Thursday, November 07, 2013

On the subject of harassment

At this point, it's hard to know what to believe. There are conflicting stories, odd pieces of information, and lots of speculation.   So I thought I would take a different approach on this post. A friend of mine told me the tale of being bullied. I thought I'd share.  It sheds some light on a situation that perhaps is similar to martins. 

Many years ago, I was working for a mid size company in the Midwest, in a smaller office.  There weren't that many people in the office, but there was a small clique of guys who hung around together during and sometimes after work. 

After being there for a short time, they started including me in their group. The talk was often vulgar, and at least a little offensive. I asked them to ease up, but they decided I was weak and set about trying to toughen me up. 

Over time, I was bullied.  They said and did things to me physically and verbally. Nothing was ever so bad that I was "in fear," but bad enough that I was scared.

Along the way, there were comments about my ethnicity. About my family. And idle threats at times that they thought were cute. I had my arm closed in a door. I was pushed into walls. Chairs ran over my foot.  And the vulgar talk went on. 

I went to talk with our manager, but he had an old-school mindset of boys will be boys and brushed me off. 

I also discovered that they weren't much good at their jobs. They did what they had to and no more. And worse, they "fudged" when it came to it. As I learned more about that they told me they'd hurt me if I ever said anything. 

It was a small office, so I rolled with it for a while. I even went to lunch with these guys frequently, because I didn't want them to think I was going behind their backs. It was awkward but that's part of being bullied I suppose. 

After a couple of months, there was a re-org and a new boss was moved in from another office. When I realized he was an outsider, I approached him and told the story. His jaw hit the floor as he listened to the tale that I spun. I had saved some information, and was prepared.  He knew I was serious. 

To make a long story short, these guys were all immediately suspended, along with the previous boss.  They brought in an outsider to investigate. Ultimately most of them were fired and one was demoted and sent to a corporate office. 

I was surprised to learn that several people in the office had no idea what was happening, a few didn't think it was quite that bad, and a few knew but kept quiet until they were asked questions during the investigation for fear of reprisal. 

I have asked myself why I didn't quit. Why I put up with it. Why I didn't say more earlier. And the answer isn't easy. It's about the desire to do well, to make some money, and because it seemed silly to think I was being bullied at work. 

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Good story Dave.