When bullying turns violent

Have you witnessed or been a victim of bullying at the office? Senior Correspondent Mike Causey says it appears to be widespread and can turn violent.

Years ago, while working for the Washington Post, I got a telephone call from a woman that haunts me to this day.

For obvious reasons she didn’t give her name. But that was not unusual. I think she said she worked for the Interior Department in D.C. She did most of the talking. She explained, for background, that she and her husband were going through a rough patch, primarily because of finances. When her boss offered her the chance to work overtime, on a weekend, she jumped at the chance. So far so good. Then …

She worked OT on Saturday. Just she and the boss. The building was nearly empty. Just she and the boss. Everything went well. He asked if she could work the following Saturday. She could.

On that second Saturday, she said, he raped her. There was nobody to call for help. He overpowered her. That was that. Then he told her if she said anything he would tell her husband that they had been having a long-running affair. Given that they were already having marital problems, she feared he might believe her supervisor. Besides, she was ashamed. And humiliated. Cut to the chase. After a month or so she went to the doctor. The doctor said the woman had an STD. And should immediately tell her partner. What to do?

That’s it.

I don’t know if she was telling the truth. I don’t know what happened to her. Never heard from her again, although I’ve thought of her a lot over the years. And wished she had checked in. Lately, I’ve thought of her every day.

A couple of weeks back we had a series of columns about bullying at the office. The response was huge. We heard from scores of people. From just about every federal agency. In some cases, workers complained of being bullied by the boss, or supervisors. Some of the bullying came from a coworker. Others told of bosses being bullied by subordinates because they, for one reason or another, were afraid to tackle their employees. One Agriculture Department worker said she was bullied by several coworkers and the top boss quietly encouraged it, and coached them on how to get away with it. It was racial, she said.

There is no way to verify any of the claims because nobody, for good reasons, wants to come forward. At least not in print. But we heard similar stories from too many people. Some, maybe most of it, is true. And if that’s the case, things are very bad in parts of a lot of federal agencies. Managers should be aware of it, and have the guts to do something about it. Of course if the bully is the boss …

But it is definitely out there. For example, here’s one comment, from W, who appears to have jumped from the frying pan to the fire.

“I have been a fed for almost 30 years and thought I had seen it all. That is until I left the Department of Defense to join another organization in order to work closer to home. I can truly say it has been a rude awakening. I have dealt with many different people and personalities through the years and I always say when a job is intolerable, it’s never the work but the people.

“The organization I work for now is a mix of civilian employees and retired law enforcement. It is a very unhealthy environment. Most of the LEOs hold themselves above a federal civilian and they have no trust, everything is an urgent requirement and the managers go around bullying employees. They question us, accuse us, go around and check up on who we spoke with and overall don’t respect us. They don’t do any of the work, except bark orders. In this position, I and the employees under me are treated so poorly that I reached out to the ombudsman and the EEO office for advice and support. Right now the only way I can get through a day is to convince myself that this is a bullying atmosphere and continue to document everything that will help me build my case.”

So how would you tackle this situation? Or is this just one of those horrible human conditions where there is no good solution?

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Michael O’Connell

In the original 1954 Japanese film, Godzilla was scaled to be 164 feet tall. This allowed him to peer over Tokyo’s tallest buildings at that time.

Source: Wikipedia

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