from our growing use of the internet as a social networking tool. Cyberbullying has become a huge problem today, and the laws for addressing it have not been firmly established. Bullying in the workplace has also been overlooked as far as legislation goes. We need our leaders, and local politicians , to acknowledge that there is a crisis, and to take the necessary measures to fix it. Recently, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law new rules designed to protect children against cyberbullying.  The law, which takes effect next year, will require school officials to investigate complaints of bullying that happen online and to respond in ways to prevent acts of bullying from recurring. In addition, Jamie Isaacs, founder of the Jamie Issacs Foundation for Anti-Bullying, Inc., has worked with New York State Senator Jeffrey Klein to help pass a criminal component of currently existing New York State harassment legislation. New York is not alone in its actions to combat cyberbullying. Anti-bullying legislation is cropping up all over the nation.  If bullies are forced to answer for their behaviors, and if they find that the consequences for bullying outweigh the pleasure they derive from hurting others, they will be forced to find other, less destructive ways of dealing with people.  Perhaps, the thought of being fined, fired, reprimanded, or prosecuted might give them pause. And if it doesn’t, maybe the new laws and measures will furnish the targets with a sense of empowerment, and give anyone who wishes to “stand  up against bullying,” the legs to stand on.

Hey, Stop that Bully!

Published April 8, 2013 by Vida Caramela
Physical bullying at school, as depicted in th...

Physical bullying at school, as depicted in the film Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. They rob the dignity of those they target. They murder self-esteem, and destroy lives.  Few people can stand by and watch a bully hurt someone and not be hurt by it themselves.  Lately, there’s been a lot of discussion on the topic, and people are fed up.  It’s time do something “Real”.

On February 8th, our school celebrated P.S. I Love You Day, by wearing the color purple. According to Brooke DiPalma, the founder of P.S. I Love You Day, “wearing purple will not only show that you’re standing up against bullying, but you will see everyone around you wearing purple, and know that you are never alone. P.S. I Love You.”

For the victims of bullying, standing up is not as simple as wearing purple for a day, it’s a daily weekly, monthly battle that can last for years, and campaigns like P.S. I love you  not only aim to raise awareness, but to actively fight against bullying, and to provide concrete assistance to its victims.

The targets of bullying need our help, not just our sympathy. If it was a simple matter of trying to get along, giving the bully what he or he or she wants, or just fighting back, we wouldn’t be faced with such a widespread epidemic. Before we can effectively take a stand, a few things need to be clear. (Next Blog – Bully Fix: Step#1)

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Coping With a Brand New Breed of Shark!

Published April 8, 2013 by Vida Caramela
This image was selected as a picture of the we...

This image was selected as a picture of the week on the Farsi Wikipedia for the 12th week, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Recently, my sister and I had a conversation about workplace bullying.  As the boss of her own private practice, she is somewhat shielded from the burden of  being bullied on the job, but she recalls a time when that was not the case.  When she was in Medical School she was given a list of rules from essay called, “How to Swim with Sharks,” by Voltaire Cousteau.  She said it helped her to cope with the bullies in her early career.  So, I decided to look it up.  The three rules I like the most are:

Do not bleed.

It is a cardinal principle that if you are injured, either by accident or by intent, you must not bleed. Experience shows that bleeding prompts an even more aggressive attack and will often provoke the participation of sharks that are uninvolved or, as noted above, are usually docile.

Counter any aggression promptly

Sharks rarely attack a swimmer without warning. Usually there is some tentative, exploratory aggressive action. It is important that the swimmer recognize that this behavior is a prelude to an attack and takes prompt and vigorous remedial action. The appropriate countermove is a sharp blow to the nose. Almost invariably this will prevent a full-scale attack, for it makes it clear that you understand the shark’s intention and are prepared to use whatever force is necessary to repel aggressive actions.

Use anticipatory retaliation 

A constant danger to the skilled swimmer is that the sharks will forget that he is skilled and may attack in error. Some sharks have notoriously poor memories in this regard. This memory loss can be prevented by a program of anticipatory retaliation. The skilled swimmer should engage in these activities periodically and the periods should be less than the memory span of the shark. Thus, it is not possible to state fixed intervals. The procedure may need to be repeated frequently with forgetful sharks and need be done only once for sharks with total recall.

You can find the entire essay on http://www.apor.org/html/how_to_swim_with_sharks.htm