I’ve been debating publishing this quite a bit. I fear how others will react - that the reactions will reify what I say to myself (that all of this is my fault) - because clearly since it has happened over and over, it must be my fault. But I think there might be more to gain by talking about it and getting insights/input. So, here goes ...

For the past few years, I keep finding myself in very difficult work situations. To wit:

1. My first job at this university was for a woman who had a horrific temper that she took out on me (for the most part). By the time I left, her temper was starting to be enacted physically - and I was scared for myself. She was cruel - called me names - it was horrible (and part of me adored her and thought I could fix her - yeah, that was bad).

Advertisement

2. I left for a new job to find myself being bullied by a group of staff people who worked very hard to get me fired. This finally ended when our department head stepped in and promoted me and fired one of the ringleaders.

3. I left that job for a year when my dept head left (loved her, she was replaced by a horrible person). In that new job - things were okay. Some interpersonal challenges, but nothing horrible. One colleague seemed threatened by me and got our boss to not include me in things that I should have been included in - but whatever. Looking back, I think this was a micro-repetition of a micro-pattern.

4. Returned to my previous dept when new dept head recruited me back. Things were good for about 6 months, and then she became horrific - screaming at me, threatening me - again, taking temper out on me.

Advertisement

5. Left that job to finish my PhD. Things have been good, until some weird things started happening in my new position. Staff person behaving in a way that is challenging (not responding to emails, cutting me out of things, not speaking to me, contradicting me in ways that feel like they are trying to top me). I’ve tried to just be nice and professional - challenging, not fun - but not disastrous. Plus, I am moving in a couple of months, so it’s short term. But now we have a faculty member who is also being challenging. They have set up a team meeting - and have included everyone on that meeting except me (we are a very small team). I’m taking it very personally (as I have taken everything above) - which I think isn’t actually out of the realm of normal human responses to such a behavior (validated by a friend who is not sensitive). I emailed this person (we’re so distant, email is the best method of communication), and just asked to be included - no emotions in my email, just direct and clear. No response whatsoever.

So, for the past few days I have been thinking a lot about my part in all of this. Am I such a horrible person that I force people to treat me this way? Maybe, I’m not sure. But then I had an epiphany - all of the people above have been VERY difficult people. These are all people who have very difficult relationships with others. Like in #1 - that person has been fired at least twice that I know of due to her temper/bullying. In #4, she was constantly under investigation/surveillance because of what a horrible leader she is. In #2, I was not the first person to face being bullied by this group - they had forced two people before me to quit. I am at the center of this - and am motivating others to treat me this way - but these are also people who have a history of treating people this way. So, it is an interaction effect.

Maybe moving to a new city and university will help - maybe there is something weird here that will disappear. But, I also know that how I react to things is not helpful. I overpersonalize, I blame myself, I shrink into myself — and make meaning from it about my worth, my skills, my place in the world. I also see myself as a victim with no ability to stand up for myself ... And it’s time to stop that. I can guarantee that none of these people have engaged in any self-reflection as to their effects on me, yet I twist myself up worrying about my effects on them.

Advertisement

So those of you who are bolder than me, more self-assured than me - how would you deal with being excluded or bullied - feelings of being marginalized? What are more positive and proactive ways to deal with things? How do you make yourself bully-proof?

Relatedly, what patterns in your life are you trying to leave behind? Or tell me about times you have felt excluded, marginalized, bullied.

Thank you in advance.