Monday, June 24, 2013

Workplace Abuse - The Continuing Experience

Twilight to me is a magical time.  A time when sunbeams dance on the water.  A time when the raucous sounds of the day are replaced by a quietness, a peace.  These are the times I love to walk by the river, (ever-present) camera in hand drinking in the quietness, the peace, the beauty.  Enjoying the serenity, letting it sink deep into my troubled soul.  Soothing away the emotional aches and pains at least for a while of the journey.

The end was drawing near.  At the beginning I felt hope.  As the process of bullying aka psychological harassment aka small "h" harassment continued to inexorably progress slowly ever so slowly like lumbering heavy duty equipment demolishing whatever is in its path, hope was slowly replaced by despair.

The meeting we were to have at the beginning of the new year, did not happen.  I was never given a chance to ask questions as in was my pay raise included in the new contract.  When it came time to signing, I was called into her office at the end of the day without warning.  The contract was covered except for the signature part.  Still in a state of surprise by the abrupt, unexpected meeting, I signed.  Days later, it dawned on me that maybe there was a reason it was covered.  Maybe there was a reason it was done on the fly.  Maybe.

I think my feeling not only the day I misguidedly signed that contract but also on a consistent basis was akin to that of a deer caught in the headlights.  Frozen.  Staring.  Caught by surprise.

My supervisor was constantly criticizing me for what she perceived as my deficiencies.  She completely devalued the cross-training I did have i.e. with inventory and focused on what I did not have.  Yet, I often wondered if she even had a clue as to the things I was doing?  The value I did have for the department as a whole?

Ironically, during this same time frame when I was constantly being devalued by one person, the supervisor, I was showing great value in other ways to other people - ironically manager type people. One I taught how to do returns when it became part of her job - a part she was never trained on.  She told me later, that I had helped her greatly in her first days on the job with my pleasant attitude and my help.

BUT it was not good enough for my supervisor.

Another manager who was in charge of trucking charges, etc. also sought my advice and help on different issues.  She was a manager, I was in an entry-level position.  She expressed gratitude for my help.

BUT ... it was not good enough for my supervisor.

Somehow, I also became the one who ordered the supplies for the office and kept the supply cabinet full.  Ditto when the fax machine was full of papers, I would empty it and put things in the correct employee's slot.  Thus quietly making everyone's life a little easier.

BUT ... it was not good enough.

I often wondered if my supervisor had any idea of the work I did quietly in that office?  Did she really know?  More importantly, did she care?

What was more important to her?  Her agenda?  Or the well-being of the office?

I often wondered.

Towards the end of my contract, the dreaded annual evaluation came up.  That would have been fearful enough EXCEPT the department changed it that year.  Things that would have reflected positive on me were deleted.  Things that reflected negatively were added.

By that time, I was a mess emotionally.  Insecure.  Confused.

My lifeline was my faith.  My guidebook was my Bible.  Those were the two things that kept me tied to any sense of stability.  That and the constant support of my family.  My neighbours were aware too of what was happening in the workplace - and they were concerned.  There really wasn't much anyone could do.

As the time shortened and the stress became brutal, I felt like walking out.

Many people have asked since then:  "Why didn't you?  It was very clear that they wanted you to, so why didn't you?"

Maybe because I'm contrary and wasn't about to do what they wanted me to.

Maybe because I value integrity as part of my commitment to following God in my life.

Maybe because I'm not a quitter.

The biggest reason though has to do with the integrity issue.  I had signed a contract.  And I intended to honour that contract to the bitter end if need be.  Whether they wanted me to or not was beside the issue.

Also, in the back of my mind, I realized that part of their strategy would be to say that I was not "a fit" for them because I was "unstable" if I were to simply walk out.  I would have validated them - and I had no intention of doing so.

I'm also stubborn.

Maybe too stubborn for my own good.

In those moments, before the sun makes its final descent for the days, the seagulls come out on the river, flying here and there.  Flying low.  Diving into the water.  Are they feasting?  Or are they just enjoying their ability to fly?  The ducks below them are also serenely floating, maybe enjoying some juicy duck gossip or just relaxing after a long day on the river.

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