I’ve always prided myself on being a strong person, but the first time I broke into tears in the office, I started to question my emotional stability.
“You need to present yourself better at work,” he said. Looking down at my black slacks, leather heeled boots, and clean blouse I wondered what he meant. Seeing my obvious confusion, he took it upon himself to elaborate.
“Your hair and face are very plain, it would be good if you could doll yourself up a bit for your next editor’s photo. Talk to [my coworker] – she always looks great.”
I was completely taken aback. I didn’t say anything at the time because I honestly didn’t know how to respond. I just sat there in stunned silence and gave him a sort of half nod.
Later, standing in the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror and cried. I told my coworkers about the incident, but I never told them how much it made me feel sick to my gut.
I was in my first job with a publishing company – straight out of uni – and in this moment, I realised bosses could be bullies.
In my first few months with the company five editorial staff members quit, two of which did so with no other job lined up. This might not seem like all that many, but the editorial team was only made up of eight people. When they left, they told me “to be careful” and not to trust him.
“He has their favourites,” they said. “He likes you now, but it’s only a matter of time.”
I shrugged off their comments, as my boss had already ‘confided’ in me that they were troublemakers with bad attitudes. So I didn’t question their comments further, I merely looked at their departures as an opportunity to snatch up more work and extra responsibilities.
But then reality started sinking in. I started noticing a lot of whispering around the office, how people would tense up when our boss came into the room, and how often people would burst into tears, especially after having meetings with him.
In my first performance review meeting, I received nothing but praise, but the conversation quickly turned into him gossiping mercilessly about other staff members.