Story of Bullying in a Professional Office

Bullying: Experienced by an Alberta Social Worker

For over 2 years I experienced my supervisor’s weekly sometimes daily changing moods. One minute she was very nice, laughing and sharing personal stories, and the next minute she looked at me with hatred and rage. She accused me of saying things that had never even entered my mind. She would stand at my doorway stating offensive comments or accusing me of doing something that I didn’t do. If someone walked down our hallway she would cover up her anger by immediately turning to this person and making a joke. They would share a laugh (hers being very loud) and as soon as this person was out of sight, she would turn to me with the same glaring look and continue with her negative words towards me. I will never forget how eerie and confusing this was for me. It can be crazy-making, for who would believe me if I could not even believe this experience myself? I became nervous about coming to work, wondering who she was going to be that day. As far as I could see, everyone else saw her as a competent social worker; a friendly and a fun person to be around. She really is excellent with clients. The truth is, her “trained” skill level helps her to be even more skilled at hiding her bullying behaviours! There was one other social worker who experienced this frightening side of our supervisor. She gave me the advice to “stay under the radar”.  I respected her right to choose this reaction and believed it met with her needs. For me, being told to stay under the radar and just do what it takes until our supervisor returns to herself again, simply confused me even more. This just doesn’t sit well with my values or ethics. Confronting my supervisor, making notes, keeping copies of the emails or letters she sent me, and reporting certain behaviours to my manager certainly saved me from any further damages she may have caused. Her mood changes and bullying behaviours did become worse. She stopped responding to my pages even though these were used for urgent cases. She took credit for my ideas and ignored me unless others were around. She slammed her door in my face more than once; in fact, one time in front of a patient and spouse. In time, colleagues advised me of rumours my supervisor spread about me. I became anxious and constantly on guard. I felt her intent was to sabotage me. In her position she had this power. I was painfully alone and isolated. The work I loved to do began to suffer and soon, so did my health.  (Author asked to remain anonymous)