This is not a political post, trust me.
I try to avoid getting political on social media, I really do. Recently, during the Women’s March my Facebook feed was filled with scores of photos of my friends protesting. I am impressed with anyone who wants to get out there and bring about change.
While I didn’t march, the photos had me thinking about my rights, the treatment I have experienced in the workplace, sexual harassment and wage equality. If anyone has suffered any of the above, it’s tragic, no one should endure this treatment. My abuse came at the hands of a woman in the workplace, not a man. She was my boss and she was brutal. In addition to being under the influence most of the time, she was verbally abusive, sexually inappropriate and loved to control those she managed, by fear. (We have all had tough bosses, abuse crosses the line and we all know the difference.) When I was first hired, I was thrilled. It was a very good job, great people and a very nice salary with benefits. It worked well for me. What didn’t work was the relentless abuse leveled at me, with a dose of manipulative mind games thrown in, for her entertainment. Every interaction, whether she was high or not, was an unpleasant, often inappropriate, nail-biting, head-scratching encounter. Co-workers, in tears, running from her office was a regular occurance. After almost a year of being subjected to this treatment, when her last tirade leveled at me ended, I simply said: You’re a bully; I quit. In that moment, I gained back my dignity and my sanity.
I have pushed this out of my mind for years. I chalked it up as a learning experience and at the time felt fortunate that I had my husband’s salary to carry us while I found new work. As I began to prepare to leave that company, I was relieved and at the same time filled with anger. I was angry that I was the one to leave. I was pushed to the point of breaking; I wanted to hold her accountable, but feared the backlash of not getting a good recommendation. I had many excuses, none of them that strong. I didn’t have the backbone or energy to pursue her, that was the real reason. My husband left the choice up to me, I wanted it to just go away. However, it never does, it’s always there when you have been tormented. It doesn’t matter that I have had a wonderful career since then, this was a person in a position of power who asserted it over another. She knew what she was doing, so did the company; she had been getting away with this behavior for years with every person who held that position.
I let HR know I was leaving without the sordid details, they gave a sympathetic nod to my situation. On my last day, I had to fill out the exit survey and I made sure I sang the praises of my co-workers. I did not have the guts to put any of what she had done to me in writing, this I regret. That afternoon, I couldn’t get to my car fast enough. I vowed never to work for another woman again. That’s a terrible takeaway and I hate to even write this. I have been a staff manager on several occasions; would I work for me? We are supposed to be nurturing, caring, understanding…female. Where is it written in the handbook that we must be any of those things? How about knowledgeable, fair, inspiring and competent? My experience with this female counterpart, instead put me on a collision course with her dysfunction.
As I write this I realize I owe those women a thank you. A thank you for bringing this to the forefront of everyone’s consciousness, especially the workplace where we need to succeed together. Behavior in the workplace must be addressed; that I am convinced of. I will say that over my career, I have been paid higher than some of my male coworkers, and in other instances less. I have also strived to be treated with respect since that experience. I would never allow another person to belittle or treat me that way again. The Women’s March will hopefully give women, and men, the confidence and a place to stand with support when an injustice takes place.
In my case, had this happened now, instead of almost 10 years ago, I hope I would have had the inner fortitude to push my case and bring justice to this woman. While I stayed at home this weekend and watched these women on TV, I sort of diminished their efforts in my mind. I want to take those feelings back. They are very brave, displaying more guts than I have. They are pushing the narrative that abuse in any form is never okay.
Post Script: While I was wrestling with the situation and trying to find a new job, something miraculous happened to me. I was praying for guidance on finding a new position. I received several phone calls, out of the blue, on the same day from companies that wanted to hire me. I went right from this bad situation into a healthy environment. Coincidence? I think not. I was unemployed for about a day.