Workplace Harassment: Should I go or Should I stay?
Updated: Aug 24, 2019
Elizabeth has been targeted. She loves her job but her working environment is not acceptable. Still, she decides to stay, but she is feeling the cost in terms of stress.
Harassment: Should I Go or Should I Stay?
Robert Davies (C) 2019
Robert Jenkins, the counsellor, stared into Elizabeth's eyes as he paraphrased her words. “You had reasons for staying with the job. Although it was painful, you endured an entire four years after the initial harassment?”
Silence. Robert waited expectantly.
For a moment Elizabeth was silent and then her mouth opened and an unwilling sentence came twisting, kicking and screaming out, full of life. “Yes, I had reasons,” repeated Elizabeth.
“Firstly, I had seen my own employee lodge a harassment complaint. I had even read it. It went to mediation. Then more harassment followed. I saw him in such pain.”
"Even after mediation?"
"Yes, it is usually not really mediation. It turns into another way to get at you." “That sounds terrible, Elizabeth! You have been through a lot. So, why get involved with your employee's problems?” “Well, Bob, I really hadn’t discouraged him from lodging the complaint. We had discussed it openly. I may have even encouraged him to lodge a complaint. By the end of it, I felt somewhat responsible.” “So, you did something?”
“Yes, I thought I owed it to my employee to complain myself about my own harassment. If he had, then I should. I also thought maybe I could write a book about my experience to learn more about being harassed in order to help others”. “Do you still think that way?” “No, not exactly, Bob. This pain has been so great and caused such hardship to my family and me. I also could never write a book.” “Correct me if I am wrong, Elizabeth. You regret taking a stand, and you will never write a book about it?” “It is difficult to explain, Bob.: “There is no “rhyme and reason?” “Yes. But perhaps to the discerning eye, there is. There may be a rhyme to the rhythm of the harassment and therefore, reason. Hadn’t every negative act been measured, weighed and placed using a carefully planned sequence.” “So, Elizabeth, if you can find the pattern somewhere, it will unlock the mystery of what happened to you?”
“Bob, I have tried to understand what I got myself into. Perhaps, one day
I will step back, look and grasp the unifying image of workplace harassment. I will understand this carefully built wall of stone, built to cut me off, to encircle me and to weigh heavy in my memory.”
“Elizabeth, besides it being difficult to talk about, your experience of harassment is challenging to understand.” “Yes.” “Then let’s start simply. First, you said that you wanted to file your own harassment complaint in support of your employee who suffered?” “Yes.” “And you wanted to write about it.” “Were there other reasons, Elizabeth?” “Well, Bob, once I complained and the harassment deepened, widened and lengthened, I didn’ t want to lose my job.” “Why not?” “I loved my job, not my workplace, but my job.” “You were holding on. You wouldn’t let go” “Yes, I wouldn’t let go. I did not want to lose my job.”
“So, Elizabeth, you started off with supporting an employee through inflicting yourself with further harassment. Then you thought it grand to write a book. Then rather than fighting against harassment, it became – fighting to keep your job?”
“You know, Bob. I hadn’ t thought of that. The administration had me on the run. I forgot about the initial reasons and fought for survival. Then it became more complex. I didn't want to quit because I couldn’ t afford to move back to my hometown, because of all the time I had put in, my pension, because I didn’t want to be pushed out, to lose.”
“You were fighting to keep your job for many reasons.” Yes, Then I couldn’t quit if I had wanted to. I had been beaten so much that I had no energy to move, to get up, to run, to escape. I just lay there, exhausted from the fight, bruised, weak, sore from the beating. Still, I hung on.”
"Elizabeth, it has been very painful with your wanting to quit and not be able to quit when things got more difficult.” “Yes.” “Let’s work on your not wanting to quit, the reasons? Okay, Elizabeth?” “Sure.” Bob leaned over from his chair to a bookcase to his left and pulled a binder off the shelf. Leafing through it, he pulled out a sheet. Then along with a clipboard, he handed it over to Elizabeth. “I will let you do the writing. We will make a list of the pro’s and con’s of staying with the job.” It did not take very long and the two of them had completed the left side of the form: one was the advantages of staying on the job.
Staying with the Job
1. I have a pay cheque. 2. I will increase my pension. 3. I will show my boss that I cannot be pushed around. 4. I can win by staying and not losing my job. 5. I don’t have to worry about looking for another job. 6. I don’t have to make any major decisions. 7. I have security. 8. can continue to blame my boss for making my job unbearable.
“Great work, Elizabeth. Now let’s complete the right side. We will use the left side to help us write up the right. “ “Now to do this, I want you to choose which advantage that you’d like to talk about first.” “That’s easy - number seven, - I have security.” “ And what do you mean by that – security?” “Security? Well, I have a steady income with benefits and pension.” “ Now, tell me about the word, ‘security’. What does the word mean exactly? ” Bob handed Elizabeth a dictionary. When she found the word, she began to read out loud. “Secure. It means ‘untroubled by danger’, ‘safe against attack’, ‘reliable’, ‘certain not to fail or give way’. I am just jumping around here. There is quite a bit. ‘secure of victory’, ‘safe from assault’. ‘Succeed in getting’. That’s quite a few things.” Elizabeth sat with the open book on her lap.
“Great, Bob. Now we are writing up a list about what again?” “About staying with the job – pro’s and con’s.” “Yes, and we listed ‘security’ or maybe ‘being secure’. Would ‘being secure’ fit the bill? “Yes.” “Elizabeth, given the description of your job and given the definition of ‘secure’, are you ‘safe from attack?’” “No, I am continually being attacked. “ “And are you ‘Secure of victory, Elizabeth?’ “Wrong again! I mean how secure of victory am I when my employer is bent on making me lose?”
“Then how about ‘reliable?’ Doesn’t that also mean you can trust in a person or situation. “ “Well, according to the definition and the situation right now, I can’t trust my boss and if you can’t trust a boss who is against you in every way, how can I ‘rely’ on anything about the job? If the boss is that much against me, what is stopping him from sabotaging me at every turn? Security? Maybe I am wrong here, but I really don’t have a chance in Hell.”
Bob stared at Elizabeth for a minute. Then he looked down. “I guess you can cross that one out along with a few others. I am being pushed around. I am worrying. I am worried about my situation. I am not feeling secure.”
“You mentioned a health plan.” “Yes, as part of the benefits.”
“Well, what good is health insurance if you could possibly get a heart attack and die, given all the stress you are under? You may have a ‘health plan’ but staying in that job is not a ‘plan for health’, it is a ‘plan for sickness’. You said the situation is filling you with fear and you don’t have peace of mind. It seems your health is at stake. Elizabeth, isn’t there an old saying that ‘if you have your health, you have everything’? It seems to me that when it comes to advantages of staying with the job, you have nothing. This is what I understand from what I think you are saying across the board. Am I striking a chord?”
With more discussion around the advantages, Elizabeth was able to complete the right side. She then weighted them based on a total weight of 100. She gave the advantages a 10 and the disadvantages a 90. Together 10 + 90 = 100.
Staying with the Job
1. I have a pay cheque. 2. I increase my pension. 3. I show my boss that I cannot be pushed around. 4. I win by staying and not losing my job. 5. I don’t have to worry about looking for another job. 6. I don’t have to make any major decisions. 7. I have security. 8 I can continue to blame my boss for making my job unbearable.
1. I may have money, but I risk my health. 2. I still have a thirty year pension. Lot’s of people don’t have that. 3. I am being pushed around. 4. I am losing my health.
5. I have already lost my peace of mind. 6. It would be a joy to work somewhere else. 7. I have no choice but to make a major decision about my well being – to look after it or not. 8. I have no control over life, especially a job. 9. If I continue to hate, the hate will hurt only me, not my boss.
10. With hate, my boss wins.
10% for Advantages + 90 % for Disadvantages = 100%
“ What do you think?” “This helped a lot. I can see the mistakes I made in my thinking.”
“Yes, “thinking” that is the key. You want to change. Well, for real change to occur, we have to look at what you are thinking, what you are telling yourself. If we can help you to change your thoughts, you can change your emotions. If you can change certain negative thoughts and start thinking positive, realistic thoughts, then the feelings will become more positive.”
“ Bob, I noticed that the disadvantages were not only positive thoughts but also real thoughts. Bob, can you show me how to change those negative thoughts as a course of habit?” “We can. You can with practice. That’s it. See you next week.
Elizabeth left with some homework to do for her next session.