Social Culling? What is it? How it may have happened to me.

I saw an article, and it all came back to me as if I was still at work.  It is, “The Culling”, and it’s been posted on, http://www.disinfo.com/.  I will get to it later.

I worked for a few years in one company without too many problems.  I worked fast, which was what the company wanted. I got promoted to the next level twice in a two-year period, but preferred a department for a place, to work which was a notch below the second promotion, which was at the front end of the store.  I moved to a new store in the same company to get away from my meddling uncle who worked with me, and to take a demotion to a job I really liked, and did well at.  The pay was the same.  I did well, but there was a lot of competition, as my cousin warned, and I started to lose ground.

Then I got a new store director.  He got involved.  He didn’t like me.  When I told him I was having a baby, he cringed.  He was very slippery: He asked me to harass a woman who worked in another department.  I was afraid of him from then on.  His daughter who used to work with me came in and told me to go see a psychologist, and she muttered a few things about my past behavior under her breath.  I then regretted making friends with her a couple of years earlier.  However, I did get that help.

For many years I got socially isolated at work.  People would form bonds around me, but I wasn’t included.  I had once been invited to parties, and meetings about work.

Below, I will be referring to Social Culling as in the article linked at the bottom of this article:

On http://en.wikipedia.org/, it says about the word, culling: “The word comes from the Latin colligere, which means “to collect”.  The term can be applied broadly to mean sorting a collection into two groups: one that will be kept and one that will be rejected. The cull is the set of items rejected during the selection process. For example, if you were to cull a collection of marbles such that only red marbles are chosen, the cull would be the set of marbles that are not red. In this example, the selection process would be culling on red marbles. The implicit meaning is that the cull (the non-red marbles) are going to be the group rejected.”  I cannot find who coined the term, “Social Culling”.  If anyone does, please let me know.

I would be working at the counter in the bakery department, and everyone else but me would leave together for lunch together often.  It was hurtful, but I just suppressed the feelings and probably let it affect my performance.  I occasionally begged people to help me get better at my job, but mainly, I was quiet.  I was a depressed and anxious person.  I had those personal problems.  I had a nervous demeanor, and one of the women I worked with pointed it out to another right in front of me.  For the rest of my employment, I would be referred to as if I weren’t there.  It was as if coworkers didn’t know I knew what was happening.

I tried to act as if nothing was happening.  I was in denial at that point.  My work suffered, according to the store director, though I worked extremely fast and sweat a lot.  I was in the service industry, and found solace in the relationships I had with customers.  I would make suggestions to sell extra items.  I knew my product.  I was proud of my customer service skills.  I was often left to the counter while others would be in back talking.  My immediate boss let me go back there try to make the product, but she said I was a perfectionist.  I guess that was not what she wanted, because I never got many chances to do it.  I was the counter person, dealing with the customers.

Time went by; I often got closing shifts on weekdays, and morning shifts on weekends.  It was a hardship for my son not to see much of me.  When I started to work up front again, and I got a Saturday off someone would ask me to relinquish it.  I needed the money, so I took the hours, because the boss told us if we really want hours we will take any offered.  I was part-time after all.  Throughout the years I became ill because of the ill-treatment and lack of sleep.

I got bullied often by my store director; he told me no employer would like me. The man said I was going down the path of the woman he had asked me to harass a few years earlier.  I knew my dreams of a career were over.  The best I can describe her is that she was in her 50’s (I was in my 20’s), and that she was the store scapegoat.  All negativity got aimed at her, and then me.   She knew I was suffering, and gave me a book, called “What You Think Of Me Is None Of My Business”, by Terry Cole-Whittaker, 1988.  I thought that was sweet.  a few coworkers reached out to me for a while, but tired of me.   I just didn’t get it.  All of my old friends were partying and having fun.  I was sure I was in trouble for something I had done, but the punishment seemed permanent.  As an example of how confused I was, when the store director had a heart attack I cried like a baby.

I was naïve, and thought in circles., trying to figure everything  out.  My family didn’t want to hear it.

Over the years I realized I had no choice but to stay and take it.  Opening my mouth brought on retaliation.  I was quiet, and my bosses always asked me to become more friendly and happy, as well as to work faster. I was given little breathing room because of all the hours I worked.  I even signed all my checks to the therapist, or to the landlord, paid to the company I worked for.  I was there all the time.  My son suffered confusion with all the babysitters and his grandmother taking care of him at any given time of the day or night that I I got scheduled or asked to work.

I left that place to go to another in the same company, after many years.  At first they all seemed nice, but soon, I got harassed by the store director with complaints that money had gone missing several times, or complaints from a customer that I was racist.  I was again having my job threatened.  I asked for a transfer to another place in the same company.  It was better for a while.  I was so depressed from being beaten down, and from the medication, my arms just could hardly raise and do the work.  I made a friend, but she stopped calling me after a while.  Also, she didn’t believe I was getting treated the way I said I was.  I had no real friends then.

I ended up at my last place in the same company.  Obviously, a pattern emerged that I was “different from others”,  and there were abuses that caused me to feel down, I would feel beaten down, causing productivity issues, and when I said anything that someone wouldn’t like I would receive a rejection, and schoolyard type bullying from coworkers. If I tried to prop myself up I would be torn down.  I was afraid of being up or down.

Through this I always tried being  friendly, but I couldn’t really ever relax.  There was an unspoken hierarchy, and I was at the bottom of the hierarchy.  I spoke when I got spoken to, but I would say hello and goodbye.  I was cordial if someone did occasionally talk to me.  A friend from high school I talked with occasionally, told me she didn’t know what I was talking about until her company merged with mine.  She, being middle management, said she saw that kind of scapegoating on her first day with the company.  She said there was a type of person my company was looking for.  I tried being that type. For awhile it worked.  I got more advice from a support group that was great, and with therapy, I tried to follow advice.  I was lucky to have such advice. Years went by, and I ended up with a place in the store that really worked for me for a while.

A couple of years later, an “up and coming” manager (though I didn’t know it at the time) made friends with me when she was first hired at our store.  She asked me for rides to the bus station.  She seemed sincerely nice for a while, but I noticed she would be buddies with the middle manager who did me work harder than others.  After awhile, her behavior was more and more competitive and provocative.  She got friendly with customers who were definitely trouble for me.

I kept this all to myself and was really nice.   She tried to start telling me what to do.  She told me she wanted my job.  The customers she was friends with would make it impossible to wait on.  They were stalling me, and even stealing from me when I turned my back.  I had just completed almost a two-year stint doing my job very well, catching shoplifters without any problems or supervision.  Suddenly there was mayhem.  I got very confused.  I got more ill and over tired.  Customers left and right were trying to get away with free merchandise, or they were just messing up. At one point this manager-to-be said to me, “I don’t have to work as hard as you because I make less money.  The said nothing.

I asked her why she was talking to my customers.  She said, “Because you did it to me”.  I didn’t know what I had done to deserve all of the above, except I had refused to let her tell me what to do in front of a friend of hers, and a called her a name that means small-minded.

Suddenly, I couldn’t do the  job that I had been good at.

I tried to tell management that the problems on my station were not my fault.  I had a middle manager see one woman who was making it really difficult for me.  He just said she was high.  I became more paranoid, and customers were sensing something was wrong.  I was distraught underneath the smile that I tried to wear.  I was sweating and exhausted at work because I I was told to go faster and to keep moving to get customers.  I was the only worker who didn’t just override the machine when people put too many items in the bag at self-check.  Management asked me to police the customers, and override transactions.  It made no sense to me.

I ended up exhausted and feared coming to work.

The exhaustion and symptoms of stress seem to never leave me, though I was on disability for a year, and time has passed since then.  I am unable to sleep enough hours, and I have anxiety every night.   I am having difficulty maintaining healthy friendships, post retirement.

I’ve left out many details, and I focused on certain situations to illustrate my point:  I feel like I was being selected to receive the negativity at work because I was a weak link. I did my job good enough, but I was not accepted by management. It’s really tricky to do a job without social support.  I believe the way the system works, it sometimes allows good, honest people to suffer, while others enjoy being disingenuous and purposefully hurtful.  I don’t envy the righteousness, as I feel it is ignorance in disguise.

I read this article yesterday, which posted on a workplace bullying forum. Please read it for insight:  http://www.disinfo.com/2010/10/the-culling-is-here-is-abuse-a-form-of-social-control/

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