Assaulted–Psych Reasons!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about assault:

My supervisor assaulted me. There were witnesses. He was found not at fault. I was out on comp for psych reasons; admitted to hospital during this time. Have documentation from all doctors. I am very uncomfortable in the office now. I have worked for company 11 Ā½ years without one warning. Within two days back, I was given warning. I am now out on 9/11 vacation and was told it would be denied. The super who hit me was suspended and will be back. He is the one who is causing me half the stress and management the rest.

Signed, Helpless

DearĀ Helpless:

Your situation seems to involve a lot of issues that require more than a quick response from someone not familiar with it. You may feel helpless in this, but you are not. You have the power to make decisions–so I hope you will be able to find a way to work through it. If you were assaulted, I assume you contacted the police and made a report about it. If there were witnesses, it seems strange that still no action was taken. On the other hand, you say the supervisor was suspended, so I assume management thought there was a problem with some of the actions of the supervisor. Since there was a suspension and no criminal action, it would indicate that whatever occurred did not rise to the level of an injury to you.

I have to also say, in all honesty, that I have rarely seen this happen when both people involved didn’t say or do something to create such a bad result. So, even though you write as though you are completely blameless, I can’t help but wonder what was going on that caused all of this to happen. You say you have been hospitalized for psychological reasons. Just as with a physical illness, your emotional situation would contribute to how you reacted at the time and how you respond now. I would think that your doctors and counselors would be able to give you some advice about this. Talk to them and see if they can help you find ways to return to work with confidence.

You say your management is creating part of the stress. They did take some action about the supervisor. They may have felt they didn’t have a reason to fire that person, so the suspension was a way to get their message across that whatever took place can’t happen again. Often when there is a problem at work, serious disciplinary action like that will stop the problem when the employee returns. However, they have a business to run. They won’t keep paying you if you can’t be depended upon to come to work. If you want to continue working there, you will need to decide to either go back to work and find ways to work through the conflict you have with your supervisor or quit and find a place where you can work without the stress you feel there. I realize that is a difficult choice, but it is a choice that you have.

Have you considered asking for a free consultation with an attorney about the situation, to see if you might be able to take civil action over the conditions that have caused you such stress? If you talk to them, you will need to show all of the things that the supervisor or others have done that have purposely been harmful to you. That might be successful, according to all of the circumstances. Your doctors may be willing to write letters saying that you cannot work because of your emotional situation. But they are not at the workplace so, they can’t prove what caused it.

And keep in mind that if they say you can’t work, you may lose your job. Employers are not required to keep paying someone who isn’t coming to work regularly, unless you can prove your emotional issues are related only to the job. That may be another reason to ask a lawyer for advice. As I said, you will usually be able to get one free interview to get advice about it. Ask for that when you call. If there is an HR section, talk to them about the matter. Put your concerns in writing and clearly state why you feel you cannot work with the supervisor who was suspended. Your message to us was not clear about the details–and you will have to be give all of the details when you write or talk to someone local about it. Have someone review your letter, to make sure it is easily understood. If you have a union or other labor organization, talk to them about this. Maybe other employees will go to management and say that they feel something unfair is happening. You say you received a warning after you returned. If you feel there was absolutely no reason for it, that is something else to talk to HR about. Closely look at your own actions though and make sure you are not adding to the stress you might normally feel. If you want to keep your job you need to focus on doing your work without conflict. Do the tasks you are supposed to do and do them correctly. Be business-like when you talk to the supervisor and take direction from that person, even if you don’t like to.

If your supervisor does something to you that is a violation of the law or the rules of the company or that harms you in some way, immediately go to your manager. Just make sure that it is something you can clearly prove and that you did not contribute to the situation. Ask your witnesses to go with you or ask them to make a statement for you. Your supervisor will not want to be suspended again, so he or she will probably not do anything that he or she can’t say was part of the job of supervising you. So, you need to be doing your job correctly in every detail. You may find that a lawyer can help you, so I encourage you to do that.

Talk to your doctors or counselors about it. Talk to friends at work and ask them to be honest with you about how they think you could deal with the situation better or differently. I’m not saying this is your fault, but I do think there are ways you could respond that will allow you to keep working. If you can’t, you need to find other work. You aren’t required to stay there and there are probably other places you could work where you would be appreciated more and have a better supervisor. Look for that place so you can enjoy work once more. Best wishes as you find ways to deal with this challenging situation.Creating WEGO working relationship is a two-way matter.

Follow Up: Thank you sooo much (just for responding). And you are right, he is (was) a drinker, and I told him if your going to give me a hard time, don’t do it when your drinking. I am an engineer and this happened in city hall in Boston. I have had not one negative file or warning in 11yrs and all of this is just horrible. My stress is up. I just don’t know and want to know if and when and where, he will be returning. They will not tell me. The employees’ doctor wrote that working with this supervisor would only increase all my anxiety etc and that I could return but not at same location as him. Thank You More Advice:

Again Dear Given Warning: Thank you for the additional information! That does help clarify some things. It may be that the suspension was, in part, to deal with your supervisor’s alcoholism. He may be getting treatment of some kind and his return date would not be known. I know it’s difficult to give someone who has caused you that many problems, the benefit of empathy, but maybe that will help in some way. It may be that he is worried about his job, having family issues related to this and also trying to stop that dreadful habit. Thus, one way you can show your value is to attempt to work within that knowledge about what might be happening behind the scenes.You may find that working with him would not be such an issue if he was no longer under the influence of alcohol–just as he might find working with you not so difficult if you did not respond to the stress levels in your own life in such an extreme way. I say that, not to be harsh, but to emphasize that–as you know–work is a hassle much of the time, at best. You have a supervisor who, at least when he is drinking, is unpleasant and unreasonable. But that isn’t the worst work situation in the world–and there are those who would gladly change places with you, to have a steady job in a clean environment. Apparently not every employee has had the issues you have had–but perhaps it is that other employees have found ways to manage the stress of it in their lives. Just as you want others to be sensitive to what you’re going through emotionally, make an effort to be sensitive to what a recovering alcoholic is going through emotionally.

It may be that the situation will change completely after he returns. You may want to at least give it a chance. If you can work somewhere else, and do so without looking like you are unable to deal with work challenges, I think that would be good. But if you can’t, and must still report to him, I think a low-key approach will serve you well. And likely that’s what you had planned anyway. Business-like, courteous, responsive appropriately. But not hypersensitive to everything he says or does. As you know, sober bosses are sometimes obnoxious too!In your case, everyone will be watching how you behave and perform now that you’re back at work. You have the choice of being the person who overcomes or not. You didn’t say what the warning you received was about, but unless it was literally a lie, it will remind you of the value of focusing on your performance and behavior, more than you are worrying about the supervisor. It was, after all, only a warning, not a loss of time or money. You have never received one before, so you likely are much more shocked about it than others might be.

Given the timing, it is particularly upsetting. But, if you’re like me, you’ve avoided warnings in the past that could have been justified. So, keep it in perspective. How you handle it will have tremendous significance to your managers.

I don’t want to sound like a Pollyanna when I can tell you are going through a tremendous personal and professional trial. I just want to help you take a step back and look at what you’re dealing with. Consider whether or not your work is truly unbearable. Think about whether or not you can find the kind of responses that others use to allow them work with the supervisor. Also consider that managers want to try to help people who are good employees, but there is a limit to how much they can accommodate individual needs. Doctor’s letters, as I mentioned, have some weight–but they cannot require managers to keep people who are not able to work. Even if you were to sue about some aspect of it, the money you would receive would not make up for the loss of a job.

I do think HR is a good resource for you, if things don’t improve. Certainly the organization is looking at a liability issue if they don’t do anything about the alcohol use while working. You may still find that an attorney would be able to give you good advice. Whatever happens, I’m glad you have people there you can talk to about this. I’m convinced you will find a way to work through it. But I agree with you that it won’t be easy–it will be a challenge! Best wishes again–if you have the time and wish to do so, keep us informed about what develops.

Tina Lewis Rowe