Friday, August 29, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: Leaving an abusive situation is no guarantee it would stop

The photo above - and at the end of today's blog as well - were taken immediately after a fierce wind storm hit our area in 2013 downing trees, power lines, blocking roads, etc.  It was fierce, but brief, in its intensity leaving damage that took weeks to clear away.  I don't know the exact cost to the municipality, but I do know the clean up was costly and time consuming.

Workplace abuse leaves intensive destruction in its wake as well, but the damage is invisible - unless a physical act of violence happens.  The damage is psychological in nature.  I've covered some of the affects I've experienced since I left the workplace.  

In the event of a natural catastrophe such as the windstorm in our area, the city pays the costs.  It's in the news.  It's visible.  It's an event.

However, in the event of bullying, none of the above seems to apply.


In a previous blog, "Surviving Workplace Abuse: The target's only option left - to leave",  I mentioned the facilitator's comments to one of the participants in a conflict resolution workshop I attended.  Basically, no matter what kind of conflict resolution this woman learned in that workshop would be of no use to her as she was actively being bullied by a co-worker and HR, management and the union had all "signed off" on the matter.  They had all abdicated their responsibilities for this woman and her welfare in the workplace.  According to our facilitator, this woman had no option but to make an exit plan and follow through with it.

I believe now that although the facilitator appeared callous, she was right.

However, the problem is:  leaving may be easier said than done - depending on how far the bullying has gone, has far through the workplace i.e. the other co-workers it has gone and how determined the bullies are to not let go of the target.

Some years ago, I read an article in a Toronto paper which shocked me.  It was about a teenaged girl who was being bullied badly in her high school.  So badly that the parents made the decision to move to a different area of the city so that the girl would attend a different school.  A drastic move to make.  Unfortunately, it didn't work.  According to this article, the bullies followed this girl to her new neighbourhood, her new house and continued the bullying there.  I don't remember all the particulars because I think I read this article approximately 20 years ago - and it really didn't concern me at all.  I wasn't being bullied.  I was fine.  I remember it because I was so dismayed at the lengths these bullies were going to to continue bullying someone.  Their determination not to let go of their victim - no matter what.

I thought it was an isolated incident.  Now I wonder....


Continuing to something more recent.  Hubby found a story of school bullying on the net in which the bullies refused to let go of their target even after she was dead.  Sladjana Vidovic, a 16 year old in a high school near Cleveland, Ohio was originally from Bosnia.  She was targeted for bullying by her female peers.  She was also one of four students (both male and female) who killed themselves in a two year period in her high school because of bullying.  Even though she "removed" herself from the situation by committing suicide, according to her family the bullying didn't stop with her death.

Sladjana's sister, Susana, found her sister's body hanging on the front lawn.  She recounts about her sister's wake:
The family watched ... as the girls who had tormented Sladjana for months walked up to the casket — and laughed.
"They were laughing at the way she looked," Suzana says, crying. "Even though she died."
There have been other examples as well which have been brought up in the news media such as a gay high school student who also committed suicide.  Even though those who bullied him had, in effect, won (assuming there are winners and losers in this sort of things), the bullying continued - on his social medial page.  Comments such as saying they were glad he was dead, etc.

The average person would say "how awful".  However, the average - or perhaps not so average - bully doesn't see it that way.


These examples are all from high school bullying.  Why aren't there examples from workplace bullying?  We would like to think that these cases are exceptions to the rule. A rarity.  Yet, after my "final" experience(s) in the workplace I wonder....

We're getting into some deep territory here, at least for me.  I've already written about my former co-workers accessing my Facebook account, recognizing themselves in a fairly general status statement, and taking that to management alleging an ethics violation.

If that was the end of my story, it would be bad enough. Damaging enough.

However, I found out weeks later, that their actions didn't stop there.  I discovered what lengths they were willing to go to even though I was for all practical intents and purposes removed from the workplace at that time.  I also  discovered how many of my co-workers were now involved.

Recovery ...

Inside I've resembled the severely broken tree pictured above.  Outside ... I appear like every other person.

The damage is real, just invisible.

Until Monday.

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