#RadioMeToo: I was workplace bullied at an Australian radio station

Staff Writer

This article is republished with permission by Radio Today from an anonymous blog post on Global Hobo.

“I want you to fuck off and never come back.”

These were my male superior’s last words to me.

I always knew workplace bullying existed, but I assumed adults would not resemble those bigger kids who pick on the small kids in the school garden. Turns out I was wrong. It was exactly the same, except without the swings and slides.

It was the day I finished university, and I can still remember the jitters of hearing the words: “You’re hired!” Flying from Melbourne to a country town in a different state did not seem like a varied transition in the beginning, but I left the job feeling mentally and emotionally broken in just three months from workplace bullying.

When I touched down in what was to be my new home, it was freezing, mid-June; the air was frosty, but clearer than home. The first few weeks as a radio producer seemed like a dream: calling the Prime Minister for interviews, speaking to media advisors and getting to know the locals.

Six weeks in, I made my first error, which would be the beginning of my downfall. Footsteps pounded down the hallway and stopped right outside my studio door.

“Meeting! Now!” my boss shouted, pointing at me.

There I found myself facing a jury of three stern, middle-aged males shaking their heads at me. I had made a spelling mistake in a social media story headline, which sparked some online controversy. My host—the one harassing me—was the eldest of the three; he had squinty eyes that were magnified through his clear-rimmed glasses and his wrinkly skin was a nasty shade of yellow. He puffed at his beloved e-cigarette and looked at me.

“What do you have to say for yourself?” my host snapped.

“I’m sorry – I had to get the story out quickly and I missed that error. It won’t happen again.”

“You know my reputation is on the line and you are fucking it up big time,” was the response.

I nodded, but my lip trembled uncontrollably and I could feel my emotions rising to the surface.

“Don’t nod at me,” he spat, saliva frothing at the creases of his mouth. “You must think it’s easy not having your name plastered on the brand!”

The power of his intimidation quickly ruptured my already weak exterior. Tears streamed down my face, my mascara now smudged. The three men had no idea how to react to an emotional young woman. They sat there silently, giving me no reassurance, nor a way to better the situation.

After the meeting, I approached my program director for advice. He was a man I could be honest with. “The way the media works is this: you’ve got to stroke his ego, like you are pumping his dick hard.”

Okay – so all I had to do was get on my knees and grovel to the man who had spat in my face?

In hindsight, I should have walked out right then and there.

I skipped lunch every day. I worked 10 hours straight in solitude just to earn some brownie points. I thought I had gained my host’s respect by going beyond my KPI for stories and checking my spelling 20 times before publishing. I soon received excellent feedback from the CEO for the quality of my stories. I tried everything to make my hard work visible, and management granted me my wish by loosening their reins.

My host, however, did not. He had a daughter my age who had moved across the country for university, but it made me wonder why he had rarely spoken of her when I pressed him on it, and why he stayed monotone when her name came up. Despite the apparently awkward relationship with his daughter, I knew he would not dare speak to her the way he had spoken to me.

I had to get away just to stay sane. I flew back home to Melbourne every third weekend. I adored the coastal air and the comfort of my family and friends, and I enjoyed a few social drinks to ease my tension. Stress quickly flooded back as I returned to work the Monday morning to even more confrontation than before.

“What did you do on the weekend?” my host asked slyly.

“Not too much,” I replied vaguely.

“Bullshit. I know you fucked off to Melbourne, don’t lie to me.”

I had no clue why this conversation was happening, but I did not like its direction.

“You don’t care about this place; you don’t care about this show.”

I explained to him calmly that I needed an escape to de-stress.

“You think you know what stress is? I vomit every morning at the thought of going on radio,” he spat. I wanted to say that he was in the wrong industry if he felt like that, but I held my tongue.

He kept going.

“You’re a passive aggressive princess!”

I wanted to wave my magic wand and send him to hell. I hated him, but I hated myself more for not having the courage to stand up to him. If I had a tiara on my head, I would have thrown it at his teeth.

“Oh, and don’t bother calling yourself a journalist with those spelling mistakes.”

A few weeks had passed and it was a little calmer around the office, but my relationship with my host was almost non-existent. For the first time since I had started my job, I actually felt excited to be invited to a sponsored event, which was a ballroom dancing competition.

As a ballroom dancer myself, I thought this event would turn things around. I noticed a local newspaper on Facebook had done a live video from inside the venue, showing off the beautiful dancers. I decided to do a live Facebook video as well to prove I was on the pulse of the local scene. Man, was I wrong.

That Monday morning meeting was more intimidating than being put on the stand for a murder trial.

“Who gave you the right to take a live Facebook video of the dancing event?” my host screamed.

“I saw the newspapers did it, so I took initiative and followed suit. You always tell me we have to be on the front foot.”

The three men all glanced at one another with raised eyebrows. My host stood up and banged his head on the table, his forehead bleeding.

“HOW DARE YOU!” he roared. “It has nothing to do with my show.”

I was seriously confused and horrified by his actions, not to mention seeing the blood trickle down his face. I explained how our station had sponsored the event and had given away tickets. My post did well too, ratings-wise.

He stood over me and I started to hyperventilate. I needed my inhaler. I looked out the window and saw bystanders, thinking how lucky they were not to be in this room right now.

All my host needed to do was click his fingers and management would show me the exit. But he didn’t. He wanted to see me suffer first—shock me, mentally bruise me and throw me to the curb. Is he trying to toughen me up? I wondered.

With the help of my work friends (who had suffered similar kind of abuse before from the same bosses), I decided I had to file a formal complaint to management. I walked away not knowing what tomorrow had in store for me, whether I would even be allowed to come into work. I went to the gym—like I did every night—and punched a boxing bag until my hands were purple. My phone dinged.

Dont worry about coming in for work tomorrow – just come in during the show for a meeting.

My stomach flipped. Im fired. Im so fired, I thought.

I went into the meeting with one goal—to not break down. I brought a female superior with me to equalise the gender ratio. As I walked into the lavish office full of plants and colourful couches, I was surprised by both men – my general manager and CEO – sitting down on the green couch, waiting to hear my story with open arms. I spoke without any interruptions, and the men nodded when I paused. I finally felt safe to speak the truth.

“Unfortunately, your connection with each other is like a square peg in a round hole,” my CEO told me. “It is not a normal situation and I am sorry this has happened to you.”

They offered me money in exchange for my silence. But it was not enough to keep me entirely silent.

It does not matter what industry you work in: fair work behaviour is a legal stipulation. Since 2010, workplace bullying in Australia has escalated to 9.4 per cent, and our country is sixth in the world when it comes to the prevalence of in-work harassment. It can be associated with too much power, or perceived power, that unleashes inappropriate and intimidating behaviour, and can cause psychological harm upon the victim.

I just hope my host doesn’t treat the next person like he treated me.

Radio Today has decided to create a ‘safe place’ for anyone to call out any inappropriate behaviour. Experiences can be detailed anonymously in the comments section below.

However, they will be monitored and we ask that respect is shown to those who have something to say. The comments may also be edited to comply with the law.

If you have a story you would like to share anonymously, feel free to email the details to [email protected]

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Recent comments (13)
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6 Dec 2017 - 10:42 am

There’s always two sides to every story…..

6 Dec 2017 - 10:57 am

I had been in a similar situation, working for a show years ago.

When multiple minor errors were made by the BTS staff, they were given the ‘It’s okay, it was just a mistake’ by the PD. However, when I had made the odd small error and admitted the mistake straight away, I was torn a new one with verbal abuse.

After discussing it with other staff who witnessed these issues from a distance, they told me that I wasn’t ‘standing up for myself’. But why should I have to ‘stand up for myself’? I shouldn’t have been abused in the first place and I straight up always put my hand up and admit my errors and try to fix appropriately.

It turns out that the ego around the show and BTS staff constantly micro-managing and never admit to the fact that ‘they never made errors’ were the issue. I even made hand written diaries of my errors and their errors, and theirs outweighed mine by my 1/4 page to their 4 pages. When I showed these diaries to the PD, they just brushed it off, not taking a singular word for it. That’s when I saw in that person’s face, I was already dead to them and I couldn’t change their mind. Guilty without a chance to prove innocence.

I complained to the GM, who ‘understood’ how I felt, but favoured the PD’s side, which really sucked as I considered the GM a friend. So all I had left was a counselling phone number, which just didn’t help me at the time. I did call the number, but telling my story to them, just didn’t help. It’s not their fault. But I felt very lost and alone.

The attitude of that PD had a history of behavioural problems and had created many enemies in their career, as I discovered when I eventually resigned as they were looking for a legal way to fire me. I turned to private counselling and after a few weeks, I realised I did the right thing and became more healthier and knew that there were better options out there. I even looked back to previous staff who held my role over the years, and most of them left due to similar problems.

The PD had no control and I was the scape goat for failing ratings and any issues the show had. Even long after I left and my fingerprint had long since dissolved, the show struggled to keep its head above water. The place was toxic while this one PD + BTS staff were there. I had felt like I was the kid sitting on the park bench by their lonesome at school while the others played handball.

I had former staff members contact me after they found out what had happened, telling me they had been burnt and to stand my ground, even consider legal action if applicable. But I escaped and moved on, keeping my dignity intact, knowing I wouldn’t sink as low to their life form.

I’ve since moved on and never felt better, but the scars will always be there. You may feel alone, but know that there are others out there who are victims. If you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, document it – either in diary form, or record your meetings on your phone. You need to protect yourself until the toxicity is gone.

6 Dec 2017 - 11:17 am

@mark… would love to hear you expand your comment further. What would be the other side of this story?

Alasdair Stark
6 Dec 2017 - 11:59 am

It concerns me deeply, when the “two sides to a story” line gets wheeled out and used as a justification for apathy or inaction by management, when clearly something very damaging has taken place, by somebody acting in unpleasant and/or unacceptable way. I’ve seen this countless times in many sectors, but none quite so bad as my experience in community radio. Of course there will be “two sides” (in fact, the number of sides is potentially infinite, if you see counting the number of different people who may have different viewpoints), but in my experience it nearly always boils down to a) what actually happened, and b) the perpetrator denying this. Like I said, really no justification for inaction. I wish more people would speak out and stamp out these types of behaviours in our workplaces.

6 Dec 2017 - 12:04 pm

@James…….that’s my point, I can’t expand on the other side of the story because it hasn’t been told. The story is presented as if she (the blogger) did everything right, but where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Would be good to hear the other side for a balanced view of the story, and the truth will no doubt lay somewhere in between.

6 Dec 2017 - 2:39 pm

I have absolutely no doubt there have been, and in some places still are, issues with bullying and sexual harassment in radio, but I don’t see how sharing some anonymous stories on RadioToday is going to help anyone? You can’t actually name anyone with the defamation laws in Australia without pretty decent proof of what happened so what is this actually achieving? All it seems to be doing is promoting a guessing game over who the stories could be about.

If you’ve been the victim of harassment in radio, contact your HR department –
most, if not all, radio stations have excellent ones these days, or even better, contact Fairfax or the ABC. Tracey Spicer is leading an investigation looking at more than 50 media (and radio) executives and personalities – interviewing witnesses and getting to the point where people can actually be named, the first of which was Don Burke. That will achieve a lot more than sharing some anonymous stories that really could be about anyone in the comments section of a radio website.

6 Dec 2017 - 2:59 pm

A breakfast talent absolutely demoralising the support stuff. Everyone was shit, not good enough – the demands were high and slightest mistake became a huge huge deal. Everyone was to be blame. Myself and half a dozen other producers and support stuff quit because of her. Shame as they were all very passionate people but regularly brought to tears. The company acted after a formal complaint was made and the talent was suspended for a brief time. Eventually let go because of the ratings and behaviour. Unfortunately, recently rehired at another network. Hope they don’t experience the same bully like behaviour.

Steve Owens
6 Dec 2017 - 3:42 pm

It’s about time the stupidity of some radio station managers/owners was brought into the open. They pray at the temple of the all mighty ratings and forget they are dealing with professional radio peoples lives and livelihoods.

Rob McLennan
6 Dec 2017 - 5:07 pm

I agree with Mark. Her carefully-skewed use of emotive language and her I-did-everything-right method of storytelling suggest she is playing the reader. And the boss banged his own head on the desk until it bled? Really? Bullying is a terrible thing and it’s as common in radio as in any other industry, but over-the-top tripe like this doesn’t help anyone.

The Evening News
7 Dec 2017 - 8:04 am

Anyone who thinks HR Departments are there to assist staff has never had to use them.

The Evening News
7 Dec 2017 - 1:46 pm

I’ll also add given some of the comments here that bullying in any form is never acceptable – and it’s not up to the bully to decide what is bullying. Even if you don’t mean to bully, or are just joking around, it still classified as bullying or harassment if the victim feels bullied or harassed.

There may be two sides to every story, but that doesn’t make any of the behaviour described even close to acceptable.

7 Dec 2017 - 2:14 pm

Agree with some of the other remarks. While not supporting bully tactics by any employee, there are two sides to any story and a public ‘court of comments’ doesn’t sit right. I am surprised Radio Today.

29 Jan 2018 - 2:21 pm

I disagree with the two sides to the story. This person has been through hell, and it is not unusual. I went through a very similar experience. I apologise if this is a long story…

I am a male and at the time I was in my early 40’s when I was bullied so badly by a male presenter, I resigned. I went to HR and was advised that it would be a lot of paperwork to file a bullying complaint against a presenter who rated well and it would make it difficult for me to advance through the organisation.

It started when the presenter (Lets call him Dick) asked me to move to his program, after I had great success on another program, being able to secure very high profile guests. (lets call the presenter of that program Jack). Dick wanted my networks for the benefit of his program. Against the strong advice of Jack, the presenter I was working with and had enormous respect for, I moved across to Dicks show. From very early on, I noticed a real lack of commitment to the production of the program. My co producer, a female, and I would gather in the morning, spend some time working on talkback topics, scan the news for relevant content, finalise guest appearances on the program and work towards securing guests over the coming weeks, and summarise books and other content Dick was going to talk about, as well as writing questions for him.

My previous presenter, Jack, would make time to read books we had put forward and do his own research on the guests he was going to interview. Dick insisted we read the books, then write at least 20 questions, of which he might only get through 25% at best. He never read a book, never read any other relevant content, didn’t see plays or shows. He expected us to do this outside our hours.
We would have a phone hook up for about 30 minutes, where he would make changes to the program last minute, tell us our talkback topics were average usually, and rarely offer any praise for work we had done. We would have to scramble to make significant program changes with only about 90 minutes to spare, including cancelling pre booked guests. We also had to try and fit in lunch in that time, which we often ate at our desks as we were so rushed, having to make so many changes to our program.

He arrived to work barely an hour before going to air and would leave about 30 minutes post program, after a quick discussion about what was on the board for the rest of the week.

I made the mistake of making a quip in a station meeting one Friday and from that day on, Dick was going to make my life difficult. He all but dragged me into a studio and ripped me a new one about embarrassing him in front of others. I wore it… but that wasn’t the last of it. From there, he always criticised me publicly, told others my work was substandard and made the comment on more than one occasion about his misgivings in encouraging me on to his program team as his senior producer. He complained that the program I had left still got all the good talent, and made a mockery of me in the process.

This went on for 9 months until a few weeks before the Christmas break up. We went to our usual phone hook up with him, and he abused us so badly that my co producer ended up in the bathroom in tears. The abuse was the icing on the cake. I went to the PD and told them it was him or us, and that we were going to walk there and then.

We were asked to remain professional and put that program to air, and that we could then determine the next steps. There was no way out for me or my coproducer. We copped a verbal thrashing and it was disgusting. We, as professionals, did put the program to air, under some family significant duress.

Dick was about to go on leave for 6 weeks so I agreed to stay on and produce for the fill in presenter over summer – someone I had known for many years, who I respected and admired. It went off without a hitch. The Friday before Dick returned to the station was the last day I spent with the broadcaster. In the interim, I spent time with HR to file a bullying complaint, to be told that there would be a lot of paperwork, it would be something once started, that couldn’t be stopped and would cause potential harm to my future at the organisation.

I will never forgive that man for making my life, and that of my co producer, hell. I know a number of his former producers, on a number of networks and this is apparently something he has been known for , for a long time.

The station, and the broader organisation, failed in its duty of care to its employees. The presenter was ultimately dismissed from the station on another bullying complaint, something which someone had the guts to follow through.

There are no two sides when you are bullied, when the person bullying you is a narcissist, and who has almost no respect for those who work with him. He never publicly thanked us or acknowledged us at all – he rarely made reference to our existence. All presenters on the network took time to acknowledge their team, even if was a quick once a week thanks to the team.

I have moved on and I know my coproducer has done very well, and I have held off on writing this for some time. I no longer fear the retribution and I cannot forgive those who had the power and the authority to stop this happening again, all because of some ratings. Its is shameful and far to common.


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