Thursday 13 December 2018

Dear Mary: Office bully is making my life hell and nobody is willing to help me

Mary O’Conor

I'm writing about a colleague who was bullying me at work for over six months. I have cried in my car before going to work, rushed to the bathroom to vomit several times during work and even thought about walking out on the job.

I feel I have been depressed since last summer when all of this began. Having documented the incidents I took it as far as an 'informal' complaint to HR as they advised me a formal complaint was too extreme. Nothing was really done about this person's ridiculously unprofessional behaviour.

There was an informal 'meeting' between the bully and the HR person. I chose not to attend as I couldn't face this person without bursting into tears. I was told that this person's 'management style' was the issue they needed to work on, I firmly disagree. First of all, they are not my manager and secondly, criticising everything I do is not constructive or necessary. We are supposed to be a team.

Nobody has ever checked with me since I approached HR although they assured me they would, and it is several months ago now since I made the complaint.

This person made my life miserable for months having returned from a leave of absence. I was quite happy in my job until this person returned and ridiculed all of my work, shouted in my face, stood over me while I was sitting at my desk, questioned and judged me in every decision I made, told me to hang up in the middle of phone calls and made comments about my age and asked me questions about my personal life.

This person made me feel useless and I have applied for many other jobs, including jobs that were way below my current salary, just to get the hell out of there.

When HR got involved, we didn't speak to each other for weeks afterwards. Eventually we began the usual 'good morning' 'goodbye' niceties, to a point where recently I thought maybe we could at least pretend to be normal and get along.

I inadvertently came across some notes this person had typed about me on a company PC that I was given permission to access for work purposes. Every single thing I do every day is monitored, including any time I use my mobile phone. In fairness to myself I don't come across badly as I don't do anything wrong. I understand they're protecting themselves documenting things should I make another complaint, but to me it feels like I'm being bullied all over again. This person had the notes in email format to be sent to another colleague so I now know that the whole incident is not confidential even though the HR person instructed us to keep everything private and confidential.

This person is not my boss or manager, but a colleague almost 20 years my senior. Another colleague also told me they reported this person for bullying before and now they ignore each other. I have to work with the person every day and can't ignore them. I generally like and get along well with everyone else at work.

I feel physically ill most mornings going into work, I have been recently diagnosed with a medical condition and my doctor has mentioned that stress is a major factor. I am taking daily medication. Financial commitments are the only reason I stay as I have plans to go back to study and change career within the next two years.

Mary, please help. Should I leave the first chance I get?

Mary replies:  Every time I read about bullying my blood boils because it is such a vindictive thing to do and causes untold distress.

It is very obvious that you are so scared of this person that you are afraid to even tell me whether it is male or female, and the whole tone of your mail shows how much you are suffering. On the other hand the person that was previously bullied dealt with it and so the bully moved on to the next victim - you.

Your employer's policy on bullying should tell you what will happen when a formal complaint is made because this is very obviously the next step you need to take. You should know how it will be investigated, who will carry out the investigation and how both sides' right to confidentiality will be dealt with.

So without delay first contact your manager and then HR and explain that you now want to make a formal complaint if that is what is necessary to stop the bullying. I realise this will cause you more anxiety but anything would be better than what you are currently suffering. If you move, then you will feel ill-equipped if bullying comes your way again - which hopefully it will not.

And the bully will win.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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