Even when it seems that there are no options, there is hope.
I was a battered and neglected child who was verbally abused and taught not to complain about it. Authority figures were scary people.
As a 23-year-old worker, I was very ambitious, but not particularly savvy. Nobody told me how the world worked, and I wasn’t educated. I was naïve and thought that the promotions would keep coming if I worked fast. I was good at my job; I knew my product, I felt excited about doing my work, and I was good at selling it to the customers.
I made more money than others in the bakery department, because I requested a the job after being a cashier, and my pay had to stay the same according to the contract. Management said I made too much and eventually had me cashier again years later without very much training.
So much had changed from when I was a cashier before. The politics were so different.
Because too much information about my personal problems became known, the information was being used like a knife to hurt me, since the boss decided he didn’t like me. I was once popular and held the attention and friendships of coworkers. I then became ill, and not well–regarded over time. I became excluded from the store gossip and quickly lost my friends after several years with the company. My friends all fell away. I stopped believing I could ever succeed. I got told no other employer would have me.
But my circumstances made it impossible for me to quit. I had a nervous breakdown.
I kept trying to figure it all out. The boss said he was trying to save my job one day, and the next he would throw something down on the ground for me to pick up. Employees who were new would be nice, and then they would soon turn against me. This happened for almost my whole career.
I tried voicing my concerns, but it fell on deaf ears, or I would get a write-up. I had educated myself, but realized that neither family nor work wanted to communicate back. The message became clear that I had a job as long as I gave service to the customers. And, of course that applied as long as I could stand the abuse. My youth was going away and I never really got to enjoy it. I was in emotional pain, and I was numb, all at the same time. I got a boss in a bit of trouble for his mistreatment of me, but I soon realized that union shops are very creative in lighting fires under certain employees. My son got confused with me so moody and working any given shift.
Years later, I read a lot of books, including “Work Abuse”. I was lucky enough to have the concepts explained to me, because in my fragile state I felt weakened. I got harassed by a whole group of coworkers. I had already acknowledged to myself that I got abused at work. What I didn’t know, and learned from the book was that the people I was having trouble with, the managers, the coworkers, were playing out their childhood behaviors They were only doing what they had to get by too. I learned it was the system that was at fault. That there was no blame. Not even I was at fault. I learned I wasn’t the only one being abused.
I knew that intellectually, but emotionally I felt compelled to find fault. So, I compromised: I acted as if I was fine with my situation at work, most of the time. That is another strategy in the book. I was trying to behave like others so I would not fly under the radar all the time. My good behavior earned me some years of a time of some normalcy. It was a tough act to pull off, and I would occasionally falter, but I’d then get right back up trying again. I re-pursued my hobby which gave me a lot of satisfaction. According to the book it is one of the self-help strategies.
I had good doctors, and I took disability a few times in 37 years with the company. I would come back, start over, and regroup. After years of extreme trauma, I adopted my philosophy that I referred to earlier, for around 7-8 years until I left the workplace. It worked for me pretty well, though the abuse was still there in the background. I had learned to see coworkers as children, getting their own way, clamoring for attention, playing schoolyard bully. I liked my job better then. I tried being the bigger person. I was given more autonomy which kept me away from other workers. The job was more responsibility, but I thought it was more peaceful. It lasted 2-3 years. I grew as a person.
I don’t believe that would have happened had I not adopted my strategy of acting as if, and trying to fly under radar. I accepted that there is no justice in the system; not really. I knew that I was ill and would find trouble at another job. The time for job-hunting had passed, and I only stayed that long because of my status as a single parent years earlier. Then, I had racked up a bit of a retirement.
I started to tire, and had health problems that were worsening. A new, younger workforce had taken over. The stress caught up with me physically. I had to work very well, and very hard to avoid abuse. I eventually became exhausted in every way. My sleep patterns were unpredictable. My symptoms were worsening. I was in physical and emotional pain. I was 56 years old. There were rumors that management wanted the old-timers out. I started working like a youngster, but couldn’t keep up. Younger people were breathing down my neck wanting my job. It was just business to them. I was so paranoid that I started offending customers. I didn’t feel ready to retire just yet.
I went on disability for a year, and then I did take an early retirement. I felt exhausted and felt bitter. But I now see the larger picture better. I had been able to understand and assimilate my philosophy that I learned from the book, but my illness made it difficult to feel at peace with it. I now see that even “acting as if ” was a huge help to me in keeping sane at my job. Yes, I eventually blew it and spoke out, but I am only human.
I’m still get stressed and exhausted a year and a half later. I am trying to get along in a great group my therapist told me about, called DBSA; and I’m volunteering. I am still afraid of groups, but I am getting better. I still love my hobby, and am practicing it. I have found some people who I am sort of friends with.
I have decided for many years now that I did the right thing for me, because I was truly stuck. The book is thorough, and it is comprehensive. “Work Abuse”, by Hare and Wyatt, is still helping me cope with my life after retirement. And I know in my heart of hearts that adopting the concepts bought me several more years as an employed person.
If I had a choice I would have moved on to another profession, but the facts are that I was in a double-bind. If I had a choice I would not divulge personal information unless necessary.
I’m very grateful to Mr. Hare for contacting me back after I read his book. I have a great marriage, and my son is thriving. I may still get stressed, but this is the happiest time of my life so far.
Here is a good article. I only wish employers would go by the guidelines set forth: