On Bullies, Adulthood, and Knowing Better

Hi. I’m Andrea, I’m thirty-six years old, and I was bullied the other day.

Six days a week I work out of my very own office. One day a week I work somewhere else, with other people. This is where it happened. Basically, without going into too much detail, a group of women who hang out in the break room every day decided they would enact a new appointment booking procedure whereby (despite my having seniority and being one of the original employees who opened the spa) I would be the last person to book because I deserved the least amount of appointments because I only work there one day per week. (Please keep in mind this has never been the booking policy here, and most likely never will be. Also, keep in mind that these women are all massage therapists, same as me, and do not have any authority over anything.)

Although I am not typically the target of this group, the ever-mired break room crew has been making the work sitch crappy for various coworkers of mine for years. Through the magic of mob mentality and safety in numbers, they take appointments from others and manipulate the book like a game of massage therapy Tetris, the ultimate goal being more appointments in less time so they can make their money and leave early. (We close at 7pm, and God forbid they book a 6pm.)

This crew talks about other service providers and staff members behind their backs constantly, and on rare special occasions, to their faces. It’s very Mean Girls, and I’ve never been OK with it. It’s negative, stressful and draining, and sometimes it makes what should be a great experience working at a beautiful facility with a highly skilled team a flat-out nightmare.

You may be wondering how your humble narrator reacted when blindsided by the mob on this fateful day. Sweet Jesus, it wasn’t pretty. As much as the break room crew was hoping to get their jabs in and head for the hills, I no doubt surprised them when I said we were “going to talk about this now”. And then the ugly cry of a million emotional shit storms emerged, I blubbered some colorful language (not directed at any people in particular, mind you), and basically said if they didn’t want me to work there anymore, they should just tell me. In fact, it went down very much like this emotional episode that I blogged about last month. Then I holed up in my massage room for the next forty-five minutes and sobbed like a wee babe.

You know what was the worst part of this whole debacle? I thought these people were my friends. Writing this down now, I realize how little sense that makes. “Why would I be friends with meanies?” is the first question that comes to mind. The answer is that I see the good in people as much as I possibly can. I remember the times when they’ve been generous, or sympathetic, or funny, or supportive. But now that I see their toxicity and insecurity with new eyes, I question their motivation behind everything, ever. I do not like feeling this way.

In chatting with a bunch of self-employed massage therapist buddies since this went down, I’m struck by how much the avoidance of coworker drama has to do with their decisions to go into business for themselves. Some of them have tried working for/with others, and have experienced workplace bullying firsthand. Some would honestly like to give spa employment a try, but they’ve heard so many stories about workplace bullying and drama that they’re hesitant to go there (and maybe, sadly, rightly so). Spa drama is such a widespread problem there’s even a training course out there meant to address “dangerous drama levels” in the workplace – taught by massage therapist, continuing education provider and spa consultant Eric Stephenson. Imagine that!

Although this post is focused on a sad day in the life of this blogging massage therapist, I’ll grab the opportunity to point out some other irritating examples of bullying in adulthood that I’ve been noticing as of late:

  • wife bullies husband (put downs, guilt trips, extreme negativity, unnecessary conflict and drama)
  • boss bullies employees (abuse of power)
  • manager fears being bullied by bully employees
  • adult child bullies parent or parents (financial gain, manipulation)
  • crooked, shady townspeople bully other townspeople (control of information)
  • grandmother bullies the entire family (pick a reason)

And it makes me sick.

I don’t know what the solution is. I’ll freely admit I was an unhappy teenager. I was judge-y, scowl-y, and mean to a lot of people who didn’t deserve it. In adulthood I now understand that I was depressed, paralyzed by anxiety, painfully insecure, and trying to find my way out of a bad situation in the best (albeit misguided) way I knew how. Now I’m sorry for causing hurt, and I know I can never get those wasted days back. At some point I realized that dumping more negativity on top of my already low self-esteem was a stupid idea, so I evolved. I wonder: Do other meanies want to be happy? To stop hurting others? To evolve?

For my own good, I should probably just give up on trying to understand how other humans think. Instead of wasting time wondering “why did picking on that person ever seem like a fab idea to that other person?” I should be hitting the gym to get my obturator internus in competition form, and learning to play Tiny Tim’s Greatest Hits on the theremin. Yet I continually attempt to make sense of nonsensical human behavior. I guess I feel the need to be more knowledgeable today than I was yesterday, so I can convince myself that I’m making progress as I convulse around our little world in a manner not unlike a marionette suspended by woefully tangled strings.

I can’t promise you we won’t be blessed with a visit from a bullying internet troll, but I like to think of The Young Thumbs as a relatively safe place to discuss general goings on that don’t sit right with us. Do you have a story to share or some wisdom to dispense? Feel free to unleash it on the comments section below (because unlike humans, The Young Thumbs comments section does not have any feelings, and kinda likes the abuse). <3

10 thoughts on “On Bullies, Adulthood, and Knowing Better

  1. I haven’t dealt with direct bullying per se but a lot of what you mention rings true for me. There’s a lot of talking behind people’s backs, assumptions, and story telling. The thing I have found in my corner of the world is very rarely will people say anything TO the person they are talking about. It’s always done when they aren’t there and if they do actually engage with whomever they speak about it’s very passive-agressive and so under the radar you find yourself wonder what the hell just happened. And of course, if you call them on it you are deemed “over sensitive.” It’s all bull really.

  2. Nicely done. Sometimes it just takes one person to speak up about the pain and hurt that is being done to break up the mob mentality. Some in the mob want to fit in and if they find they are not the only one who feels differently it gives them the chance to break away.

  3. We need to stand up for others too. In teaching my boys not to stand by and watch someone else get bullied I realized I better be practicing what I preach. It looks different in adults. A lot subtler and more passive aggressive, but if you approach the situation right you can change the tide and show these misguided souls a better way.

  4. Wow, you could be talking about the Spa I work at. My experience is just like yours! I’m the senior LMT and the manager of the massage department. I have experienced (and witnessed) bullying by other massage therapists as well as other staff members. I honestly think so many of the employees are superficial and Catty. I like to refer to the break room as the “Catty shack”. Lol Maybe it’s my age (40) or because I’m more eccentric than them, (or just that I’m a kinder, more tolerable, more empathetic , less judge mental women) what ever it is I just get so tired of hearing them talk about/judge other staff members (as they do me when I’m not there) or clients, or celebrities, or anyone else they deem not worthy. Is it that spa’s attract that type of personality or that it’s the sad stereotype of many women working together??? I wonder….

  5. I especially like your thought “why would I want to be friends with meanies”. It reminds me of some quote by someone saying something to the effect of – if they talk about them, they’ll talk about you too. Which I agree. (I’m not going to say that throughout my teens, maybe even adulthood I haven’t been a meanie… But hopefully my true essence and purpose shows through.)
    This topic especially reminds me to remain positive and that true character shines through in the end. A true meanie cannot hide behind victimhood, circumstance or the group forever.
    Much love to you! *hugs*

  6. “Kill them with kindness” -it will either drive them crazy not getting a rise out of you (or getting rid of you), but an attitude of kindness can be contagious.
    There are people out there that for whatever reason (usually deeply imbedded in something during their earlier years) love drama. Whether they are creating it consciously or subconsciously, sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it. Yet, often you can…
    I have a friend, great friend of many years, that has held onto the “kill them with kindness” approach along with me for many years. At one time she worked with a very negative group of women that would isolate one of their co-workers to ridicule and seemingly try to make that person’s life miserable. She had been silent many times listening to the “mean girls”
    No one could find anything to complain about concerning my friend. She did her job WELL, helped others if she could and was on her way at the end of her shift.
    One day, when one particular employee was ranting irrationally about the above mentioned employee they had “isolated” – she was in close proximity to this ranting woman, she stopped what she was doing and walked to her and gave her the biggest hug she could. The woman was speechless… she then began to cry. My friend said just a few words, mainly about how unnecessary all of the drama was and suggested help instead of criticizm.
    Her work environment changed dramatically after that moment. And many of those “mean girls” had started to take on a more positive attitude. When she quit there to move onto a better paying job, they were very sad to see her go! <3

  7. I see it daily. I now work for myself and this is the reason why. Great article.
    We are Massage Therapist working to create peace and balance…….I have met some real bullies. I rented to a fellow massage therapist and when I would not let her run “cash only” through my studio, she got mad called my landlord and told her she had to move because I threatened her and I quote “she put her hand on her bag and said I will shoot you with my magnum 357”. She tried to call local police but they didn’t believe her and told her they would not give her an escort to remove her things. She called other therapist and ran her mouth to clients. Unbelievable

  8. Ugh. I had a bullying experience working at a spa, too, though the bullying was mostly done by the owners and managers. The employees were afraid for their jobs (and it was good money), we were told not to talk to other employees, we were told how stupid we were and sworn at and when someone was called into the office, objects tended to be thrown. I wound up seriously depressed from that abusive workplace for quite a while. Thankfully I quit and got away from them, but my earning potential has never been the same anywhere else, even on my own.

  9. It does seem there is more drama and bullying now than there ever has been in our workplaces. It sucks. I too will attempt to learn that is the cause, why the drama, and see if they truly wish to find happiness. Unfortunately, it seems they would rather keep going in the same direction simply because “This is what they have gotten used to”. Had one recently at work that truly baffled me. Similarly, it was one I thought was a friend who was bullying others, and everyone suddenly became afraid to stand up to her, so she took the newly found power to go for full-on made-up things to attack the ones she dislikes. She also got management afraid of her because every time they tried to reign in her out of control actions, she screams it is racial, when it is the opposite. She is the most racist, and will attack others because of their skin color is not like hers… but she seems to have everyone jumping. I wish there was an easy answer. I have tried to see if she would rather be happy. Her reply” No, I want power!” Sigh

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