byrne·dean is proud to support the campaign to raise awareness of the impact of bullying in all walks of life. As an organisation we help our clients to create kinder, fairer, more productive workplaces and so this campaign has particular relevance to our work and belief systems.
For many years while I was a student (and yes this was 25 years ago) I had a holiday job at a local theme park. The senior management were permanent staff, and mostly a little older, but most of the public facing staff were in the school/university age range, and for most of us it was our first experience of the workplace.
For most of the years I worked there my job was in the catering stores team. The park had a number of different food outlets, including restaurants, fast food outlets, sweet shops and ice cream parlours. Our job was to make sure they had the stock they needed to make and/or sell their product. Every morning we would drop off the orders placed the night before and we would remain on stand by all day to deal with urgent requirements, as well as receiving in deliveries and managing the stores – an important part of which seemed to involve sampling the various ice cream products available and, occasionally, the beer in the park pub’s cellar to which we had access.
We were based in the central park building with huge freezers and other storage facilities. Most of the outlets were spread around the park. One, the Coffee Shop, was directly above us. While for the most part we would drive deliveries to the different outlets, for the Coffee Shop we would load up a trolley with supplies and take it up in the lift. The Coffee Shop was run by a lady (let’s call her Chrissie) who at the time seemed much older than most of us – she was probably at least 25! Chrissie was friendly enough but was pretty strict in terms of running the Coffee Shop her way.
One aspect of this related to our deliveries. Space was limited in the Coffee Shop and if they were doing cleaning, or were particularly busy when we arrived then it would quickly become a mess. So Chrissie imposed a rule that we had to phone ahead before arriving with any delivery. That made sense. Very soon, however, this developed into something else. First Chrissie began deciding which of the stores team were allowed to deliver to her, blackballing those she did not like.
Before long, she took to positioning herself immediately outside the lift when we had been given the all clear to go up and, before allowing him (because we were all men) out of the lift, she would insist on a good grope of the genitals of the storesman doing the delivery.
At the time, it was just accepted as being one of the odd quirks of working there. What was very clear, however, was that one simply had to go along with it - if you had thought to challenge what was happening, the focus would more likely be on why you were complaining about being groped by an over friendly woman, rather than on the abusive nature of her conduct. I am not going to pretend it scarred me for life, but it helps me to keep in mind how varied bullying can be, how institutionalised it can be, and how it can be very hard to speak out about it.