This story is by Anna P. Wright and was part of our 2022 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Narcissistic bullies target tall poppies.
Jezebel only has two outcomes for tall poppies. Career suicide or suicide by career. Either way, she is going to make them pay for the office uprising against her.
Meg saw six co-workers in as many months fall victim to Jezebel’s stealth bullying tactics. Meg’s friend, Eirene whose name means peace, is an empath, and a seasoned pro. She knew immediately she was being targeted. Eirene’s employment started at the same time as Meg’s. Pearl translated, means Meg.
A new career path opportunity and the world is Meg’s oyster. Co-worker, Jezebel schemes to discredit excellent workmanship. Eirene chooses to work in another division. Meg gets blindsided, and side-lined.
“Hey Meg, you know our high work standards have put targets on our backs?”
“Eirene why don’t you report Jezebel to senior management?”
“They won’t believe me. I will get bullied more. Jezebel lies, and she wins. She always wins.”
Eirene and Meg catch up to compare notes about their working conditions. Jezebel’s fake innocence fools new colleagues. Then the penny drops. They begin to understand and comprehend. But it’s too late by then. Every excellent employee is a target.
Eirene wants to keep the peace, but with fiery passion and true grit, Meg wants to go to war to make peace.
“Jezebel is alive and well. She’s disrupting anyone who challenges unreasonable behavior in the workplace. When you don’t speak up, she goes free. Eirene, please don’t let the lies win.”
“It takes six months to get to know someone,” Meg tells her boss Mattias, also a tall poppy, that he’s working under duress.
“The allegations against Jezebel are often and by many. There are several complaints of a toxic work environment. Matt, Jezebel is not who she portrays herself to be to your face.”
Meg and Mattias (Matt) are friends. There’s a bonus to Meg’s attraction. They’re both descendants of Vikings. On occasions, the conversations between them blur professional boundaries. They have mutual trust and respect. But the potential dangers of sexual harassment lurk. They must not risk ruining their careers.
“Meg, why do you like me?”
“You are so intelligent, which is sexy as hell. You’re articulate, tall, handsome, and a shy but strong introvert. You are a leader, fair-minded, and a dark horse. You fascinate me. I have written a poem about you. I didn’t know that I was a sapiosexual until I met you. I thought I was being fussy about intelligent men, but it’s a sexual preference.”
“Matt, what do you like about me?”
“Everything. Your personality. You have impressed all those around you. Everyone fights over who’s going to have you on their team. In the future, I can count on it that you are going to go far in this organization. I have never met anyone who has become an instant friend like you. You fascinate me too. Intelligent, friendly, and able to talk to anyone no matter who they are. And you’re easy on the eye too.”
Meg blurts out to Eirene one day. “I’m desperate not to keep or be a dirty little secret.” She had often dropped hints to Eirene in the hope that clues would manifest. Meg was calculating some questionable equations with the boss.
“I already know Red.” Meg’s nickname is because of the assisted red of her hair thanks to Revlon ColorSilk 42. “I’ve seen the way you two look at each other at work. There’s a connection.”
“Who are you? Yoda?” Eirene often surprised Meg aka Red with Yoda moments of genius. Red knew all along that if Yoda wanted something dealt with, she only had to mention it in passing. And Red became impassioned almost immediately.
“Matt, I am beyond angry. Jezebel has set Eirene up by planting falsified documents at her workstation. Right in front of me, her cohort Nick pretended to pull them from a pile of filing. I saw that he already had them in his hand. These undeserving advantages are strategies for future traps. Jezebel is telling continuous lies, then denying them when she’s confronted. Innocent people are set up by her in a deliberate act to blame them for making mistakes she’s caused. She’s causing trouble to divide and conquer. She controls everything. She is gaslighting, targeting, harassing, and bullying all the good workers. Her adverse conduct in the workplace is destroying morale. And all so she can keep the status quo. She is surreptitious when she sidles up to new co-workers. Befriending with kind words and inviting her expertise of the job. She’s not trustworthy. So many people have told me about their run-ins with her. Sorry to rave at you, Matt. It’s so damn frustrating. Please do something.”
“I promise you this will get dealt with. I will call a compulsory meeting so I can hear all sides of the complaints.”
“I pity Jezebel,” said Eirene. “I don’t care that she tried to ruin me. I left that team because I wanted to change within the division and not, she thought she got rid of me. She’s full of fears and lacks in her own life. So, she’s trapped by her bitterness, anger, and unresolved grief. Meg, you must not retaliate. Matt was protecting you by not inviting you to the meeting. Jezebel lied her arse off. You would have reacted to her. We all know how passionate and outspoken you are.”
Eirene didn’t tell Meg for a while, what had happened at the meeting. Jezebel slandered Meg. Other complainants didn’t show up to speak about Jezebel’s adverse conduct.
“Hi, Meg. Let’s go for a coffee sometime.”
“Hi, Eirene. Sounds great. You choose the café. When are you free?”
“Monday and Thursday. You?”
“Tuesday and Thursday.”
“OK. Thursday at Thea’s Café.”
“Is that the café owned by Thea?
“No, ha-ha. T.H.E.A.S stands for The Happily Ever AfterShock Café.
“The Happily Ever Aftershock Café? It sounds lame, like the place where broken dreams go to die. Or bad relationships are like social earthquakes. Echoing aftershock waves from all the oh-woe-is-me Cinderellas.”
“Wow, Meg. Cynical much?”
“Sorry, Eirene. Management ignored my extensive research and written report. Anyway, what’s the attraction? The coffee’s served in glass slippers by ugly stepsisters?”
“Meg. What’s eating you?”
“I can’t believe they moved me from the forensic accounting team. The minute I questioned Jezebel’s creative accounting… Bam.”
Meg writes a formal complaint. Result: Bullying unsubstantiated. Mediation is voluntary and Jezebel refuses to meet with Meg.
“That’s her admission of guilt, Eirene. I hope there’s another way to mediation.”
Jezebel blames Meg for bullying and targeting her. Projection is a classic narcissistic bully tactic. And Jezebel’s gossip is insidious bullying!
“The truth falls on deaf ears, Eirene. Don’t underestimate the power of a planted seed. We cannot force someone to receive a message they are not ready to receive. Narcissistic bullies delude themselves with true lies and fake facts. Jezebel will face judgment one day, whether in this life or the next. She will be accountable to her Maker, as I know I will also. Eirene I am such a hypocrite. I’m trying to nail this bitch for bullying, targeting, and harassment. Meanwhile, I could go down for sexual harassment myself. I researched that tall poppies are the targets of narcissistic bullies. Eirene, we’re tall poppies. I’ve never realized. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Tall poppies sow where they’re planted. They explore ways to affect positive change in civil society. Intellectuals, producers not consumers. But narcissistic bullies must hold others back. Criticize, and sabotage them. Character assassination tools chisel away the mettle and fortitude. They try to draw tall poppies toward mediocrity and conformity.
“Eirene, the greatest revenge is to live life well. Attempted career assassinations are like pearls on our necklaces of wisdom. I will leave this career on my terms. I’m trading it for my first love. Writing.
I will be a freelance writer… Advocate for marginalized and vulnerable tall poppies. My research against Jezebel can be the launching pad for my own career’s Happily Ever After…Storyline: Meg, and pearls before swine….”
“You can do anything. You are a woman of many talents.”
“Thank you. My mother excelled in English, and my father was a mathematician.”
I will buy pearl earrings to remind me that an irritating grit in my soul brings transformation. Bitter hurt wrapped in the gift of forgiveness produces a sweet aroma in my life. Pearls of wisdom epitomize the truth of bittersweet.
Meg’s true grit, underpinned by truth, strengthens her. When the evidence looks false, the truth goes undefended. Yet she must step into the arena with courage for herself and the silent sufferers. Meg may get her arse kicked. She will show up anyway. Sometimes she looks like she’s losing. But she isn’t. She’s winning on a different playing field.
Meg embodies her name. The world is her oyster. And in her world, she is the pearl.