Good Morning. I wasn't going to post this, but after reading Anne R. Allen's blog post on Sunday about cyber bullies, I thought I would share my real life drama because bullying in any form needs to stop.
Remember a few weeks ago I told you I was the new Gift Card Coordinator at my daughter's school... I took the job because nobody else wanted to do it. It involves a lot of paperwork, a lot of hours you don't get paid for and a lot of paperwork. I went in blind, but took it stride. I got together with Tina*, the outgoing coordinator, and Karen, my new right-hand assistant, and we plowed through the process for two weeks. (Actually 4 days total, which in my opinion was NOT enough for me to know what the hay-zoo I was doing.) Tina, I guess, thought that was enough. She claims she left me alone so I would find my own way. (With an $80 thousand dollar budget, you'd think she'd make damn sure I knew what I was doing.) But she (I see now in hindsight) wanted me to fall flat on my face. (I also heard this from another parent.)
Anyway, Karen and I bungled through the first ordering week alone because Tina deliberately left out a step in the processing of the orders. When we hit the glitch and because we were alone, I asked Laura, (the Director of Advancement for the school) to lend me a quick hand. Not a big deal. She didn't mind, she had actually set up the computer program so she knew how it all worked.
The next day Tina called me LIVID I had asked Laura for help. She claimed that I was not allowed to ask for help from any of the paid staff, spouting Diocesan policy about rules and protocol for parent volunteers. Huh? I beg your pardon, but I'll ask for help from whomever I damn well please. Tina claimed I had to call HER and she would help me over the phone. I tried to explain to her that if I didn't know what the hell I was doing, I couldn't explain it to her over the phone, so what was the point. Laura was there, it took two minutes to find the problem and fix it and it was done. Tina was not happy.
We then had our first Executive Board meeting for the PTO, but we also had a vote for the By-Laws over email. I read the by-laws and asked for clarification on just one word in a sentence. Being a writer, the sentence made no sense so the one word I asked to be inserted would make it make sense. Tina, (the former gift card coordinator who is now the treasurer for the PTO) decided if I was going to ask for clarification, then she wanted to insert a few words of her own to that same sentence. However, I felt that those words were ambiguous and totally screwed up the meaning of the sentence so I wrote that they were ambiguous, Laura agreed and made a motion to scrub the vote because of the ambiguity and totally rewrite that section of by-laws. The motion passed. Tina was not happy.
As Karen and I were now officially on our own, we came up with a new plan to sell the gift cards. We were going to grab some new volunteers and start selling in the mornings during morning drop off. Not a big deal. I asked the principal if we could sit in the lobby during that time and she said "sure, sounds like a great idea." So we did.
Tina asked me one day how it was going with morning sales. I said, (because I was so proud of how it was going) "Fantastic! We're making so much money, I have to make several deposits a week." She told me I couldn't do that because it would mess up the paperwork. Huh? I'm going to sit on $3000.00 for a week? Sometimes more? I think not. First of all that's a lot of money just sitting around in a desk drawer. Second, why should I keep checks for a week when some people are anal and need to know where there money is at all times (like me). I pretty much blew Tina off and kept making my deposits whenever I damn well felt like it. And besides, if the books come out right, who cares about paperwork. Tina was not happy.
Well, then, I had a special order come in on a Friday. A lady ordered $2000.00 worth of gift cards for a certain specialty food store. I made the special order. Not a big deal. When Tina found out she had a cow. "If you do that for one person, you'll be expected to do it for everyone. You can't do that without the proper paperwork and purchase orders." Okay, how stupid does she think I am that I wouldn't make out a purchase order?
Having run my own business for a few decades, if someone asks me for a special order, my first thought is to keep the customer happy, but more importantly returning to my business. Right? Simple customer service. I'm running this gift card thing like a business. If people are going to drop two grand on gift cards, you bet I'm going to make a special order. So I did. And then, lo and behold, it happened again. So I did it again. Tina was not happy.
Laura then told me quarterly reports were coming up and I had to do them. She gave me the template and said, "Just fill in the numbers." Easy peasy. Not a big deal. So I ran up the paperwork, filled in the numbers, and sent it off to Tina. Well. She decided she needed more reports and asked me for the passwords to the gift card program in the computer. (Laura had told me previously to change them.)
I gave them to her. Laura was a little upset, and told me to change them again. Tina was furious. However, as I began to think about what was going on, I realized, Tina had not asked to get into any one else's computer programs for their numbers, so why was she doing it to me? I told her no. She flipped out. I flipped back. However, I gave them to her just to shut her up because I was So.Sick.Of.The.Drama. I just want to do my job, do it well, make money, come home and write my stories. Tina was starting to suck the life out of me. Not to mention giving me a fine fat headache indeed.
I thought the situation was finally taken care of. Laura, the principal, the director of finance, the pastor, and the president of the PTO had agreed that from now on, I would be in charge of the reports, it would be written into the PTO bylaws, and that I would now be responsible or all quarterly reports. Tina was not happy.
But then, the finance director asked me for the bank statements. She needed copies. One of the other girls who volunteers for us, Diane, decided to help me clean the gift card office and purge some of the useless paperwork that had been hanging around for so many years. She had put all the old bank statements and deposit slips in manila envelopes and marked them by school year. It was totally great to get the file cabinet cleaned up. Yay. However, Tina was not happy, claiming we were purging important documents. (Sales sheets from 2003, 2006, 2009? I think not. They're a fire hazard.)
So when the finance director asked me for the bank statements, I knew exactly where they were. Right by the lock box in the bottom of the file cabinet because that's where I wanted them. Only when I went to look for them, they weren't there. I checked, I looked, I searched. No where. I informed the principal, the director of finance, and the secretary of the school. I was frantic. These were important documents and were needed, not only for me, but for the program itself. We get audited every two years by the Diocese, so if I'm missing bank statements, I'm screwed.
Now, during this frantic search, I had told the principal so she knew what was going on. Tina happened to be at school during this time (we had church service and our kids were doing the mass.) The principal asked if Tina knew where the missing bank statements were. Tina said no. Let me repeat, Tina denied knowing where they were in front of the school secretary and two other witnesses.
Well, I finally found them, in the 2011-2012 school year stuck in between March and September. However, they were also with reconciling sheets that I had no idea where those had come from. I could only speculate they were done by Tina and when she returned them to the gift card office decided to put them where I couldn't find them. I guess she assumed I wasn't going to notice they were missing until it was too late. (However, how stupid was she to leave evidence that she had moved them?)
Suffice it to say, I was not happy. This was now the umpteenth time Tina had tried to get my goat. Her jealousy over my success with the program had turned her into a hideous monster. I had had conversations with Laura, the pastor, the principal, the finance director, the President of the PTO about Tina's bullying behavior SEVERAL times. However, they were all stymied as to how to handle the situation. Nothing like this had ever happened before. I mean really...there were rules to deal with bullies in the lower grades, but with adults?
However, I guess Tina thought that by bullying me, I would quit and that she would run to the rescue to save the Gift Card Program. Be the hero. You know. Guess what. She doesn't realize I'm not a quitter. She also doesn't realize that I'm not stupid and I know all about filing a formal complaint which is exactly what I did -- to the school board. I also inferred in my letter that if her behavior continues, I will send a copy of the letter along with all the other complaints I have against her to the PTO board and ask that she be removed as treasurer.
I had a conversation with the President of the PTO and showed her the missing bank statements and the questionable reconciling sheets. SHE was livid this time. I was informed there's going to be a big meeting this Weds with Tina to see what she has to say about the bank statements. I wonder how she'll squirm out of it.
In my formal complaint, I respectfully requested to either be given a new office with my own key, or have Tina banned from that room, the computer, and from my personal space within 20 feet. What else was I going to do? We're all sick and tired of the game she's playing. For whatever reason, she's out to get me. And no, I'm not being paranoid, it's just been me she's picking on. Nobody else. I guess she figured I'll do what she wants. I'll play by her "rules" and take it like all the other people she's bullied in the past. Guess what...I don't play that way.
When I spoke with the pastor, let me tell you, HE is NOT happy. When I told him about her demanding the passwords to the computer I was so upset I used my fancy Italian curse words. He lived in Italy for 8 years so he knew what I said. (I generally don't swear in front of clergy. You can go to hell for stuff like that. lol) He forgave me because he knew how upset I was as this was just another in her long line of ridiculous demands. He knows she's out to get me, because I'm proving I'm better at the position than she was. She's just insanely jealous. And it's too bad, because at one time I thought of her as a friend.
So let this be a lesson for you all -- don't let the bullies get you down. Fight back, but take the high road and do it in writing. Make a formal complaint. If you know you're in the right, the truth will win out. Don't take bullying in any form. Also, evidence helps. Pictures, documents, whatever you have, keep a record of the bullying, and formalize it. Get witnesses, statements. Someone WILL listen to you. They have to.
And if you're thinking of volunteering for the PTO, don't do it. I really wish I hadn't.
Tell me -- Have you ever been in a bullying situation as an adult? What did you do about it? Fight back, quit, use the rules to your advantage?
* All names have been changed in this blog post.
Anne Gallagher (c) 2013