Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Workplace Abuse: Why Was I Chosen?

Yesterday, this blog explored the topic of how the bully chooses his/her target.  It ended with the quote below.

Today, I'm starting with that same quote.  Why?  Because I like it.  And because it sums up for me all the skewed dynamics which occurred in my place of work which facilitated and even encouraged the bullying.  
Bullying occurs for many reasons, and like a pot of stew, when all the right ingredients are mixed in together, someone begins to stir.  This means that when the organizational context, the bully's personality, the victim's personality and the managerial approval is all there, and the stars are aligned properly, bullies take on their form.  
From the web site No Workplace Bullies by Catherine Mattice
This article then goes on to address what particular attributes in the target might be attracting the bully.  Like honey attracts bees, so certain traits attract the bullies.
If you feel like a bully is targeting you, you may demonstrate some or all of the following:
  • You may be feeling low self-esteem 
  • You may have never learned how to defend yourself or to stand up to others  
  •  You may be shy, and therefore find it difficult to speak up for yourself and your right to be treated kindly
  •  You may have been a victim of bullies growing up, which seems to open the door for victimization as an adult 
  • You may be a minority at your place of work, whether because of your age, gender, race, religion, sexual preference, etc. 
Check.

Check.

Not sure.

Check.

Check.

Four out of five.  Not bad.  Almost a perfect score.

To be a bully magnet.

Let's look into these "qualifications" to be attractive to bullies a bit closer as they relate to my situation.

I walked into this, what turned out to be the second abusive workplace situation in a row, almost three weeks to the hour after being walked out of situation #1.  I was still in a world of hurt - and confusion.  Still utterly devastated by what had happened.  Completely confused as to why.  My self-esteem which has never been good, was at an all time low.  Probably somewhere in the non-existent range.  It was obvious to everyone in my new workplace that I lacked confidence in myself.  Although I later proved to be a good worker and competent in my job, it took a while.  A long while.  To regain that confidence that had been snatched from me in workplace #1.

I had never learned how to defend myself or to stand up to others.  I was brought up in a home where anger reigned.  I learned from early childhood on, that it was safest not to say anything, to hide, to lay low.  Hoping the tempest would pass.  That carried over in all my interpersonal relationships for many years.  At the time the bullying became unbearable I was in the process of learning how to stand up for myself in appropriate manners.  That didn't fly in the workplace because the dynamics were already set in stone.  In fact, I think it angered the aggressors.  I wasn't supposed to get better.  I was supposed to lay down and die.  (Silly me - note the sarcasm.)

As a young child and into my late teens, early twenties, I was indeed very shy.  I would shake badly when called in class to answer a question.  However, as time evolved and I matured, the introvert became an extrovert.  With periods of quietness to re-center myself.  To regain focus.  However, in retrospect perhaps I still believed in my heart of hearts that I didn't have the right to speak up.  I didn't have the right to be treated kindly.  My motto was more like "live and let live".  Accept these people for what they are.  Don't expect something of them that they are not.  It had worked in past situations.  In this one, it led did not.  Living and letting live was probably the worst thing I could have done - especially in those early days - as I was identified and perceived as being lacking.

Yes, I was a victim of bullies growing up.  More than once.  I was under-sized.  I was different.  I wore glasses.  I was perceived as being smart.  I didn't fit in.  It was devastating enough when my grade three teacher held me up as being inferior to the class and encouraged the rest of the class by her example to exclude me as well, but in later years when puberty set in, I became the go-to target for both boys and girls - boys in grade seven and girls in grade eight.  It took a phone call to the office by my mom after months of bullying before it stopped.

And then came grade nine - I finally grew physically.  I could wear "big girl" clothes.  I could fit in.  At least to a degree.

I was never bullied again.

Until the workplace.  I was in my fifties and sixties.  Years later.  Yet, I sense that I came up against the same dynamic I did with those boys and girls when we were in puberty.  No, not racing hormones.  But rather people who didn't feel good about themselves.  People who may well have been stuck in the mentality of their teenage years.  People who had a need to be recognized, yet (going back to yesterday's post) didn't have the power and capability within themselves to shine on their own.  I have always felt that the root of the problem in my situation was that they needed to make someone look bad in order to make themselves look good.  And I was chosen.

And the last one?  I'm white, middled aged, heterosexual, happily married, Christian, from the US living in Canada (dual citizenship), so how could this apply to someone such as me?  I'm Christian.  I don't proselytize but I do live my beliefs. The setting was predominantly atheist or agnostic.  A setting where I've listened to the majority of my peers express anger at Christians and mock our beliefs.  One of the bullies actively hated those in the workplace who could be identified as active Christians.  Coincidence perhaps?  Or the tip of the iceberg?

I'm an American in a country where not everyone likes Americans.  Where we're perceived as being aggressors.

Were these enough to cause the problem?  Under the surface of course?  Definitely covertly rather than overtly because then they'd be getting in dangerous turf.  Human rights issues.

Of course, at the time all this was going on, especially in situation #1 and at the beginnings of situation #2 where the liaisons were formed and the dynamics began, I had no clue as to the dynamics.  I didn't know everything that I know now.  What I'm writing about in these posts.  All this came after the bullying was fully formed and in effect.  What is notable, though, is that as I researched the subject matter and learned and grew through both research and continued therapy, is that no one in the situation, neither HR, management nor the union, would listen.  



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