My manager bullied me until I quit

Content / trigger warning

We always try our best to give users the facts of each case, some of which include harmful language and descriptions of awful behaviour. The following case might be emotionally challenging to read, especially if you’re going through something similar. This can manifest feelings of discomfort and upset, among other unpleasant emotions. We encourage you to reach out to friends or family for additional support if this content is particularly distressing. These stories are not for shock value, but to give you a sense of how you could be successful. We are here to support you in your journey in fighting back against your toxic workplace.

How it started

I moved from another country to Scotland to broaden my career and to work in an English-speaking country.

In the beginning, it was just a little bit weird - he was really controlling but I thought this must just be how things work in the UK. He criticised everything that I did and restricted me a lot - I wasn't allowed to work on anything that didn't directly relate to his project which is very unusual. I ended up having to work a lot of nights and weekends because he wouldn't let me do my normal work during office hours.

The probation "chat"

After six months of this, he suddenly mentions that we need to have a "probation chat", playing really casual like it's no big deal. When we have the meeting, he pulls out a list that we created in my first week of all these objectives and tells me that I haven't met them, then starts listing all these different criteria that he said that I haven't met, and said "that's why i'm extending your probation." 

I was shocked. He had never mentioned any of these criteria or even told me there would be a probation period. I cried after the meeting and tried to figure out what to do. My colleagues told me to write out the parts that i disagreed with, after he gave me the paperwork of the review. I also tried to improve - for example, he criticised my time management skills so I went on a time management course, worked hard and came up with a plan for the next quarter that he didn't look at, then told me was unnecessary as he had changed everything and why did i waste my time making that?

The criticisms

He criticised me about everything. Here are just some of the things he said to me:

  • "Your writing is terrible.  I don't even understand how you made it this far with such bad writing"
  • (After I asked why he didn't read my emails) "Your emails are too long, I don't have time to read them so I just delete them"
  • "Your decision-making skills are terrible"
  • "Nobody has time to read anything you've written"

One day I cried in the loo for an hour and half because he had set an unrealistic deadline for the next day that was impossible to hit and I was so stressed out about how to do it. I wasn't the only one crying - two other members of the team came out of his office crying because he was telling all of us we should be able to do it.

The exit interview

After about a year of this I decided to leave because I was so unhappy. When I left I decided to explain what was going on in my exit interview and brought a lot of emails and other documents to show how he had been treating me. I also spoke to the person who had the job before me and she wrote a report about his behaviour that I gave them. The university took it seriously and opened an investigation, and he left a few weeks after I did to go to a new position.

The reason I did that exit interview was because I knew that I was just number in a long line of people that he had bullied and I wanted more people to be watching him and hopefully helping those people.

How I felt

The entire time I felt like I was so bad at my job and so I didn't want to tell anyone what was going on.  When i finally started talking to people a lot of them were very supportive and I found out that he had been doing this to other people. I realise now that he deliberately isolated people, never allowing group meetings and always interacting one on one so he could behave the way he wanted to behave.

The impact

After this, it was very hard for me to trust anyone and it was very difficult as I had to move to another city for my new job and I had already made friends and set down roots in this city. My new job is also good for my career but this was all very difficult and it was completely unnecessary.

What's the next step? Get your free action toolkit

When you're standing up to your employer, it's all about leverage. Find out how to identify your leverage, build a solid argument, review your options and take the next step.

Do you have a story like this?

Show people being treated unfairly at work that they're not alone, and what others did in similar situations.

Share your story to help others like you.

Share your story