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The Bully at Work

Image courtesy Funmi Kehinde 

Bully /ˈbʊli/
(Noun): someone who hurts or frightens someone who is smaller or less powerful, often forcing them to do something that they do not want to do .
Synonyms: persecutor, 
oppressor, tyrant, tormentor, browbeater, intimidator, coercer, subjugator, scourge
Cambridge Dictionary

I’ve often said that some of the problems we have in Nigeria are a result of people’s bad attitudes and mentality. A lot of times, we have very poor reactions to bad situations and afterwards, bad responses becomes the norm. 

I recently attended a job interview in Lagos and I guess it’s safe to say the organisation’s employees number in the hundreds. Anyway, besides waiting for hours before being addressed and eventually interviewed (which is sadly the experience of many), it was not a bad day. There must have been at least 40 people at the interview and as far as I’m aware, everyone was asked to return two days later. So, there I was on the agreed day chatting with three others seated with me while we waited for someone to address us. We’d been waiting for almost two hours when a lady approached me;

Aggressive lady: What are you here for?

Me: What am I here for? (It goes without saying that I was perplexed)

Aggressive lady: I asked you what you are here for?

Me: I was asked to return here today, we all were after the interview (I gesticulated to all of us seated and waiting)

Aggressive lady: Ehen, interview. That's what you should have said. Do you think everyone is here for the same reason?

She stalked off. The guys I was seated with looked at each other surprised. Did I know her? Was it beyond reason to expect her to have acted less offensively towards someone she didn’t know? See me see wahala o. For all I knew, she was a clerk on some random errand. How was I to know if some people were there for a different reason? I hadn’t even gotten the job and I was already reconsidering my application. 

Now, there is absolutely no way that I will put up with such aggressive behaviour at work. You see, something rather upsetting occurred at a previous place of employment and I’d rather never receive such treatment again. Here’s what happened.  One Wednesday in 2015, I was working on a PC and minding my business when a lady from the HR department advanced from my right. She’d been speaking with someone while I approached my desk and had briefly glanced my way. The conversation went something like this..

HR Chick: Mo.. Mora.. What is your name?

Me: ..Adeola (what the heck? I didn't even realise she was talking to me till she asked that.)

HR Chick: Stand up!

Me: :| (I'm thinking 'be nice, it's no big deal'. I stand up).

HR Chick: Your trousers are not comp..

Me: My trousers are not complete? :/

HR Chick: I said your trousers are not corporate

Me: My trousers are not corporate? (OK..Fair enough, point taken)

HR Chick: Yes! Why are you repeating everything I say?

Me: Because I didn't hear you clearly :(

HR Chick: Then you should have said so instead of repeating everything I say..yada yada yada

Clearly, this lady had a bone to pick with me because she kept on talking while I attempted to tune her out. Kini gbogbo eleyi gan? (What’s all this?) It vaguely occurred to me that she had attempted to call me by my other name, Morolawun. No one called me by that name at work because it wasn’t known to them. Why had she attempted to call me by a name that as far as anyone could guess, was my middle name? Had she been snooping through my file? By the way, prior to this drama, I’d never spoken to her, only seen her around. That made snooping the valid assumption. Her office was on the third floor while mine was on the ground floor for Pete’s sake.  Eventually, I sat down and responded to her rant.

Me: I've heard you o, Tito

Now, I could almost see steam pouring out of her ears. She was livid! It was a curious thing, really. 

 

HR Chick: What? I'm talking to you. In fact, stand up, go home and change.
Me: Excuse me? o_O

HR Chick: I said, go home and change!

I walked out. I was beyond furious. Why do some women treat others with such blatant disrespect? I know I look younger than I am but then, haba. She followed me out then headed towards one of my superiors to ‘report’. I was called back into the office to ‘explain myself’. A colleague of mine witnessed the whole thing, we were the only two present when she began her power parade. By the time I was called back, there must have been at least 6 people present besides me and HR Chick. The worst was yet to happen.

 

Superior 1: What happened?

Me: She asked me to stand up and I was like, OK..

HR Chick: That's a lie, you never said OK. You never said that..

Me: Should I speak or will you listen to her? 

Superior 1: Even your body language shows lack of cooperation. Continue..

Well, why wouldn’t it exactly? I had just been talked down to rather rudely by someone who should have known and handled herself better and it felt like I was before a jury ready to hand out a guilty verdict . Lest, I forget, I hadn’t accepted to be a side chick to Superior 1 during my second week on the job. I narrated what happened and asked my colleague to bear witness which she did. After speaking, in the presence of all in the room, HR Chick walked up to my right side and repeatedly pushed me on the shoulder:

HR Chick: L'aye l'aye e, never in your life..my name is Mrs..........................

I was shocked. I kept looking at her and my shoulder which she was tapping. Se, chick yi n mad ni? (Is this chick mad?) She dared to put her hands on me at work, in the presence of several witnesses and nobody made a move to stop her! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeh!! Was this really about my pants? 

Superior 1: Ah ahn Tito, a ti n ba wi now ( Come on Tito, we're admonishing her already)

That was all the reprimand she got? Why, was I being reproached, biko? I was processing all this in slow-mo when my HOD walked in. He took one look at the whole place and realised something was up so he was briefed. He then looked at me and said somewhat solemnly:

HOD: Deola, HR has spoken. You need to go home and change.

Three gbosas for that verdict. Wow, colour me stupid for expecting something else. That wasn’t HR, it was a girl with a grudge I knew nothing about. My fury was quite clear to see. I turned to leave contemplating ignoring my boss or not returning to work if I left. I mean, what kind of people watched someone physically assault you at work because of your ‘pants’? Come on!

HR Chick: See her? She's walking away. Come back here, I'm talking to you.

I stopped and turned to look at her. It occurred to me immediately that my acquiescence must have made me seem easy to subjugate or scare. How foolish. I simply chose to respect my HOD despite the blatant disrespect to my person.

HR Chick: You must be back in 15 minutes. Report to my office when you return

Superior 1: Ah ahn, Tito. Do you know where she lives?

HOD: Tito, that's enough.


I ignored them and left. As far as I know, I’m the only person who has ever received such treatment in that organisation. Tito is a bully and her actions thrived because people allowed it to by their inaction. She leveraged on her position and misconstrued notion of superiority in rank and age to attempt to intimidate me. When she failed, she got angry and called for reinforcements. If you constantly witness bullying and do nothing about it, you’re part of the problem.  There are many variants of this scenario but the bottom line is this, there are bullies everywhere and their actions may be obvious or insidious. In fact, a lot of people may not even realise that they are being bullied. Unfortunately, this is quite prevalent in our society and many people endure the abuse because they feel the need to.  You probably know a bully or two; the woman who hits her domestic staff, the manager who verbally denigrates your colleague, the team mate who gives you wrong information then absolves himself from the consequences. You, perhaps?

I’m not a lawyer so I can’t tell you how to legally handle bullying at work in Nigeria- you may want to do some research. I can tell you however, that you need to address the problem or leave such an environment if you’re a victim. Your mental and emotional well being are just as important as the physical. Don’t allow anyone run roughshod over you. Everyone deserves some respect unless otherwise proven!

 

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “The Bully at Work”
  1. Wale Awosika 16th May 2017 on 10:58 am Reply

    Unfortunately, this scenario is prevalent in most work spaces. I think a lot of people are afraid to speak up for fear of losing their jobs. Also, we have failed to inculcate utmost levels of professionalism in work spaces thereby leaving room for the shenanigans of our ogas at the Top.i have always detested people using their positions of authority to walk all over people, maybe if we had a strong legal system to advocate for the oppressed,we would be less afraid.

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