Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuse: The target's only option left - to leave

Goderich, Ontario harbour July 2014.  Strengthening the retaining wall and building a new lighthouse

What happens when the target realizes that they are indeed being targeted for bullying behaviour?  And what should the target do when they do realize what is happening in the workplace is indeed intended?

I think from retrospect, hindsight being 20-20 so they say, that the best recourse for the target is to make an exit plan from the workplace and follow through.  Which, obviously, I didn't.

During the time frame before I recognized what was happening in the workplace, I attended a workshop on conflict resolution.  It was an eye opener.  Our facilitator was not only extremely informative but conducted her workshop in a very interactive manner.

One woman asked about a situation in her workplace in which one co-worker did. not. like. her.  From her account of the situation, management, HR and the Union were championing this woman's co-worker and doing nothing to stop the situation.  As this woman told her story, her voice shook.  She became emotional.  Why was this happening to her?  And why was no one in the workplace standing up for her? She could not understand it. She was a good worker and always had been.  Why didn't anyone in authority recognize what was going on and stop it?

Our facilitator said very forcefully that her answer for this woman was one word:  In other words, getting out was the only viable resolution for this woman because management and HR had deserted her.

It was a hard thing for this woman to hear.  Indeed, it was a hard thing for all of us in the presentation to hear.  It sounded unfeeling.  Hard.  Even harsh.  Our facilitator did not mention that she was being bullied, but now in the retrospect of my own situation, I know she was being bullied.  I understand how she felt.  The confusion.  The distress.

At that time, I was not in that woman's situation, but I've often thought of her since then as my own situation unfolded and wondered how she's doing now.  If she did take the facilitator's advice and get the h*** out of Dodge.  I hope she did.

I learned through hard experience that our facilitator made an excellent point - with reason.  Once HR and management position themselves on the side of the bullies, they leave the target defenceless.  There is no going back to what was.  It becomes a hopeless situation for the target.  One in which the target becomes helpless as well.  All control, all power, have been wrenched forcefully from her and placed in the hands of those who are targeting her:  the bullies.

The only way out is simply to leave.  Hopefully to find another job first before leaving.

But there are reasons why the target does not take the "hint" and leave.  Finding another job in our economy is not that easy.  Finding another job when you're in your 50s or 60s is definitely not easy.

Then there's the matter of finances, paying the bills, buying food to eat, etc.  The necessities of life.  What's going to happen if the target does quit and does not find another job?  If you quit a job - or get fired - you're not eligible for Unemployment.  All your plans go up in smoke.  If you are lucky enough to get another job, you start at the beginning - again - which is pretty hard to do when you've been at a company for a number of years and have built your way up through the ranks.  Also, there is no guarantee that you are not going to be targeted at the new workplace.  I ought to know.  I got hit twice in a row.  Two completely different sets of bullies.  Two completely different scenarios.

For me, though, there was another reason.  By the time things got so bad, even getting out without further injury was going to be a problem.

By that time, I was a complete "non person" in the office.  For all practical intents and purposes, I did not exist.  I was totally ignored.  I was not talked to - yes, I believe that I was talked about when I was not there - but no one even those who were not part of the clique of co-workers who actively disliked me talked to me or recognize me in any way, shape or form by that time.

Try walking in such a situation where you need a team environment to get the work done.  Let's just say that it was interesting.  I was only allowed to talk to people when it was a business matter.  I was only to approach them with something business related.  ?

I realized that if I gave the standard notice, leaving in such a situation would likely incur further injury.  Not only was I being actively ignored by an ever growing group of co-workers in the office, but I realized that if I did give notice my final day would be spent in total silence, totally ignored and in all probability I would leave work for the final time in a cloud of silence.  Being a people person, leaving in a cloud of complete silence would be akin to torture for me.

It was not something I felt I could handle.  I still had bad memories of being walked out of abusive workplace situation #1 when the contract ended and dumped like yesterday's refuge on the curb.  The shame, the finality, the abruptness of it.

Once you're gone, you're gone and there's no going back.  No second chances.  No one will ever call and say "I was wrong".  That's just not the way it's done.

At the end, choices were taken away from me.  I had the two back to back stress breakdowns and didn't return from the second one.

There's more to that particular part of the story.  Am I strong enough now to start telling it?  I don't know.  We'll see.

Until tomorrow....

Even things under construction can be beautiful ... depending

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