A woman with an autoimmune disease claims she was once told she ‘didn’t deserve a promotion as she would die soon’.
Skevi Constantinou, 36, says she was subjected to several years of workplace bullying while working as an executive assistant across numerous different companies.
She would find rubbish emptied across her desk and on one occasion, she said a colleague coughed in her face on purpose.
Skevi, from Birmingham, has chronic Neutropenia with unknown cause.
"I have a rare autoimmune disease which I means I have to be really careful avoiding getting infected, but this has always made me work even harder to prove this won't hold me back,” she said.
"Whenever I start a new job, I always have an occupational health assessment in order for me to be as safe as possible and I have to avoid things like hot desking and using crowded lifts.
"On one occasion I was at work waiting to use the lift. I cannot use lifts which are overcrowded so I patiently waited but a colleague stepped out of the lift, came right up to my face and coughed in it.
"After coughing in my face, she said 'I hope that doesn't kill you'."
The bullying, understandably, negatively impacted her physical and mental health which lead to intrusive thoughts, throwing up before and after work and even led to her becoming isolated from close friends and family.
Skevi said the ‘worst comment’ happened during a performance review from a ‘senior member of management’.
"During a performance review I was told I was doing well in my role but I 'didn't deserve a promotion as I would die soon'," she claimed.
When Skevi experienced bereavement due to the deaths of some of her relatives, colleagues began ‘spreading rumours around the office’ that she was lying to get time off work. People would also tell her she was ‘lying’ to her face.
"Why would I make something up that is so upsetting and horrible? The bullying wasn't a daily occurrence, it was hourly,” she said.
"Every single morning I'd walk up to my desk where my colleagues had covered it in rubbish, they would break my stationery, leave nasty messages about having an invisible illness and more.
"Each night I'd get in from work riddled with anxiety to the point I'd actually throw up and I'd spend time worrying about what the next day would bring.
"I cried in the toilets at work but I didn’t want it to impact my role so I really tried to keep a brave face".
Doctors warned Skevi she ‘would likely die if (the bullying) didn’t stop’ due to the impact on her physical health.
"My immune system was crashing so much that I was constantly in and out of hospital.”
Skevi said other people witnessed the bullying but were scared to speak up. She cut herself off from family and friends.
"I had incredibly intrusive thoughts too. At first, I went down the relevant avenues reporting it to senior staff following the procedures, but what are you supposed to do when it's those people who are the bullies?
"So, I decided to put myself first and I just left, never looking back. I didn't contact a union regarding this as I didn’t know unions were an option. I was so stuck with what I should do."
After the years of bullying, Skevi has since set up her own business, The PA Way, which trains assistants globally and has launched a campaign to combat workplace bullying for good.
She added: "The campaign is to introduce a UK anti-bullying law targeting workplace bullying. I literally cannot believe there isn’t a law like this already in this country, as so many other countries do.
"To anyone going through a similar experience to me, you are not alone. Bullying is far more common than you think but together we can stop it for good."
You can support Skevi’s campaign here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/623087
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