I'm in Healthcare, I work long hours and it's stressful but exhilarating fun when it is about the patient and helping the patient. My heart is filled and my spirit nourished knowing that what I do can make a positive difference in someone's health and life overall.
[Sounds corny but it's true]
However, the joy from whatever good I did do and change that I could effect I allowed to be taken from me systematically working at the place I want to talk about. I interned with and ended working in a Department affiliated with a University and University Teaching Hospital. As a researcher I thought that yeah I would be getting up in the guts of science, and doing some real good . The scientific method is very sexy and experimentation and diagnostic application can keep me going for days. Nuff said. Anyway, I went through the probationary period and started working on my thesis while still rotating through other sub-departments/sections.
Then I met my Boss, now let me be fair to this person there were other bad bosses in this place....the Department was/is a very toxic work environment with more plots than a daytime soap , the publish or perish directive brought out the lowest behavior in the senior staff, and lets be fair some of them didn't need the motivation to be awful.
So my Boss TB was/is an insecure, emotionally unstable micro-manager prone to shouting out orders, snapping at anyone not found useful [which was everyone beneath TB]. There was nothing that could mitigate her rages, anticipation of her needs lead to her suspicion that you were "trying to show her up" or "angling for her job". If you asked questions, you were described as being incompetent, [saw it happen and it happened to me], and if we [the staff and postgrads] worked in a group solve an issue, we were "know it alls", "ganging up" against her, it was awful.
I am a hard worker and I am not difficult to work with I have worked across all of the disciplines within every unit of the organization, and I got on well with everyone. It just did not matter in this Department and at first I didn't see that this was not my fault or even under my control. I thought this was maybe just the hazing period and in time this shit would stop. It didn't and it would never stop, what was the incentive to do better? Those who could not stand it left - a great hint that I did not know, if an organization has a massive turnover rate......that is a BIG red flag, and you should consider, very carefully, before joining.
Now, I know hard work terrible hours and tough supervisors but never anything like this.
TB locked me in the office archives [that has no cell-phone reception] and let me know that I would only be released when I found what she wanted, I reported this - nothing but abuse from her was the result. She tried following me home on several occasions and asked me why I never went straight home after work. Anytime I put in for a training opportunity, she indicated to management that she couldn't spare me, or sign-off on my training.
Crying before leaving for work, crying in the car outside work, and crying in bathroom stalls at work that became my reality, others drank, still others just zoned out and became the worse representation of themselves. So when she lamented about the "useless" staff she was "burdened with" she was truthful for the most part because she most were only there in body.
I swear the stress gave me my fibroids, that developed over the time I worked there. There is no family history of fibroids among the 23 women in my direct and extended family or in the women on my Dad's side of the family. I was worn out and sickly all the time I worked for that creature. It was an uphill battle to get through my Master and my PhD was stalled.
I had literally internalized my abuse.
You get to points along the abuse journey where you feel simultaneously worthless and fully receptive of every bad thing that is shouted at you, day-in-day-out. The flow chart below shows how the corrosive nature of the Toxic Work Environment where the constant devaluation of your work and your shame couple to over time lead to the fulfillment of all the negative words that you internalize.
I wanted to leave everyday, but always argued myself into staying, and then just as simple as pie, I stopped trying, I gave up, and as I told you I cried - A LOT. I cried everyday - quiet bitter tears, never letting a soul hear or see, I cried myself to sleep, and I stopped dreaming, mornings greeted me sitting paralyzed in my underwear at the start of each day overcome with dread and sorrow. I was ashamed to explain this to anyone, I felt that something had to be wrong with me.
Was I mad, was this a nervous breakdown, was it that I couldn't I cut it???
I had to get a hold of myself, I needed to get my head right.
I do not subscribe to victimology, I accept that I allowed this to go on as long as it did. I did and I had to forgive myself for the time I lost by allowing this to happen. I was pragmatic in my choice, the job market was/is not robust and with this job I had security. I put my focus on finishing my PhD. Yes, I let myself be abused. Yes, I allowed it to happen and only I could put a stop to it.
Yes, and stop it I did.
It was and is as simple as saying NO. I cannot describe it in any other terms than saying, "I hit rock bottom". I had been: shouted at unrelentingly while crunching data by TB a la Full Metal Jacket (too many times to count); threatened with the end of my career and destitution; locked in the archives and told I would only be released if I found the required documents, lied to, cheated out of overtime pay, denied training opportunities, and discouraged repeatedly. I discovered that taking the abuse invited more abuse and on a day no different than any other before, I was getting the "daily dose" when I responded by refusing to take in any more of the verbal filth. I mentally said NO.
She had me spearheading a project with a time-dependent deliverable and covering her duties while she was out on an emergency. She gave 5 different deadlines to the Head of Department and other Supervisors respectively. They each told me a different deadline, and when TB contacted me I brought this up and asked to be e-mailed the specific deadline and specifications than getting the info via word-of-mouth. I was not rude, nor was I confrontational, I just stopped her shouting into the phone by asking her to stop raising her voice at me. I was told that I was behaving in an arrogant manner and I needed to adjust my attitude "or else". I did not let her go on, I repeated my request to be copied on any changes and stopped speaking after asking her to stop speaking to me in that manner. She told me she did not need my, "attitude" [rich - especially coming from her], I didn't say anything else and I collected my things and walked away from that section and asked another supervisor if I could work in her unit under her, to which she agreed.
I knew what this meant but it was the only way to reclaim myself. I finished my thesis and prepped for my defense. I defended my work successfully and started feeling like my self more an more each day. I kept under the radar and performed my duties. Then the day came, my former boss returned and she sought me out - blasting me on sight, telling me that I didn't know know my place and I should have been "happy" that I was being included and given all that she gave me, [???]. I told her to stop and that I couldn't work with her and her abuse anymore. I told her she was disorganized and provided only inconsistent information and directives - it was easier than I ever imagined, with as expected she made it her mission to destroy my reputation with any and all people that would listen to her.
There was no surprise when my contract was not renewed, which is the cheapest and most passive aggressive way to fire someone ever don't you think???
Anyway I have not looked back.
What about money? Well, I am living with my mother, and I am looking intently for a new position. I am working through my savings faster than I had calculated, but I am not panicking[which is very important] because that is how bad decisions get made. I have a few friends that have helped me out, with some utility bills, I am thankful beyond words for that.
I have made a timetable for getting a job, and written an outline of what is ideal and then I have been matching this with what's available.
I am also open to temporary jobs, be open it's all about moving forward in the best way you can,right?? Access your talents and as cliche as it sounds go out of your comfort zone, and think outside the box. Forget shame, be direct with close friends and family, but do not let the world know that you are on your face. Any negative persons need to be put out to pasture, take constructive criticism actually seek it out to toughen you up. I know I have been hurt, but not addressing my shortcomings will not help the healing, another point of view is good to have. Image is important, practice interviewing until it is natural, especially if you have been out of the job market for a while. Take any networking opportunity that you can on board. I dress for work every day, and keep "work hours".
I get up at 4am every morning and exercise, the endorphins are good for you, to fend off the black dog of depression which will want a dance but that is not for me or you. If you are depressed and have no energy and cannot exercise get thee to a psychiatrist, do that irrespective of status, the check up is one you need as part of the recovery. Anyway, I exercise, get ready for "work", dress and I am out of my home to begin "work" at 8 am sharp, I give myself thirty five minutes for lunch, and my day is devoted to forging new connections, looking for work, updating my resume in different formats, making appointments and scheduling interviews for work. Make opportunities don't wait for them to happen.
I will let you know, how it goes, but I am taking it one day at a time.
Everyday I remind myself that I am no longer working there. I remind myself that I rescued myself made myself the hero of my life story.
I am healthier, financially stressed, but happier and more productive than I have been in years.