Can You Be in an Abusive Relationship with a Job?

I thought I scored my dream job. Not only did I get to relocate to an amazing new city close to family but the new job was also a promotion! All of my time spent in school, student loans and family sacrifice was about to pay off!

I should have noticed the red flags right away. First of all, another colleague was initially promised MY job. She was not told she did not get the promotion until the day I showed up. This would overshadow our relationship for the next year. Naturally, I didn’t know this until I was deep into my first year.

My first couple of weeks was all training, where I got to know my cohort and learned “everything” I needed to be successful in a six-week period. It was fun meeting and working with new people who were just as excited as I was, although I could tell there were some people who were definitely out of their element. My boss was a nice guy, but he never fully disclosed the disenfranchised staff I would soon supervise, or our Dickensian director.

Let’s begin with the staff hated me from the start. Apparently there were people who should have been relieved of their duties, but I would come to find out the corporation was great at letting people at my level go, but were dangerously lax in firing lower level employees. My assistant was basically the only person to come clean and let me know what was really going on. This of course after she was humiliated by my director during our initial meeting. 

Let’s start with Fridays. Friday was like the worst day of the week. My assistant and I would wait to email ANYTHING at 4pm and never before. The director tirelessly tore our writing apart, our grammar apart, what did we MEAN by that statement, who we think WE ARE? I know we both left work in tears several times, but for me the bullying would reach its peak. Emails were dissected, meetings were met with insult, and basic conversation was analyzed and disaggregated later on a private line. This bullish behavior did not seem to bother anyone; they took it in stride as if this was a perfectly normal way to lead. In November, my best friend came to visit me and basically said, we’re packing up your office, “Enough is enough.”

It didn’t help that I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia around the same time, so I was in pain, exhausted and basically out of my mind. I walked out. Unfortunately, this was the time my boss decided to come clean. “Yes, the director was insane, everyone knows that but this behavior has been allowed and have actually shown proven results.” I felt like I was in a production of The Devil Wears Prada, where the editors say anything they want, treat people anyway they want and essentially scare the shit out of us peons for a sale.

I survived the first year knowing I wasn’t alone and actually managed to get rid of a group pf people I nicknamed, “The Debate Club.” The director retired and I breathed a sigh of relief. NOW I could do my job.

No. I did not go that way.

My job was sales, but I was also responsible for everything else that happened in the building. I was short staffed due to the companies understanding of how we should be modeled. Never mind not one person in leadership was ever trained in anything but this company prototype. Thinking outside of the box was like a foreign concept. And yet when results were not maximized, the management changed nothing, but blamed everyone and everything but themselves. The narcissistic approach to leadership bordered on hedonism, but only at the highest levels. There were very few minorities represented at the top and if they did get hired, they were quickly fired or quit. If you’ve ever watched the movie, The Master, then you can understand the manipulation and hold the company had on its leadership and disciples. I would tell people I was caught up in a cult I couldn’t get out of and I know there were others who felt similarly.

White privilege was rampant, and offenses, which were unacceptable for people of color were often overlooked when it came to white counterparts. I was actually called discriminatory by one white executive. Excuse me? How is THAT possible? My decisions were constantly micromanaged, over turned and discredited. My amazing staff was given one raise in the five years I was there, after I begged. There was never a cost of living raise. The entire company lived on the phrase –what have you done for me lately. Pitting us against each other was a business move, someone seemed to think would work.

Finally, after many years, sleepless nights and tears, I made a decision. I would go someplace where I would be appreciated for my hard work and dedication. When I work for you, it’s 100%, but that was never enough. Once I made the choice to leave, I was happy again. An insane weight was lifted off of my shoulders.

All I can say is nothing is worth your health and happiness. Life is short, don’t waste it on people who don’t know your worth.

Have you ever worked in an absolutely unbearable place for a significant amount of time? How did you get through it? Did you stay? Did you leave? Comment below, perhaps share some advice with a person who is unhappy and needs a push.

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7 comments

  1. Our struggles teach lessons. I have also learned the hard way to listen to my body and soul when things are not right and let go of living up to the “expectations” mine or someone else’s.
    Congrats on choosing your own path! Best wishes

  2. Yes, abusive workplace environments are more common than people think and I have witnessed them first hand. Many people, like you, realize the problem and take action to get away. Others continue on helplessly, thinking one day things will change. It is always best to turn and run. Abusive work environments typically don’t improve.

  3. Goodness! Yes…I’ve been here for 12+ loooong years and am finally getting my act together to set up a good plan to leave. They pay me well, but it’s a toxic environment. I am actively pursuing my plan by starting my own business and plan to be out of here in the next 6 months.

  4. Yes! Sometimes you have to join the job you get. No matter you are happy or not with it. I saw many people pushing the day in same organization just because they are not getting job. But bearing all the pain and criticism upto a certain limit is ok but if you are losing self esteem in that organization. Don’t stay there , this post truly relates with the situation of employees in organizations, superb post

  5. I just quit my job because of my boss. No one at Human resources or the workplace would listen to me. I’m diagnosed with nerve damage that’s chronic. Which always gives me other problems such as migraine, body pain, stomach pain from all the pills etc.

    And to have him come in as a new boss (after a wonderful boss) and try to use me as his blame goat wasn’t fun. It took the little energy I had left in my body. He just wanted someone to boss around and because I was nice I admit I did let him in the beginning. I didn’t think he would continue and then make it so if I didn’t do as he demanded (it wasn’t work-related things but other things he wanted me to do) he would do anything in his power to mock me and mentally bully me until I didn’t want to come to work anymore.

    It was horrible and I left 1 month ago. I’m still not over it and still have self-hate and think I might be the worst human and worker in the world because that’s what he told me for so long. :/

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