So long & thanks for all the fish

Empty chairs by an empty desk

Have you ever quit a job you loved?

I have.

I quit one of my previous jobs because of the way I, and many other people, were treated.

I was lucky enough that my request to move out of a team, for the same reason I left, was granted – and my desk, for the last two months of my employment, was in a secluded corner where very few people went, and if only to sit on the couch behind my desk for a bit of quiet-time.

The rude things people had said about me, which had started after about half a year working there, had circulated quickly, and the wonderful, warm place I thought my workplace was, was really just a facade. Being in that corner, away from those people, was almost comforting in a harrowing environment.

I would be lying if I said the bullying wasn’t at least partially my fault.

But then I realised, as with all victims – it is never the victim’s fault. Sure, people said things, but no one should ever have to put up with being teased, mocked, humiliated or picked on when they have done nothing to deserve being treated that way. I tried asking someone to stop, and that person did everything to mock the fact that I stood up for myself. I wanted to vomit when sexual innuendos were said around me. How dare you think it’s OK to sexualise women in the workplace.

Every now and then I would hear a thing or two, which didn’t always offend me, but offended other people. Discrimination is an issue in general, and maybe I shouldn’t be surprised, but in a professional environment I refuse to understand how or why any of that is tolerated. Even if you haven’t been bullied, even if you did tease someone else as a child, even if you did not speak up when you saw it happen – most people have the heart to at least feel sorry for someone who is a victim and not be a goddamn douche about it.

In this situation, no one dared talk, because everyone feared they would be heard, but never listened to.

This is what it’s like reading countless articles about discrimination in the workplace. This is what it’s like to see someone finally choke on their tears and put their hand up and say yes, I was bullied. Yes, someone was racist to me. Yes, they made my life hell. Yes, I was fired without a good reason. And with those hands, up go many others.

Because it should not be taboo to put your hand up and say this is not acceptable. It should not be a crime to file lawsuits, to leave at your own will, or even to do something as simple as report the issue to someone who can be trusted.

But what can I say? By the time I left, I couldn’t trust anyone.

Trying to escalate the issues was tiring, annoying, and made me feel like an outsider. People who were supposed to help tried to find ways to avoid helping. Much to my embarrassment, I cried in front of people who I thought could help me, including one person who proceeded to ask questions about my personal life that could have led to the bullying, and tried to force me to make friends with someone who treated me like dirt.

I had to convince people it was actually a problem before something was done about it. By then, it had already affected me mentally.

That is what people are afraid to admit. They are afraid to admit defeat when they become emotionally unstable as a result of the way they are treated. But this is also not something that should even happen.

It made me furious to hear the phrase ‘oh, that is just the way he is’, because a person’s existence does not give them the goddamned right to treat people like they don’t even matter – especially when those people are working for you.

It was the moment when a member of management victimised a friend of mine that I decided it was the last straw.

You are the ones asking to be bullied.

No one asks to be bullied. Bullying isn’t some sort of favour.

Unfortunately, staying there was not doing myself any favours.

So I left.

In my mind, the echoes of everyone with similar untold stories paved their way, with an unforgettable quote from management:

If you don’t like it, then leave.

Because we simply didn’t matter.

I wish it was possible to have made a difference. I almost wish that I didn’t find out what people had warned me about when they left the company only a month after I started. I wish no one had said a word.

But, ‘oh, that’s just the way he is’, right?

I am thankful for the experience and I have gone onto better things.

It was slightly comforting to know I was not the only person in this situation. Many people were treated worse. Others simply left when they saw all the negative points – the cliquey nature, the boisterous behaviour, and the layer of favouritism that dripped snobbishly from the top of the hierarchy to the lower levels, luring people in to follow supposed ‘role models’ who turned on their friends to get where they were.

Hard workers were treated like they didn’t matter, careless work was encouraged for short-term benefits, and you could hear a pin drop every time it was someone’s last day.

People whom I thought were amazing, humble and kind, had become arrogant, careless and inconsiderate.

There were a select few colleagues I grew fond of, whom I learned a lot from and also forged friendships with beyond work. I know I will be remembered by them as a hard-working and enthusiastic person. I know they recognised my efforts, and in fact got a little teary having to say goodbye to them. Things they would remember me for would be for my attitude towards life, my pescetarian diet, my funny nature, how good I was at being a front-end developer, and the fact that I absolutely, totally, undeniably, love tea.

There will always be people you will miss when you decide to move on in life. It goes to show that even though you will find yourself in hardship, treated wrongly by many people, or just hurt – you will still remember those who made a difference.

I had wanted to leave quietly, but unsurprisingly, not many people had the courtesy to respect my wishes. I’m pretty sure they knew why I left. They probably felt very proud that they had done nothing to help me, because who am I to them but another female cog in the works?

I went to a Girl Geek Sydney meetup recently, where a business manager shared her story of discrimination, being told that a male employee was preferred to do her managerial job for a project. She said that if you are still treated superficially after proving yourself and after bringing up issues like these – it’s not worth your time. And she’s right.

That company was not worth my time.

Leaving wasn’t easy, but I cared more about myself than I cared about them, and that, to me, was enough.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to shame or bring attention to any particular company. It is about experiences in a working environment. Any comments naming or attempting to name the company will be deleted.

Comments on this post

This is what my experience at my last job was. I was moved from the department I started in to one which was primarily thought of as a “mans” department. But I was the best at my job and quickly became the best at that one too…so naturally one of my coworkers started to hate me for no reason and spread rumors about me. When I went to management about it I was told “well you obviously have something to do with it if they’re talking about you.” So I went over their head to their boss, which for some reason pissed him off and he started in too. For the next two years I was denied raises and promotions that I deserved (even so far as to have that manager bring up things that never happened in an interview to try and discredit my worthiness of a promotion). By the time my husband convinced me I HAD to leave I was literally a mental wreck because a workplace that I had loved so much had turned so hostile over absolutely nothing other than the fact that I was a girl and I was better at my job than my male coworkers).

It’s taken me a long time to come around to the idea that none of it was my fault (later, several of those coworkers and some managers have reached out and apologized to me for letting themselves be manipulated by that one head manager). It absolutely sucks and nobody should have to go through that kind of crap while they’re just trying to make a living for themselves.

That is awful, Whitney, and I am sorry to hear that you were also affected mentally by the way you were treated at work. I think it is upsetting that some of those coworkers apologised when they really could have been on your side. I am so glad you finally left, and that in future you’ll be doing what you need to do to make sure you aren’t affected by a toxic work environment.

Unfortunately these things happen and only a few people talk about it. Maybe it’s because shame or fear or lack of willpower, either way nobody should so through that. . People shouldn’t put down other people, people shouldn’t shut up when somebody suffers because of bullying. It’s a really bad thing because everybody reacts different to bullying, and some people could end up committing suicide because of the emotional damage they suffered, which in my opinion is the same thing as murder.

I am glad that you found the courage to leave that workplace and you chose yourself. that’s the most important thing, to take care of yourself first.

I admire you for being strong and realising your worth and getting up and leaving. It’s never an easy situation and as I’ve shared in my previous experiences, I was scared to tell anyone and scared to open up and report someone who was in a higher position than me.

I have had situations when a comment has not directly offended me but offended my friends, more explicitly, Asian friends (Chinese). They would laugh and say mean things about their appearance, their accents and whatever else and although it wasn’t directed at me, I felt so upset that they were saying such horrible things. It always baffles me that professionals can act like that and that some workplaces are exactly like high school – filled with ignorant people! It’s a professional workplace for goodness sake.

I hate that lame excuse of, “that’s just how they are” No no no no NO. It’s exactly as you said, that does not give them ANY RIGHT to treat people that way or continue with horrible remarks.

Thank you for sharing your experience and story Georgie! You’ve really empowered me not to keep quiet about discrimination in the workplace. I just read that story about the girl from Squarespace too and that made my heart sink – absolutely unbelievable. It’s given me flashbacks of my first ever job, ugh, sickening!

Thank you for reading my post Pauline! This was the one I told you I was drafting when you came out about your work struggles many months ago. It can be hard to speak up especially if you feel like you might just be complaining or making a scene, but the bottom line is that you should feel safe and OK in a work environment. If you don’t have that, and if the people who are supposed to be caring for you are not doing that, it’s not a great situation to be in.

In speaking up about it, there is no doubt that we will find others in the same position. Many of us are scared to talk about it but we need to remember that we shouldn’t let ourselves be treated like this.

I recently crossed off 2 years at my current job, which happens to be my first job. It’s been a wonderful experience despite the fact that it is retail (I work in a bookstore, but trust me – it’s still a retail environment). I’m lucky for a fair number of reasons, the first and, in my opinion, most important being that all of my managers are and have been women.

What’s interesting is I have friends & family that have said female bosses are the worst, but in my case they’ve been the best. In situations where coworkers have been unfriendly or problematic, they step in immediately and don’t ask me more than the necessary questions (like what happened/what was said/how I felt/etc). I can’t say the same for some of my family and friends who’ve experienced bullying and mad management practices at work.

I haven’t been in a “professional” setting yet where I’m working in my career field, but I will say bullying and bad bosses is a fear of mine. I don’t like male bosses and quite frankly don’t enjoy male coworkers period. Maybe that’s a bizarre mindset, but I’ve had more problems with male coworkers than I’ve ever had with female. A particular incident was when a male coworker didn’t like that I was “telling him what to do,” even though I was only relaying what my manager had told me to tell him! It was such a mess and now we can no longer work together amicably.

I’m sorry for your own experience, but I’m glad you were able to get out of it. I think those experiences help us grow, even if they’re painful while they happen. *hugs*

That’s such a strange thing to say, that female bosses are the worst. It might be because women tend to be more intimidating in a leadership role – because, guess what, not many people expect to see female leaders, and there are not many out there either.

As someone working in the tech industry, I find myself almost always outnumbered. The majority of people I have worked with are men. Generally I find that I relate better with men compared to women, but maybe that is because I have not been around many women.

It’s unfortunate that that male coworker thought that of you. It makes me angry, in fact, and I have no doubt that he was just embarrassed and had too huge an ego to have a woman even just passing instructions to him. You will find that many men are like that. In a recent incident, a man in the web development community did not email me personally about something he expected from me, instead trying to pass it through a male coworker. This didn’t make sense to me, and I thought he might have been too intimidated to bother contacting me. As a result there was some annoying miscommunication and confusion.

My last job had a lot of discrimination. I was experiencing both [female] and mental health-related problems. I was stressed and tired. I couldn’t drive at night, something I didn’t even realise until I started working there and having to leave at night. I don’t see so great in the dark, and everything looks different.

The male manager looking over the cashiers often gave me flak for having so many doctors’ visits. Once, I had to show him proof of a mental evaluation and the intended plan, even though doing so made me feel uncomfortable and weird. The day before, I’d been off and he called to try to get me to come in. My grandmother yelled at him saying I was in a mental clinic, which didn’t make anything better, and that he shouldn’t make me feel guilty about a day off.

I was really overworked. I know that’s “typical” for cashiers, but as an autistic, it was a nightmare. Sensory overload was a common thing.

That evening, I was going to clock out. People were talking and whispering. I knew they knew. They didn’t have to pat me on the back. I could see it in the way they looked at me.

Later, I asked a CM if I could go home because I was feeling overwhelmed. I’d had a flashback whilst checking out a customer and didn’t trust myself to work well. I was suicidal, which didn’t help. I was certain I’d seen a car explode in the ditch before the police station/DMV on the way to work. I confessed this to her, but am pretty sure she thought I was just being dramatic. She put me in a less-busy lane/part that didn’t get much traffic. Going home could have allowed me the ability to relax and not have so much sensory overwhelm.

Another time, I was sick with strep and had a 104.3F temperature, but no one would let me go home because it was Christmas Eve and they thought I was faking. I paid $100 for a stupid emergency clinic visit to be diagnosed with strep throat the the 27th. The doctor said my staying at work Christmas Eve (8 hours) and forcing myself to stay on my feet stressed it more. I was SICK. I was also told I could have walked out and they couldn’t have done anything.

I was bullied about my ovarian cysts by the preppy male manager and about my autism by select other employees. And I couldn’t speak up, because the male manager covered that, too: he said he’d find out if I reported anyone, he would find out and who would believe the crazy autistic girl who’s always having “women’s issues”?


(Hug emoji)

On with what I was trying to say:

This kind of stuff isn’t okay. It’s harassment, but even if a person tries to report it, they’re discriminated and basically treated like they should suck it up. It shouldn’t matter what one’s gender, rank, race or education level is. The people harassing and bullying should be penalized and judged for it instead of the other way around.

Not totally all of the point I was trying to make, but…stuff happened so. :/

That is sickening and horrible, Liz. I am so sorry that you were treated that way. It’s terrible that when you tell people the truth and hope that they are supportive, they turn and put the blame on you or behave like it is not their concern. The worst thing people can do in the workplace is not believe you simply because they think you are ‘being dramatic’. We’re all human, damn it. We have feelings.

I would take that manager’s word as a threat. I cannot believe someone could behave like that. Some workplaces lack HR or someone who can really help with these issues, and in my experience, that’s a sign to turn away. :(

I am glad to hear that you took action and quit the workplace that wasn’t treating you right. No one should be working at a company where discrimination takes place. Just because someone’s a certain gender, race, practice different beliefs, or are different doesn’t grant anyone else the right to treat that person bad.

The phrase, “That’s how he is.” is not a good reason to let someone get away with being a discriminating jerk. How will society progress if everyone is acting that way? This is not acceptable, especially for a managerial-level staff. They’re setting the example and this shouldn’t be condoned.

I’m happy that you’re working elsewhere and it sounds like you’re having a much better time there. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope this empowers other people to speak up and not let this be a reason why they’re consumed.

We’re in 2016. People should learn to not put down others because of who they are. The fact that these people feel that bullying (especially at a workplace) feeds their ego is sickening.

I’m in the tech industry where I’m usually swarmed by guys. If they think they can say or do something that will make me uncomfortable, they have another thing coming!

As a fellow gal in the tech industry, I support and encourage you 100% to speak up about any issues that you may experience at work around sexism! 😊

I hate junk like that. Sadly it seems to happen in a lot of places. Sadly prople like to back stab or show favoritism. I get it a lot where I work. I know how you feel.

And as for the asking to be bullied, that’s bull. No one asks for that. That’s just something bullies say to make it seem okay.

Never been bullied at work, but I have been bullied elsewhere socially with people. I’m sad and frustrated this happened to you, because it isn’t right, and not even right, but the fact that it helps a lot to women and by either other women or men in general. It’s just frustrating and hurtful that this kind of things has to keep perpetuating. People need to continue to speak up against this kind of behavior and while the problem may never really go away, it can be minimized.

It’s unfortunate but it’s the truth that discrimination, racism, sexism, and ageism all happen in a professional environment. It is mind boggling how someone can think that bullying is okay or that the fact that someone would deliberately hurt someone because they think they can. It’s also disappointing and frustrating when people try to justify bullying into a reason they think it’s okay when it shouldn’t ever be.

That’s awesome that you made the decision to leave, because making those kinds of decisions can be really hard. It’s super important to take care of yourself first. Standing up for others is hard, but so is standing up for yourself.

Thanks for sharing your experience with us and I’m glad you’re on your way to better things! *Hugs*

I’m so sorry that this happened to you :( Stories like this are upsetting because you wouldn’t expect bullying and discrimination in the work place, but it happens so often. I mean, we’re all adults in a professional setting, right? Why do people think this kind of behavior is ok?

“Just the way he/she is” should never be a valid excuse. I have also cried at work before while complaining about someone who I found extremely hard to work with. I found that she was always blaming people, looking down at people, and getting in the way of progress. She did not treat people well at all. Fortunately, after speaking up about it, a couple others did too, and something was done about it. It definitely made me feel better that I was taken seriously and made me wish I didn’t wait so long. It’s unfortunate that many are afraid to do it, but I think it’s worth doing. If anything, it tells you what kind of work place it is based on their actions afterwards.

I’m glad you left the toxic workplace and moved onto to something better. I hope that you don’t have to go through that again!

I’m sorry you had to face this, Georgie. It’s definitely not okay to blame you or any victim for being at the job (“If you don’t like it, then leave” um what?). The workforce may be competitive and tough but it is no place to gain power by harassment and bullying, even though that’s what usually happens.

I’ve had two jobs (and two internships) in the tech field and I would say I faced discrimination at both my jobs. My first job I felt like the only time I could contribute is if I talked about dating. The boss was also a sexist who hired more women to be secretaries than he hired developers (the secretaries also got paid more). I couldn’t wait to be out of there and I thought I found my place at my second job, the one I quit this summer. The environment and pay was much better, but I couldn’t help but slowly become depressed by the sexism. I had conflicts with one coworker as well – I don’t think he ever intended to hurt me but it seemed like he could get away with whatever he wanted while my feelings were unimportant.

A lot of people believe just sticking to a job, but our well-being is more important than any job.

The part that angers me is when some people can easily get away with behaving this way. I am sorry that your experience affected you, but I am glad you are no longer working at either of those places. As a fellow female friend in tech, I totally support you in standing up for your rights and standing up to people who do not treat you right. :D

This post hits me quite hard in some ways. Now that I am away from my own previous abusive managers, I can see that I was also a victim of workplace bullying, but at that time it was hard it happening to me. Then again, there were other things that made it complicated for me, so that’s why I wasn’t able to distinguish them from bullying and just accepted it as normal behaviour.

I’m glad you had the courage to leave your previous workplace. I didn’t have much of that courage, nor did I have enough options to take by quitting my workplace. I think it was horrible that those people couldn’t just leave you alone and let you leave quietly. You were trying to do things without making a huge fuss, but they couldn’t even respect that. Ugh. I get we all don’t have to like each other, but we can at least still be civil and at the least leave each other alone and only interact when it’s necessary. There are no need for the extra unwanted behaviours and comments!

Thank you for posting this, Georgie. This has certainly made me think about workplace bullying/drama and my own experiences, too.

Georgie, thank you so much for writing this. I hope by writing it all down, it’s provided some clarity for you and verified even more that the workplace you wrote about is not normal and should never be considered “normal”.

I’ve also left a workplace because of bullying by a female employee, and when I resigned the manager (also female) knew why I was leaving, and asked me to stay. Instead of proactively dealing with a case of bullying, she sat back and watched it all happen.

Ironically, she went on to work in a Women’s Banking section of one of the big four banks.

Since then, I’ve worked in other friendly and not so friendly workplaces and built up my own criteria for judging workplaces. I have specific questions I ask in interviews to determine what kind of culture it is, and do research by asking past employees their thoughts, as well as use tools like

I really think there should be a black-list for workplaces to give others some warning.

I know this is an old post but i still want to comment.

I am perfectly aware that there is no such thing as the ideal perfect workplace and i know how dirty a workplace can be because people in general would do shit just to be safe even if it means trample on someone who does not deserve it. In Indonesia, it’s quite the same too; i mean of course, not every company has asshole workers but this is also the reason why thinking about going to work and be an employee terrifies me and gives me panic attacks. I’m scared of the potential bullying and although most people would be like “geez, don’t be a crybaby. That was just a joke” the fact that some people are making fun of others just because they think it’s humorous makes me sick to my stomach. Also, sexism and racism are still such a huge thing in this country, in this world too and the reason “that’s just how he / she is” is probably one of the stupidest excuses ever written in human history. People make me sick most of the time.

My friend, who is currently doing her internship, has an example of a working environment that makes me think thousands of times before having the courage to actually apply a job. One of the bosses in the company loves to tease his employees with sexist and insensitive jokes and oh gahd, just listening to her stories make me sick. That supervisor joked and teased my friend by asking questions like “oh you’re wearing jeans today? Ooooooh where’s your leg? Where’s your leg? You said you have a tattoo on your leg, where is it? Show it to me~” it’s so damn disgusting. I don’t understand the humor of Indonesian locals; they think it’s okay and hilarious to call out a female employee like that. It’s kinda hard to find people who don’t have the mentality and behavior of pigs. My friend told me that she can’t quit now because if she quits then she’d have to find another company and redo her internship from scratch (our university requires us to do a 3 months internship) and that got me thinking: isn’t it the same if we were employees bound by contract? Imagine having to go through another year of facing these pigs just because the contract isn’t fulfilled!

It really disgusts me how much people can change. It reminds me of that rule where people end up joining the bullies side so they won’t become the bullied instead. It’s also unacceptable how some people think the victim has to “deal with it” because what to do when you are not the boss but merely an employee who can lose your job within the next 5 mins? I want to respect authorities but sometimes people abuse their label and level of hierarchy to get and do whatever the hell i want that i just think: fck it, i don’t care about authorities. Respect is earned, and not just because you wear a better and tailor made business suit than the rest of us in the company.

Of course, my solution is to target start up companies. I don’t fancy the idea of working for a large corporate. I’d rather be a designer in a start up company where the team may be small but we respect and appreciate each other. The smaller the group, the better. Some people may find it stupid because higher salary is ALWAYS the way to go, right? Not for me. I prefer working with people i am comfortable with and still receive decent amount of salary as opposed to working under the supervision of snobbish pigs.

I’m really happy every time i see someone stand up for themselves. The job may be amazing but if you are forced into accepting that you are their toy then it’s definitely not worth your time.

I hope my comment actually says something, lol. It sounds like i’m just blabbering nonstop, eh.

It’s probably worth mentioning that the company I was working for did have a start-up culture but had grown significantly. So it’s good to still be aware of that. I have heard of corporate companies having terrible culture, though.

I think it’s a real shame that in a country like Indonesia, sometimes you cannot defend yourself properly. I am not surprised because of how Indonesia is in general (I should know, haha). And I think it’s very wise of you to keep an eye out for these issues and go for companies that have a friendly, accepting culture.

In all honesty it comes from management, and if they are not setting a good example, employees will just follow suit and think that certain types of behaviour are OK when they are not. When you hire people, you don’t want to be hiring assholes – in fact, the company I work for now makes a point of saying that ‘there are no assholes here’. :) Next time you land an interview, make sure you ask the important questions about company culture, maybe ask why the role opened up and why previous people have left the company. It could give you a good idea as to what the culture is like.