Monday, August 25, 2014

Surviving Workplace Abuve: Trauma: Opening Pandora's Box



Going into the dynamics of trauma and telling my story is a bit like opening the proverbial Pandora's box.  Once it's opened, so many things pop out that it is impossible to put them back in.  For me, each post I write leads to more and more issues, and I cannot follow them all at the same time.  Each one has to be picked up, dealt with and examined one at  a time.

One at a time.

Workplace bullying is not vague; it's complicated.  There are so many dynamics involved.  In general and in specific.  I believe that each incidence is unique to the individual(s) involved - both bullies and bullied, but that there are common denominators that make my story everyone's story.

According to the Urban Dictionary, part of it's modern-day definition of Pandora's Box is as follows:
Today, much like christianity's idea of biting forbidden fruit, opening pandora's box refers to getting into a situation over which one has very little control over.
Bingo!  Workplace bullying is something the target has little to no control over.  It's not something the target walks knowingly into.  It's more like the frog sitting in a pot of water on top of a stove.  The burner gets lit and slowly warms up the water.  The frog doesn't notice that the water is increasingly getting hotter as it's little body keeps adjusting to the heat.  It's warning senses become disoriented, defused.  Finally, the frog boils to death.

Workplace abuse, workplace bullying has similarities to the above scenario.

Working bullying starts very slowly.  It doesn't jump from the workplace being healthy for all individuals to being completely toxic for one overnight.  It takes a long time to get from point A to point B.  At it's earliest stages, bullying can be stopped.

The problem is ... at its earliest stages people like HR, management, the Union and even to a degree the "target" do not recognize the beginnings of workplace bullying for what is it and, more importantly, for what it has the potential of becoming if not stopped immediately.  After I started researching workplace bullying, I discovered that it takes the average target approximately two years to recognize that they are being bullied.  That was bang on for me.  It was almost exactly two years from the start to when I began to think that possibly, just perhaps, maybe I was being bullied in the workplace.  At the time, I first began to think that maybe I was being bullied, I was still very resistant to the idea - and I was the target.  How much less will others in the situation realize it for what it is.  It was only when I started putting in search terms on Google and started really looking at this article and that article that I came to realize that I was being bullied in the workplace.

Realizing it, though, was not enough.  I needed to get others on board to help me.  And here is where the proverbial Pandora's box starts to open.  At each stage, different dynamics start to unfold.

At first, I thought things were more or less cut and dried.  Go to HR with the research I'd accumulated and they would do something to stop the situation and prevent it from going any further.  But that doesn't work because at this stage there are dyanmics in place which in hindsight I've come to recognize:


  • Workplace bullying has been called a form of workplace violence because it is all about power and control.
  • The more the target attempts to do, the more the bully resists and
  • Workplace bullying becomes a vicious circle.
There are various types of bullying which, I believe, were all in evidence at one time or another in my scenario:
  • serial bullying
  • vicarious bullying
  • mobbing
What are they?

Originally, there are three kinds of people in the workplace:
  • the bullies
  • the targets
  • the bystanders
As the dynamics change and the bullies become more and more in control of the situation, the bystanders start to align themselves - in my case most of them aligned themselves with the bullies.  No one, in reality, stays neutral.

  • What is appropriate behaviour in the workplace?
  • Who defines it?
  • What is appropriate behaviour for managers?


And then, at the point in the story which I've been telling recently - the end - there are significant factors:
  • GFA (Global Functioning Assessment) - what is it?  And why is it so important?
  • Workplace policies - or lack thereof - relating to harassment or bullying
  • The role of HR - accommodation, workplace policies regarding bullying/harassment, Ontario's Bill 168
  • The role of the Union: to protect the target or to protect the bullies?
  • Conflict of interest
  • Confidentiality
  • Appropriate employee conduct - what is it?  and who defines it? Use of personal property i.e. cell phones in the workplace; appropriate use of company time and assets
  • different kinds of bullies - i.e. lightweight, mid weight, heavy duty and extra heavy duty
All of these need to be looked at, individually, at some point in time as each one of these affects the dynamics of the situation.

Today, I've run my course.  For whatever reason, I've entered a period of extreme tiredness where I sleep more - and enjoy it less - which is why sometimes the blog posting for the day is delayed.

Three years and counting - the effects/affects continue.  Life continues.  Sometimes good; sometimes not so good.  But even in the worst days, there is always something good:  a laugh perhaps; time with a friend; someone with an affirmation out of the blue friends, family.  There is always something like the sunset at the beginning of the blog and the white peacock just below.  Something to sooth the tired soul.

Until tomorrow ...








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