One of the saddest pieces I have read on Twitter was a post from a young marketing copywriter in England, Olivia Bland.
She underwent a two-hour interview at a company called Web Applications UK, conducted by its CEO, Craig Dean. He “tore both me and my writing to shreds (and called me an underachiever)”. She was so devastated that she cried at the bus stop afterwards. But despite that, she was offered the job.
She declined it. And her reasons bear repeating.
She said she understood what he was trying to do and what he was trying to get out of her, but that “there is something very off to me about a man who tries his very best to intimidate and assert power over a young woman and who continues to push, even when he can see that he’s making someone uncomfortable to the point of tears”.
Olivia was upset because she had just come out of an abusive, 18-month relationship and could see the job being more of the same.
Olivia’s post touched me deeply, because I have been the victim of corporate bullying. Like her, I found the experience soul-destroying. Unlike her, I didn’t have the courage to tell the bully to shove his job where the sun doesn’t shine. I had a family and I had to just “suck it up”.
In my case, the person began his bullying when he suspected me of plotting against him. A plotter himself, he naturally had eyes in the back of his head – even for fictitious enemies.
The abuse was constant: verbal threats, warning memos, intimidatory visits to my office, even when he was no longer my direct line manager.
On one occasion, when in a meeting with potential clients, he chuckled that “Brendan gets paid a fortune, don’t you, Brendan?” Not long before that, I had discovered he was getting more than twice what I was.
Then, after I acted in a senior position for six months and had the temerity to query whether I would get an acting allowance (as everyone else did), I was given a dismissive amount, a fraction of what the senior post pay was. When I argued, he doubled it – it was still insulting – and told the human resources people to tell me: take it or shut the f**k up. In those words.
He created a perpetual climate of blame and fear, of which I was the prime victim, but there were others who also suffered and were demeaned. Yet he had no reason to fire me and I was doing too good a job.
I was denied a promotion and the people put in over my head had to be carried by me. I worked myself so hard – 14 effective six-day weeks on the trot – that I suffered a physical collapse … my secretary was called by the person I was meeting, who told her I was rambling incoherently.
The worst was the tension ate away inside me. I was horrible to live with. It almost ended my marriage and cost me a lot of lost years and relationships with my two children. The scars remain today.
But, karma is a bitch. And just as she will take it out on Gary Dean on behalf of Olivia one day, so will the wheel turn for the one who bullied me…