I worked in a middle school for years and dealt with bullying between students, but what do you do when it’s happening within the adults?? When it’s your own boss? I’ve had a few different “life is unfair” moments. This one takes the cake. When someone is promoted into a position that doesn’t suit them, everyone else ends up suffering through the mistake. Bullying in the work place exists.
I’ve written so many drafts about my bullying situation, but they are all so wordy. All I want to do is defend myself and explain what happened, but it’s just too many details.
Here is the shortest version of Why I Quit.
My boss was a bully. I saw him pick on so many others before me. They left because he made them miserable. The best teachers – poof! Gone. Experiencing it was a whole new world, and I realized why they resigned. There are a couple theories as to what brought on my situation, here is mine.
I taught at this school for 4 years before I moved into the Specialist position. Going from teacher to specialist within the same building is pretty rare. I had a foot in both worlds because I was leadership now, but still amongst my teacher friends and could still relate to them while taking on this new role.When the school acquired a new principal [in my 6th year there], things became really tough. The new guy was an unpredictable rollercoaster. One day he was on your side, and the next he was after you. One second he was praising you, and within the same breath he was tearing you down. So many of our best employees quit because he persistently targeted them.
He was pretty friendly with me at first, but I could see him bullying other employees. For years I compared him to a less funny version of Michael Scott. The targets were like Toby. For no reason at all, Michael Scott hated his guts. If you were
a cool kid, like Ryan, he tried to stay in your good graces. I was a “cool kid” because I was friends with teachers and administrators. If he and I were friends, maybe he could be a cool kid, too. Maybe I’d side with him and be able to get teachers to comply with certain things? That’s my theory.
As the years wore on, I became sadder, more stressed. My boss kept trying to be my friend. I went along with it, but we were not friends. I was simply playing the part. Daniel saw it, and so did a former co-worker who returned to the school. She described me as a “dimming light” of what I used to be. You know how when someone lays the truth out, the facts you were trying to ignore, you just start sobbing? It was like that.One day, he wronged my department and walked up behind me while I was complaining about it. This is the day it all started. The day he realized that we are not friends.
Watching someone get bullied is completely different from experiencing it first hand. It is an incredibly emotionally draining experience. When I was just a spectator I would advise people to stay away, fly under the radar, keep documentation, etc. Within the situation, it’s totally different. That kind of advice is helpful, but it doesn’t make your brain slow down. It doesn’t stop the anger from rising, or the pain of feeling belittled and useless. Once his radar was turned directly on me, nothing I did was good enough or exactly how he wanted it. After running my department hassle-free for the last 4 years, and even ending the most recent school year with top scores, somehow, I was now under the microscope.
At first I laughed off the ridiculous allegations. I was doing my own job and teaching at the time that all of this started. Issuing me a memo when I was going above and beyond? Insubordination? It was just so comical. So I openly laughed.
It continued this way for months. I would come in to rude emails burning a hole in my inbox. When I tried to shake them off and focus on my routines, he’d be waiting for me in the hallway. He attempted to [inaccurately] document our interactions until I began recording them, he raised his voice to me, expected me to drop everything and go to his office at a moment’s
notice, and brought in others to check up on my department and the way I ran it. It was insulting. The relentlessness of it all was tearing me down.
I finally reached my breaking point. I couldn’t laugh it off any longer. I wanted to quit every single day. And any particularly good days were in his absence. When I got home from work I’d take Advil PM and curl up into a ball. I missed roller derby practice because I was depressed, I stopped going to Crossfit. And I ate. A lot. My stomach hurt on the way to work, and once there, a friend of mine would skim my inbox for any surprises. I avoided the hallways, continued documenting everything, let my appearance go to crap, missed work, and cried. There was a lot of crying. There’s this quote in the movie To Wong Foo Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar that kept running through my head: “Hun, do you like, ever not cry in this room?” because that’s what my office became. And even there I didn’t feel safe. I half expected to walk-in and he’d be standing there, all red and furious.
I used to be a happy, confident person, but after months of horrible treatment, the bulls-eye on my back…I started doubting myself. That’s when I knew something was wrong. I needed more options. I took my high school math certification test, and started looking for another job.
Like I said, I had seen this all happen before, but the most recent case was in a position similar to my own. One of my friends had just been pushed out the previous year, and I knew what was coming. I needed to be the one to take action. I filed a grievance and had the appropriate meetings. I even spoke with my teachers’ union at the time. I was going to be happy, damnit, but I wasn’t going to let him get off Scott-free. I had to have a mediation type meeting, which was not helpful. At all. Things didn’t change. Sure, he forced his radar off of me for about 2 seconds while he picked on a friend of mine instead. I wouldn’t wish that kind of stress and depression on anyone else. Changing the target does not resolve the problem. The problem is the bully.
So I left. I left an incredible department and a very familial school in December. Leaving education mid-year is frowned upon, it draws attention, and that’s precisely what I wanted to do.
I sent my co-workers and friends a farewell email about why I was leaving. It was extremely diplomatic, but at the very end, I linked to a website about bullying in the work place.
I started that email in April 2014, and it took me until December to suck it up and make a move. I’m sad to have left such a loving group of people. I’m sad to have left the school where my teaching career began 9 years ago. But what makes me the
saddest is the fact that one person can completely ruin the way I felt about my work place. Maybe it’s still too fresh, but I can’t even bring myself to visit my friends yet. Seeing him would awaken the monster inside of me that I finally
shook off. I’m happy now. I’ve made so much progress, have my new routines, and get to hang out with my fur balls all day, while teaching math. How cool is that??
It’s taken months to write this post. I was on the fence about it, but people need to know. Bullying exists in the grown up world. In education. You don’t have to be stuck in a job. Especially if you are being disrespected! Give yourself options, seek out something new and different! Have more faith and confidence in yourself. I’m just glad I got out before the effects were long-term.
If you know anyone going through a similar experience, or are going through something like this yourself, please know you can do better. You deserve more respect than that. Devise an escape route. Then shock them with that two week notice. It was a pretty rad moment.