I often hear about children being bullied in school by their classmates and sometimes among siblings. I never heard about bullying among adults in the workplace. I once experienced a bullying situation among adults – more specifically – elders! I did the bookkeeping for an elderly community some time ago. I’ll call the bullied elder, Jane. Jane was a volunteer at the elderly community. Jane was a sweet, compassionate lady in her 80’s, about 5’ tall, porcelain white skin, beautiful blue eyes and a smile that brightened the office every time she walked in. Jane came in on a weekly basis to help the office manager (the bully which I’ll call OM) with her daily chores. OM was sometimes a sweet elder in her mid 80’s, but most of the time a scornful, perfectionist who was always looking at other’s flaws but never found any within herself.
One day, when I arrived OM was in the office with her abhorrent self. I did not allow OM’s negative attitude to disturb my day. Most of the time I brushed off her comments. Every time a community elder approached the customer service window OM received them with a scornful face. Most would look at me but all I could offer them was an apologetic smile. Many had mentioned to me how rude and obnoxious OM was. Other than let the board know, there was nothing I could really do. OM treated the elders as if they were a plague and had no sympathy for anyone. She seemed to intimidate them and no one dared to stand up for their rights. I didn’t personally know the elders in the community but it did bother me to see OM’s treatment towards them.
However, none was as hurtful to me as the treatment towards sweet Jane. Jane arrived at about 10:00 a.m. with her glowing smile and warm greeting. I’m not quite sure what the issue was but OM apparently was waiting for Jane to arrive to discuss a recent “issue” of wrong doing by Jane. Apparently, Jane mistakenly gave out wrong information and OM jumped at the opportunity to reprimand Jane. Remember, Jane is a volunteer helping OM. OM’s voice did not conceal the anger and frustration that she held inside because of Jane’s mistake. Jane giggled a bit. I could tell that her giggles were from nervousness. Jane apologized and vowed to ask OM next time before offering any information. But OM’s emphasis to make a point did not hear the apology or preferred not to accept the apology because she continued to accost Jane until no one else’s voice, other than hers, was heard. No more than an hour after the first rant came the next one and all because Jane stapled the documents in the wrong spot. OM was adamant that the documents be stapled on the top right side of the documents and the staple needed to be straight. Jane stapled the documents on the left. Frankly, I don’t know why Jane continued to volunteer her time to help OM. I took the opportunity to talk to Jane and let her know that she didn’t have to tolerate such belligerent behavior from OM and encouraged her to speak up or just stop volunteering her time. I mentioned to Jane that OM’s behavior, for me, is sort of an adult version of bullying. I asked her if she wanted me to speak to OM about it. Jane was so sweet that all she did was hug me and said she would be fine.
To make the story short, in the 2 ½ hours I spent there, OM tormented Jane 5 times for petty things. Even though I tried not to let OM get to me I was already a bit upset at the attitude towards Jane. Oh, don’t get me wrong, OM was as rude to me as she was with everyone else. I just chose not to let it bother me – until that particular day. Om’s constant badgering at us took a toll on me and I stooped to my lowest level. She was surprised at my reaction and asked me why I was giving her an attitude. I replied that I was giving her the same attitude that she had with everyone during that morning. I let her know that she would benefit from some meditation and told her that there really was no reason for her to be so stressed out at work. After all, it’s not like if it were a Fortune 500 company losing millions of dollars. She just looked at me and did not reply. I had not anticipated losing it but I did. I then left the premises.
What compels an adult person to be so obnoxious? It’s not an age thing. I’ve had the privilege (and continue to) spend a lot of time among elders and more than 98% of them are as sweet as can be – at least with me they are. I really wish that OM would take my advice and find a place that offers meditation so that she can find that sweet person within herself. It’s no wonder her daughter’s live up north. I pray OM to find peace and happiness in her life. Lord knows she needs it.