Monday, October 6, 2014

Post Workplace Abuse: How one person shut down a service to an entire area

Last week was a hard week for me, both physically and emotionally.

I know it shouldn't have hit me so hard.  I shouldn't feel such anger bordering on rage at one individual who I don't know and have never met - nor at this point would I want to meet.

But this one person has managed to single-handedly shut down the mail delivery to our neighbourhood.  A neighbourhood which has been struggling to deal with a massive construction project - not on our street - but on another, major street bordering us which has necessitated a detour of all traffic going in and out of town onto our street, past our house - for five months.

Our turn for a massive construction project i.e. installing sidewalks on both sides of the road to the city limit, is next spring.

For five months, all of our services - bus, postal, recycling, garbage, etrc. - have been maintained.


Until one person took over the route - at her own request I've discovered.

Maybe the route wasn't what she thought it was.  Maybe she felt inconvenienced by the extra time it took to safely cross the street with the extra traffic.  Maybe a lot of things.

Maybe, though, she's a toxic employee.

Remember the post I wrote on toxic employees?  We received the notice about the mail stoppage the same day I posted it.  Ironic, isn't it?

The main symptoms according to my research are:

  • A decrease in or lack of productivity
  • A decrease in or poor morale
  • An increased frequency in arguments between the employee and others
  • A sense that the employee is increasingly frustrated because "things just aren't going right"
  • A negative, antagonistic attitude
  • An increase in negative comments and personal attacks
  • An unwillingness to "go the extra mile" while encouraging others to refuse as well.
Other symptoms increase infighting, backbiting, passive/aggressive behaviour (aggressive actions done in a passive or weak manner), arguments or criticisms for the sake of being different or antagonistic, and an unwillingness to help out others in a culture that values providing input and assistance to colleagues. 
Most of these symptoms were present in my own previous situation in the workplace.  BUT ... the supervisors were unwilling and/or unable to discern that there was in all probability one or more toxic employees in the workplace.  They were too close to the situation and were unwilling or unable to have an outside, more objective investigation.  Because of their relationship with the toxic employees, they were simple unable to see things in a different, more objective light.

I have no idea what this individual is like, but I can say that from where I sit since the previous carrier managed to continue our mail delivery for five months, she does not appear to be willing to go the extra mile.  She is unwilling to help out others - in this case our neighbourhood.  The fact that the construction is scheduled to be finished by the end of this week didn't seem to figure in.  After five months with less than a month to go, she called it quits and pulled the plug on ius/

She threw out everything she could:  no sidewalks, high speeds of traffic, increased traffic.

The "investigation" was done in-house by her immediate supervisor who is backing her completely.  He is unwilling to even entertain the possibility that she is toxic.  His view is that she's a good employee but she does work exactly according to the rules - which should be a red flag right there.

I also sense a bit of craftiness with her.  She knows that if she says that she wants off the route because it's not working out, it's not what she thought it would be, it would work against her.

If she claims it's a safety issues especially with a large powerful union backing her, it's a no-brainer.  Immediate shut down.  Also, according to union rules once the safely flag has been raised, no other carrier can take over the route.

If it's not safe because of the above factors i.e. sidewalks lacking, increased traffic and their speeds, how come I have never felt unsafe walking up or down the street?  I felt inconvenienced trying to cross the street to catch the bus to be sure because of the traffic volume, but I never felt unsafe.

Perhaps safety in this sense is a matter of perception and assumption.  Then the question, arises whose perceptions and assumptions are correct?  Hers ... or ours.

This is a very diverse neighbourhood.  An older one.  One that was previously it's own town until our city took it over.  Some of the residents here are in their 90s and have absolutely no way to get to the distribution centre to pick up their mail.  Others have one car and work long hours so they are not able to pick up their mail in the allotted hours.  Then there is me who stays home a lot.  I've improved a lot in the years I've been on this journey of recovery - but full recovery still eludes me.  For some ofd us, it's an inconvenience.  For the elderly and for myself, it's a hardship.

Going out to a strange place to pick up my mail stirs up scary feelings in me.

It also triggers all the yucky stuff from the past where one person in our workplace seemed to be able to influence and excite the others to the point where they bonded together as one unit unified in their goal to get rid of an employee they just didn't like - me.

In-house investigations done by the immediate supervisor which relies only on walking the route, not on any objective fact-finding such as checking to see if there has been an increased accident rate on our road in the last five months especially involving pedestrians also raising up bad memories or other in-house investigations - those done in my workplace - by an immediate supervisor.  Just an my immediate supervisors were unwilling to look outside the box, this carrier's immediate supervisor has been unwilling to go outside the box and liaise with the police to ensure that cars are adhering to the speed limit.  He feels that that is useless.  He also has not checked accident records in our area to see if there has been an increase in accidents in our area especially those involving pedestrians.


All of this has thrown me seriously off balance.  The severe itching returned badly last week.  The lethargy.  The lack of interest in doing things.  All the yucky stuff came back.  I've been barely able to function.


Because this situation where one person has had such an impact not only on my life but on every life in this neighbourhood brings back big time all the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, voicelessness, facelessness.

There is absolutely nothing we can do in this situation except acquiesce.

Our mail service is gone.  Possibly for good.  All because of one person.

One person.


I know that this appears to be something minor - especially for those in other situations; however, for a person whose life has been turned upside down and whose life revolves around her home, the familiar, the routine, this has upended me.

I've learned through my experience with trauma that things we have some control about are less likely to traumatize and, therefore, adversely affect us.  Things that we don't see coming and cannot prevent are proven to be more destructive in our lives.

That was my situation in the workplace.  I never saw a lot of things coming. 

That is why I feel so much upheaval in this situation.  I never saw it coming.  There was nothing I nor anyone in my neighbourhood could do to prevent it.

I feel caught up in something bigger than myself much like a mouse must feel caught in a cat's paws.

Totally at it's mercy.

Until tomorrow....

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