March 21st, 2014

Let’s Talk with Kalola: Canadian Health Care Worker

Dear Kalola,

I was in health care, The interview went great, but the question I was asked which threw me for a loop was “How do you handle aggressive coworkers?” I had never been asked that before and so I answered as such. I did notice when I shook hands at the end one interviewer has a confident shake and the other had a limp shake as though she was very passive, I didn’t think much of this, just thought it was weird. And my gut turned it was saying “I don’t really want to work here something is off” I got a call and was hired, and since I had not heard back from another place I had wanted I accepted – though if I had waited I would have received the phone call of acceptance 2 days after starting at this place.

Turns out the people who interviewed me were not going to be my boss. Another weird thing I had never encountered before was my new boss asked me to remove my degree from my wall frame and bring it in so he could verify that I had indeed graduated from an approved college. I said of course I had, that is why I have a license to practice. He said he is in charge and that is what policy states. So I asked my parents to FedEx my diploma from another province and dismantled my diploma and brought it in. It was returned to me with a coffee ring on it. I thought that was rude and said so. He smiled at me and said in a mocking tone “I don’t really care.”

Later on there was a discussion where medical professionals were bashing aboriginals and I spoke up after my boss said “Thank god we don’t hire them.” I found this extremely judgmental and I spoke up and said “Wow, I must have slipped by your radar” and I looked at the other medical professional and said “I am one.” My boss shrank a little bit. That is when it all went down hill. He would stand over me and try and intimidate me with his body language. He assigned me to clean the chairs (I’m a medical professional…), he assigned me to order gifts for a pharmacy rep he liked, he assigned me to janitorial duties. I kept jumping through his hoops. One day in the hallway he sneered at me “You think you are so good, well just remember this, I can have you replaced like this *snaps fingers in a gun finger pointed fashion at me*” I said I understand that, I tried to be humorous with him and I said “You remind me of the boss of office space”. There was a scholarship for a program I was in and another worker and he leaned in near me and said the coworkers name and he kept glancing at me as though wanting me to ask him questions but I didn’t then he said “Well too bad you won’t be able to apply, because you need MY approval” I said “Don’t worry, I know how to work hard to get my education”. Later he said “You have been reported using your cell phone today on the floor.” I said “How is that possible? I leave my cell in the car, go look right now.” He didn’t like that I caught him in a lie. Then he said “Also your documentation is a mess, I have it all here.” I said “How can it be?” He looked at me with a smile and took out a red pen and scratched through all my charting, I was shocked that someone so childish like this was my boss. He told me he couldn’t have me working anymore, and at this point I said “Listen – clearly you don’t like me, you know as well as I know that I haven’t done anything wrong, if you are looking for reasons to fire me, just tell me to quit, don’t resort to bullying.” His eyes looked like he wanted to kill me. Right there I saw the look that he wanted to kill me. After this I brought my cell and put it on record every time I was interacting with him and was able to document a lot of the abuse.

The last shift I worked, after having handed in my tools for the job as requested by my boss… I was injured, bleeding and tissue damage. He never filled out a worker injury and compensation form for me. I called HR and was told they are well aware of his abuse but unfortunately cannot do anything, I asked why, and they said they can’t explain. I came back in from break (calling a few people like a lawyer, a police officer, workplace harassment team, ceo of the organization, HR, past employer, a health professions licensing board) and coming up with solutions as I knew I didn’t think I could handle anymore verbal or psychological abuse as well as preventable injuries on the job without saying good bye to my sanity) and decided to give notice of resignation upon further verbal abuse, which I recorded… and was witnessed by coworkers).

I quit when he proceeded to berate me in front of a coworker on the spot I said “I am going home sick, I’m not feeling well” he said “Oh, do you think you will feel well tomorrow?” I said “Sick enough to hand in my resignation letter at noon”, he told me I couldn’t do that, he owns me for 8 hours a day, I said “No one owns me if they can’t treat me like a human being” Then I listed the employment law act for the province that stated my rights to resign and told him to look it up, then I said next look up criminal harassment. He got the hint and told everyone to go back to work. I said thank you to my team for the privilege of working with honest human beings and said if they ever need help or a witness they know how to contact me. I was able to get written affidavits of the abuse I endured and have them ready with a retained lawyer if in the event he should ever harass me in the future. I have wrote a few for other employees. Never in my life have I experienced that level of abuse with any other human being in my life.

For a year I had nightmares and panic attacks again, all new for me and sought therapy. My allies (co-workers), they too were on the receiving end of some serious petty “one-against-the-other” mind messing but we made a pact and realized he was trying to keep everyone confused and fearful in order to have quick obedience. I think the scarier thing was they had an organization in to address the workplace bullying within the first month I was there, and yet nothing changed, further these were people who people went to get therapy from. The boss hoodwinked the bullying organization.

Looking back, I would have reported to HR after day 2 of being employed, or quit on day 2 and took the other job. Luckily I had only worked for less than 4 months and out of it… I kept my professional integrity and helped other coworkers escape the abusive workplace. I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I feel everything happens for a reason and I learned a lot about what I will and will not put up with, I learned boundaries, I learned to help coworkers and how to fight for myself, I learned to trust my gut about workplaces, I learned what to do if ever I face a situation like that again, and it made me appreciate my coworkers and my past employers greatly. I made sure to tell EVERY ONE about my experience at this particular workplace, I shared the audio recordings, the pictures of the injuries I received, the copies of affidavits with colleges, universities, papers I have written, enforcement officials, lawyers, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, everyone… so that someday that kind of behavior will no longer be “hushed” it will be removed. That experience has motivated me to become a lawyer.

So, almost two years after quitting, I am employed again. If I could tell anyone anything about surviving workplace bullying, document – from day one! Write down date, time and what happened and write down who was witness to it. When you find out you are being isolated from your coworkers say you feel that and speak up and they will realize what is happening. Even if your bosses are health care experts, report, report, report! HR first, even if your boss says he’s buddy buddy with HR. Report to HR. Then, if that doesn’t work go higher than HR. Then if that doesn’t work, call your designated occupational health and safety board and report. Then if all else fails.. think about this… Is the insanity worth the paycheck? I made great money, but it was not worth the abuse. Never believe what your attacker is saying about you “Trailer trash, Retard”, remember that person even if they are a psychologist calling you these names is really just all smoke and mirrors, calling you everything to tear you apart. They are probably the best people to gaslight you. Never tell them much about anything, they will use anything and everything against you. They will invade your personal space. Your digital space. It helps if you know employment law and can spout it back at them when they are clearly rambling to scare you. Remember – they like to scare you, just stay grounded in logic and void your emotion. If you do leave through quitting – feel good. Relax and find your soul again – pat yourself on the back – you just survived an abusive workplace and can now answer.


Dear Sandy,

Thank you for sharing what happened to you on the job as well as your advice to workers.  You were employed as a health care professional in Alberta, Canada for four months when you resigned your position due to what happened to you in the workplace.  After nearly two years after quitting your job, you are now employed.


Workplace bullying or psychological abuse can occur in any working situation where there are two or more workers.  In life, bullying can occur any time there are two or more individuals in various situations.   I am glad that you quickly sought help for the health harm caused by the abusive work environment.


I am not familiar with the hiring practices in your country or in countries outside of the United States.   Generally, a selection committee’s role is to decide on the process by which the committee will screen job applications as well as interviewing the top applicants. The HR department may have provided the questions to be asked during the interview or the selection committee may have decided on the questions based on the needs of the department that is doing the hiring.


It is up to the HR department to check the applicant’s background (i.e., job references, professional licenses or certifications if required and/or educational background).   Some employers or agencies may also do a criminal background check.   An official educational transcript (in a sealed envelope from the educational institution) can be provided to the employer to show that required education for the particular position has been met.  There should be no need to provide an actual diploma as the official copy of an educational transcript will show the date of graduation and the degree or certificate awarded as well as coursework taken and grades based on the particular grading system of the school.  Professional licenses, certifications, credentials can be checked through the province or state or agency that issued it with a copy provided to the employer.  A copy of a diploma from a college or university can be framed and placed in your office at work.  Never provide the employer with the actual diploma as an official copy of your college transcripts should suffice.

In the province of Alberta, Canada, nearly all employers and employees are subject to the Alberta Employment Standards Code and the Employment Standards Regulation which can be found at the Alberta Human Services website. There are certain responsibilities for the employer when the employer terminates an employee as well as certain responsibilities for an employee who terminates employment.  This information can be found on the website.   HR policies and employment legislation and standards for each province can be found at the HR Council, Canada website.

Under the Canadian Human Rights Act it is illegal to discriminate based on the following:  age, national or ethnic origin, color, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, a conviction for which a pardon has been granted or a record suspended.


Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, the following are considered discriminatory practices (of the 11 grounds for discrimination listed above):

  • Denying someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation.
  • Providing someone goods, services, facilities or accommodation in a way that treats them adversely and differently.
  • Refusing to employ or continue to employ someone, or treating them unfairly in the workplace. 
  • Following policies or practices that deprive people of employment opportunities. 
  • Paying men and women differently when they are doing work of the same value. 
  • Retaliating against a person who has filed a complaint with the Commission or against someone who has filed a complaint for them. 
  • Harassing someone.  (Harassment is any unwanted physical or verbal behavior that offends or humiliates you.  It is behavior that persists over time although serious one-time incidents can sometimes be considered harassment.)

For more information, go to the Canadian Human Rights Commission website.

The Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) in Alberta, Canada states that the employer has 72 hours to submit and file an “Employer’s Report of Injury” after an employee reports being injured on the job or when the employer has knowledge of the employee receiving an on-the-job injury that may cause the employee to be disabled beyond the date of the injury or accident.  For further information on the requirements of the employer, go to the WCB website.  Information for workers on how to report an injury, filing a claim, etc. can be found here.  The supervisor was negligent in failing to report your work injury if he/she did not do so within the 72-hour reporting requirement.


It is always best to behave in a professional manner even when antagonized.  Being professional and maintaining one’s composure is not about passiveness or being weak.  In bullying situations, it often takes great restraint to maintain one’s equanimity when the target is being put down, verbally attacked, humiliated, or made fun of by a bully.  No one should be getting into the face of another to make a point.   Going back and forth, tit for tat, trying to one up the other will only escalate the situation further.  In the heat of the moment, things may be said that one may regret having said later on.   Don’t get sucked into the bully’s drama by reacting emotionally and/or defensively.   The bully was hoping for a reaction as it feeds his/her ego.   Listen to Dr. Namie’s Podcast #25: Comeback Lines, Fuggedaboutem.

I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig.  You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”  … George Bernard Shaw, Irish Playwright

You don’t have to be part of a conversation that disparages others as in the example you gave regarding discriminatory and/or inflammatory remarks made against indigenous people or others.  I wasn’t sure if you happened to overhear the conversation of the group of professionals while you were working or if you were already part of the group of professionals engaged in conversation when the offending comments came up.


Important elements of a job include the ability to work cooperatively with our fellow co-workers, having the required skills and/or education or experience, dressing appropriately, being punctual, ability to take direction and receiving feedback on how the worker is doing on the job, doing the job competently, being dependable, being honest and having integrity, being respectful of others, etc.   For every job there are essential duties of the job that must be performed.  The new hire is expected to be able to do the essential duties of the position.  These essential duties should be delineated in the job description.  Employers often insert a vague job duty, “and other duties as assigned.”  This is how a bully supervisor can get away with assigning low-level jobs that a worker would not normally be required to do.

If a worker feels that a criticism or a bad work evaluation was unwarranted the worker can ask to meet with the supervisor in a private meeting.  Avoid the discussion in the middle of the office or work floor. (*WBI note: Watch the webinar about preparing for a 1:1 meeting)


If a bad work evaluation is placed in your personnel file or HR file, the worker has an opportunity to respond.  Write a response and put it away for a day and then re-read that response.  Re-write as necessary until the correspondence is toned down enough and does not display how angry or upset the writer may be.  The response should address each unfair item written in the evaluation.  Ask for a meeting to discuss the matter.  If the worker is represented by a union, ask for union representation.


When faced with working in a psychologically-abusive work environment, a worker can choose to stick it out and grin and bear it or to look at one’s options.   I would hope that the worker in a bad working situation would look at his/her options rather than succumb to fate.  If a target is working for a large employer, an option would be to seek a job transfer early on to another department that does not work closely with one’s current department before filing complaints about the bully.  It is fairly difficult to find another position within the organization once the worker or target files complaints against a supervisor.   If the target is unsuccessful in obtaining a job transfer, the worker will have to look at other options.


An obvious option is to begin a job hunt.  The target can say to themselves, “this job is only temporary and I will find another job.”  The difficult thing is not to burn one’s bridges while hunting for another job.  A worker can solicit for job recommendations from former job supervisors.  The Target should not be trashing the bully supervisor or the employer to others or at a job interview or when asking former supervisors for job recommendations, etc.  As big as the world seems, at times it can be a very small world where people know other people in the particular job industry.   People talk and the word can get out quickly.  The message that people hear, however, can be unintended and that is that the worker is a difficult person to work with rather than the bully who was the person who did the worker wrong.  Don’t confide in co-workers that you are looking for another job.  When bully supervisors learn that a worker or target is planning on leaving, they often retaliate by increasing the bullying or letting the worker go.


After a worker has secured a new job, the worker can choose whether to include the reason why he/she is choosing to leave the job in their letter of resignation.  Often times, in employee exit interviews, the worker will be asked why they are leaving the job.  A worker can then decide whether or not to reveal the reason for leaving.


A target can make an appointment with an employment and labor attorney to discuss what happened to them in the workplace. One meeting, just to find out for yourself whether or not you have a case or not.  In the U.S., workplace bullying is not against the law which makes it extremely difficult to find an attorney willing to take on a workplace bullying case.  Was there illegal discrimination?  Were you “wrongfully terminated”?  The target should provide documentation to support their allegation(s) against the employer.  Be aware, attorneys are not cheap and will bill the client for each and every minute spent in the office or on the telephone.


It can be maddening when bullies seem to get away with their abusive behavior.  Why is it so difficult to deal with a bully?  Bullies are not reasonable people to deal with.  Bullies don’t play fair.  They play by their own rules and their own sensibilities.   Bullies bully because they can.   It is not fair when good workers lose their jobs or have to leave a job to escape the insanity because of a bully or bullies.   I can only suggest that a target not dwell on what happened to them on the job, and not let it consume your life.  You are more important than that job and that bully who made your work life so miserable.

Suggestion to all workers who have suffered from the health-harming effects of working in a psychologically-abusive workplace.   Currently, you may be a Target or you may have lost your job or you may have quit the job due to the health harm.  Here is something that you can do about workplace bullying.  On the internet, look up your state legislators and get on their e-mail newsletter list.  State legislators need to hear about the issue of workplace bullying or psychological abuse or psychological harassment in the workplace.  State legislators often have events in their legislative districts where they can meet with their constituents which they list ahead of time in their newsletters.  These events can be district office open houses, town hall meetings, and other events in the community where you live.  Write down your workplace story and condense the story down to the main points of what happened to you.  The story should be one page, double-spaced, 2-3 short paragraphs.  Keep the story brief and to the point, a busy state legislator has no time to read a lengthy exposé.   Send your story to the state legislator or give to the legislator in person.   By doing this you will help to educate the state legislator of the problem.  Ask friends or family members to also write to their state legislators.   In Canada, workers can write to their province’s National Assembly representative(s).

If you are a worker being bullied on the job, you will find much helpful information on the WBI website including podcasts, videos, webinars, and other resources.   Take time to explore the website and check back as WBI adds new information and resources.   If you are currently in a bullying work situation, you can obtain (for a fee) personal and confidential coaching over the telephone.  There is also a DVD:  Help for Bullied Targets as well as other DVD’s available for purchase.

In the U.S., anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Advocates state groups and anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill legislative campaign volunteers volunteer their time to lobby state legislators across the U.S.   To learn more about how you can volunteer in your state, go to the anti-bullying Healthy Workplace Bill website.  

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”   … Martin Luther King, Jr.





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This entry was posted on Friday, March 21st, 2014 at 9:40 am 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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