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First, a story.

A few weeks back, I was driving to my friend’s birthday party. I turned into a road between buildings – it’s a narrow road that can only let one car at once, and cars are parked at either side of it. So as I’m one third into it, pushing it so that I’d pass it quickly and wouldn’t have to inconvenience anyone or myself, a car shows at the opposite end, driving toward me. Seeing that I’m already way in, it doesn’t stop to let me pass, but instead starts blinking the lights at me like crazy so that I’d back up and let it pass.

Now, normally I would. I don’t like having standoffs with anyone, I don’t have the kind of nerve, and I’m usually the one to cave even when it’s easier for the other side. But in this situation I couldn’t do it. Another car was driving behind me, and another one yet occupying the side lane. I had literally no physical space to move.

The car facing me on the other hand, had two options. The side lane behind it was free, and so was the road behind it. Of course, it didn’t move, and blinked at me some more. I tried to gesture with my hands that I have nowhere to pull back.

At this, the driver jumped out of that car and got in my face, yelling at me a lot of words I wouldn’t care to repeat, and calling me a lot of interesting names, but the point he was making was this: I should get the hell out of his way, he told me to do it, was I stupid or what. I, voice already quivering (and hating myself for it), tried to explain politely and reasonably that I would pull back, but there’s nowhere for me to do it. He yelled at me some more, then said he wouldn’t budge, and we would stay like this, unless I move. Then he got back into his car, turned on the brighter lights, blinding me, and sat there.

My hands were shaking, and I was already starting to hyperventilate, I had no choice, but to start moving backward. The car behind me started to blow its horn. Then, probably thinking that I’m insane, it thankfully moved enough for me to manage somehow, half-blind and shaking, to pull back and to the side almost but thankfully not grazing the parked cars. The man – and it was a man, around 50 ish – drove past me, nearly tearing my mirror off, and I was finally able to pass.

I drove to my friend’s party, shaking and sobbing, I haven’t cried like that in ages. I hated myself for it the entire way, but there was nothing I could do about it. When that man yelled at me, I was scared for my car, for myself. I knew that there was absolutely no one I could call for help – and nothing I could do to defend myself. I felt helpless, it was so unfair, and yet here I was a sobbing mess, while he drove away with a sense of victory over defeating (as if someone opposed him!) some idiot girl.

I hope to God he found his death in a ditch somewhere. God help me, but I do. But that didn’t make me hate my helplessness any less. I’m so smart, I shouldn’t have allowed him to make me a victim. But I didn’t know how not to.

The story is to say that I don’t do well with bullying. More precisely, I don’t know how to respond to it.

When I was a little girl, around 5 or 6, we used to have a neighbor one floor down. He was a bulky guy about 1.9 meters tall. He disliked noises. He blamed me for making them. his favorite pastime was to corner me in the elevator – I lived on the 14th floor, and he on the 13th, so it was a long ride – alone and berate me for ‘stomping’ or being noisy or basically for every sound that penetrated the sanctuary of his apartment. When I say ‘berate’ I mean loom over me and tell me off, threaten me, and intimidate me every way he knew how. I was so scared of him, I was afraid to tell my parents. And I was, believe it or not, too polite to refuse to get into the same elevator as him.

When the man from the car confronted me, I felt like that helpless little girl again. And I hated it, because I’m a child no longer, and I’m supposed to be able to stand up for myself. I’m not, it turns out. But that’s not the worst of it.

I have this boss. Technically, he’s my boss’s boss. My direct boss is a lovely, competent, savvy woman. The problem is, she has a grave health condition, and is working remotely from the States, on her own schedule and with minimal load. My boss’s boss… is a bully.

I don’t know what it is in me that annoys him so. But the point remains that for him I can do no right. Literally. Before he opens an email from me, he already knows there’ll be only faults and mistakes in it. I keep picking up the slack for my direct boss and other people when I feel that without it things would go bad. I get constantly accused of being incompetent in a rude form for it, and being made the scapegoat for all that work – and those aren’t even my projects.

The Big Boss’s manner is there is no manner. Assume guilty until proven innocent. When proven innocent still find guilty. It’s a neverending cycle.

At first I thought maybe it was just his way. Unpleasant, sure, but what can you do. But then I slowly realized that he’s singling me out, and other people confirmed it. He criticizes/berates/yells at me for doing things wrong before he even looks at them. When he does look at them, and finds out that things weren’t actually done wrong, he gets more annoyed and says that it wasn’t what he wanted. When will I finally get it right, etc. Throughout all that, the style of his conversation is… well, it makes you feel that he has no respect for you whatsoever, as either professional or a human being.

The worst thing is, every time I interact with him, I, to my own horror, become that helpless little girl again. I know that he’s wrong, that he’s being unfair, absurdly unfair even, I know that it should not shake my confidence, but there’s nothing I can do. It’s a physical reaction. I deflate, literally. My voice crumbles down to something pitiful and feeble. I try to not let that happen, which costs me a huge amount of resources. I try to stay calm and explain. But then he cuts me off – he always does that – and there’s nothing after that.

I don’t know what to do about it. I don’t know how to act. I tried staying calm and professional, ignoring his rudeness as if I can’t see it. It gets him annoyed much quicker and makes him much angrier. It’s the only result. If I try to explain myself, things only escalate. There is nothing in the world that can make him acknowledge my competence. Needless to say, my actual work doesn’t factor into this – he doesn’t care.

I don’t know what to do. I go home after days like this, after days like today, and my hands are still shaking, and I hate myself, and I can’t sleep. Why do I not know how to deal with it? My job requires me to court and please and cater to so many people, many of them less than pleasant. I have never had this problem with any of them.

I can’t quit, because I need this job now. I can’t go to HR, because for starters things like that don’t work in Russia, and additionally, the HR director is his wife, so I very much doubt I’d gain any support there. My boss is sympathetic, but there’s nothing she can do for me, being gravely ill and far away. Talking to Big Boss about an attitude adjustment is out of the question, because he’s exactly like the man from the car – he doesn’t want to listen to reason, because he doesn’t care for it.

I know, after reading this, it would be hard for anyone to believe that I’m actually not a whiny teen girl, but a professional and a grown-up woman who actually knows her shit, but it’s the truth. But it’s also the truth that all of this vanishes the moment another exchange between me and the Big Boss starts.

If anyone can give any practical advice on how to adjust my behavior so that it would stop making me such an attractive little victim, it would be greatly appreciated. If you don’t have it, that’s okay, thanks for listening.


( 24 punches — Punch it )
Jan. 31st, 2013 09:44 pm (UTC)
Sadly, I have little advice to offer, but I'll just say that you're not the only one who struggles with every little bit of self-possession you have fleeing out the window when faced with something like this. Thankfully, I haven't faced much of it, but I can definitely relate to your wobbly voice and feeling like a child.

I'm so sorry to hear about this, frankly, sucky situation. I wish I could give you a hug. Don't know how you feel, religion-wise, but I'll pray for you.
Jan. 31st, 2013 10:15 pm (UTC)
It's like you have this image of yourself that you've spent years on building, and then it all just goes away.

Thank you. I -- it's really good to hear.
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 1st, 2013 05:12 am (UTC)
Nope, unfortunately, as I said going to HR isn't an option. It wouldn't have been even if they weren't husband and wife. This isn't America. Things like harassment clauses exist only on paper.

And it's true that he's the one with the problem, not me. But knowing that doesn't help. He's still the one with all the power and there's nothing I can do to stop him or change his attitude.

The thing is, I also refuse to show weakness as much as possible, because nothing feels more humiliating. But even if I leave his office head held high for his benefit and to show that he can't rattle me, the truth is he has rattled me, and maintaining that facade exhausts me, physically even. It never feels like victory.

Thank you for your thoughts, bb. *hugs* I felt better just reading them.
Jan. 31st, 2013 10:01 pm (UTC)

I wish I knew what to say. It's difficult to deal with bullies, especially when they're in positions of power. I've been on the receiving end as a child, but growing up I decided that I didn't like it. Most bullies back off if you stand your ground, but that outcome isn't always guaranteed.

I have no useful advice, but I have hugs.

Jan. 31st, 2013 10:17 pm (UTC)
Yes, well. I could get in his face, I really want to, but that would mean saying goodbye to this job at once. There's no other way it could turn out.

Hugs are good. I'll take the hugs. :)
Jan. 31st, 2013 10:17 pm (UTC)
I'd have called the cops and let them hear him then I'd have sat there till they moved his ass cause he could have kissed mine. I'm a bitch that way. :)

Everybody is afraid of something I don't care if you're the manliest man ever.
Jan. 31st, 2013 10:20 pm (UTC)
I'm sure you would. I'm also sure you don't live where I live. If you did, you'd know that the cops probably wouldn't have come if you called and told them he has a gun to your head. Well, okay, maybe then. So you see, being a bitch that away really doesn't cut it around here. Sadly.
Feb. 1st, 2013 07:12 am (UTC)
actually, these days it doesn't work that way here, either -- unless you're one of the elite. the rest of us have little to no workers' rights anymore, after 20+ years of relentless corporate takeovers. our court system has been corrupted and bought out, and even our Supreme Court has been corrupted by all the money and by fascist ideology.

and you are soooo not alone; guys get this crap too, though I would guess not as often as women -- which is so fucking not fair it isn't funny. I don't have much to offer, though your Big Boss sounds like the type where, tactically, you might be best served to return to the cold unflappable mask. he's gonna be an asshole either way, that much is certain -- but if you can maintain it, two things will happen.

one -- you'll leave the encounter with at least a wee shred of intact self-respect, as opposed to the current pattern.
two -- if you can maintain the calm mask long enough (and it might not be that long, bullies are notorious for severe lack of patience) he will eventually get bored and find someone more entertaining to harass. I bet that more than one of your current coworkers has in fact done just this -- after all, who did he bully before you went to work there?

and I agree -- being assertive or bitchy won't help, since he has all the actual power. but if you can stay cold-faced, not do a lot of eye-contact, just not show how you feel, for long enough he *will* get bored and find another victim.

I say this as someone who was relentlessly bullied all through his school years; if I was going to school today I would surely be expelled for all the arguments and fights I got into, almost all of which I lost, usually badly. I learned the cold mask thing from a fast food coworker, who kindly taught it to me after I asked her why the manager always picked on me even though she was just as foulmouthed and untraditional. bullies get bored fast; by and large their mental resources aren't up to keeping themselves amused, which is why they bully the rest of us. for that matter, you are probably smarter than him and in some sense he knows it.

I offer this in the hope it will help. if nothing else, know that you are soooo not alone in suffering this. if I could I'd travel there and punch him for you. but all I can do from here is offer this poor little advice, and tell you others do know how you feel and do respect your intelligence and your writing, and hope that things improve for you. *offers you an internet hug*
Feb. 3rd, 2013 12:34 pm (UTC)
You know, I think it's excellent advice, because at least it'll let me create some pattern of my own as opposed to always fall into his.

It's funny. When I was a kid, I was never bullied by my peers. I wasn't an aggressive child, but I could and would hit back, and I never cried first, so they learned not to mess with me. But at the same time, I seem to have a knack for attracting older bullies, older and unquestionably stronger, or those in a postion of power, and here I was helpless. I don't know how those two things coexist. Maybe because when looking at someone who's 'all brawn and no brain' I do feel that I'm better than them, and they can sense it. But if that's the truth, I'm afraid I can't stop. :)

Anyway, thank you, love. I actually think I can work with that, and just reading that made me feel better.

Jan. 31st, 2013 10:23 pm (UTC)
Bullies are no fun to deal with, and sometimes you just have to let them win. I have no concrete advice to offer, but I have sympathy, and lots of wishes for a better future. Remember that you are good at what you do, and a talented writer on top if this, they can't take that away from you!

All my best wishes,
Jan. 31st, 2013 10:30 pm (UTC)
I know they can't. But I'm so tired of having to crawl back to lick my wounds. I feel like they win all the time. I put up a fight or I don't, it always ends the same way. Like I *can't* win, no matter what I do or what tactics I choose.

Thank you. Trust me, much appreciated.

Jan. 31st, 2013 10:37 pm (UTC)
I'm so sorry you're having to go through this, it's absolutely horrible to have this sort of thing to deal with on a daily basis. It's debilitating and wears you down until you do become that little girl, that victim.

You said other people confirm that you're not imagining things. Are any of them in a position to intervene? Is he, for lack of a better term, the boss of EVERYTHING in the company you work for? Is there someone who has his ear?

Maybe you could approach his wife, the HR manager, with a different angle. Maybe you could ask her for advice on how to better please him, seeing as she'd know him best. I know it's a bit underhanded, but gaining her trust this way could be beneficial? If she feels you're coming to her for advice on how to be a better employee rather than complain about her husband, this might make her lean towards you rather than away. I can honestly say that you need to do whatever you have to do to survive and sometimes this means being as manipulative as you can be.
Feb. 1st, 2013 05:05 am (UTC)
Nope, unfortunately, other people can offer sympathy, but not do anything. He is the boss of everything, so to speak, one of the co-owners of the entire business. The other owner is an intelligent and well-bred man, but he's busy 24/7/365 with active work, so he let the operational control entirely to that guy. Anything that happens inside his company, including personnel issues are too far away from him now, plus of course they're friends and have been in business for twenty-something years.

It's a good advice about the wife. I thought about it, but the truth is it's exactly the case of nepotism. He put her in that position as head of HR department so that she'd have a pretty job description and an amount of power to please her, but not actually work. In fact her managers call me when they have an issue about something, because she won't do anything (or anything good) to help them out. Trust me, it wouldn't be below me to do that, absolutely, but it's just not going to work. It doesn't matter what I say or how I put it, the only thing she'll do is go straight to him and say that I dared to complain about him.

Sorry, I'm not trying to be difficult, and I very much appreciate your advice. It's just what it is, yeah.
Feb. 1st, 2013 12:23 pm (UTC)
I know, after reading this, it would be hard for anyone to believe that I’m actually not a whiny teen girl, but a professional and a grown-up woman who actually knows her shit

Not at all. It's not whiny to complain about being bullied. And it does happen at work to grown-up professional people all the time because other supposedly grown-up professional people let a bit of power go to their heads. I'm sorry you're having to go through this and hope it gets resolved for you. Reading this made me so angry on your behalf.

I had a boss who was a bully. I was lucky not to be the person she picked on, but a colleague of mine was forced out of her job by the boss constantly picking on her and finding fault with everything she did. One thing I think helped me to stay out of the boss's bad books was sucking up, basically. Agreeing with what she said. Telling her I was grateful for her 'support'. And staying out of her way as much as possible. I realise this may not be an option in your situation. But it does sound like standing up to him may not get you anywhere.

Feb. 3rd, 2013 12:38 pm (UTC)
You're very right about power going to their heads. I honestly don't know why there are so many people who let that happen to them. Sometimes it feels as though everyone who's in that position loses all signs of conscience or self-awareness. It's true that power corrupts, but the measure of it is still baffling to me sometimes. Or maybe one has to be that succeptible to it to end up on top in the first place, I don't know.

Yes, staying out of his way, sadly, isn't an option. But maybe he will get bored with me sooner or later. Kinda feel like a dick for wishing he'd turn his attention to someone else, but yeah.
Feb. 1st, 2013 04:04 pm (UTC)
Feb. 3rd, 2013 12:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
Feb. 1st, 2013 04:14 pm (UTC)
Sadly I have got nothing good to offer. When my mother was bullied, she was told to just quit. In her case, she had a strong support network and easily found another job. She was lucky.

I can only offer you my support. Not much help, I know, but apart from quitting, there isn't anything I can think off that you could do to make him change. Especially with his wife working in HR. Because this would've been my next suggestion.

If you would go and record the abuse, make a whole log of it, have others offer written confirmations of what happened, you might have a shot...but again, this would put all the pressure on you and might make things a lot worse.

I am sorry that I can't actaully offer anything that might work.
Feb. 3rd, 2013 12:42 pm (UTC)
No, I'm afraid making it official won't do any good, and as for quitting... In the past I have quit things too often. Even if I could afford to do it now, I wouldn't want to, because at some point you need to take a stand if there's any self-respect to be saved. That doesn't stop me from fantasizing about quitting though. :)

Don't feel bad, it's not an easy thing to offer advice on. I'm grateful for all of you being here just listening. Believe it or not, it did make me feel a little better.
Feb. 7th, 2013 08:45 am (UTC)
I am glad it made you feel at least a little bit better. :)
Feb. 3rd, 2013 01:27 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry that you have to go through something like that. Unfortunately such a thing is common in a lot of workplaces. Sad but true :( You're definitely not alone. The thing is... when he acts all confronting and intimidating like that you freeze up? That might just spurn him on because in the end, people like that, they bully because they know that they can get that reaction out of you. It shows I guess? In the way you hold yourself and the tone of voice when you're confronted and of course you would feel bad if someone is verbally abusing you in such a cruelly blatant manner.

I'm not sure if it would work, but if he does something like that, chin up, head strong. Say sorry with confidence,go off to fix things (or fein fixing things is there seems to be nothing wrong) and perhaps eventually he'll eventually realise that he can't get that fear reaction from you any more and he'll move on. I'm not saying that you should be aggressive or brush if off. It might be easier if you just nod and get over the whole "I'm going to install the living fear into you" act and then you can continue onto your job.

Or.. you can just "give the dog a bone" I mean come on, if he has to do something like that to make himself feel better then his HR wife must be emasculating him on a regular basis (either that or he has a small penis and has to be aggressive to women to make himself feel better) Just let his insults slide off because really, poor man. He must be so insecure to think that being mean is how you get respect and power. Such a small, pathetically weak minded man like that is not worth your tears or the stress.

You do your job well, of course you do, if you didn't then you wouldn't be employed. As long as you know that and get the job done. His words shouldn't mean much. You have people that love and adore you I'm sure. He probably doesn't (his poor wife must be sick to death of him). Worse comes to worse you can apply for jobs and then when you secure one you can quit the one you currently have? If it gets really bad (things like workplace bullying can be so terrible for mental health. There have been cases of employees suing for pain and suffering) then you should quit the job. Even if it feels like defeat, the long term mental effects of workplace bullying isn't worth the money.

I'm sorry if my advice is bad. lol. I was actually just on your profile to check out your merthur works *blushes* Thank you for your amazing fics btw~

Feb. 11th, 2013 11:56 pm (UTC)
I wish I knew how to help :( Sadly, those things happen to me too. I think that it happens to every decent human being. I am a 21 year old law student, I know my shit, I know how to destroy a man legally speaking, and yet it didn't stop me from getting scared like a 10 year old girl when some drunk bully decided to harass me while I was on my way home (alone).
My father gave me a good advice, he told me to get some self defense class. I did and it helped. It really did. Now, I am not Jackie Chan, but knowing that I can defend myself at least a little bit really helped me. Go have fun. Surround yourself with friends. Don't let that man -those men- make your whole life miserable. They're not worth it.
I hope it gets better for you, hon'. Your boss's boss is an asshole. Don't let him have any effect on you, it will make you feel more miserable if you do.
I am french so my English is a little rusty but I hope you understood what I am trying to say. It will get better. :)
Feb. 24th, 2013 10:42 pm (UTC)
From experience of my cousin: get a phone or a mp3 recorder. Discretly record each conforntation if you can (keep the phone on the desk during the meeting etc.). Not for blackmail or anything like that. To later listen to it in your own house. Play it once, twice, as many as you need to in the safety of your own flat to hear what pile of rubbish he is telling and understand that at the end of the day, he acts like a moron. You will:
a) get used to his "yelling" voice and at some point it should stop bothering you that much - because you will be used to hearing that in a space where you feel safe and secure - you will build your resistance
b) it may help you to focus in real life on all the bullshit he is saying rather than the feelings of fear and discomfort. My cousin described it as seeing her boss as one of the most stupid politicians who talks nonsense every time he is shown on TV. Now she actually feels pity towards him during the meetings.

If he won't change, you have to built your resistance towards him. And change your job when possible

Meantime - take care and be strong.
( 24 punches — Punch it )



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