I Was Bullied at Work, and This Is What I Learned

By Ryan Abednego

When I started one of my first full time jobs straight from university, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a fresh-faced graduate, nervous but excited about becoming a grownup. Excitement soon turned into insecurity when I was thrust into an unexpected environment. Staff were criticized on a daily basis.  Name calling and demoralising behaviour was a common occurrence. This was all lead by the manager, who I came to realise was a bully. It’s true that bullies are associated with kids at school, but what is less commonly acknowledged is that bullying can occur anywhere – even in the workplace.

The bullying at the office was never called out because it had become so engrained into the culture of the workplace. Each day I tried my best to weather the storm while still trying to stay positive. However, the negativity eventually became too overwhelming. At the end of a particularly bad day, I calmly waked out of the office, sat in my car and just started crying. Actually, it was more of a reserved sob. I save my dramatic ugly man-cries for Masterchef family reunion episodes and Bachelor finales. You know – the important things. It took this day for me to have my moment of clarity:

It’s not normal to be scared to go to work every day. I don’t feel valued as an employee or as a person. I’m always unhappy. There is no reason for me to stay in this job.

I handed in my letter of resignation shortly after, and went on a solo holiday – Eat, Pray, Love style. Looking back on it now, there are things that I should have done differently. But if I had to recount the lessons I learned from the experience, I would say:

1. Recognise the issue and speak to someone

Although I knew I was unhappy, I did little to address it. My solution was to internalise all the negativity and hope that it would all blow over. The old ‘ignore your problems until they go away’ method. That always works out well right? Speaking with someone not only relieves the burden, but also provides an outsider’s perspective on the situation. Whether it’s getting advice from HR, or just venting to a good friend, it’s important to tell someone.

2. Take care of yourself

It’s easy to focus on the negatives and question your value to the organisation when someone is constantly undermining your efforts. The unhappiness I felt at work, carried over to my personal life and it was exhausting.  Take time to reflect on the positive contributions you have achieved in your role. Having a sense of self-worth is vital for mental wellbeing in the workplace. Outside of work, you have to let your mind ‘take a break’ from your job and make sure to take care of yourself. Eating well, staying active, getting enough sleep; all that stuff your mum told you to do is important. Don’t let work life consume you.

3. Know when to leave

Though the decision to leave may have been emotionally charged, it was a decision that I had thought about for months. There are many factors to consider when making such a large decision, so it’s important to plan and consider your options. In the end, I knew that I had outgrown the role and wanted to work in a different environment. Taking this step empowered my sense of self-worth and I knew I had made the right choice.

Though this job did not go how I imagined, I don’t regret working there. It taught me to work under pressure, increased my self-awareness, and helped me secure my position at UTS. Though I didn’t see it at the time, the experience was a key stepping stone for both my professional and personal development. Now I’m working in a job I love with people I truly enjoy working with. The silver lining was there, it just took a little bit of work and time to appear.

If you are being bullied in the workplace and would like to find out more information about your rights, or just need someone to talk to, please refer to the below links:


Ryan Abednego works for UTS:Careers as an Employability Officer, coordinating the extracurricular programs run throughout the year. He is particularly passionate about assisting students during their time at university, as they work towards their future ambitions.


Featured image courtesy of Pexels.

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