Born: January 11, 1977
Committed Suicide: February 3, 2008
(from workplace bullying)
I would like to tell you a story of a 31 year old woman that had everything to live for, but was unable to survive the abuse of a Workplace Bully.
A little over thirty years ago, my niece Jodie was born into an extended family that loved
and cherished her. We watched her grow from a toddler to a teenager, a college graduate, wife and mother. An accomplished, talented young woman full of energy, high ideals, of a good heart, devoted to her patients as a mammographer, and actively involved in volunteer work for the prevention of breast cancer. She had a mother who was devoted to her, a close relationship with her sister and brother. Her husband loved her. She was “Mama” to two little children. And then there was me, an Auntie that thought the sun rose and set with her. The listener to all of her hopes and dreams, the disappointments, and how she overcame them. And in the end, the stress and tears, the conversations about work and a supervisor that never let up, a Workplace Bully.
There are many stories of Jodie, our golden girl, but this is the story of the last months and final days of her life. Jodie went to the School of Radiologic Technology, University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1998. She became a well respected mammographer at a renowned hospital-clinic in Lacrosse, WI. She frequently received recognition from her patients as well as “Way to Go” notes from coworkers and employees of the hospital which were posted on the clinics “Wall of Fame”. She received positive reviews, with high praise.
On Jodie’s previous review her supervisor stated she wished she could clone Jodie because of her professionalism and work performance. A few months after that Jodie challenged the way an issue had been handled. Turmoil ensued when the issue could not be resolved; Jodie took it to the Human Resources Department. Rather than talk to all of the parties involved, the Department simply took a “management letter in the personnel file” approach against Jodie.
From that point forward, Jodie’s supervisor never left her alone. She would reproach her in the hallways where anyone could hear; and interrupt her lunch break talking of issues. Jodie worked three days a week. The supervisor frequently scheduled the staff meetings on Jodie’s day off and expected her to come in for the one-hour meeting. On at least one of her days off she would receive a phone call from either her supervisor or one of her coworkers reporting what the supervisor had said or implied something negative about Jodie and her job. In all of the incidences the issues were inane and childish and certainly not appropriate conduct in a professional environment.
Unlike some, Jodie did not thrive on conflict or office gossip. She was at work to do her job, and does it well. Though she worked only three days a week, her monthly number of mammograms usually exceeded those working full time.
In an effort to escape from this menacing supervisor, Jodie had applied for 10 different positions within the hospital-clinic. Frequently she was imminently more qualified for the position than the persons hired, but she never received an interview.
That is, until her last job application. It was the issue of being paid while at this interview that brought about the onslaught to her final demise.
The harassment started on Thursday, Jodie’s day off, when her supervisor called her at home to challenge the hour of pay she had claimed for an off day. Jodie explained she had been at an internal interview and was following the directions of the Human Resources Department. Her supervisor refused to believe that was company policy, threatening Jodie they would deal with it when she returned to work the following day, as they did.
The next morning in Jodie’s presence the supervisor called Human Resources on the speaker phone, was told Jodie was correct about company policy, and then argued with them that Jodie should not be paid. Once the call was finished, she told Jodie that this wasn’t over with, as she was getting her annual review on Monday and not to expect it to be good; “her behavior would all be spelled out and she would find out she was not liked by many people in the department.” This wounded Jodie. She felt she her work was good and she had numerous friends within the department, who not only liked her, but respected her work.
Jodie was physically ill after this encounter, started home, and then went back to Human Resources to resign. Rather than accept her resignation, giving up a career that she had worked hard to achieve, she was encouraged to think it over and give her answer on Monday, the same day her review was scheduled. In the course of the conversation it was noted if she felt there were times when the supervisor was behaving inappropriately to make note of them. Jodie knew that Human Resources were already aware of many such incidences.
Arriving in Miami from a week’s cruise with my sisters, including Jodie’s Mom, my phone rang as soon as we were within cell phone range. It was Jodie calling to tell me of the events with the Supervisor. Over the weekend Jodie spoke with members of her family, and a coworker. She repeatedly said she just didn’t think she could face another episode with the supervisor. We all gave our advice. I encouraged her to just stay home until she felt strong enough to face the situation, see her family doctor to deal with her anguish and stress or call in or notify Human Resources by mail of her final decision to resign.
Yet none of us knew or understood or were prepared for the dark place this supervisor had driven our beloved child, niece, sister, wife, mother. Jodie succumbed to suicide on Sunday morning.
The supervisor was removed from her duties on Monday. No further action has been taken by the hospital administration to ensure this not happen again.
Today, family and friends, and many staffers of Advocates against Workplace Bullying are working towards legislation to insure a healthy workplace. There is legislation in process in over 15 states. This detrimental phenomena is more egregious than protected status harassment and in fact, it is 4 times more prevalent than such
Jodie’s story of workplace bullying was written by her aunt Joie Bostwick who can be reached via email at “Jodies_Legacy@ymail.com or 238-784-2037.