Many years ago, I was bullied at work by my supervisor. He’d recently been hired as the Executive Director of Corporate Marketing, and my creative team fell under his guard. I was quite excited about his hiring as our department had been without a director for months and we were in desperate need of a visionary leader. Unfortunately, we had no idea what a terrible boss he would be.
He had a loud mouth and a short temper, and his narcissistic rage could be heard across departments. Within days, I had become one of his primary targets and, eventually, his favorite scapegoat. To embarrass me, he would frequently blame me for things I didn’t do, yell at me for things he didn’t understand, and point out my mistakes in front of my coworkers. He also expected things from me that he didn’t expect from anyone else in our department. For example:
- He expected me to arrive at the office at 8 a.m. sharp, while everyone else in the department arrived 10 to 30 minutes later
- He was concerned about my communications skills, so he requested that I copy him on all email communications, particularly those going to senior staff members
- He felt that I personally disrespected him when senior staff members would email me directly about creative requests, even though this was the standard procedure
- He petitioned against my attendance at company-hosted events, even those that my team worked on for months, because he felt I didn’t belong there
- He had no creative experience, yet he would micromanage my design process by standing over my shoulder and barking detections at me. Then he’d complain that I wasn’t quick or creative enough
His favorite thing to do was call me to his office and scold me for being unprofessional and unqualified. One time in his office, he said, and I quote, “I don’t know how you got this job, but I can tell you right now that you won’t make it in this company because your skills are subpar.”
I was devastated. I rushed out of the office, dashed to my car, dialed my partner’s number, and cried for what felt like hours. Never had I ever been so humiliated in my professional career. It took everything I had in me not to run back to his office and slap him stupid.
But that wasn’t the only time I broke down over his insults and narcissistic tendencies. At least once a week, I felt overwhelmed by his bullying so I would excuse myself and go to the bathroom or to my car to decompress. I kept eyedrops in my pockets so my red eyes wouldn’t give me away at work. I tried every trick in the book to mend my relationship with him. I began arriving at work before 8 a.m., including him in all email communications, attended a writing course on “effective business emails,” and even credited him on key design deliverables to make him feel included in the creative process. But unfortunately, the bullying didn’t stop.
All of this happened around the fall of 2010. Prior to this situation, I had been unemployed for over a year due to the 2007-2009 economic crisis. I had a growing family at the time and felt an overwhelming obligation to provide for them. I truly felt as if I had no other option but to stick it out. Several coworkers came to my aid and even complained on my behalf, to no avail. I felt hopeless and powerless.
Thankfully, after a few months, his behavior became too much for senior management to bear, and he was finally fired following several more employee complaints. However, months before he left the company, he came to me with an urgent request. He had missed a deadline, and our VP was furious. So, the “boss from hell” and I worked all night on campaign deliverables and had the full presentation to our VP by the morning.
He was extremely grateful for what I did for him. After that day, he praised me and even gave me raving reviews before he left the company. But quite honestly, it was too little too late.
Fast-forward many years later, and that same individual had the audacity to send me this DM last Friday (see image below).
This message right here is what motivates me to write about my personal experiences as an Afro-Latino in corporate America. This is exactly why I am unapologetically proud of who I am and where I come from. This is why I mentor Black and brown creatives who are trying to catch up while fighting stereotypes and being treated differently because of their skin color or because of their heritage.
And I’m never going to stop!