The bully is back.

About two years ago, I was the daily target of bullying at work. It was pretty awful and I couldn’t get support from my manager. Then one day Jane “slipped” and put her bullying in writing. She pulled back and didn’t bother me much after that.

Late last week word went through the office that Anna had put in her two weeks’ notice. Anna joined our company about two years ago and everyone liked working with Anna. She always smiled, always said “Yes, I can”, and never complained. Turns out, she was the perfect target for Jane.

I had no idea Anna was being bullied. She never complained, never said a bad word. I was so relieved that I wasn’t being targeted anymore that I never gave it a thought, never imagined Jane was bullying Anna. I naively thought Jane had learned to behave more appropriately.

On Monday of this week, Jane grilled me in a meeting that I facilitate with about a dozen or so people attending. Some are on the phone, some are at the table with me. This week Jane was seated across from me at the table and she went off on a tirade about how the meeting is a waste of time because it’s so poorly facilitated. She asked if anyone else agreed with her. Not a single person spoke up. But that didn’t stop Jane from ranting more, essentially repeating everything she had already said. When she paused for someone to join in with her rant, I spoke and told Jane that I find the meeting to be efficient and effective for its purpose but I was open to suggestions from anyone for improving the format. Jane shut her mouth. No one else wanted to add anything (do you blame them?) and the meeting adjourned shortly after.

Later that afternoon I received a phone call from Dan. He had been on the conference call during the meeting and he wanted to know why Jane had been ranting. He thought perhaps he had missed something since he was on the phone, not attending in person. He found her behavior inappropriate. I agreed. On Tuesday, a woman who had attended Monday’s meeting in person, pulled me aside to ask why Jane had “gone off” in Monday’s meeting. She too thought Jane’s behavior was inappropriate. And then she proceeded to share with me a conversation she had had with Anna the week before. And that’s how I came to learn that for the last two years, Jane has been bullying Anna.

I feel so bad. If my manager had paid more notice when I first complained more than two years ago, would that have saved Anna from being bullied? Would Anna have stayed in the job? Or is she such a bright star that she would have moved on to a better opportunity no matter what?

Jane bullied me in Monday morning’s meeting. She bullied me again on Tuesday, but to a lesser degree. Wednesday was Anna’s last day and she spent nearly two hours in an exit interview with HR. Is it possible HR listened a little closer to what Anna had to say?

Jane didn’t say a single word to me today. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

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