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When I Was Bullied at Work Because of My Dwarfism

I’m short.

I get it. It’s just as if you are someone over 7 feet tall. You get the same questions; you get the same jokes, you feel the same way. The “snowflake” movement was well after all of this happened to me. I know I should roll my eyes and laugh off people’s comments, but sometimes the short jokes get a little old. More specifically when you are in your late 20s, and in a professional work environment.

I was working for a wine distributor at the time. There was only about six of us working in the front office, and twice as many working in the warehouse. I didn’t like to go into the warehouse and would only do so if they instructed me to. I didn’t like going there cause I would have to deal with “Jen.” She was my age and in charge of the warehouse. I thought at one point she was nice but then came the midget jokes. “Haha,” I would smile feeling my cheeks turning red. I cannot stand someone calling me that. Call me “short-stack.” Call me “small fry.” Call me “travel-sized.” Call me anything other than “midget.”

My family and I always laugh and blame genetics. My grandmother was small, and so is my mom. We’re just a short stature group, part of a tight-knit family who all cares for one another.

Jen was a tough cookie. She was your average height, obese and was going through a rough patch. After wanting to get into the police academy, she quit and promptly returned to work about two months of being accepted. Word had it that her demeanor wasn’t going over well with those in the police academy. I wasn’t surprised by that seeing how she treated me, always having to be the dominant one in the relationship.

The more shocking news on her return was when the office gossip told me that Jen cheated in her relationship and got caught. So when Jen started back up with the name calling, I let it slide. When I was a kid and this would bother me, my parents always told me to let it go. They explained that if I said something back, I give a bully the satisfaction of their hurtful words. As a kid, that was easy. As an adult, I was struggling with it big time. Because she was going through a rough patch in life, I would give a “haha” and would hope that by some chance Harry Potter would lend me his invisibility cloak so she would leave me alone the rest of the day.

I could have quit the company if I wanted to, but the housing market crashed and the fact that I was able to find this job was a miracle. After going through a job search for over six months to land this position, I wasn’t sure if I was ready to go through the wringer again even if it meant finding a workplace where people respected one another. So, everyday for two years I walked into the office and was greeted the same, “Hey midget, how’s it going?”

I took each joke, each “nickname,” each punch, stone-faced. Meanwhile, I was feeling more and more angry with her each day. I would come home and scream into my pillow, write in a journal and exercise all in an attempt to try and let it go. Looking in the mirror in the evening before bed, I would practice what I would say to her in the morning. It got to the point where I was past asking her to leave me alone and considering telling HR how I felt. In the end, I decided that it wasn’t worth complaining about her. It was such a small office and she had been working there longer than I had. She was very close to those in management, and I knew speaking to HR about how I felt would be useless. It was a laid back office atmosphere where everyone would poke fun at each other in some way. But both people involved in the joke would laugh. In my situation, only one person was laughing.

Walking in there, day in and day out got really old, really fast. I was growing weaker day by day until one comment broke the camel’s back, “Hey midget, how was the short bus today?”

I snapped. My voice amplified, “Shut up! Shut up! Stop calling me ‘midget.’ I don’t like that!” I spat at her. The veins in my temple throbbed and my eyes stung with tears.

“Hey! Danielle that’s not nice! She’s just kidding around!” the HR lady called from down the hallway.

Jen smirked, stared me in the eyes and turned around, waddling back to the HR office where they sat down together. I heard soft giggles from the two of them. Whether they were talking about what happened or what they did on their weekend is unknown to me. What I do know is why I was so upset. It wasn’t Jen or the HR lady. It was me.

I was mad at myself because long ago I knew what I needed to do to resolve the situation. After I figured out that Jen would never leave me alone, I should have quit. There’s no need for bullying in the workplace no matter how laid back said workplace is. Whether you’re wearing heels to work or tennis shoes, it’s still a professional atmosphere. I catered to her feelings and by not speaking up, she took advantage of me. I became a punching bag for someone who doesn’t like themselves. Well, I love myself, so I should have honored me instead and put my feelings first.

It took some time to forgive all of those involved. It took even longer to forgive myself. I was so much happier once I did and for that, I am the strong person I see each day in the mirror. Now, when someone says something to me that I don’t like, I know how to react and what to do. Lesson learned.

Author’s note: Jen’s name was changed to protect the individual’s identity.

Photo credit: Alexey_M/Getty Images