Conflict in the workplace is unavoidable.
Whether you work at a large corporation or a small local business, conflict is an issue every workplace faces. Whether it is between co-workers, between you and your boss, or between share holders and suppliers, sometimes even with clients and customers.
Workplace arguments are bound to happen. Whether you and a coworker disagree on a project, or you’re having issues with a disgruntled customer, or you’re just having a bad day yourself and you lose your nerve. It’s unfortunate but it happens.
The bottom line: Conflict happens, but most conflicts can be overcome.
I, too, have had my fair share or issues with my coworkers. Some arguments took weeks to resolve while some we’re forgiven five minutes later.
No matter how hard we try, sometimes it is hard to get along with everybody. I’m not saying you need to be best friends with all your coworkers, but there needs to be a certain level of respect and honesty. And sure, there are coworkers I disagree with more than others, but I try my best to solve issues when they arise.
But the worst-case scenario is when you lock horns with your employer – your boss.
And through the years, I have had my share of authoritative and dictating bosses. Some whom I have admired despite their candid attitudes and Type-A personalities. And while my conflicts with these bosses might not have been minor, they were conflicts that I tried to quickly resolve.
When you’re fighting with your boss, your work morale can be greatly affected.
But when an employer starts to dismiss your health – better yet, your mental health, then I start to take issue.
I know first-hand that talking about mental health issues to a boss can be just as hard as trying to tell a family member or a loved one. You’re opening up to a person who plays a significant role in your life. That is no easy feat.
So when the discussion comes up, I know sometimes the conversation can be uncomfortable or awkward, especially when such a negative stigma exists around mental health issues. Sure, they might not 100% understand what you are going through, but law requires them to acknowledge and accept that you have certain needs (or disabilities).
By law, they are required to protect you.
So when your boss – your employer and your financial provider – starts to dismiss you based on your mental illness, that is when I start to draw the line.
For me, my opinions of my boss turned from being respectful to resentful. My work mentality went from giving 100% to doing the bare minimum. The constant dismissals led to coworkers bullying me about my mental health condition. And understandably, my mental well-being was greatly affected. I felt stuck.
From day one, the day you interviewed me, I knew I was going to have issues with discussing my mental health issues with you.
“First things first. If you work here, I forbid you from telling any of my employees that you have a mental illness.”
That should have been my cue to walk out and never look back.
But I needed a job and chose to let the remark slide.
Yet, it all first started with dismissive thoughts.
“PTSD? Yeah, you’ll get over that.”
“Oh, your father abused you? Just forget about him.”
“Everyone has anxiety issues. You’re not special.”
These comments were so few and far between at the time that I barely noticed them. I lived with my mental illness for six years. I was use to these “remarks” so I learned to ignore them. But soon, you were using them every opportunity you deemed appropriate. Or when you wanted to rattle my chains.
But still I chose to ignore them.
Then the dismissals turned into demands of validation.
“You look fine!”
“Wipe that frown off your face and buck up!”
“Get a doctor’s note. Prove you were home having a panic attack. Or go to the ER.”
“You had a PTSD episode? That’s just nightmares. You still have to come to work.”
“There’s nothing physically wrong with you! Get back to work!”
Your remarks soon turned into accusations, blaming me for my illness or blatantly denying my illness existed. You turned my illness into a flaw – a weakness to hold over my head when you wanted to punish me or blame me for your shortcomings.
And while people warned me to leave, I was in financial trouble. I was a young adult with too much student debt so I couldn’t just simply walk away. I was struggling to keep my head above water, so I couldn’t tell you where to shove it and just quit. I needed my job. I needed the money.
And I was in the middle of a career change and no one else would hire me.
(Which you also liked to throw in my face.)
“You wouldn’t have been a good teacher anyway.”
But my armour had grown thick over the last six years, so I stayed. I didn’t stay for you, or out of loyalty, or out of respect. I stayed because I had a family dependant on me. I had responsibilities. I had bills and debt and all those woes that came with being a young adult.
So I stayed despite all the warnings.
Then your accusations turned into total discrimination.
Only this time you didn’t berate me in quiet or during a pass-by. You started pointing fingers in front of your staff, my coworkers – some of whom were my close friends. If you were pissed off, you would start yelling these remarks and threats at the top of your lungs.
The minute the words “mental illness”, or “depression”, or “PTSD”, or any words of the like came up in conversation, you were quick to shut us all down. You were quick to state your opinions (or rather your denials) of mental health issues, swiftly telling us all to “Shut up.”
And just in case you weren’t aware of it, you insulted me in front of customers on several occasions – clients whom I had been dealing with for months. You damaged my image in front of the most important people in a business – the customer.
You made working for you impossible. I had to learn to bite my tongue and keep my head down in your presence. I only forced myself to converse with you when it was work-related. I closed myself off and built up my walls around you. You had already gotten under my skin and now your words were stuck in my head.
So I kept quiet, trying to convince myself in the mirror every morning that another job would come along soon, and I just had to make it to Sunday. Just get through to Sunday. It’s just a few more days, Amanda. Just two more days and you can have a day off. You’ll get a day of peace!
It wasn’t until the day you insulted me in front of coworkers while screaming during a blind rampage did you finally put a bullet through my armour.
“Take you for example, Amanda! You have PSD…PTD…Or whatever the hell you call it! I don’t believe it but as your employer I’m forced to pretend to support you. I have to pretend to at least care.”
You left me completely speechless.
I even think you shocked my coworkers at your harsh words.
Heaven knows how I was able to compose myself and just walk away from you. Lord knows what kept me from screaming in your face and quitting on the spot.
To put it simply: You hurt me beyond words.
Lord knows why I stayed as long as I did, but your words summoned the last bit of courage I needed to finally sign and date my resignation letter.
You subjected me to ridicule and humiliation. You allowed my coworkers to mock me and belittle me at my expense. You even made customers question my competence. You hurt me so deeply that you left me humilated.
And while you’re to blame for your unprofessional mannerisms and mistreatment of an employee, I’m part of the problem for not defending myself; for not standing up to you the moment you uttered your first dismissal.
But in those moments that you berated me, you make me feel just as defenceless as my father did. For those split seconds, you made me feel like I didn’t matter, that I was worthless as he convinced me I was all those years ago.
And for what? To make yourself feel superior? More authoritative? To ruin my day because you were having a bad day, too?
What purpose did it serve to victimize me?
But there was one good thing that came out of our working together.
You taught me that I didn’t need to simply “put up” with someone like you.
You taught me that I could stand up for myself and no matter how hard my struggles were, I didn’t need – No! – didn’t want to work for someone like you.
I will not say I am sorry, because that moment has long since passed, but I will say I am sorry that you are so hardened that you refuse to be open to others’ struggles.
I don’t know how or why you treated me this way, but I can only hope that one day you will change your mind. I hope you never have to experience a mental health issue yourself or a loved one never feels as low as I did. I only hope you can change just enough so your “dismissals” can at least turn into some sort of understanding.
And if not…Well, at least we both know you can “pretend” to care.
You were my employer and you were suppose to protect me.
Instead you chose to humiliate me.
And for that I will never respect you again.
A once loyal employee.
And as always,
Fight the good fight.