January 2nd, 2013

Let’s Talk with Kalola: Glo’s Advice


Let’s Talk with Kalola, where targets can share their experiences with WBI’s blog readers. Here we go!

Dear Kalola,

I’m a Medical Assistant for a surgeon in a large city. I retrained after losing my job I was to retire from, in 2010, graduated and received my certification in 2011. I was immediately hired after my externship by the medical group that I had externed for and was there for a year and a half. I worked for the medical director of the clinic 3 months after I started up until 1 week ago when I was reassigned to one of our newer physicians in the clinic. At the same time I found out my hours of work had changed from 4 ten hour shifts per week, to 4 nine hour shifts with one 4 ½ hour days, for a total of 5 days per week. I have a new job I’m going to in another week, but I need to be sure I don’t paint a big target on my back again. So, here’s my story:

The initial bullying occurred with one of the tenured physicians about a month after I started. I didn’t perform a function as I was supposed to and the physician blew up in the hallway in front of patients and staff and after chastising me for what I failed to do, and what she expected then exclaimed in the third person: “what are they turning out in the schools these days?” The bullying (mob bullying by co-workers) started right after that. In the beginning it was subtle, little comments from co-workers about things I hadn’t done (they didn’t do them all the time either) then went to recriminations of “but it happens all the time” even though they themselves did exactly the same.

When I went to my clinic manager after being publicly humiliated many times over by my co-workers, she called HR in to speak with me and I decided I would try to transfer to another clinic. The clinic manager also called in a computer trainer for our system to work with me. The “Mob” told management I was slow. The trainer watched me throughout the day and noted I was not slow, I was on time with each patient and also commented on how my co-workers where berating me behind my back saying to her: “See, see she’s so slow!” My clinic manager said one of the “Mob” bullies was “just frustrated because she couldn’t figure out how I learned.”

I didn’t want to leave the clinic in shame and defeat. That perception was my first mistake. I should have just started looking right then and there. My own pride and ego, which they didn’t wear away – yet – were still there and I loved what I did. To leave, in my mind, was to let them win. And I didn’t feel I should sacrifice what I enjoy, love, and worked so hard to get because of a bunch of bullies. So, I hung on, and dug in. It never stopped though, they’d talk about me behind my back, talk about my work, how I did it, what I did – my co-workers micro-managed me. Anytime I asked a question it was like pulling teeth to get the answer. Half of the time when I’d ask they’d act like I was speaking another language and they would feign a non-understanding of what it is I needed – making or implying that I’m stupid and lack the ability to speak succinctly. When I would speak to patients and they’d have questions and I’d answer those questions, or the patients had difficulty understanding the plan for their healthcare I was criticized for taking too much time talking to the patient. I was told to “take the initiative” by a co-worker after a new procedure was assigned that I was unfamiliar with due to my not knowing that it was my day to do it.

They isolated me at work in common interactions one would have in an office. And if they did choose to listen to any chit chat I initiated if one of the other “Mob” members came over and started talking to them they’d quickly go into that conversation with them and drop the one I was having with them.

Policies and procedures are not put into writing, even our work schedules aren’t done. They schedule training meetings during our short lunch break – a time I need to get away from all the negativity. When I make patient calls they talk across me from one to the other about their personal issues so their conversation is bleeding into the phone calls I am making. They are on Facebook, and the web at work looking at their pages or shopping for beauty products while I’m trying to work. They even undress in front of you, out of their scrubs and into their street clothes after clinic hours!

It’s such a circus there that I’ve given up thoughts of staying with the patients I love and have decided to run as fast as I can and get out. I was hired the day after I was reassigned to the new physician, and turned in my notice to quit.

I lost a lot of my self-confidence for a period of time. With the daily sniping and the resentment I started to feel about that as well as seeing them goofing off all the time I felt like a real failure. I kicked myself in the rear and said this is (insert word of choice here), and decided to make a concerted effort to get out of the toxic environment I was in.

The thing I worry about now is like all victims of any sort of abuse, that I still possess those traits that make me a target for another sociopath or bully group. I’m studying now how to recognize this behavior in advance (although I don’t think any of us are bullet proof from these people – they survive by looking “super normal”). I’m hoping to learn a professional behavior style that makes me unattractive to these predators so I am not in their cross hairs. Unfortunately, a lady I worked with that was older like me and started about the same time wasn’t so lucky. She committed suicide the same day I gave my notice – she was bullied too.

My advice, when it starts just get out of there no matter how noble your goal, it is not worth it. You will not change a corporate culture like this. The only way an adult changes their behavior is if it hurts too darn much not to. As long as bullying is legal, it’s not going to hurt them it will only hurt you.

Glo


Dear Glo,


Thank you for telling us a bit of your workplace story, and sharing your thoughts and advice for others to read.

 

You did a very good thing when you lost the job that you thought you would retire from, you went back to school and retrained.  You were able to participate in an “externship” (similar to an internship) which gave you on-the-job experience.  Know that you did all the right things.  You were proactive as well as persistent, and this has paid off for you as you quickly found another job. What I do see is that you have resilience, that is, the ability to bounce back.  You are a survivor.  You saw the writing on the wall, and knew that there were too many to put up the good fight against.  As you said, you can’t change a corporate culture that is so bad. 

The 2010 WBI-Zogby survey tells us 35 percent of the workforce or an estimated 53.5 million American workers have experienced workplace bullying, that is, that we know of.  An additional 15 percent of workers report that they have witnessed it.   Sixty-four percent of workers who have reported being bullied have either quit their jobs or were let go from their jobs.  That is an extraordinary number of bullied workers who end up leaving their jobs.

 

Even from your own experiences, and educating yourself about this terrible workplace phenomenon, I can’t tell you that you won’t ever encounter another work bully, a jerk or a weasel.  Your bully radar will be on.  You will recognize it when it happens to other people as you go about your life.  I’ve observed it in restaurants, the grocery store, at a medical clinic.  It is disturbing when you witness it happening.  The most outrageous instance that I observed was a supervisor of developmentally-disabled workers who was screaming so loudly at one man that I couldn’t understand what he was shouting about.  The bully saw me and shouted at me “They don’t listen!!!”  The bully’s face was red with anger.  The Target was cowering against wall.  It was shameful behavior and, yes, I reported him.  Never saw that bully supervising those workers again.  Keep in mind, I had nothing to lose as I didn’t work for that bully or that company.

Glo—Don’t change who you are because of what you believe made you a Target.  You get to define who you are, not the job or another person.  Just try to be the most beautiful person that you can be, and that is you.  I truly believe that if we treat others the way that we would like to be treated, we can make a difference by our example.  I want workers to be professional on the job.  I don’t want any worker to stoop to the level of a bully.  I want workers to be successful in their chosen careers.  Every worker deserves to work in a safe environment, a bully-free zone, that is free of fear, intimidation, and unrelenting psychological harassment.  Bullies don’t play fair.   Don’t hold back on your career or feel that you need to shrink back as a worker so as not to be noticed  because you think a bully would be less likely to target you.  You did nothing wrong.

 

The State of Washington Administrative Code 296-126-092 governs meal periods and rest periods.  You are lucky that you live on the west coast where most workers can have a lunch break and rest breaks depending on the hours that they work.  Although most employers do allow for lunch and rest breaks, there are many states that don’t have laws that make it mandatory.

Reference:  http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?Cite=296-126-092

Reference:  http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/meal.htm#.UMeFx6xj76I

In the future, if you are called to a meeting during your lunch break, ask permission to take your lunch break after the meeting. If your work supervisor denies the lunch break, and if meetings keep getting called at that time, go to your supervisor and cite the Washington State Administrative Code.  Tell your supervisor that you work a very long day, and that you need that 30-minutes to re-fresh and eat something so that you will have the energy to complete your long work shift.  If you are ignored, put it in writing to the supervisor, and copy Human Resources (HR).  It is in the state code so HR should be backing you up.  Yes, HR supports management but they are also the enforcers of rules, regulations, policies and procedures, and laws that govern the workplace.  This time, you have a state administrative code that backs you up.

Some general advice to workers:

  • Dress appropriately, and professionally (anything that calls out “look at me” is inappropriate to wear to work)
  • Arrive to work a few minutes early
  • Be professional in your actions on the job
  • Do not share personal information about yourself to others that you wouldn’t want repeated, that is, don’t feed those that would gossip about you
  • Don’t engage in gossip, no off color jokes, and no making fun of others at their expense 
  • Continue to take classes, workshops, etc., that will update and/or enhance your occupational skills
  • Do the best job that you can under the circumstances presented
  • Just because everyone else is doing something that is inappropriate on the job doesn’t mean that a worker has permission to do the same—stay off the internet, no personal calls during work time, no personal e-mails on the company e-mail account, no buying things off the internet on company time, etc. 
  • Maintain your equanimity and decorum even under the most difficult of circumstances.  Losing your cool can get you into trouble.
  • Remember that you are human.  Give yourself a break, and don’t beat yourself up if you have been overly criticized by someone at work.  That person doing the criticizing may think they are perfect, but we know they aren’t. If your health is being affected by the bully, see your doctor and ask for a referral to a mental health professional who can help you to cope with what you are experiencing.  Sometimes a respite leave is needed, and if you can take a brief leave, do so.
  • If you are dreading going to work, losing sleep, your relationships are being affected, your physical and mental health affected, and the quality of your work is beginning to suffer then you might want to consider making plans that will transition you out of the war zone and madness. Chronic stress from staying in the war zone for a prolonged period can damage your health.  It is better to get out than to stay and let the stress irreparably damage your health.  Look at your options, and make a plan.
 

Why is it helpful to tell your story?  It is a process called “catharsis” which helps to release the tension, anger, frustration, and feelings that a person has kept inside them.  There are workers who have never told their story to anyone.  Keeping all those feelings inside creates havoc for our bodies and our mind.  It is good to write one’s story even if you don’t share it with anyone right away.  It is a step in the healing process.

 

You are important.  Your life has meaning.  Please take time to take good care of yourself.  You are more important than any bad job you happen to be in right now. 

Glo—Despite what has happened to you, you took charge of your life.  You rose above those that would harm you.  I wish you the very best.  May your future be bright.

Sincerely,

Kalola

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 3:53 pm and is filed under Let's Talk with Kalola. 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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