Watched For Seven Years!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about emotional break down:

I just found your site by accident, and I wish I would have found it seven years ago. I am sorry it may take a little time to tell my story and I know that you do not offer legal advise but here goes. I came to work in my present position seven years ago. I am a clerical support person for six social workers. They had a supervisor and I have a clerical supervisor. However, I did report directly to their supervisor and seldom had contact with my supervisor. He was horribly abusive to me, and on many occasions I went to HR about it. He constantly accused me of stealing and had people walk past my door and watch me constantly and even come over and check out my lunch while I was eating.

Each time I went to HR about his behavior they sent me to talk to a therapist. I also have a diagnosis of a mental disability and have taken medication for this problem for years and it is under control. My work situation was such that I was being deliberately caused emotional distress as being accused of false thing in order to get me to break down emotionally. I finally did and while I was out on disability I filed a complaint with the EEOC. This complaint was taken seriously and the investigator contacted me. My employer, a government agency, did hire an outside attorney for their defense. Before any action was taken it was announced that this cruel supervisor would be cut with the next budget. As I did not really want to sue my employer I dismissed the complaint with the EEOC. This was difficult, as the agent did not want me to do that. After the cruel supervisor was gone the abuse escalated and continues to this day. It has been seven years altogether and two years since the cruel supervisor was cut. Now instead of it being just one person there are about 3 supervisors and 6 or 7 coworkers who are doing the same thing. This leaves me to believe that HR was behind this behavior from the beginning. These people walk past my door constantly. They follow me as I try to do my job, which involves going to other locations than my office, i.e., the mail room and the copy machine. They send several people to come and check out my lunch and they constantly insinuate that I am a thief. By the way, any person caught stealing is fired on the spot.

After seven years of being followed, even into the bathroom, and being watched, even when I eat my lunch they know that I am not doing anything. I cannot find another job because HR does give me a bad reference. I live in a town of 100,000 people where everyone knows or is related to someone else and this has even filtered into my social life. I live in my house like a hermit except when I come to work to be abused. I am 59 years of age. I could file another complaint with the EEOC but I would have to prove this abuse and I am not sure how to do that. I will listen to any suggestion.

Signed, What Am I Doing???

Dear What Am I Doing???:

There are few things worse than feeling you are a victim. From here, of course, we cannot know in what ways you were abused–the words spoken, the accusations of stealing, and the surveillance. Possibly because of your complaints, the abusive supervisor’s job was cut. Then you say a gang of six co-workers and three supervisors are giving you a hard time. You don’t provide the what, when, and wheres of this abuse. All I can know is that you believe and feel you are a victim.

What can others or I do about that that your many reports to HR have not done? Probably nothing and I’m sorry that you will be disappointed about our inability to help. The best news I have for you is that you have misinformation about what an employer can legally do if a new employer inquires:Your current employer, if contacted by prospective employers, should only state when you began working, when you stopped working, your salary, and if you are eligible for rehire. They should be very reluctant to describe any thing qualitatively about your work because they would have a legal liability if information they gave prevented you from getting other employment.

So my advice is to seek work elsewhere and put out of your mind that you will be badmouthed by a former employer. Also rather than withdrawing, might not it help you to see the world in a better light if you joined others in making a contribution? Our world sorely needs those who can cheer-lead, will sing in a choir, who move off their easy chairs to stretch their legs, and who will volunteer in hospitals and Habitat for Humanity. Although you may think a town of 100,000 knows everyone and about all that goes on, I doubt that. I live in a town of 24,000, and no one knows much about even half the town. So you will have to admit that you exaggerate a little. Right?

Now, to be candid, I know of a number of people who are soured on life and blame their unhappy lives on others. Whether you are right or wrong in saying that your co-workers and supervisors are all on your case, I am sure that repeating this story to yourself and others can not solve anything. All it does is cause you to be sourer and withdraw. Right or wrong? I don’t know if your mental health is strong enough to start talking sense to talking sense yourself. What might you say: “This has gone on too long. I am like a broken record and the groove is cutting in deeper and deeper each time I play it. Might it be time to say, ‘No more. No more will I let this bad stuff put me down? No more!’?” So get another job and get a life. Feel free to share what I have said with a pastor or someone who is a counselor in a local college to learn if my advice makes sense. Please know that I realize from here I cannot know all you have suffered. Bill Gorden The Workplace Doctors Each of us must fight for our own best interest. Hopefully, you can find a workplace that respects good work and you can write us one of these days that the sun now shines. Think WEGO.

William Gorden