Bullied by My Boss // I was being harassed at work, but I needed the money

As told to Chaya Gross

When I landed my first bookkeeping job, I was ecstatic. I’d been teaching elementary school for several years, and as much as I enjoyed it, I needed a job where I could earn more money to support my growing family.

I walked into the office on the first day raring to go but with butterflies in my stomach. Transitioning to a new position is never easy. At the first staff meeting I listened carefully to the pep talks and vowed to do my best. When the meeting was over and I got up to leave, my manager, Mrs. Miller,* motioned me to come over.

“You taught in elementary school,” she said.

I wasn’t sure if it was a question or a statement, so I nodded.

“Your outfit isn’t appropriate for a business office,” she continued. “You need to be more careful in choosing your clothes.”

I swallowed hard and looked down at the brand-new black blazer I was wearing. After I’d landed this job, despite being on a tight kollel budget, I’d gone on a small shopping spree to spruce up my wardrobe.

Was it too juvenile or too sophisticated? I had no clue what could possibly be wrong with a black blazer, but I didn’t have the guts to ask her.

Mrs. Miller patted me on the shoulder. “I’m just telling you this for your own good. Adjusting to a business workplace isn’t easy. Good luck.”

When I went home, I hung the black blazer in the back of the closet. I had a lot to learn about working in an office and was happy that my manager would be there to guide me. That evening I spent hours in front of my closet deciding what to wear the following day.
Work seemed like a dream come true. I was delighted when I figured out a more efficient way for the company to do its accounts receivables. I can do this forever, I thought as I stepped out of my cubicle for lunch. As I walked down to the little communal kitchen, the door to the manager’s office opened and Mrs. Miller beckoned me inside.

“I passed by your desk before,” she said. “You seem to be very good at your job.”

I smiled.

Then she shook her head. “But you talk too much.”

“Excuse me?” I said.

She looked at me. “How can I say this? You’re still wet behind the ears. You need to behave more professionally.”

Yesterday I’d worn a blazer and it hadn’t been good. Today my behavior didn’t pass muster either. Adjusting to working in this place would be much tougher than I’d imagined.

Every morning I agonized over my wardrobe. I’d landed an important position and didn’t want to mess it up over something as trivial as clothing.

One day I noticed another employee wearing the same black blazer I’d worn to the first staff meeting.

“Did Mrs. Miller comment on your blazer?” I asked curiously.

“She actually did,” my colleague replied. “She said it was nice.”

I was floored. “She didn’t tell you that it wasn’t appropriate?”

“Why? Is something wrong with it?” she asked with concern.

I shook my head. “No, it’s beautiful.”

“Hey, come to think of it, don’t you also have one?” she continued. “When I bought it, I thought it looked familiar.’

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