Ask Dr. Christina: Help! I’m Being Bullied at Work!

Dear Dr. Christina,

I got my first job after graduating from high school 6 months ago. I am working at a fast food chain, and I am planning to go to college next fall. I was trying to earn some money for clothes and supplies. I thought I was doing great and I was so proud of myself. My manager complimented me often too.

I thought I might even be promoted; but after 3 months, things started to change after I made a couple of mistakes with some customer orders. Both my manager, who I will name Beth, and my co-workers began at first to just kid me about the mistakes. Then they started saying things like “And you think you’re going to make it in college? You are too stupid and can’t even get our orders right!” I sometimes feel humiliated because Beth, my manager, will start criticizing me in front of my customers, and now she has been giving me the jobs no one wants to do, like cleaning the toilet, putting out the garbage, and mopping the floors. She, and now my co-workers, are calling me names. They make me feel like I am too stupid to be out in this world.

I am beginning to feel like I am such a failure because this has been going on nonstop. When I go home, I just want to cry. I have also been losing weight. I am beginning to think that I shouldn’t go to school. 

Is this me? Am I such a loser? I am trying my best but it seems it is not good enough. My parents say I should stick it out and continue to show them my best. They will eventually see how smart I really am. They say I am too sensitive and making a big thing out of nothing. Am I? 



Dear Sherri,

First, I would like to say that I am so proud of you for taking the initiative to find work prior to going to college. It shows that you have been thinking ahead about earning money for clothes and supplies.

I would like to apologize to you for having to experience this sad situation in your first job. This is what we call bullying and mobbing. What is that? Bullying is when there is one person who picks on you or harasses you. Mobbing is when you have a “gang of co-workers” who engage in trying to degrade or humiliate you. They attack your dignity, integrity, and competence.

When you experience the type of behavior your manager and co-workers persistently and chronically direct toward you, it begins to instill fear in you. It can prevent you from performing at your best. Pretty soon it can impact your personal relationships as well.

Usually it begins with a small correction. You are told and made fun of once in a while. At some point, it can then escalate to correcting you in a loud voice in front of others. Once this occurs, others—meaning your co-workers—begin to participate in the badgering.

Abuse can come in many forms. You happen to have been affected by this behavior more deeply because it persisted for 3 months, not just one time.

Mobbing and bullying in the workplace is on the rise. It is even discussed quite frequently in the media. It does not matter if you are male or female. Believe it or not, female managers can really have a severe impact on the people who report to them directly and can at times be more viscous and vindictive than men.

What does bullying and mobbing in the workplace look like?

1)      Yelling

2)      Spreading rumors

3)      Criticizing you publicly and privately

4)      Making fun of you

5)      Isolation

6)      Control of information and not telling you

What are some things that can be done about this?

1)      Recognize that you have not done anything wrong and that you are the victim. Inform your Human Resources department.

2)      Find another job.

3)      If this has affected you physically or mentally, then seek appropriate care.

4)      Management of any corporation needs to be informed and be vigilant so they can stop any early signs of mobbing or bullying.

Who are these bullies?

1)      They can be anyone, especially if as managers they are being pressured by their own managers.

2)      Sometimes these managers may have had similar experiences when they started their jobs and have past injuries or may have deep scars from their own childhood traumas. Because of these experiences, they may think it is okay for them to do it to you.

3)      It could be someone who never felt supported, who was not given any validation as a child, or who was severely traumatized to such a degree that it has led them to be so abusive to their subordinates.

If you stay there, can you experience any injuries?

1)      Physical illness – losing weight, high blood pressure, sleep disorders, ulcers or heart problems.

2)      Mental illness – anxiety, depression, nervous breakdowns, PTSD (post-traumatic stress syndrome), low self-esteem, or suicide.

Sherri, this issue will not go away if you try to ignore it. It could become worse, and you will be forced to put up with this. I assure you!

You have not done anything wrong. No matter how hard you try to resolve this conflict on your own, you may never be able to resolve it because it is not really about you. You are certainly not a loser or a quitter. You would be smart just to leave that position and perhaps find another place and job where you will be appreciated.

You do not need to listen to people who are trying to harm you. You do not have to lose weight because of something you have no control of. I can tell by you writing this letter that you truly care, not only about yourself but about others who find themselves in this same position.  You have now given them the freedom to move on.

Go! Enjoy college, and do not let anyone stand in the way of your dreams and aspirations.  I am so proud of you!

Dr. Christina

  • Posted By: DRC Editor
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