June 5th, 2012

Let’s Talk with Kalola : Government Landscape Designer


Here’s the launch of our new feature, Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

Dear Kalola,

I am a landscape designer working for a public sector for about 3 years. July 2011, I got a promotion, from contract position change to full time. My nightmare started from the exact day the news announced.

One coworker of mine who failed to get this position started to ‘freezed out’ ever since. we sit side by side. From that day on, he never talked to me for a word, not even a ‘hi’. At that time, only 2 of us sit in a enclosed office, only one doorway, 4 walls. Nobody can see what is going on in our ‘pod’. At times he was banging or smashing things to make noises. I was scared by his anger, so each time when he started to bang things, I walked away and waited outside till he calmed down. One day in the underground parking lot, I saw him coming towards his car. He clearly saw me, but passed by without any gesture. Then he entered and started his car. To my surprise, as soon as he started his car, he all of sudden accelerated it and drove towards me. I was shocked, even I avoided it, but the shockness stayed there and wouldn’t go away.

His behavior got worse and worse each day. Eventually under the support of my family, I reported him to the management and HR. They took down some notes, but did nothing to him. He probably didn’t even know I have reported him.

This situation remained same for almost a year. He constantly picked up my fault at work, I feel any single mistake I made is not forgiven and everyday can be my last day of employment. Due to the tremendous fear at work, I developed insomnia, memory lose, have trouble focusing and eventually heart condition. Now I have to spend few times a week in doctor’s office and only knowing my situation is getting worse and worse.

Everytime I talked to other coworkers or management, it seems this entire situation is my fault, I have to be responsible for the consequence.I feel shame of myself and blamed myself a lot. My doctor urged me to get some treatment or I will be facing worse health break down. At mean time, this coworker gets promoted and he sometimes openly make fun of my poor health in the office.

Most of time I am thinking to quit my job or else I will get fired anyway. I wish they have moved me away from this coworker when he first gunned his car at me. Now I constantly watched over my shoulder and afraid he might stab me from the back. I just want to leave this job, but I know with current economy, it will take half or one year to find another job. I am in the dilemma of what to do before I get killed at work, either physically or mentally.

Vivian


Dear Vivian,


You tell a frightening work story. What has happened to you on the job is not your fault, you did nothing wrong. Your story differs from most stories that I have heard as you fear for your life at the hands of your tormentor. I am astonished at your employer’s indifference.

It sounds like your promotion to a full-time position is what set off your co-worker. Working in a small office with someone who demonstrates that he doesn’t like your presence there is very intimidating. With the scarcity of jobs in a fragile economy, it may have been upsetting to your co-worker that you were given that full-time job. In a sense, he threw a temper tantrum and although he has now been promoted, he hasn’t forgotten that he was overlooked and is still taking it out on you. However, there is no excuse for his out-of-control, threatening behavior towards you. His goal would appear to be to torment you until you quit the job.

Your story becomes a “he said, she said” story when you work in a two-person office. There is no one else to witness or verify what has been taking place. Your outside co-workers may appear to be blaming you by not taking your side. Their actions may be protective to shield themselves from being the next target. Thus, your other co-workers appear to be ignoring your situation. They may also be fearful of your tormentor. You will get more support from your family and friends than from your co-workers.

“Bullying at work is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of a person by one or more workers that takes the form of verbal abuse; conduct or behaviors that are threatening, intimidating, or humiliating; sabotage that prevents work from getting done; or some combination of the three” according to the WBI.

According to the Ontario Ministry of Labour (Province of Ontario, Canada).

“Everyone should be able to work without fear of violence or harassment, in a safe and healthy workplace. Violence and harassment in the workplace are not tolerated in Ontario.”

“Changes to the OHSA (Occupational Health and Safety Act) – effective June 15, 2010 – strengthen protections for workers from workplace violence and address workplace harassment. They apply to all provincially regulated workplaces.”

The Ontario Ministry of Labour recommends: “In an emergency or if there is immediate danger, contact the police first in emergency situations. If a situation has turned violent or if there is threat of violence occurring, employers and workers should call the police. Police officers deal with violent individuals and matters under the Criminal Code.”“The Ministry of Labour also recommends that workers should report threats or incidents of workplace violence to the employer.”

Within the Province of Ontario, Canada, your employer has an obligation or duty to maintain a safe work environment. Your employer has done nothing to protect you. At the very least, the employer could have moved you to another office space away from the offending co-worker.

No matter where you live, if a co-worker threatens harm to himself or to others which includes you, immediately contact the police. It then becomes a police matter. Obtain a copy of the police report for your own records. The primary purpose in obtaining a police report is that there is a record or documentation of what occurred. Give a copy of the police report to your employer. This should get your employer’s attention.

If you have witnesses to a verbal threat, or an actual physical assault give the names of these witnesses to the police.

After giving the employer a copy of the police report, ask the employer what steps they will take to protect you. Ask to be immediately moved to another work station away from your tormentor. In dangerous work situations, a worker can also refuse to work at that dangerous work location.

For more information, contact the Ministry of Labour Health and Safety Contact Centre at 1-877-202-0008.

In Canada, you can also call the Victim Support Line, 1-888-579-2888.

If your co-worker threatens you outside of the workplace, you may want to consider obtaining a protective order in criminal court.

It is your decision whether to stay in this job or to move on. You will need to consider what the costs are to you, emotionally as well as physically, to stay in your current job. You state that you have developed insomnia, memory loss, are having trouble focusing, and now have developed a heart condition. Please listen to your doctor, and seek treatment for your physical and mental health. There could be long-term health harm if you don’t take care of yourself, and if you stay on at this job.

No job is worth your health and safety or your life. I hope that you can gather the courage to walk away from this job. Jobs may be scarce, but you will find another job. Be persistent when you do your job search. In the meantime, you will need to take time to recover your physical and mental health. Fear has taken a toll on you.

Please write again and give me an update as to your situation. I am very concerned about your health and safety. Take good care of yourself.

Sincerely,

Kalola

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 5th, 2012 at 2:03 pm and is filed under Let's Talk with Kalola, Target Tale, Tutorials About Bullying. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.



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  1. Cosmiccrone says:

    I’m very sorry to hear about your situation, Vivian. I often work alone with someone whose behaviour is way out of line so the issue of “she said, she said” is one I can relate to. 

    Kalola, although it’s true that no job is worth our health or our lives in theory, the reality is that losing work permanently or for a prolonged period of time, possibly being forced into poverty, is health- and life-endangering, too. As the social safety net becomes a tightrope, the chances of getting needed support is getting more and more slim. 

    To those of us who are older and/or less educated, the risk of leaving is huge. I appreciate the work being done to recognize workplace bullying and to lobbying for legislative improvements. While I agree that it should be a workplace safety issue and therefore under Workers Compensation (or its equivalent), that, too, has its problems for workers. In fact, where I live, that program itself is marginalizing of workers and tends to favour employers. I wonder how it will work for workers who file a claim in this category.

    • GB says:

      Hi Cosmiccrone. I do agree with most of your comment, but I think there are a couple things off-point.

      Of course losing work permanently is never positive, but every day spent in a toxic environment takes a tremendous toll on one’s ability to think-clearly about what is happening. It is truly amazing how quickly the body and mind can respond when the constant threat of abuse is not around the corner.

      When it comes to legislation, the Healthy Workplace Bill doesn’t make workplace bullying a part of Workers Comp or workplace safety. Instead it treats this behavior the same way sexual harassment or racial discrimination is dealt with. The target can sue the employer, which in turn provides incentives for employers to preemptively stop bullying.

      When organizations stop allowing bullies to thrive, bullying can become a thing of the past.

  2. zoya says:

    Great posting.

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