I'm working as a (female) IT technician in a worldwide company (located in Central Europe, Austria). I've been here 1.5 years. I'm turning 21 this month, so it's my first job.

The basic work is okay, but the workplace itself is horrible. There is one colleague in particular who literally treats me and some of the younger employees like crap.

His critique doesn't relate to the work or the mistake which was made, it's always directly against someone's personality (like he just wants to say "you are bad"). He lets me make mistakes or lets me run right into a trap, only to humilate me afterwards with the right solution, talking in a way which offends and hurts me. Every mistake I make, whether it's about topics he knows or not, everything that I might get wrong which he witnesses, makes him either laugh out loud about me or gossip with the colleague next to him.

I'm one of those who just can't defend themselves verbally: I never have a right answer to his offenses, and I feel that I'm spreading my insecurity when I'm talking to him as if I'm spreading the flu. He senses that, knowing he can abuse and humilate me and I will respond just as he wants (for whatever reason).

The rumors spread about him make me wonder even more why he is still here and was never fired.

My anxiousness to avoid giving him opportunities is putting so much pressure on me that when I'm talking to my other colleagues or my boss I often get things wrong - which just leads him to mock me again. It's a vicious cycle.

His behavior makes me cry. I am suffering from depression again (after therapy and some years of doing well). I often hide in quiet places and cry, because the only way my mind can somehow cope with the anger he gives me, is bursting into tears - which I really don't want to do in front of him.

I've told my boss a couple of times. I was allowed to stop directly working with him, but we're still in the same office and there's still work where I need to talk to him.

Our other colleagues join in with or ignore his behaviour. I'm clearly left alone, but I'm not the only one struggling with him (although I might be the only one who really suffers from him). Even management is doing nothing about him. The last time I complained I was told in one single sentence that I need to earn his respect and I need to respect him just as he is, 'because it's just his way of being'.

Because no one here is helping me to stop him, I want to leave. Period.

But I've been searching for 8 months now, with still not even a single interview. There are really not many positions in my area where my profile fits, and my applications are always turned down.

I'm afraid of being unemployed, as this is my first job after school, and I don't know how to handle unemployment, plus my dad is pressuring me not to lose my job, and I don't want to disappoint him.

I read questions on this site often, during work, as I need StackOverflow for scripting, and I stumpled upon a topic in The Workplace where someone said "No job under any condition should make you cry". This sounds so right to me, but I can't seem to find a solution.

Should I quit without having a new job? I'm so afraid of this step. I feel really overwhelmed.

If not, how can I deal with him? My past complaints didn't help at all.

  • 2
    Have you looked into transferring locations or departments? If it's a world wide company you might have the option of getting moved someplace in the business where this bully won't be able to affect you as much. The big thing is do not quit until someone else hires you. Being employed is a huge plus on a resume when pursuing another job. Short term... Does HR know? this is bullying and they should be expected to intervene, if not all you can do is get thick skin and ignore it until you find someplace else to work within or outside your current employer May 5, 2014 at 19:44
  • 1
    Are you primarily asking how to deal with this bullying, or how/when to find a new job?
    – jcmeloni
    May 5, 2014 at 19:51
  • 3
    That question is not a duplicate. This is about how to cope with thebully until you can escape him not how to report it to management which she has already done. I havea long answer to this that I want to be able to post and was in the process of posting when you closed this on me.
    – HLGEM
    May 6, 2014 at 16:21
  • 5
    I have reopened this question as there seems to be disagreement in the community about whether this is a duplicate. If you disagree, please feel free to vote to close again, or start a discussion in meta.
    – jmac
    May 7, 2014 at 1:41
  • 5
    If you're not already aware of the Anita Borg institute's Systers mailing list, I'd suggest you join at anitaborg.org/get-involved/systers . With all due respect to the many men here who want to help, a place specific to women in tech will probably be helpful. A lot of us have been in your situation. Also have a look at geekfeminism.org which has a lot of links.
    – Jenny D
    May 7, 2014 at 9:49

9 Answers 9


I've been in a similar situation before (not as awful sounding, more subtle bullying), so here's my thoughts on it.

Firstly, one of the defining characteristics of this situation, is that other people who have been around longer than you, are aware that this person is like this. This was the same in my situation - while my team leaders etc were sympathetic, it seemed that there wasn't much they could do. In some situations the person could be fired or pushed out, but often, it's hard to fire someone, or things haven't got to a breaking point where management has been forced to take action, or it's just indicative of the workplace culture - that person has been around for long enough and is valuable to the company, and he doesn't treat other long timers that way, so it's not a problem for them either.

Here are some of your options, they're not all exclusive (you can try all of these).

Finding a new job.

Finding a new job is absolutely the right thing to do. Unless there is a really strong reason why you want this particular job (ie. it's your dream job, with the exception of one colleague), there's no reason not to move on to better things. That's what moving your career forward is about.

Life is too short to stay in bad situations. Being subject to this bully will wear your down, and hurt your confidence, which is totally unnecessary. So definitely - get motivated, and look at other jobs, that's the right thing to do.

Of course, I'd be hesitant to leave a job without having a new one lined up (for the standard reasons), so do just get motivated, upskill in your spare time, do what's required to start getting interviews.

That you haven't had any interviews in eight months suggests that you're doing something wrong. Have someone review your CV or something like that.

Changing yourself to be more likable.

One approach I took was that 'Alright, this isn't so much about my technical ability, but the way I handle this person; I need to interact with the person in a way that they'll like me'.

As such, I read the famous How to win friends and influence people. I highly recommend reading this book, it's very easy to read, and provides some simple, but profound advice.

However, I don't think this is an effective strategy, for dealing with this situation. The strategies and techniques espoused in the book are great for improving your interactions with ordinary reasonable people, whether they are friends, customers, or colleagues. But it's not a simple solution for dealing with unreasonable people like this. While you might be able to improve some interactions this way, it's not a simple solve-all solution, there are simpler solutions, like quitting.

Make friends in your office and talk to them

Especially when you start your career, you don't know 'what's normal'. So if you're subject some kind of criticism or beration, it's possible to think 'Well perhaps my standards of what's reasonable behaviour were wrong'.

So make friends with people, and talk to them about whatever workplace issues you're having. They'll give you perspective, about whether you're in the wrong, or the other person is being unreasonable, and restore your confidence about yourself. In my experience, people love talking about this kind of thing, because, after all, it makes up 1/3 of their life as well.

Email your manager.

I ended up emailing my manager (who worked in a different office so I didn't see day to day), with a frank assessment of what I saw was wrong with the workplace situation.

Now in my example, the bullying wasn't being explicitly berated, but more consistently criticised and pulled up on things that didn't matter. The email I sent was along the lines 'Our throughput is minuscule, these are some of the issues that are causing this, including work being pulled up set back for redesign, and being subject to approval again'. While I didn't explicitly use the term 'micromanagement', reading between the lines, the email pointed at that.

While I felt nervous after sending the email, I quickly saw change. While my boss never got back to me on it, I believe the person I had issue with was talked to, and since then, things have improved immensely. (I was also fortunate that at the I sent the email, a couple of people had left, and I think they realised that they needed me).

For your situation, you could probably explicitly say 'I'm having this problem with this person. For example... '.

You don't have much to lose in this situation, and it's interesting to see what management's reaction is to such an email.

By putting it in email, rather than a verbal conversation, it makes it a lot more formal, and may prompt management to take action.

Ignore the bully.

If it's apparent that the person is being unreasonable, then you might need to put up your shields and ignore them. This obviously isn't a long term solution, but it can be a way of surviving until you find a new job etc.

In terms of how you exactly go about this, can be a bit of a tricky issue, as you still have a professional obligation to do your work and possibly engage with the person. But if the person is simply being nasty with no relevance to work, just internally remind yourself that it's not your problem, it's theirs and try block it out. I recommend not trying to engage or confront them about it, rather vent to your friends, to you manager, to everyone else ('So and so berated me for this thing, is that normal?').

  • 'So and so berated me for this thing, is that normal?' Yes. Especially if, as in the OP's case, it's more like "So-and-so said I was [adjective]" or "So-and-so called me [name]". May 7, 2014 at 11:24
  • "that person has been around for long enough and is valuable to the company, and he doesn't treat other long timers that way, so it's not a problem for them either" that's the only reason I can imagine.
    – Mythoria
    May 7, 2014 at 15:12
  • 5
    Nothing! holds me there , he put me off the whole work, even when he's not here, I don't feel well anymore. I don't want to change, I am the way I like myself best, even though I might sometimes seem be strange to others. the only friends that I got there are my age, and they are also victims of him. I know, many of you suggest me, to ignore him, but i simply can't. If i could it in any way, I would have done it already.
    – Mythoria
    May 7, 2014 at 15:16
  • 1
    I like the last one the most (ignoring the asshole). Bullies in the workplace are just like bullies in school: if they don't get an effect or reaction out of you, eventually they'll get bored and move their attention to someone else. Aug 11, 2015 at 9:53

I think there are some things in your favor to confront this problem.

  1. Your boss understands the situation and has tried to help you avoid this person.
  2. You're not the only one and it appears he focuses on the new people.
  3. He is making it personal.
  4. His gossiping is very unprofessional.

Whenever you have a question and he makes it about you and not the problem, stop listening to him. Walk away if you have to, but let him know that if he is going to say something negative about you and not just give you the solution to the problem, you will not listen to him. Offer to come back in an hour or suggest he send you an email when he is ready to behave. Don't let him off easy. Go back and do it again. Show him you are tougher and will do this forever until he stops. An apology would be nice too.

It would be great if others would do the same and more people in the office would tell him to stop. This company may have a culture of picking on the new people. They all should be ashamed of themselves. Start sticking up for yourself. Your boss would approve.

Do not take quit this job until you find another one. Start the process sooner rather than later.


This is a terrible situation. You have already asked your supervisor to assign him to different work than you, and the supervisor has done so. Well done!

Three things you should keep in mind. You did not cause this behavior, you cannot control this behavior, and you cannot correct this behavior by anything you do. The only person who can do anything about this is the person himself. His boss can remove the effect on your workplace by dismissing him, but you cannot.

You can take care of yourself. How can you do that?

First, remember that this company hired you because they decided you are the best person to do your job. Have confidence in yourself: they do!

Second, continue to avoid this person as much as you can. You are doing very well at that.

Third, keep looking for another job.

Fourth, keep a written log of incidents in which he misbehaves towards you. Describe his behavior in each incident. Keep this log in a personal notebook (not online). If you can persuade other people whom he is mistreating also to keep logs, that is good. Don't tell him about the logs. Don't ever give anybody the original log; you may need to give your company's management a copy one day.

Fifth, find out your local labor regulations and company policies. The behavior you describe sounds like the USA definition of workplace sexual harassment. It's my understanding that Europe has similar regulations. There may well be a company "policies and procedures" handbook you can consult. Ask your boss or your human resources department if you can see this book. They may have given you a copy when you began to work there.

Sixth, try to think like the managing director in charge of your location. This man's behavior is creating trouble for the company. It's wasting time and spoiling employee morale. It might turn into a major financial liability in the case where you or another victim decides to seek compensation. From the managing director's point of view, it is a nasty situation that will get worse if it is not stopped. It's not going to be pleasant for management to deal with this, but it will go badly for them if they don't deal with it.

Seventh, when you have several incidents in your log book, do your managing director a big favor and formally report this evildoer in writing using the channels defined in your company's policies and procedures. If he touches you, that is enough to be worth reporting. If the other victims will also report him, that will help. DO NOT give anybody the original of your log book. In fact, you might take it home before you make the report.

If you get another job, take it.

Be strong! (I know, I know, easy for me to say...) You're better than this man and you will survive his foolishness and have a long and productive career.

  • 3
    This all sounds pretty horrible but I don't understand why it would come under sexual harassment. Which part meets that definition? May 6, 2014 at 13:19
  • 7
    It does not fall under sexual harassment but it certainly falls under harassment. Most US employers are committed to a workplace free of harassment, if only because harassment causes conflict in the workplace and potentially turning he workplace into a war zone, war zones hurt productivity and lost productivity damages the bottom line. Having said that, the OP works and lives in Central Europe and I don't have a clue as to what they do for rules over there. May 6, 2014 at 18:12
  • 1
    @JennyD Even that is an assumption. Person A being female and person B being male does not make it a gender issue automatically. The OP stated that this guy is pretty unpleasant to an assortment of people and makes no mention of all those people being female May 7, 2014 at 10:55
  • 6
    @RichardTingle I'm sorry; I mean that non-sexual harassment aimed solely at women should be called gender-based harassment, not sexual harassment. Or just plain sexism, for that matter.
    – Jenny D
    May 7, 2014 at 11:01
  • 1
    it's not gender based, I think it's based on who the person is. Example is, that I know one particular guy, which he's only nice to, when this man or our manager is around, but when not, he's really rude gossiping about him, but i think that they are even the same age. He's only an asshole to the ones where he knows it won't harm him (most of the time me and our trainees, which are all male).
    – Mythoria
    May 7, 2014 at 14:34

Apply the "mind over matter" approach: you don't mind and he doesn't matter. The reason you are suffering is that you let what he says and thinks matter to you. Change that. I grew up in a rural area. Nobody paid attention to the screams of pigs as they were being slaughtered and after a while, neither did I. If a pig screams and nobody pays attention, does it matter? Let your colleague scream. You are not paying attention to him any more than a young mother pays attention to her five-year old's public temper tantrum. Bullies and spoiled brats thrive on attention and they'll do anything to get it. Don't give it to them.

We all make mistakes, you included. Learn from your mistakes, and don't listen to any of his hectoring. Yes, you are hearing it but you don't have to listen. Make your mistakes with confidence and take the feedback with confidence. If you don't repeat your mistakes, you will eventually run out of mistakes to make. Making a mistake is not a crime and take the attitude that a mistake is not a crime and nobody has any legitimate business punishing you for crimes you did not commit.

Whatever he does, whatever he says, don't let any of that get to your head because that's exactly what he wants and what he is hoping for. And that's what keeps him going. Starve him for attention. Stop feeding the troll.

The reason that he is able to your life a living hell is that you are cooperating with him and helping him do that. Stop the cooperation and the help. From now, there is nothing that he says and does that matters to you.

Some day, he'll make a big mistake or he'll need help. Don't give him the time of day - he's gone out of his way to lose your support and he's earned your lack of support several times over. And that mistake could very be that you will be his new boss.

Follow-up comment from @geekrunner: "'Just ignore it' is simply not an effective solution. These kinds of bullies will wear your down no matter how thick skin you try to have."

I had a boss who was a screamer, who gave me plenty of stress. Since I am a tough guy, I internalized everything. Bad mistake. Eventually, I ended up in the hospital. In the ICU (Intensive Care Unit). One of the questions I asked myself during recovery was "Is this job worth my life?" I decided that it wasn't and from that day forward, I paid no more attention to his screaming. He might as well be screaming into a glass door, for all I cared. As an outsider in every society I have ever lived in, I acquired plenty of experience dealing with bullies. A lot more than I ever wanted or cared for. Don't second guess me.

Follow-up comment from @Mythoria: "I've always been picked on, since grade school, so as much as I am trying to learn how to deal with it, or talking back, don't taking it, but I just can't make it though. As this all this posts give me so much hope, I just wait, maybe I'll learn someday. I can't ignore him, I'm trying to, but it always hurts, no matter what I do."

No, you are not to try to ignore him, you are to ignore him. Period. This means blanking out of your mind of everything about him except his bare physical presence. He doesn't matter. He doesn't exist. Except as a beggar on the streets. Pay the same attention to him as you would pay to a beggar who is pestering you. The beggar can call you any name he wants but as long as your money stays in your pocket and he is empty handed, you win. So treat him like a beggar. If you do that, then you have learned how to ignore bullies. Acknowledge him only when you need him - Then use him and throw him away like a used napkin.

  • *comments deleted* Please don't use comments for an extended discussion, remember what comments are for. If you want to have a discussion on a post beyond the scope of what comments are intended for, please feel free to use The Workplace Chat, bearing in mind that all users are expected to Be Nice at all times.
    – jmac
    May 14, 2014 at 4:46

1) Should you quit without having a job?

It primary depends on how serious your medical condition is. If you feel that the situation compromises your health, this is the most important issue you should address. Speak with your doctor, speak with your parents and explain what is happening and how it affects you. If, instead of trying not to disappoint your father, you get him (and your mother) on your side and discuss with them how to deal with the problem, it might help enormously.

Do some research about how to write a good CV. 8 months with no interview is too long, so you might have to improve your CV. Also you can probably broaden your job search area - this is your first job, you have been working for a year and a half only, so there might be other areas where your profile fits. Don't look for jobs, related to your current area of work only. I am sure in the university you have studied a lot of things.

On the other hand, if you leave for another job now, just to get away from this person, it might be something to nag you for the rest of your life - like a battle you lost.

When my daughter was 13, she had a problem with the art teacher. Actually everybody had a problem with her, there were 15 pupils at the beginning of the school year, and they dropped the subject one by one, there were only 2 left at the middle of the course. Once my daughter came home in tears after another "round" with the teacher. I suggested that she drops the subject, it wasn't important for her further studies, she took it because she liked it, and what was the point if she was crying instead of enjoying it. She said no - she wouldn't do this because it would mean the teacher had won. Her reasoning was that there will be many challenging situations in life and she can't always run away, so she would rather deal with the problem now. I felt a lot of respect for her and told her that she has my full support whatever her decision is.

I am not saying you should do the same, just want to give you a different perspective. Consider your circumstances and decide what is best for you.

2) If you don't quit, how to deal with the person?

Many of the other answers gave you good advice, but if you are in a post-socialist country, some of it might not work (I am from Eastern Europe myself). Even if it works, it might made you not very popular in the office. Again - consider the circumstances and decide whether going the official route would have the result you desire. Apart of that, there are 2 things you can do:

a) do some research about psychological tricks that can help in your situation. Google 'psychological aikido' for example. There are also techniques that can help ignoring other person's offensive behaviour (I am not sure whether it is appropriate to write in more detail here).

b) do your best to improve your professional skills, concentrate on this instead on being nervous because of the bully’s presence.

I was in a situation when I had to do this, although it wasn't exactly bullying. As a young lecturer I had to prepare and teach a new course that hadn't been taught before. I had research experience in that area and teaching experience in other subjects with small groups of students in the lab but it was the first time I had to prepare lectures. On top of that, all the materials I could use were in English, and my English at the time was quite poor.

At the same time a similar course started in another department, they invited a professor (twice older and many times more experienced than me) from the Academy of Science (the top scientific institution in my country). I arranged to meet him before the first lecture, introduced myself and asked if I can attend his lectures. I was very respectful and polite and hoped to learn a lot from him. He was rude, said that it is out of question, turned and walked away. I was shocked, it was totally unexpected and I hadn't done anything to provoke such reaction. I went back to my office and cried, just couldn't stop the tears. Then I realised that the only option was just to do the job at the best of my abilities. Well, I did exactly this, prepared and taught the course, worked very hard, had 2 sleepless nights (working from home) every week while doing this. Just didn't have a choice, I was the only person to do the job, so did my best. Two years after that the professor cancelled his contract midterm due to illness. The head of the department asked me to finish his course and I had a look at the students' lecture notes. And you know what - my lectures were better! It was a great boost to my professional confidence. I realized then and still strongly believe that everything is possible if you want it and are stubborn enough to work hard towards you goal.

  • my doctor only offered to write me sick, and said, the antidepressant that I'm still taking because of sleeping issues will be enough. That's not a solution, it only delays the problem. and she refused to give me a medical record of the depression, although she diagnosed it. maybe i should see another doctor. i only have a vocational middle school graduation for IT. It's world-unique for my country, so its hard to explain, but I would nedd to do an additional degree, if i want to go to an university.
    – Mythoria
    May 7, 2014 at 15:45
  • Well, you can be very proud of your daughter, but I'm afraid, I'm just not brave enough to stand up for myself, and as I said, I try everything I can, still I lose every time against him. I don't want to go the official route, I fear to be fired, and then I really have the problem to be unemployed.
    – Mythoria
    May 7, 2014 at 15:50

You have a clinical diagnosis of depression, and you believe (and I have no reason to doubt your judgement) that his behaviour exploits/triggers this.

As such, you have a medical problem with your workplace that in some jurisdictions your employer is obliged to make reasonable allowance for. This quite aside from the fact that in many jurisdictions your employer is not entitled to just say "bullying is part of our corporate culture and you must put up with it". Even where there's no legal obligation, there's probably some desire somewhere in your company to avoid bullying and to look after the health of its employees. Try to locate that place in the company (probably HR) and address them, not just your line manager.

So you have two lines of "attack" - firstly that your workplace supports the behaviour in the first place (which it should not but which they'll claim is a judgement call, that it's not so bad as to be called bullying, etc) and secondly that the behaviour affects your mental health (which is still a judgement call but it is not your managers' call -- it can be assessed by someone outside the workplace).

As such, you could visit your doctor and get assessed for your combination of stress/anxiety/depression. This is with a view to taking your case to company HR (not just your line management, since they support the bullying).

If the problem continues then in extremes you could eventually perhaps get yourself signed off work sick either temporarily or indefinitely. But this won't help your reputation at your employer and it won't help your job search either, so both as a matter of professionalism and as a practical issue, you should only take this option if your situation at work is unbearable. I present it as one possible outcome to be aware of.

Your doctor or therapist might also be able to advise you how to cope with the bullying, although of course the real goal is to stop it happening, not to tolerate it. Since several people at work are treated in this way and (as far as you know) you're the least able to put up with it, it seems likely you're the "vulnerable to verbal bullying" end of the spectrum. This isn't your fault, but nevertheless it might be something that you can get professional help with. I know that the advice in other answers on dealing with it is well-meant and seems good, but I don't think it's appropriate to give someone ad-hoc advice when there's diagnosed depression in the picture, any more than it would be appropriate to give legal advice when there's a court case in play. That's not to say you can't pick and choose from the techniques that others report have worked for them, just that we're not in a position to assess what will work for you!

I will say one thing though (and this isn't mental health advice), which is that your manager has already acknowledged there's a problem and said you don't have to work directly with this person. So, if him being present puts pressure on you then in situations where you're in danger of making a mistake that he would pick up, you could perhaps remove one of the two of you from that situation before continuing. When you notice him listening to your conversation, perhaps say to the person you're talking to, "let's take this into another room". If he's just eavesdropping he can hardly follow. If it's a group conversation that includes him, perhaps say, "I'm not certain of the answer to that question, I will email you ASAP once I've checked my notes". Aside from avoiding mistakes, this might raise the visibility of the problem a bit more. But you'll have to be careful about using it, since your colleagues probably won't be very understanding if you always refuse to speak when he's in the room!

  • my boss is aware of the bully making me depressed, the guy that did my work before me, was fired because he was so often sick of depression... so I only stayed home sick for one week straight because of the depression last year. The topics won't be able to talk in another room, or e-mail it, i just would get some strange looks, and be asked why.
    – Mythoria
    May 7, 2014 at 15:28
  • @Mythoria: Hmm. It sounds as if your employer made (from their POV, not mine) a tactical error in hiring you. Firing someone explicitly because they suffer from a particular medical condition and hiring a replacement with the same medical condition (albeit less severe) is just dumb. I'm sorry but I don't really know how to deal with that other than trying not to care. If you're asked "why" when you say "I don't have the information on hand, I'll have to get back to you in email" then I'm not sure what to do. I'd have thought the "why" is pretty self-explanatory ;-) May 7, 2014 at 15:32
  • Well, in my country it is forbidden for an employer to ask you about your medical condition, they can't look it up, and you don't need to answer question about that, it's considered personal. period. my boss just told me about the guy before when I said, that the bully makes me depressed, and allthough I don't know him, I kinda believe that he had the same reason.
    – Mythoria
    May 7, 2014 at 15:36
  • 1
    @Mythoria: I guess, but I'd expect an employer that fires someone for being depressed, to break the rules as far as they can possibly get away with. Maybe I'm mis-judging them, perhaps they made a simple calculation on the number of sick days and not on the reason for the absence. May 7, 2014 at 15:37
  • That's my guess too. He might was even happy to be thrown out, I would be too, but I don't want to quit by myself if i just find somehow a way to handle him until I'll have luck again.
    – Mythoria
    May 7, 2014 at 15:55

The question title is actually a bit problematic, because bullying has nothing to do with the fact you looking for another job. You've just met one of those technically bright guys with poor social skill and minority/majority complexes to be cured by humiliating coworkers.

The only way to solve the issue is you changing company/department or he being fired/moved. Normally big companies should take mobbing accusations seriously, because of potential consequences. Even if there are no possible legal prosecutions, you could still because of mobbing be deemed to be unable to work for a few months by the doctor (I know such cases) and the company will have to pay you for you sitting at home, being able to fire you only once you return to work. This is no way a good scenario for them.

However, in Central-East Europe (and probably in other parts of the world too) there's something as "The Wave". It comes from the military, and it's the practice of humiliating novices by the "old army". Those humiliations are not official policy, but they are accepted by the management as a way to "show the greenhorns their place". The companies known for using such techniques are also known to pay little and hire mostly unexperienced students. "Professional" companies, on the other hand, tend to hire only people with at least 2-3 years experience, which makes "novices" to work in such "sucking" companies for that 2-3 years for "swab-money".

The things to undertake is first to talk seriously to HR that you feel mobbed, depressed etc. If they ignore it, you probably work in the "Wave-company" so it's better to run, even if the other company is not much better. If they take you seriously, they should at least isolate that guy from novices, which he apparently can't handle. It would solve your problem until you get that 2-3 years experience.

The employee market is working periodically, so there can be periods where there's no work, but after summer holidays everything should go back to norm. As a young person, I see no big issue for being 'unemployed' for 3-4 summer months and saying to the future employeer, you've just wanted to take your 'last student holidays'.

Just a side note, specifying 'Central Europe' is not specific enough. There are big differences between, for example, Poland, where you are free to leave withing a month, and Germany, where you are forced to work 3 months, or until a quartal, after you've decided to leave.


Unfortunately, nasty co-workers are present at many employers. You will run into this repeatedly through your career. I agree that if the job is making you this unhappy, you should look for a better one, but while you are looking (and after you leave this place), you need to work on your own ability to deal with people because the next place might have someone as bad or worse. Since you have decided to leave, you have more luxury to experiment with different ways to handle this than if you were planning to stay. So this time until you leave is a gift, it will help you become better prepared to face any workplace problems.

First thing is to realize that unless you are manager (and thus have power over the person's continued employment), you are going to be unlikely to change this person's behavior significantly. So stop wasting energy on trying to change that person. The only behavior you can control in this situation is your own. You do have control over your own reactions to the behavior even if it doesn't seem like it at the time. Bullies thrive on hurting people who won't fight back. The more you show that you are hurt, the more they will bully you.

So the first order of business is to work on that reaction of wanting to cry. Whatever you do, do not cry in front of this person. If you absolutely have to cry, do what many of us have done in similar situations, go to the rest room and close the stall door and cry in private.

Part of why his actions make you want to cry is that you believe what he is saying is true (often it is not with bullies). And you feel insecure. When you come at him from a place where you feel confident, much of what he says becomes just noise and you can ignore it. This is one reason why older workers tend to be less bothered by such actions, we have learned that getting upset makes the situation worse and that the person is clearly an idiot and no one else cares what he says.

You say you are one of those people who can't defend herself verbally. This is an excuse not reality. Yes it is difficult, but you can learn to defend yourself verbally and it is better done sooner rather than later. It takes wanting to learn the skill, doing some research in how to get the skill and practicing. You say you are clinically depressed, so if you are seeing a therapist, he or she should be able to help you with the techniques to do this or refer you to a behavioral therapist who can. Being able to defend yourself is a necessary skill, you need to set a priority on getting it. If you don't want to consult a therapist, there are lots of books on the subject, start reading them. I particularly like the books of Suzette Haden Elgin.

Another useful skill is acting. Find someone whose behavior is self confident. Then figure out exactly how they stand and what they say in response to negative feedback. At home, practice behaving as that person does. Get friends and/or your spouse to help by playing the part of the bully. When you start to feel as if you can do that, then start acting like that person at work. There is a saying, "Fake it till you make it." You need to do this until you genuinely have the self-confidence you need. If you have trouble with this, take an acting class.

When you feel pressured to give an answer in front of him and you want to make sure it is right but feel stressed, take a few deep breaths before you start to talk. You will be amazed at how much better your brain works when it has oxygen. If you know you are going into a meeting where you will be questioned about your part of a project, write down what points you want to make. Then you will make fewer mistakes.

Many people who are successful have had to deal with people like this early in their careers. They chose to stop thinking of themselves as a victim and chose instead to use that energy towards proving the bully wrong about them. So don't just be Ok at your job, don't just be good. Decide to become the best at your job that anyone has ever seen. Then go out and do just that. Maybe this person will be doing you a favor by making you so determined to show him that you do what you need to do to be wildly successful.

This is likely to be an ongoing issue for you. You need to start working on fixing it, but there no quick fixes to the lack of self-confidence that allows people to successfully bully you. You goal is to be better at it with each successive job until the problem isn't there anymore. Learn to measure your progress by celebrating small successes not measure yourself all the time against the overall goal. Looking at what you accomplished is more satisfying that berating yourself because you have so far to go.

I know this sounds daunting. I know because I had to do it too and frankly it was daunting and it took years. People who know me now would be shocked to meet my 23 year old self. I hid from my boss because he made me nervous, I spent hours in the ladies room crying and I couldn't even look anyone in the face. I was told that I needed to toughen up. I was told that my technical skills were good but I would get nowhere unless I learned to cope with criticism and learn to look at the world more confidently. I was even told that I was only hired in my first two jobs because they needed a person immediately and had no other qualified candidates. I am not like that at all anymore and that shoudl give you some hope that it is possible for you to overcome this issue.

  • +1 for tip to use time while looking for new job to learn new skills needed to cope with similar situation in the future Jun 4, 2014 at 0:27

As you say, he's playing on your insecurity. That means that the solution to the relationship problems you're having with him, don't require any changes in the relationship you two have, or his behavior.

You're questioning whether he might be right about your abilities, because you don't have confidence in your own abilities. That confidence will come when you receive respect and praise for a job well done. It probably will never come from this coworker, and that's ok, because it doesn't have to. Look for other places to receive it.

Build a reputation among people who are polite toward diligent beginners and advance both your skills and your confidence in them. You say you're already a user of StackOverflow. Great! Answer questions in your spare time (outside work hours). Find questions that interest you that you don't know the answer to, search for the answer, and use comments to ask clarifying questions of more experienced users. Sure, there are negative comments on StackOverflow, but if you respond with interest in being taught, you will find plenty of users who are interested in helping you learn, and who will give praise as your skill develop.

Or contribute to an open-source software project. They all need improvements to end-user-facing documentation, and as a technician, you can work on the documentation that is of special interest to administrators -- prerequisite checklists, installation instructions, troubleshooting steps. Look into the code as you write the documentation, and ask questions, maybe on StackOverflow, when you aren't sure how the code works.

Develop your technical skills in a different community, and soon your response to the name-calling will change. You won't wonder if he's right, if you have world experts in your field leaving positive comments under your answers. You'll instead be able to think "If this coworker really knew his stuff, he could tell that my solution works".

Involvement in the larger technical community will also have a positive effect on your ability to land other jobs. It'll give you something to put on your resume, something to talk about during the interview without fear of breaching confidentiality of your current employer, and confidence to offer your solutions to an interviewer. And who knows, you might even find that potential employers have already met you in the community.


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