How one target's abuse followed the playbook

There are many ways a person can be mistreated at work. Usually the mistreatment is said to stem from envy due to an individual's competency. The sad fact is research shows that legally, victims lack support and lose their jobs, while abusers retain their positions and continue abusing others. Lives are affected, and mental health and relationships suffer. Even sadder still, lives are lost through the pain and suffering caused by people who feel insecure and determined to ruin the lives of others, to make themselves feel better.

I feel, as many do, this problem cannot continue.

I sit here now having recently left my problematic position within the last two months. I realize that I need to stop being invisible and I need to stand with — and up for — the many who share my experiences of abuse in the workplace. I would like to share my experiences with you, and we can share small smiles of comfort and validation. Then we can roar and fight to be heard and campaign for change and a chance to be allowed to be ourselves in the work we love and are destined for.

The abuse has left me feeling less confident and more fragile. It has also made me fear similar experiences in the future. I left a job I was good at and enjoyed to escape the abuse of one manager and a staff team. I had no voice and had been violated and discredited on every level. People ignored me and were quick to say that the ill-treatment was “all in my head.” I was scapegoated for workplace policy changes, which clearly I possessed no jurisdiction over. There were certain "rules" that only applied to me but not to colleagues. I was verbally and loudly ridiculed and victimized in front of colleagues and made to look as if I fell short of some invisible requirements.

Honestly, I was dedicated and excelled in my role. I managed to keep the service running effectively through the pandemic. I single-handedly did so for several months when my colleague left the role. During this period, three other colleagues also left their positions for happier and kinder environments. When they left, all declined for me even further. I no longer had the support of decent and hardworking colleagues, which made me more vulnerable and exposed. The remaining colleagues were not likely to unite with me, leaving the abuser with an army of seemingly willing soldiers, keen to side with her and share her fictional stories concerning my faults and how the decline of organizational practices was my fault.

It didn't matter how clear or how loudly I spoke. My voice was unheard, and my words sounded unbelievable. I was looked at with total disdain and spoken to as if respect wasn't necessary.

I know you're asking: did I report the matter? Yes I did. My GP signed me off for a number of months, and I saw fit to explain my absence to HR via email. On the surface, they proceeded to act in all the right ways, making all the right sounds and placing me in a position where I may have begun to believe they were listening and hearing me and may even, at a pinch, support me.

You probably know as well as I do it was a fabrication on their behalf. A going through of the motions to appear to be following procedure in terms of anti-bullying practice. In truth, they were avoiding liability for having an abuser on their staff and trying to seem oblivious to the fact. They were also supporting the abuser in locating the various ways I could possibly be at fault for the mistreatment I endured.

Long story short: I resigned politely from my job, and the boss remained to continue her reign of terror. Surely it could not be right: the reverse fairy tale where the bad guy wins? It appears that when it comes to a tussle between politics and morality, the toast will always land butter-side down.

Unanswered questions are like lost helium balloons here: why did the abuser get to remain in the job while I was unsupported and discarded? Why did the abuser get validation yet my truth fell on deaf ears?

It seems intrinsically unethical and corrupt.

Maybe others share these questions and the sense of injustice that keeps us awake at night.

What's clear is the wrong people are defended in abuse cases. Justice has left the building.

The big question here is what do we, the people who have been abused and traumatized at work, do about it? Those of us who feel diminished and insecure and generally damaged: should we be the threadbare Care Bears or the Barbie dolls with scribble for faces? Should we be silenced and wait for someone to take pity on us and pick us for the team?

Or should we make a team together and support each other and fight for our rights to be treated kindly at work?

Just roll that thought around for a second. A fundamental human right to decency should not be something that necessitates a fight, not even a small one or a tiny disagreement. It should be given as easily as a smile to a stranger on a rainy day.

I am currently at a junction planning my route through recovery. I need to explore why I went through the workplace abuse: what it means for me and how I can grow through the experiences I endured. I hope that if you have experienced similar treatment, you feel less alone now. If you haven’t but you know someone abused at work, reach out to them. Connection is bullying repellent. If you are safe at
work and are unaware of bullying taking place, then you are blessed. Please watch your colleagues and remain supportive and united, and remember: humans really are better and stronger together.


Photo by Bruno Cervera:

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