health

Have you ever been bullied at work?

This is not Sarah’s boss. But it could be…

BY SARAH MEGGINSON

I remember the day like it was yesterday, and just thinking about it makes me cringe with embarrassment.

It was October 2006, and I was working in marketing, helping to put together the annual conference and awards night – “The Logie Awards for our industry,” we called it.

I wasn’t involved in the fun party planning stuff as much as the conference. A big part of my job was getting the conference packets – those hefty dossiers that attendees get when they register – organised. They’re designed to loosely match up to what the speaker is gabbing on about, so people can follow along and make notes during each presentation.

I don’t think I can overstate the importance of these conference packs – to my boss, at least. (I was crushed on conference day to see most of the delegates take the folders I’d painstakingly designed, printed and assembled under a four-stage approval process and toss them under their seat, unopened).

Nor can I find the right words to express how passionately and aggressively my boss ripped me a new one when I confessed to him, a few nights before the conference, that one of our eccentric international guest speakers still hadn’t sent me his notes for inclusion in the pack.

I’m not sure you understand the gravity of the situation. You see, a 20-minute period of time was set to elapse during which a speaker would present, and the audience would be forced to listen and follow along – without the benefit of detailed notes in their conference pack.

My boss was livid. There was swearing. Lots of shouting. A little bit of name-calling and more than one dramatic sigh of, “How could you be so incompetent? I just can’t believe this is happening!”

Sarah

Now, looking back, I get that my boss was under loads of pressure, and I should have told him about our dossier catastrophe earlier than I did. But truthfully, I was terrified of him. He had been slowly, subtly undermining my work and chipping away at my confidence for months.

So, instead of admitting we were one presentation short, I crossed my fingers and hoped and prayed that at the eleventh hour, the speaker would email me his notes as promised. He didn’t.

Instead, I stood silently in the conference room as he screamed at me for what felt like an hour, but was probably five minutes. I felt humiliated and ashamed and I willed myself not to cry, not just because I felt like I’d ruined the entire conference – but also because my husband was in my office next door. He’d showed up an hour earlier to help me package all the folders up into boxes for delivery to the venue. I was mortified.

ADVERTISEMENT

He’d heard me complain (endlessly) about my boss, but that was very different to hearing the abuse, word for word. “That was insane,” he hissed as we shuffled out the door. “You have to quit!”

I know now that leaving was the rational solution, but at the time, the idea of quitting felt like admitting failure. I wanted to succeed at this job and somehow prove to my boss and myself that I was capable and talented. But not long afterwards, one Sunday night, I felt so sick about going to work the next day that I physically vomited. I realised it was time to call Time of Death.

I quit the following morning without having a job to go to and the relief that washed over me afterwards convinced me I’d done the right thing. That was a massive turning point for me, personally and professionally. Having the courage to quit gave me the push I needed to go after the career I really wanted: I’d always dreamed of writing for a living and had even studied journalism at uni, but never had the guts to fully go for it.

Sarah now works as a freelancer and is much happier.

With nothing to lose and a free and clear schedule, I mapped out a plan to crack the magazine industry. Before long, I scored a job writing for a property mag, which gave me the confidence to pitch to (and eventually write for) magazines like Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire.

Today, I’m a full-time freelance writer. I feel absolutely privileged to have this lifestyle as I work from home, around my daughter’s naps and a dozen hours of daycare per week, and I earn a great income. And whenever I’m even slightly tempted to complain about a tight deadline or a demanding client… I pause. I cast my mind back to that night in that conference room in Surry Hills, and thank my lucky stars that my deranged boss bullied me into quitting my shitty job. If he didn’t, I may never have found my dream career.

Sarah Megginson is a successful freelance writer and editor who works from home on the Gold coast. She’s written a complete step-by-step guide on how you can make money by working from home.

If you’re anything like 94% of survey respondents said that they would give up part of their salary if it meant they could work from home, work more flexible hours or even work less hours then check out the book:  www.workfromhomestepbystep.com.au.

Have you ever had a turning point at work that pushed you in another direction?

00:00 / ???