Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Workplace Abuse - Why Was I Targeted?

Much as we would like it to, real life doesn't come complete with road signs in six different languages as this sign post on the Isle of Skye in Scotland advising drivers to drive on the left.  Or even in one language.  Life, real life, doesn't work that way.  Sometimes guidance is more on the line of doing what our gut tells us to do.  Sometimes, we have to go off the road completely before guidance comes.

Am I going into too much detail?  Have I lost my mojo?  Should I just speed things up?  Or should I carry on as is?

These are the thoughts that are going through my head as I sit down once again at my computer, blank page starring at me.  Taunting me.  Daring me to write something.

Yet as I write out the narrative of the first abusive workplace situation in as factual and unemotional a manner as possible, I'm seeing things for the first time.  Combined with my journey through and post workplace abuse situation #2, I'm seeing things I never saw before - in both situations.  I'm coming to a better understanding of what I faced in both.  What the dynamics were.

I'm seeing what was at the time a very confusing situation with much clearer eyes.

Eyes which now recognize the futility of the situation I was caught in.

Eyes, filtered now by the lenses of experience, handsight and research, which bring the events into clearer focus.

How the supervisor and her manager in abusive workplace situation #1 got away with changing the evaluation form, I have no idea.

Perhaps because it was a fairly small company.  Perhaps each little division had their own autonomy.  Perhaps because my 2-UP was herself on the Executive. Also we were in the far back of the building, the Siberia of the company.  The offices were in the front, the production plant in the middle, and us, the distribution department and warehouse in the very back.  In order to go from the front to the back, one had to either exit the building and go around on the sidewalk or don protective gear, white lab coats, hair nets, goggles and safety shoes to walk through the plant where the product was being made.

There was a fair amount of real estate between the front doors and the back.  Also, quite a difference, I think in retrospect, in oversight.  My supervisor was in the cubicle next to me.  Her manager was far away in the ivory tower of the front office.

The evaluation, I thought originally, went fairly well.  The problem was, I was focussing on what my supervisor was saying.  Not on the black and white of what was on the form.  Just as in the surprise meeting in late December where I focussed on the first part, the praise part, of the sentence while she focussed on the BUT and what came after.

My supervisor tempered every section with something good.  Problem was, the positive was not in black and white on the form.  Only the negative.  For example, she had been focussing on cross-training - of which I did have some which had added value to the office as a whole.  However, she discounted what I did have and focussed on what I did not have. She prefixed her remarks by saying "this is my fault because I haven't trained you on these things" and then went on to mark me negatively.  I heard the "this is my fault" without realizing that what was written on the form was the significant part.  In hindsight, years later, I wonder why I was even being evaluated on something that was not part of my job, nor part of my training.

I wonder why I was being evaluated on the same basis of my colleagues who were permanent employees.

I also wonder why I was even being evaluated when my contract was up in approximately four weeks.   I believe now - and faintly discerned even then - that the decision not to rehire me had been set in stone back in December when the final contract was offered.  Maybe even before that, as I believe now that their game plan in December may well have been to wait until the bitter end and then walk me out.  They were thwarted in this plan by my unwitting disclosure to a major account that I was on contract and that my contract was soon to end.

I faintly discerned then and I firmly believe now, that my supervisor and her supervisor were ensuring that their plans did not fail this time.

Perhaps they went through the motions of the evaluation to throw me off-balance, to give me reason to believe once again that there was some hope in the situation.  In reality, the negativity may well have been so that they would have something concrete to back up their decision not to rehire me - just in case ....

If I had known then....

More importantly, if I had been the person then that I am now.

One of the perplexities of workplace abuse is that the person who is selected is usually not a bad worker.  Quite the opposite.  For some reason, people who are well established and recognized for their outstanding work are usually those selected for the dubious honour of being abused according to the research.

Another significant trait of the abused employee is that they are non-confrontative by nature.

Put the two together and you have an employee who is extremely good but who lacks the self-confidence to stand up for herself.

That in a nutshell was me during that time - and for quite a long time afterwards.  On the journey of recovery, I am still learning to stand up for myself.  Not only to stand up for myself but how to do it effectively and when to do so.

In effect, I allowed my supervisor to bully me, not because I am a masochist but because I didn't think I had any right to stand up to her.  I had been trained from early children to believe that I had no rights.  Concurrently, I had been trained to be a peacemaker in my family.  I avoided conflict like the plague.  I had learned to hide in my room or even inside my head in daydreams during times of family unrest.  I had learned to be a co-dependent.  I had been raised to feel that it was up to me to make things right for others.

These are the lifelong traits I carried with me into that workplace.  These are the traits which allowed the abuse to not only start but to thrive.  These are the traits, I have been working on in the process of recovery.

Not only did my supervisor devalue me on a long-term basis; I had left the door wide open by habitually devaluing myself.

A recipe for ... well ... for bullying.

So today, as we continue on this road, we have passed a significant landmark on that part of the journey.  The evaluation.  Yet the road continues up a slight incline.  What is on the other side?  Where does the road go from here?  What will the scenery be like on the other side?  Will it be more of the same?  Will it be beautiful?  Or ....

Until tomorrow.  Thank you for walking with me on this the journey of my experience with and through workplace abuse.

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