Public Service Announcement: Workplace Abuse

**Content Note: This post deals with a very serious issue, specifically in the realm of workplace abuse. While I’ll try not to include specifics, there will be generalized descriptions of it. If this is a topic that’s upsetting for you, by all means give this post a miss, and go check out some of my other posts instead. We’ll be back on our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow. However, if you decide to continue reading, and this post brings up difficult feelings for you, I encourage you to reach out to the team at the Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Readers living down under in Australia and New Zealand have the Callback Service. If you’re outside the U.S, this site provides a list of similar resources in your area.**

In case you missed it, one of the links I shared in last Friday’s Weekend Docket was one about the five signs of an emotionally abusive workplace. The writer of the post mentioned that they regretted ignoring the signs, and they go on to talk about a bad relationship with supervisors, work taking up all your time, gossip among employees, dreading the workday, and feeling undervalued as an employee are all causes for concern.

As an aside, I choose to call this “workplace abuse” instead of the more commonly used term “workplace bullying,” because to me, “bullying” is something we think of that happens in school, and to me, it trivializes the impact this has on people, professionally, emotionally, and financially.

I’ve seen instances where this was either currently happening or recently happened with people I’ve worked with at my day job, and it’s heartbreaking on so many levels.

I also mentioned that this was something that hit close to home for me. It was a job I had back in college, and it wasn’t even a year before they laid me off. While they’ve since gone out of business, and the owner has long since skipped town to burn bridges and be a life-ruining jerk elsewhere, I won’t name names of businesses or the people involved.

I had gone through a difficult season of job hunting, only to get the door slammed in my face at every turn, get jerked around by companies who wasted my time and lied to me, belittled more times than I care to remember, ridiculed by others on more than one occasion, and strung along for months on end by one company in particular.

By the time I found this company, I’d given up, and no longer cared what happened to me. I hammered out the application in 10 seconds, and brought copies of it home for my family members too.

We could all work there while they were between jobs also. I brought all of the applications back that same day just before they closed up shop.

I got a callback from the owner at the main location, but only for me. The owner wasn’t interested in anyone else.

The interview was very short, like they’d made up their mind to hire me long before they even called me in. I started that same week, and school would be starting up a week later. They told me all about how they were in the military, and bragged lyrical about it. I won’t say which branch, since at this point, it doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things.

I was super impressed, since I have family members who served in a couple different branches.

Things started out great for the first couple weeks, and then it was all downhill from there. To make a long story short, they decided that I was the sole cause of all their problems, nothing I ever did was good enough, and I was their personal whipping girl, so to speak, for their anger and their rage.

Screaming fits from the owner were often, and happened on the days that ended in Y. They were loud enough and abusive to the point people heard them from the sidewalk, and if they were this bad to me, they were likely a thousand times worse to the ones working at the other location.

It got to the point where they demanded I skip school after I did it one time to help with the workload as a favor to them, called me to harass me off the clock daily, even on weekends, and drag me in on a whim. At one point, I was there for an amount of time that was never agreed upon. I won’t say how long, but it likely wasn’t legal.

The owner laid me off due to the decline in business at certain times of the year, and I made sure I had a job lined up. On my last day there, the owner then had the gall to act all chummy and nicey-nice toward me after the disgusting way they treated me, much the same way they did in the interview and the first week and a half of my time there.

Ohhh, now you care?! WTF-ever, you miserable dickstain.

I moved on to my new job, and unfortunately spent 99.9% of my tenure there living in fear of the other shoe dropping, waiting for them to treat me the same way and worse like the owner of the company said would happen anywhere else.

The owner of the company then had the audacity to call me on the phone one day before I left for school about a year after that whole nightmare ended, asking me if I’d come back, no, BEGGING me to come back, they just can’t keep anyone there.

No doubt their turnover rate’s been through the roof, what with the way they act towards people.

They promised that things would be different, that it wouldn’t be like last time, I’ll get a raise, whatever.

Hmmm. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Same as every other abuser saying they’re sooooooooooooooooo sorry, they’ll change, things will be different, and blah blah blah.

They’re right: it wouldn’t be like last time. Not with me it won’t. There won’t be a next time.

They already had their answer: no. I don’t go back. I’m doing great, I’m on track for a management role at my new job, and I had to go. Someone’s at the door.

It wasn’t long after that we changed our number, and we moved a year later. I never saw the owner again after my last day there. I saw their car one day when my family and I were passing by, and they didn’t see me. Fine with me.

I’ve since found out that the owner has moved on to at least a half-dozen other states, probably burning bridges like it’s going out of style any second before moving on to a new town. If the way they acted toward me is anything to go by, whatever ventures they start don’t last.

No great shock to me. I wouldn’t work for someone like them, or hire someone like them, if they were growing on my ass.

In all seriousness, I also got to thinking about how they’d bragged about being in the military. Based on the way they acted, my guess is that they were either, ahem, fibbing about it, or they served for real but had a bad run in it for whatever reason.

I’ve never heard them give specifics about that time in their life, and it never occurred to me to ask, so I can’t say whether or not they exaggerated anything. I could do a Freedom of Information Act request, but tbh, I don’t care enough to actually go through with it. They’re ancient history to me, and they’re dead to me. Their behavior told me all I need to know. This jerk fuck was why I spent so many years of my life terrified of military people and avoiding them like the plague.

In hindsight, there were so many red flags, and the article pretty much covered all of them. The super short interview being another one. Now it’s clear to me why they hired me and ignored the applications from my family members: I had no marketable skills to speak of, and no formal employment history at the time. They took up all my time to the point I almost ended up having to take a leave of absence from school, another red flag for sure.

There’s something else I’ve learned over the years that I’d like to add to this: look at the way the company treats you the first time you meet them, and focus on how they treat you during the interview. How do they act toward you on the phone? If they treat you like crap, ridicule you, mock you, or denigrate you in any other way when they don’t know you from Adam or Eve, and you don’t even work there, I can guarantee you it’ll be worse actually working for them.

Move on from them in that case, and keep moving forward with your job hunt.

If what I’ve seen of the companies who treated me badly when I walked in the door or during the interview that year is anything to go by, you’re dodging a bullet.

The writer of the post I linked to mentioned that they regret ignoring the red flags of a toxic workplace. Maybe some of you readers feel the same way. I did. While regret is totally understandable, I don’t ever want you to beat yourself up over it. Hindsight’s always 20/20, and it’s hard to see things when we’re in it. Maybe these were things you didn’t know to look for at the time, like I didn’t. Or worse, you were in a position where you felt like you had no other options but these bastards, the same way I did.

I want you to forgive yourself for whatever you overlooked or didn’t know to look for at the time. Whatever signs you overlooked, didn’t know to look for, or ignored, as the article writer put it, it still didn’t give them the right to mistreat you the way they did. This is all on them, 100%.

Maybe you’re in a situation like this now. If you are, I see you. I hear you. I believe you. Just so we’re clear on this, none of what’s happening to you is your fault. What’s happening to you is wrong. Nobody deserves to be abused in general, least of all for the sake of an income. I don’t care who you are. Under ZERO circumstances is their behavior justified or ok.

Document everything they’ve said and done to you, record it if you’re able to do so without them finding out about it. Keep it somewhere safe where they can’t find it or get to it, so you have something to give to any Powers that Be.

Maybe you did or said some things during your time with the crappy company you’re not proud of, or maybe you’ve acted in ways that are out of character for you. It doesn’t render your experience null and void, and nothing justifies their disgusting behavior toward you. Maybe they’ve told you that nobody else will ever hire you or want you. Maybe they told you that it’ll be even worse at any other company.

I’m here to tell you, it’s all lies. This is something abusers do to keep their victims silent and in their trap, and that’s what the people doing this to you are. I know for a fact it’s easier said than done, but you have to believe there’s something better out there. They know it, and they’re counting on you not to. Go job hunting on the weekends or on whatever time you have that doesn’t involve them. Find a way out of there as soon as you can, and once you do, you bide your time until your last day with them comes.

Then you celebrate the moment you officially washed your hands of them, and left them in your rearview mirror. Good riddance to bad rubbish. You no longer have to care about what happens to them personally or as a company.

They technically absolved you of whatever obligation you had to care about them as a company or individually the minute they made the choice to treat you the way they did.

They get to stay in your past. It’s onward and upward for you.

You get to move on, and you get to make yourself into something those sorry jerks can never claim to be in a million years.

This is one of the reasons I stress the importance of building yourself a “Fuck Off Fund,” like in an article I linked to a few months back. This way, you have something to fall back on after leaving a company that mistreats you, whether they have your back or not. If you’re already working on this, keep at it. If you don’t have one, there’s no better time like today to get started.

Over to you, readers. I know this was a lengthy post, and thanks a million for sticking through this. What are your takeaways from all this? Have you been through something similar? Know someone who has? Let’s talk.

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