Who can anyone trust in these sorts of workplaces, when people seem to exist just to make others' lives as miserable as possible? IF the victims were lucky enough, they could get some shred of revenge back on their tormentors. Content has been edited for clarity.
She Completely Turned The Tables
“I used to have a mean-spirited, insecure co-worker who was always stirring things up around the office instead of working. Once in front of another co-worker, she offered me a job as her ‘assistant’. She went into great detail and described how it would be such a fabulous opportunity for me. I could do my job, but as her assistant, for 20% of her salary rather than 100% of mine! What she didn’t know is that part of my job at the time as office manager was doing the payroll. So calmly, in front of her chosen audience, I replied that while I was flattered, I currently made more money than she did. That I was currently receiving company profit sharing, so I was already getting paid based on her production, as well as everyone else in the office. In addition, I also had medical coverage and a 401(k) that she didn’t have because her contract was as an independent contractor, and mine was as an employee.
I was kind of incredulous that she didn’t realize that her ‘opportunity’ would be a huge pay cut for me. She was dumbfounded because at the time she thought she was the most highly compensated member of our team, but her contract wasn’t nearly as good as mine. She also had a major image going with the big car and loud clothing that must have cost a fortune to maintain. But I knew the truth because I wrote her paychecks.
I later read in some silly magazine that if you are troubled by a more productive co-worker, you hire your biggest competition as your assistant and then in a few months ‘let them go’ as a power move that establishes you as top dog and rids you of unfavorable comparisons. I still choose to take it as a huge compliment that she was that threatened by me, as I tend to think of myself as a kind of quiet, steady force with nothing to prove. At the time we all kind of felt sorry for her and let her pull her antics to be the center of attention because she really needed that ego boost.
Another time, in front of an important client of mine, she popped into my office and told me that she was sorry to interrupt, but that she kept forgetting to tell me that she had cleaned out her closet and her husband had just taken it down to the local thrift store. In the most condescending voice, she gleefully explained that since she knew I bought ALL my clothing second hand, she really, really wanted to be sure to tell me, since she knew I was tight on money.
Again, in front of her chosen audience, I replied that of course I was a much smaller size than her and then helpfully mentioned another person who was much larger than her and told her to be sure to let her know. When she left my office, my client asked, ‘What the heck was that all about?’
I explained that she was trying to embarrass me and for the life of me, I couldn’t begin to imagine with all the beautiful, successful ladies in the office, why I was the one she was most threatened by. My client then said that she, too, shopped second hand and that she only had more respect for me knowing that I did as well. It actually gave us yet another aspect to bond over and made her even more loyal to me in the following years. We laughed about this incident so many times!
Eventually my boss finally had enough of her shenanigans and let her go. Once she was gone and all the little petty disturbances halted, peace prevailed in the kingdom! Mention her name anywhere in my small town, and stories like this always come up. Her drama has caused her to lose respect all over town and it is kind of like a one-up-this-joke when everyone tells what she did to them.
The best advice I can give is to stay calm, understand that this is a small child who so desperately needs attention and will go so far as to throw a tantrum to get it. Also realize that this person will never suspect that you are on to them, so it helps to let them play out their nonsense and underestimate everyone’s ability to see through it. It is especially satisfying to stay calm and turn it around on the bully in front of their chosen audience.”
“He Got Inches From My Face”
“I was working at a Panera in the Bakery section. Our computers for the registers were slow and had been freezing randomly for the past several weeks. We had a rush on one of the days that this issue was most irritating. I had a customer place their order with me, but prior to paying for the order, my computer froze. I reached out to my supervisor about the issue, but he told me to just wait it out. Knowing about computers, I know a frozen system does not just magically restore itself. So there I stood waiting on the computer to magically restart itself while smiling like a fool to the customers. He continued to ignore my requests for assistance and would only stop to actually yell at me to finish taking the order.
Finally, I rummaged underneath the counter and unplugged the computer. This forced the system to finally reset and I reentered the entire order from memory. The system was still unstable and was slow to respond. I made two attempts to enter the customer’s chosen name, apologized profusely to the customers for all the delays, and took their payment, finally completing the order.
I stopped taking orders and started focusing on filling the orders for my peers, since my computer was not working correctly. When the lines had finally gone down, the shift manager summoned me to the back of the store. Two people were back there prepping food products for the next day. While in front of both of them, he began to scream at me. ‘How could you!? Your behavior is utterly unacceptable! I cannot believe what you did! You utterly lack maturity and professionalism!’
I had no idea what he was talking about nor yelling over. He was going red in the face, crowding into my personal space, spitting as he yelled, and waving his arms. This man is roughly 6?7? and I am 5?7? in height. The two people prepping the product watched uncomfortably as he screamed in my face.
After he got inches from my face screaming, they gathered their stuff and retreated into the refrigerator. I tried to back away from him as he screamed and flailed around, following me closely. I told him I have no idea what he’s talking about. I asked him to tell me what’s going on. Instead, he crowded me into a corner with literal walls behind me. I began to cry because I am claustrophobic and I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I was sobbing and pleading with him to clarify what he was upset about. I cowered in the corner and can barely recall if anyone was around any longer to see. He finally screamed, ‘Get out of my sight!’
So I ran! I grabbed my coat and purse and scurried toward the door. On my way out, he bellowed across the restaurant, ‘Don’t Ever Come Back Here Again!’
I do remember feeling all the customer’s stares and the cruel judgement in their eyes. I left the Panera and got to my car. I could not drive. I was shaking, sobbing, and struggling to breathe. I cannot recall how I got home, from leaving the restaurant to coming to in the shower, there is no memory.
To this day, I have moments of panic when I recall this incident. More painful was the knowledge many of my peers saw the incident and the lasting memory is of me running from the restaurant in tears being yelled at. For the record, I never found out what he was yelling at me about. I heard rumors he accused me of swearing in front of customers. Nothing was ever said to me again about what his issue was. He went over the Store Manager’s head to the District Manager to have me fired. The Store Manager transferred him to another store. She called me and told me she was concerned over his behavior during the incident, especially given he involved the District Manager and went over her head.”
“Like A Poisoned Needle In My Heart”
“A co-worker accused me, in front of all my co-workers and some clients, of stealing design ideas from a well-known designer and calling them my own. It was both untrue and uncalled for. It had nothing to do with the presentation I was making, and it pulled the show off the rails and into a swamp of his imagination. It hit me like a poisoned needle into my heart, and I suppose he planned that. I let him run his mouth. I let him go on and on about the special abilities he had to detect deceptions in our field of work. It was clear he was completely full of it and had no basis for his claim. But, since he deliberately tried to destroy my credibility in front of my friends, co-workers and clients, I was honor-bound to respond with friendly fire.
I asked him where did he see the work the famous designer produced based on my designs? The room laughed as my accuser tried to correct me, but I went on with a certain laid back gusto.
‘Okay,’ I told my accuser, ;You bring me that example and I’ll pay you five bucks. If you can’t find it and bring it in, then you owe me five bucks, unless you want to raise the stakes to $100, to make it more interesting. I have $100 and can show it, do you have $100 you can show?’
My accuser became furious, and hissed that he doesn’t bet. ‘Okay, we’ll do it your way. Bring your evidence in for free and save me five bucks’, which pretty much won me the debate, especially after the confused and mildly angry client offered to kick in $5 just so I could continue with my presentation. I assured the client I would easily win the $100, since I did not steal anyone’s design, and I’d take him out for a drink with the winnings.
To the accuser I asked aloud, ‘What is a good day to wrap that all up? When can you bring in your evidence?’
All eyes were now on the accuser. ‘It’s your call, when can you bring in the evidence, or admit there isn’t any evidence forthcoming?’
There were hilarious response all around. The accuser rushed out of the room to smoke on the sidewalk below, and I finished the presentation. The result was that my accuser hated me with poison daggers across the room for months. He just couldn’t believe I would stand up to his assassination attempts and burn him down so completely without blinking.”
The Scent Of Evil
“I have a chemical sensitivity, so I get migraines when people wear certain perfumes or lotions. It’s a common medical condition and a lot of work places have a no fragrance policy in the dress code. Three jobs in a row, people intentionally spray a fragrance or put on a lotion knowing it bothered me. I googled HR advice each time and followed it. It was mostly just approaching the person one on one and saying, ‘I’m sorry to be a pain, but I get migraines from fragrances and I’ve noticed that the scent you put on after lunch, while lovely, really impacts my productivity in the afternoon.’
If needed you can mention that it’s not allowed as per company policy. A normal person will say, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m sorry. I’ll find a different lotion.’
First job, the lady escalated it to the point where she was bringing huge bouquets to her desk and bundles of fresh lavender. She got in trouble eventually because people complained her flowers were causing allergy problems for other people and bringing bugs in.
Workplace #2, the senior on my team put bath and body works lotion on every time I walked by her desk and/or when she came back to hers. She would loudly say, ‘I wonder if anyone can smell this from here,’ and she enlisted her friends to come by to use it.
Workplace #3, the manager on the neighboring team refused to stop using it and I had to move desks. She enlisted the senior on her team who sat near my new desk to put it on. She’d say, ‘I wonder if she can smell this from here,’ as well. I told my boss I was going to HR and that I was considering quitting. I was getting nauseous on a daily basis and taking migraine medicines all the time. She had a meeting and they stopped. But then the team behind us all got bath and body works lotion for Christmas from their boss, and that was a whole different battle.
Each time I was labeled as difficult, hard to work with, and someone who doesn’t know how to pick her battles. I was never able to get promoted. Funny enough, each time I was approached by strangers and thanked for speaking up, because their migraines were triggered as well but they had been afraid to speak up.
I requested a transfer at work 3 weeks ago and it was denied because of my ‘reputation’ from the perfume incident TWO YEARS AGO. My boss’s boss said, ‘I’m not sure what manager would want you.’
I knew it was time to leave. My last day at my current job is next Friday. I don’t know what is next. I’m looking at remote jobs or getting out of the corporate ladder. I lost faith in humanity when I saw people intentionally cause pain to another person for entertainment. I want to work somewhere where people aren’t like that. I’m sure it exists somewhere.”
One More Trick Up His Sleeve
“Over the span of my career, I’ve had some truly AMAZING managers that were good at their job as well as really nice people, AND some real stinkers that did things that were not only unethical, but bordered on being illegal. At one particular job, I had actually had two different department heads in succession. The first guy was one of those amazing ones. Smart, hard-working (great example setter), competent in their knowledge, always willing to give a compliment when it was due. The rigors of his job were such that he requested an administrative assistant, which he got, but then he was continually asked to do more and project management tasks that were not technical in nature, so he requested a Project Manager. Surprisingly, this person was hired as well.
Technically, my boss and this new guy were equal in rank, but the new guy ran group meetings and updated us on things going on company-wide. Now the new guy was OK. He came from a great company and on paper looked like he knew what he was doing, but socially he never quite fit in very well. But then my boss got a job offer from a competitor that he just couldn’t pass up. So the new guy is now my boss and that’s when things started to fall apart.
The new guy was prone to saying things that either outright offended people, or at the very least were just really awkward. For example, in a manager’s meeting, he apparently stated that he would rather ONLY HIRE single people who did not have family commitments, because in his opinion, they could concentrate on their work better. This was stated in a room full of mostly married managers and company executives. I found out later on that this guy had been given the nickname ‘the little Nazi’, partly due to his short height and the fact that his name was very German sounding.
This guy also had an issue with how I did my job. Specifically, he did not like that I was so friendly and cordial with the people I provided tech support. His attitude was that I should keep my head down and keep communication to a minimum. I wasn’t paid to be nice, I was being paid to keep certain computer systems running that were critical to production in the company. Since we had another person doing a job similar to mine, this guy started trying to figure out how to replace me, but he needed justification. When he couldn’t find any, next he started giving me all the lousiest assignments and generally treating me like I was dirt.
Other people noticed and stuck up for me. When it became clear that his plans for me were not working out, plus other behind the scenes things that I never knew about, he decided to leave. But before he left, he gave a promotion to a guy that I had hired in as a support person. Not a manager or anything higher than a front line tech support person. This promotion, upon his leaving, made my current assistant my boss. This guy had ZERO management experience, had never managed people previously, and was thrust into a job he had no business doing. But because of other changes going on at the company at the time, no one really took a second look at the situation.
In hind sight, I should have quit and let the department fall apart, but I couldn’t do that to the people I supported, so I stuck it out until I was finally laid off about a year later. The former assistant, now my boss, didn’t’ bother to fight to keep me on staff either. It only took the company about 3 or 4 months to realize that they didn’t need a highly paid manager for a group that only had one person in it.”
“Panic Attacks In The Bathroom And Nightmares Every Night”
“I had a few occasions at my previous job. I worked at a publishing company as an assistant to two editors. One of them was amazing (we’ll call him E1) and always had my back, when the other one (E2) would constantly ream me for stuff that was her fault. E2 ‘worked from home’ in another city. I was warned by other co-workers that she was a nightmare and didn’t know how to do anything, despite being there for over 20 years. She was responsible for two assistants quitting because she would overwhelm them with all of her work and then be really nasty and condescending if something was done wrong. It was usually done wrong, as per her instruction.
When the two assistants finally had enough and quit, she contacted IT and convinced them to give her their passwords. She then went through all of their emails and Skype Messages to see if they were talking about her. Needless to say, they were! They said she was useless and miserable and that she was toxic to work with. She complained to our boss and he told her, ‘Well maybe if you didn’t waste your time snooping through peoples’ private conversations and spent more time doing your job, you wouldn’t be called useless.’ Apparently this upset her and made her cry. She was definitely not mentally stable.
I happened to fall into the same trap as my predecessors. It was my first week into the job and she had already complained to the girl who trained me that I didn’t know how to do anything, and it was stressing her out and taking time away from her playing with her granddaughter. The girl told me not to worry and that I was doing great and learning fast. Whenever I would ask E2 questions, which was always encouraged by management and E1, she would say, ‘You should know!’ or, ‘Figure it out!’
I would have to go to E1 or another co-worker since I was new. They were all very helpful and would tell me not to pay her any mind because she was lazy and an absolute nightmare. She never learned how to do anything out of sheer laziness and made her assistants do everything. I managed to survive a stressful and anxiety filled year and a half of dealing with her constant demands and insults.
We had weekly meetings on Wednesdays and there were a few times when she was supposed to call an author about their book cover, since I didn’t have their contact info. I would remind her every day during a check-in phone call, at her request because she wanted to micromanage me, but she would never get around to doing it. She would also miss a lot of important phone calls with authors that I would schedule for her. However, she couldn’t get mad at me because it was on her calendar. One of my co-workers even joked that she was too busy watching realty TV. During the meetings, she would chew me out over the conference call in front of the whole team, saying how I need to be on top of things and how I was terrible at my job.
It made working there so intolerable because she was close with one of the managers and would always turn her against everyone. I had written proof of her going off on me because she thought I messed up a contract and sent it out to an author, which I didn’t. She had to apologize to me out of fear I would go to HR. When I did finally plan to go to HR, as suggested by E1 and other co-workers, she had already beaten me to it and got E1 involved. She was unclear about a major detail while I was drafting a contract and every time I asked her a question, she would pull her same song and dance because she didn’t want to be bothered. I would even ask E1 for help and he would tell me everything looked fine. Apparently it wasn’t because the author wanted specific rights and he didn’t get them. This got me terminated, since of course she didn’t want to take accountability as she was notorious for passing the buck.
It was one of the happiest days of my life because I was free from having to deal with her nonsense every day. It was so bad to the point where I was having panic attacks in the bathroom and nightmares every night. She made me doubt my intelligence and capabilities. Eventually I realized that none of that was true and that if everyone hates one specific person, it’s usually because they are the problem. In the end I won, because I got a nice severance package and got to collect unemployment for 6 months. I found an awesome job where I’m excelling and don’t have to deal with toxic, lazy people. At this job, I get praised for my intelligence and if a mistake is made, I’m met with, ‘Don’t worry, we’re all still learning,’ which is a nice change over someone who was constantly implying that I was stupid.”
The Perfect Way To Get Back
“One afternoon, my boss came downstairs and asked me if I was able to get the figures for the monthly report (she asked me this question in front of three of my co-workers). I replied, ‘I am very sorry, but I forgot, it completely slipped my mind. I will get on it right away and have it ready for you by the end of the day!’
The next morning, I was standing at the front desk with two of my co-workers, just talking and laughing, enjoying a cup of coffee before starting the work day. All of a sudden the boss lady appeared and without uttering even a simple ‘Good morning’, she slammed down a notebook on the counter. With a smirk on her face and in a very stern voice, she looked at me and said, ‘Marie, this is your notebook. From now on everything I say to you, you will write it down immediately, so that you don’t forget anything I say to you anymore. Do I make myself clear?’
I stood there stunned and in shock. She turned to walk back to her office, then turned around and said, ‘One more thing, Marie. Every time I see you, you better have that notebook with you, do you understand!?’ Then she stormed off.
For a few seconds we all stood there shocked and stunned by her behavior. I was so embarrassed to be humiliated in front of my co-workers like that! What nerve! Just then, one of my co-workers picked up the notebook and threw it into the trash. I gasped! I reached to pull the notebook out of the trashcan, my co-worker put her hand on me and said, ‘No, leave it there, that’s where it belongs.’
I said, ‘Well I don’t want her to see me without the notebook, or you know what’s going to happen.’
They said, ‘Don’t worry, it’ll be alright.’
So I left the notebook in the trash can, and all of us put trash on top of it, then carried it out to the dumpster.
About one month after that incident, my boss lady was talking with a few of us when one of my co-workers asked her if she remembered to call her supervisor, who had called looking for her earlier that day. She said, ‘OMG, I forgot, thanks for reminding me!’
Then one of the ladies looked straight at her and said, ‘Well maybe we will get YOU a notebook so you can write down everything we tell YOU so then YOU don’t forget!’
She didn’t say one word, and the witchy boss lady never said a word to me about THE NOTEBOOK.”
Taking Advantage Of The System
“In 2005, I worked with a female coworker, and let’s call her Kay. Kay and I knew each other before I started my job with her in her department in the MIS division of the museum. She would chat with me and cry on my shoulder about a roommate leaving her with unpaid rent issues. I would listen and give her advice and put a smile on her face, showing friendship and support that she acknowledged. We exchanged phone numbers. When I started working in her department, she was happy because another person she was cool with was now working directly with her. Or so I thought.
Sometime down she invited me to go out with her to a bar to talk. A guy she was dating cheated on her and left her. She bought rounds of drinks, I bought the next round, and so on. She didn’t live far from the job site. I decided I had to leave. When we walked out of the bar, she leaned in to kiss me. On the lips. I backed off and kissed her on the forehead. This to me was inappropriate. She was 25 years old. I was 34 years old, and we worked together. I got the feeling she was expecting that night to be a rebound night with me. I bid her good night. The next end of week, I asked her if she wanted to hang out and talk again, she would be more than welcome. Her reply was not if her eyes were gouged out and gasoline was poured over her. What?
Ok. Rude and weird. I stopped talking to her after that point. Completely. Then she began passing by my desk ten times a day at least doing a Clairol flip of her hair and clearing her throat loudly. I continued to ignore the childish behavior to get my attention. I was there to work not deal with whatever this was. Now before this or concurrent to this, she and I exchanged about 12 prank work emails, no nothing intimate implied. Do you know she went to HR and said I had harassed her ? And HR had a zero tolerance policy. They took me out of the building. Suspended me with pay while she still worked unimpeded. And they put my pictures up with security at all checkpoints denying me access to the museum, while they decided whether I would have a job there or not.
I was allowed to show my print-outs of all the emails she and I exchanged. This vindicated me and I was reinstated to my job. She was not fired but we were both warned for misuse of company property: the internet and email systems. And that we would both be terminated should such happen again. She was furious and livid. And for the remainder of that year, she went on a smear campaign to talk about it to all the women in our department who, aside from our managers, knew nothing about it. So I received frowns and cold shoulders from people who were decent or neutral and indifferent to me. And we were both told to not mention this incident outside of HR and our managers, but she defied it.
My boss kept stacking work at an unbelievable pace and increased my work duties to a point where I couldn’t have completed them without working into the weekends and late nights. I updated my resume. It was a political attempt to get me out of the office through poor work performance, essentially choking the horse while force feeding him. When I took vacation and came back, HR had two folders in front of the grinning slimeball of a VP of HR, who looked exactly like the mustache twirling villain that ties you to the train tracks. One folder had termination papers, and the other had 4 months of severance, golden references, vacation pay remaining, and my paycheck included. Checkmate.
While I was gone, the museum realized they made a huge legal mistake. By kicking me out and not doing their due diligence, I could have sued them for their punitive actions taken against me, which now proved to not be harassment at all as per the investigation’s conclusion. They waited until the statute of limitations was up and then they could concoct what they liked. When I came back, people were surprised to see me. They thought I had resigned long before. That was when I saw my boss look nervous and run to the Deputy CTO’s office and close the door and then the HR Snidely Whiplash came down. Checkmate. Well played I said.
Interestingly enough, the boss and deputy sat on my side of the table, leaving the HR hatchet man at the long end head of the conference table gloating and smiling. Meanwhile, the femme fatale and her coworkers were out getting pizza to celebrate my removal. Interestingly enough as a side note, I had nothing to pack. I left not defeated but lifted and buoyed. I saw the guy she was dating in museum security that she had paired herself off with recently as of then. I heard he later married her. He and I had no bad blood between us. I told him I wished him good luck and quoted something I heard Spock say in Star Trek. That he will come to find after a time that having is not so pleasing as wanting, that it is not illogical but it is often true.
I survived and moved on to greater things in my career. But the point is there are bad apples. And people with bad intentions regardless of gender. And it pays to be mindful of them.
We have harassment policies to protect legitimate victims of such actions. But we live in an imperfect flawed world where people exist to exploit and misuse such policies to further agendas of scorn and vindictiveness and outright revenge. And if we truly live in a society that weighs guilt and innocence fairly, then as much as we need to protect those victimized by predators at work, we need to insulate men and women who fall under attack to false claims of harassment that call their integrity, ethics, moral compass, and reputations of being good and honorable human beings that now is subjected to scrutiny and is open to being tarnished and tainted.”
A Beyond Intense Meeting
“The senior partner at the law firm where I worked had just returned from a trip overseas and called an office meeting to get himself up to date on a few things. It was also my first day back after attending a family funeral. I had one co-worker who was the office tattler. When the senior partner asked my supervising attorney how our trial prep had gone, she replied that the case had settled. The senior partner then said he understood there were some recent abuses of the attendance policy and when it was appropriate to take time off. Everyone seemed surprised, because the office environment and culture was generally that we were all grown-ups and if we needed days off or had an emergency, we just needed to have our work done or at least at a point where it could be easily handled by someone else.
Apparently my ‘know it all’ co-worker had gone to the senior partner (unbeknownst to my supervising attorney) and told him I had just up and left a couple of days before the trial was supposed to start. It was not a case I had worked on very much, and I was just helping pack up the trial exhibits in boxes. When the senior partner said he was happy that the case had settled despite the lack of team effort, I was feeling like something was amiss. So Know It All declares, ‘Thank goodness it settled, since Jen just up and left two days before trial to attend her (air quotes) niece’s funeral.’
She then went on to try to prove her point by producing all the obituaries for local newspapers and the obituaries from MY hometown paper. The senior partner, with a very unhappy look on his face, asked if it was true that I left for the last couple of days of trial preparation, and I replied that yes it was true. At that point, all eyes were on me and the questions were flying about why I thought that was appropriate and whether we needed to revisit attendance policies and when it was appropriate to take off, and didn’t I know that before a trial was NOT that time. I agreed that the timing couldn’t have been worse and that I would not have chosen for this to happen. I reached into my purse, pulled out the funeral program with my niece’s photograph on the front along with the obituary from the paper in my husband’s hometown, listing my husband and also me as surviving family members. You could have sliced the tension in the air that day. My supervising attorney did speak up and say I had explained the situation to her and offered to stay behind, but she told me I should definitely be there for my family and she was anticipating the case would settle anyhow.
Having anyone think I was shirking my job responsibilities was so humiliating. The last straw, before I decided I needed to leave this job I had loved for years, was when my coworker came into my office and started screaming at me for humiliating HER in front of the senior partner by telling the truth.
It was clear that it was time for me to go. I wish it had been her that left, but I was done.”