Friday, July 21, 2017

My Experience with Workplace Bullying

Teaching has always been a dream of mine especially teaching theater and film classes to college students.  In 2006, I taught K-7th graders theater for a year while their regular teacher was recovering from health issues.  Sometimes wondering why I didn't go to college to get a teaching degree because I teaching and helping students learn is something I have a passion for. Plus, I love learning myself. Sometimes things just don't go as plan in life. I thought I was so close to teaching college students. In May 2017,  I was hired to work at a local film college here in Michigan which I graduated from in 2016. They asked me to teach a class until one of their professors who they hired arrives from Florida. Then once he got to the school we would then teach the class together. Well, at least I thought. I taught the class for four weeks and then the students had 4 weeks off while they shot their capstone projects. When they got back I taught the Tuesday class and then I was told by the Dean that I am done with the class and need to focus on my other job as a Student Academic Specialist. My heart sank. What did I do wrong? I came up with some really awesome ways to teach demo reels, cover letter, pitches, etc.. The students were really engaged. My gut tells me because the new professor is full-time and getting paid salary is the reason why they want him to finish the class.  I am only part-time and not paid salary.  The sad part is there are only 3 more classes left. I felt really bad for the new professor because I had the class figured out, so he had to try to catch up on it.  Maybe I am thinking too much about it because today they called me and wanted me to come in and teach Costume and Design class because the professor was sick. I couldn't teach it because I already got my 25 hours in.

On Thursday, I was meeting with a student about missing some of their assignments. This student told me they would do anything to make up the final project they missed. I emailed the professor telling him what this student told me. Well, he assumed I told this student how to make up this assignment when I didn't. I told this student to go talk to the professor like I always do. He made me feel horrid. The worse part is he comes all pissed off down the hallway telling other professors that I told a student an assignment to make up the work.  He was saying it so loud I could hear it. I was tutoring a student and he pulls me out into the hallway and starts yelling at me and accusing me.  He was telling me he is the professor and he is the one to make the assignment and this student was late and no show so there is no way she can make it up.  I tried to tell him all I said to the student was to talk to him but most likely he won't give you an extra credit assignment to make up for it. I wanted to cry. I felt like I was being bullied. If my boss, who was a male and older than me, did that I bet you a million dollars he wouldn't have done what he did to me, but because I am a woman and use to be a student there he thinks it is okay to do that.  He may have talked crap behind my boss's back, but he wouldn't have taken me in front of everyone and done that. I felt disrespected. The sad part is I am too terrified to go to the Dean of the school to say what happened because I don't want to lose my job. But then again if I don't say anything and he goes spreading things like this I might loose it anyways. The sad part is all this started because I sent him an email telling him what the student said so I could be on the same page with him so when I meet with the student again next week we are on the same page. I would not tell this student to go shoot a commercial to make up missing that assignment. That is not my place.  I had to sit there through my tutoring session trying to not cry.

Here is another thing that happened. I had a special guest coming in to talk to the class about their experience in California. I guess this person was the one who wrote a letter trying to get the board to get rid of the president of the school. The person who I thought wrote it signed tons of the Alumni names on it when they didn't what to be on it. I thought this person was one of those Alumni members that didn't want their names to be on it.  I didn't realize this person wrote it. The confusing part is when the school takes the students to the LA industry trip they have them meet this person so I don't get it.  I went around asking a couple of the professors including this professor who yelled at me. He was the first one I asked. I don't know what I did to him to make him sabotage me. I asked the Dean of the school, but he doesn't know this person who the situation. But the main thing is they talk to this person while they are in LA. I love this school so why the hell would I have someone come to the school and tell bad things about the school in my class.

Then to top it off they took my desk away from me. I have been sitting at the table in my boss's office. I have to meet with 12 students every week and he meets with 12 students every week. We split the students between us because there is so many of them and there is no time to have one of us meet with all of them.  Because I don't have a desk it makes it really difficult meeting with these students they are on an academic warning so I can't meet them in a public area such as the student lounge, library, classrooms. They are making it so I can't do my job properly.  When I am working and my boss has to meet with students or has other meetings I get kicked out of his office. My backpack is full of office supplies and I have to haul it around where ever I go which is ridiculous.
Trying to find a place to work is very unproductive. I should be able to get to work sit down at my desk and get to work without having to figure out where I will be going to work that day. Plus, I have folders that are private so I can't be carrying them wherever I go and it is a pain always having to ask my boss to store them in his drawer.  Or when he is gone I have to chase down the Dean of the school to get the key to the drawer and then I have to chase him down again to put the folder back.

They tell me I need to network and go to events to learn which is one reason I was really excited about this position. Acton Unversity had a conference event teaching different classes and lectures about business. All the staff was invited to go except me. It was incredibly awkward in the staff meeting when the Dean asked who all went to the Acton University conference and all the professor and staff (other than the administrator) raised their hand. Even the financial aid got to go to it. I was the only one who didn't go. I asked the Dean of the school and my boss if I can go to it and they said no.  I asked my boss and a couple other professors if they paid to go to it and they said "no" the school did.  So what are they expecting me to spend $200 on the ticket? Are they expecting me to go to film festivals and cough up the money to go to them when I am only making $15 an hour and told I can't work more than 25 hours a week?

These past couple weeks I have felt like I am worthless and just can't seem to do anything right. Usually, in a job work your way up, but I guess I am working my way down.

They keep hiring new full-time staff members, which frustrates me because most of them have the same amount of experience or even less experience than I have. I feel like they only look at me like I am still a student there and not as an employee the age of 31 with 25 years experience. I have had 18 years of Assistant Directing large musicals and plays. 5 years of teaching experience, 12 years of marketing experience, 20 years of acting, singing, and dance. 28 years of piano. 8 years of being prop master. 20 years of working backstage.   I have done Business Management since I was 14 years old. I have been working in commercials since I was 14 years old. And the list goes on. I just don't get it.

I had to write out my frustrations.  I will continue working there and hope it will get better.  I just want to say co-worker bullying is real. Bullying women in the workplace is real. I did some research on ways to handle this. These are some things I am going to try:

According to How to Deal with a Workplace Bully: Advice For Victims, Bosses And Coworkers by Amy Morin. Forbes- Aug 21, 2015. They say:

  1. Try to not get emotional when talking to a bully because this person could use it against you. 
  2. Talk to your supervisor this person keeps bullying you. 

According to: How to Deal with a Mean Colleague by Amy Gallo- Havard Business Review (October 16, 2014) 

  • Do: 
    • Know that people act aggressively at work because they feel threatened. 
    • Ask yourself whether you're being overly sensitive or misinterpreting the situation. 
    • Call out the inappropriate behavior in the moment. 
  • Don't:
    • Take the blame-- many bullies pick targets that are highly skilled and well-liked. 
    • Escalate the situation until you've tried to solve it informally and with the help of your allies. 
    • Suffer unnecessarily- if the situation persists and you can leave, do it. 
The sad part is this professor is bullying the new professor that took over my class. For instance, the Dean told the new professor to substitute for a professor who was out sick. I guess it was a class he has always wanted to teach so he told the new professor not to worry about going to class he teaches while the professor is sick. The new professor said, "no he will teach unless the Dean says otherwise." Well, I guess they both taught it together because this professor was in the class teaching it with the new professor. I asked the new professor if the Dean said it was okay for him to teach it with you and he told me "no he just went into the class and taught it."

Please, don't get me wrong. This professor brings a lot to the school and is good with the kids.  But then again I am telling myself it is okay for this person to do this when it isn't. 

The 6 Stages of Workplace Bullying

Stage 1: Initial Incident. 
  • He/She feels jealous, threatened, wronged in some way. 
Stage 2: Progressive Discipline
  • Abuser is in a position of power. They treat you like you are incompetent-- overreacting to small mistakes (even ones that quickly and easily fixable). 
Stage 3: Turning Point
  • Abuse is repetitive and events are reframed by the abuser so targets are made to seem like you are the problem. 
Stage 4: Organizational Ambivalence
  • You inform management or HR, who either steps in and confronts the bully, mediates the situation successfully, or does not help at all.  For example, your boss could say you need to learn how to work with people or you are just overreacting.  This makes you feel like it is all you. 
Stage 5: Isolation
  • You feel alone. No one to turn to. Family & Friends are tired of hearing you complain. You start really dreading going to work.  You start having severe health problems such as not sleeping, stomach problems. 
Stage 6: Expulsion
  • Transfer, Quit or get fired. 

I hope this allows you to know you are not the only one going through this. I will do my best to keep you up to date on what ends up happening. Hopefully, everything will work out and this is just and an awkward emotional rocky couple of weeks. 

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