Harassed in My Last Job and in My New

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a persistent harassment by coworkers:

I have a harassment issue of sorts that I am unclear what to do about. I worked for a large corporation and moved up quickly. Much to the dismay of others. I was very vocal about issues we faced and my boss hated that. It wasn’t until my boss was promoted that the onslaught began. Once he was placed two levels above me, each of my coworkers began to harass me. Some things I did not find out about until later but things were put in my food, things were sent to me that were blatantly racist and then spread around the office as if I sent them etc…

Fast forward to my quitting…I took another contract job with the government as I was very happy to leave where I was and start fresh. I’ve been there two weeks and the issues are beginning again. It would seem someone from my old company spread the same information to my recruiter and the recruiter passed it on to the people I work with. What makes it worse is my own wife doesn’t believe me. Is there anything at all I can do?

Signed– Again

Dear  Again:

Because your question was submitted a few hours ago and must have been written late into the night, it is evident you are quite uneasy. The account you give to what you say is harassment undoubtedly has been circling about in your head and you would like to reduce the uncertainty in your wife’s mind and in your own about how to cope with this in your new job. I’ll not immediately cite steps we and others have provided for analyzing/coping with coworkers’ harassment but will later in my answer. You will note I am copying associate workplace doctor, Tina Lewis Rowe, your question and my reply. If her schedule permits and she has additional and/or different thoughts, she too will send them.

Up front I want you to know I have read your question carefully and am trying from this distance to understand how you feel and think about this matter. Therefore I am echoing the brief account you provide. It has to be disturbing to conclude coworkers harassed you at one job and now after two weeks at a new job you feel coworkers are harassing you in a similar way. And to feel your wife doesn’t believe you has to add to your distress. What can you do about it?

From your few words, it’s evident you have tried and are trying to analyze many possibilities why you believe this happened and why your wife doesn’t. You probably have told her about how in your previous job “things were put in my food” and “ things were sent to me that were blatantly racist.” You also say you “moved up quickly” and “to the dismay of others. I was very vocal about issues we faced and my boss hated that.”  Then you exited that job in a large corporation and now are in a new one–contracted with government, but you don’t say why.

Your wife for some reason has concluded that these thing you describe were a misinterpretation. Of course, although you are upset about her doubt, you know that she wasn’t where as you were and didn’t experience what you did. With my sketching of what you described, here are some contradictory and over-lapping options you can consider:

  1. List specifics you now see that cause you to believe things are occurring that are similar to those that happened in your previous employment. Log them as to what is said or done that seem to you harassing. Note who witnessed each instance and what occurred before and how you reacted. Careful logging would be necessary to convince they are real to Human Resources and EEO. They will enable you to check your own feelings they happened or if they might be misinterpretations.
  2. Accept the feeling that you feel you are a victim of coworker harassment. Evaluate it and if you decide it is real, take your log to HR and seek that it stop.  Ignore it and unless it accelerates, focus on assignments. Act in ways that add value. Be a cheerleader despite what you feel is harassing.
  3. If you are uncertain that it is real, consult with select individuals with whom you can trust to help you evaluate your perceptions and/or a psychologist or attorney to learn if you have a harassment case. Harassment comes in different forms: those that are against the law such as hostile environment and/or discrimination traced to race, national origin, sexual orientation, age, disability;  and although not illegal those that are linked with bullying and misuse of authority.
  4. Follow tips on how to cope, such as 10 Tips For Dealing With Workplace Harassment | CAREE…www.workitdaily.com/10-tips-for-dealing-with-workplace-harassment/

If you type in the word harassment in window adjacent to where you submit a question to our site, many Q&As can be accessed, such as:

Not Promoted Due To Reprisal for a Harassment Complaint I Made in the Past http://workplacedr.comm.kent.edu/wordpress/reprisal-for-harassment-complaint/

Personal Harassment http://workplacedr.comm.kent.edu/wordpress/personal-harassment/

Please let us know if any of these remarks provide possible answers to your question: Is there anything at all I can do? There may be no clear answer to your question, but like anxiety, finding answers may require consultation from several sources and working despite your feelings you are a victim of harassment. Perhaps for the next few weeks that will best be handled by your concerted focus of making a positive contribution in small ways each day. And outside of the workplace, exercising physically and mentally–laughing and loving what is good. Coupling what you can do outside with an interdependent attitude within the workplace is represented in my signature: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden