Horrible Boss Flashback

It never goes away, does it? The involuntary visceral constriction when someone reminds you of a terrible episode in your life. Did the person with whom you imagined yourself building a life break your heart or did you break theirs? Did someone you loved dearly suddenly permanently pass from your life? Did a trusted friend unforgivably betray you? Did you have employers who inappropriately inserted themselves into your personal life? I’ve experienced these situations, and more, that have sometimes made life more difficult than one wishes it to be. However, the incident of which I was recently reminded was the inappropriate treading into my life, which my last employer felt they had the right to do.

I ran into someone recently, whom I had the pleasure of working with on a project for a short time, not long before I became ill almost four years ago. Lucky for her, she did not have to bear the same degree of pain, humiliation, and strife I did to cut ties with our former horrible boss. Hearing the name of the company where we used to work made me cringe. Since the end the legal action I had to take against the company, I’ve done all I can to limit contact with anyone who worked there so I can maintain my peace of mind. Especially those former colleagues who blindly supported my former horrible boss without knowing the truth about what I was subjected to.

My former horrible boss tried to deny me access to my disability benefits when it became clear that I couldn’t return to work after my hospitalization at the onset of my illness. She demanded answers to embarrassingly inappropriate questions about my health. She later terminated the part of my extended health benefits that paid for the many expensive medications I take to function daily; and even worse, she terminated my employment without notifying me about a year into my illness in an attempt to strip me of my long-term disability benefits. On top of all that, she launched a campaign of misinformation within the company to explain my sudden then extended absence. The stress of trying to cope with all of this and my poor health and constant pain was, at times, too much to bear.

The person I ran into knew the crux of the situation because she had heard details from a mutual friend. She expressed her sympathies that someone, anyone, could have done any of what our former horrible boss did to me; especially because the early period of my illness was when my doctors had no conclusive answers about what was happening to my body and I was truly fearful for my life. Instead of being able to direct my focus on my health alone, I was forced to cope with the added stress of an employer who felt they could insert themselves into the most intimate parts of my life. When I refused to share what was happening to me, in part because I truly didn’t know, but mainly because it’s against the law for an employer to ask. It set in motion the series of events I listed above – and much more I try never to think of – that I still sometimes can’t believe. The right to protect my health and personal information caused a protracted legal case that thankfully vindicated me and ended my former horrible boss’s persistently violent prying into my life.

Even though all of that happened, the best thing about this flashback, about any flashback, is that it’s no longer part of one’s current reality. It may be difficult to be transported back to a particular moment when something devastating happened, however, that living moment is gone. Better still, I know I have the protection of the law and the emotional and psychological tools to bolster me if ever the smallest thoughts of that situation resurface in my life, and if any do, I don’t have to stay with them or delve beyond the surface of those memories unless I choose to do so. In this case, where anything involving my former horrible boss is concerned, I choose not to delve deeper than necessary to describe how she attempted to intimidate and deprive me of what I needed to care for myself. I choose not to allow who she was, and probably still is, affect me beyond a momentary tremor in my subconscious because I survived and beat her attempts to harm me during a time when I had to dig deep just to keep living.

 

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My Horrible Boss: It’s Settled

This is the last time I ever have to write about this issue and knowing that makes me feel good.

After nearly three years of aggravation, anxiety, sleepless nights, and constant worry, the battle with my, now former, horrible boss is over. Last week I went into court dreading having to see her or any of my former colleagues. I slept little the night before, which didn’t help with the amount of pain I felt that morning – or my nausea. Even so, I arrived at the courts early to meet my lawyer and get settled in for what I feared would be an ugly few days. When I entered the courtroom, I didn’t make eye-contact with opposing counsel and as my former colleagues, whom I once held in high esteem, filed into the room my body tensed up. Then she came in: the woman who started it all, she who refused to let me have a moment’s peace to focus on my still very poor health.

Shortly after everyone arrived, the presiding judge came in to the courtroom and the hearing got underway. Things didn’t go as I expected. Opposing counsel had taken a very aggressive stance, but once the judge gave her introduction and discussed her preference for the proceedings they toned down their position. Instead of immediately jumping to arguing motions and hearing witness testimony, they agreed to the judge’s recommendation to try another round of mediation – which they had minutes before made clear to my lawyer they had no intention of doing. I was stumped by what felt like an abrupt about-face.

The judge separated us like a group of small children and sent us to different rooms. The judge then moved between the rooms attempting to curtail the proceedings and make us accept a judgement that neither party would walk away from feeling completely happy about – as is the intention of most hard-nosed negotiations. At the end of about three hours of back-and-forth we arrived at a point that made both sides bristle somewhat, but meant that my three-year battle would end, without any further delay. It took close to another two hours to complete the paperwork and the precise language of the binding terms of the settlement, but it was over.

I have to admit that I shed some tears. Most of it was anger over what this person believed was acceptable behaviour for the past three years. She felt that it was okay to intrude in my personal life and put my health and recovery at risk because I chose to guard my privacy. She felt that it was okay to vilify me and turn my former co-workers against me – most of whom to this day have never bothered to find out how I am. And she refused to accept responsibility or atone for pushing this issue to a level it never should have reached, during a time when I am very vulnerable, or what this unnecessary battle has cost my health.

This situation has caused me to lose a lot of the faith I had in people who profess to work for the good of others. It has made me rethink what I will do with my life and career when I am well enough to return to work. It also dimmed some of the gloss through which I used to view the world because I needed to believe better things existed to make some of the more terrible things in the world a little easier to bear, so we don’t burn out or become jaded too quickly. Now I’m not so sure if that wasn’t just me still being naïve and refusing to accept that there are people in the world who do terrible things or abuse their power, just because they can. I’m not even sure if any of this matters now.

What I’m certain of is that this is over. I no longer have any necessary connection to my former horrible boss or the company. And most importantly, I can redirect and devote all the energy I’ve had to put into fending them off them for three years, into taking care of myself. I can truthfully say that I already feel a big difference mentally and emotionally; and I hope that any physical changes will soon follow suit.

 

Gary Jules – Mad World

 

 

My Horrible Boss: Bearing False Witness

I head into court later this week, on the opposite side of the table from a group of people I once considered friends and trusted colleagues, including my horrible boss. I’ve heard so much negative tripe about who they claim I am that it’s been hard not to buy into any of it. I know that when people have their backs against a wall they will do what they feel is necessary to survive or save the thing they love. However, the level of character assassination I’ve been subjected to because I decided to shield my privacy when I became ill and fight for my long-term disability and extended health benefits, would be enough to make the Dalai Lama lose faith in human beings.

Opportunity & Loyalty

The thought of going through this, on top of the amount of pain I’m feeling, makes me feel even more sick. While preparing for the hearing with my lawyer a few days ago, I cried when he read me some parts from the witness statements of the people I used to work with so closely, talk about life with and some I even socialized with outside the office. I’ve been told not to take any of it personally because they are scared and probably desperate to hold on to their jobs.

But here’s the thing: Integrity is integrity. No matter what day of the week it is because telling the truth in tough situations says a lot about a person. Not to mention, how terrible it is taking the opportunity when someone is at his or her most vulnerable to stomp on them some more.

My anxiety is rising, which means that my pain level is rising. All I can do now is trust that telling the truth will deliver a just result, and that I’ll be able to calm myself enough not to land in the ER again this week.

 

Eric Clapton – Tell the Truth

 

My Horrible Boss: Seeking Solace In Avoidance

Sometimes the only thing you can do to feel okay in certain situations is avoid facing into the facts head on. I’ve been attempting to practice avoidance for months with my workplace harassment case, unless forced into action by my lawyer. I have deliberately not written about any of the progress because just thinking about it causes me great anxiety and physical upset. My body, quite pointedly and painfully, tells me that compartmentalizing the issues and hiding them away for a while longer isn’t a big deal. However, the momentum is picking up as the trial dates approach so avoidance is becoming less and less effective.

In my effort to consciously face into this, I’ll start with how ridiculous I feel when I think back to how concerned I was about the work connected to my job not getting finished when I first became ill almost three years ago. How simple-minded I was to think that I should try making myself available, regardless of my immeasurable pain, to whomever they assigned to fill in for me while I was on sick leave. When you’re a Type-A, perfectionist with a work ethic bordering on workaholism, this is a normal reaction to any issue that might keep you away from your work for an extended period – including a vacation. Feeling this way when I became ill felt right, but the stress and added worry probably caused me more harm than I realized then; and now, years later, the stress of a prolonged legal battle with my employer continues to take its toll.

When all of this started, just shy of three years ago, it never occurred to me that lying and deceit would be the tactics employed by my horrible boss to avoid doing the right thing. In the mediation session we had some months ago it was made clear to me that she, and the other leaders of the company, had no intention of doing the right thing by settling this case instead of continuing to drag it out, as they have done for almost as long as I’ve been ill. It was impossible for me to see any of this coming because, before my illness, I was a committed employee who believed that the company I worked for and the people I worked with had noble beliefs about what they contributed to and created in the world. My past perception is so far from the truth it makes me look like the most naïve person who has ever walked the face of the earth, while shining a bright light on the devious underbelly of a company praised for doing good works in the world.

In a few weeks, I will be heading to court for the final standoff against my employer. My illness triggered a cascade of increasingly bad – meaning void of compassion and empathy – behaviour from my horrible boss and some members of the staff, which made coping with my illness and pain a lot more difficult than it had to be. There were times I wasn’t sure I would have an income and others when I didn’t know how I would afford the mounting costs of my medications. Now, at a time when my income is fixed at a fraction of my earning potential, I’m strapped with legal bills generated because of the need to fight this intrusion into my life, and any potential court ruling will barely land me above breaking even. However, the financial cost to me is insignificant when I think about the fallout that will occur, for my horrible boss and the company she represents, after securing a legal ruling against them.

I know that the added stress from the final push of preparing documents for court contributed to my most recent pain flare up that landed me in the ER. I also know I needed to invest the energy I did, to give all the information I possibly could to refute the lies and inconsistencies presented by my horrible boss. And I know that the statements my doctors provided in support of how negatively my health has been affected by the appalling behaviour of people I once regarded as respected colleagues, bolsters my case. Still, it hurts – more than the physical pain I feel daily – when I think about how much one person’s intentions and actions can make others suffer. I’ve had to cope with unnecessary, external stressors because of my horrible boss in recent years, but hopefully, in a few weeks the court ruling will gift her with a fractional insight into the pain she has visited upon my life.

 

John Mayer – Gravity

 

Gratitude and Creativity: Storms Don’t Last Forever

I have a legal battle with my employer in progress. Late last year – a few weeks before Christmas to be exact – I found out my horrible boss had wielded her powers to terminate my employment, which left me without extended health benefits or a job to return to when I regain my health. It was a shock to my system. It increased my pain, my blood pressure, my anxiety and made it impossible for me to sleep; or turn off my brain so I could get any kind of rest at all. I had to figure out what to do to fight back, while making sure I take care of my health. Those two things are hard to do when you’re in constant debilitating pain. Things I know my horrible boss has not lost an ounce of sleep or felt a pang of guilt about as she metes out this punishment to me because I refused to share the details of my health condition with her.

I hired a lawyer to deal directly with my horrible boss and the company’s horrible lawyer who has demonstrated that she must not have taken an ethics course in law school. Every minute that I have to contribute to dealing with this issue is time that I am not afforded to take care of my health. This lawsuit is causing me to have greater physical pain, emotional and psychological pain. I’m trying to give the information my lawyer needs from me to in small segments, so I don’t become overwhelmed again to the point where my pain is unbearable and I have to go to the emergency room to seek help to manage it. That happened on a few occasions before – and once since – I hired my lawyer and handed everything over to him.

It pains me to know that people I worked with on a daily basis now treat me this way without compassion for my suffering. We shared ideas and laughed together, and provided support to each other to do work that was never easy. I was part of a team until the moment I chose to guard the facts of my health from a woman who understands nothing about boundaries, confidentiality, or privacy. I chose to listen to my intuition and protect myself, which as it turns out, was the right thing to do.

Storms Don't Last Forever

Storms Don’t Last Forever

A couple of nights ago, we had a terrible thunderstorm. There were deafening claps of thunder followed by lengthy flashes of lightning. I’ve always been afraid of thunderstorms. Each flash of lightning made me shudder. I turned to my art/gratitude journal to preoccupy me from what was happening outside my windows. Thankfully, after a few hours, the storm ended and peace was restored to the night. I have to believe that just as that storm and many others I’ve witnessed in my life end, so will what I am enduring with my horrible boss. I have to believe that her mission to inflict harm will be thwarted and I will finally have peace restored to my life.

 

The Doors – Riders On the Storm

My Horrible Boss Is a Terrible Pain

The day I called in sick almost two years ago my horrible boss set in motion what has become a nightmare with no end in sight. She came to the hospital to see me even though I made it clear that I did not need her there. During the uncomfortably long visit – it should be noted that she brought one of my co-workers with her – I was lying in the hospital bed in nothing but a gown and feeling incredible pain. My pain was being managed by Oxycodone so I had to fight very hard to concentrate to not let down my defences or my inhibitions, and not reveal any personal information while the pain boiled in my abdomen. With my co-worker present my horrible boss asked me embarrassingly personal questions trying to uncover information to which she had no legal right. She continued to invade my personal life after the visit with daily phone calls asking questions about my symptoms and diagnosis.

Weeks later when it was clear that I was too sick to return to work and needed to take a sick leave, she delayed starting the process for my short-term disability benefits. Under the fog of pain medications and in indescribable pain, I had to start the process myself. First I had to investigate what benefits I qualified for and then submit the paperwork. While I waited for approval of these benefits, my horrible boss decided not to pay me my salary. Imagine my shock when I checked my bank balance and found no new funds. That was the last straw for me. Naively, I filed a formal complaint against her for this behaviour that any reasonable person would agree was reprehensible.

Unfortunately for me, the people to whom I filed my complaint didn’t see it that way. Whether it was down to self-preservation or blind loyalty, the investigation was turned on its head and they started to dig into my life. How sick was I really? Could my doctor provide information to substantiate the need for my sick leave? Could my doctor pinpoint the date when I would return to work? What accommodations or modifications of my duties would they have to make for me when I returned to work? It was only when these questions were answered they started to investigate my complaint against my horrible boss – that was three months after I filed it. And what they characterised as an investigation predictably ended with my horrible boss receiving a slap on the wrist.

I’m venting about this today because I had to engage with this situation again. I had to contact my lawyer. My horrible boss terminated my employment a few months ago without notifying me and she and the powers that be are refusing to reverse the decision. I’ve been trying to figure out which legal route to take to bring this situation to closure. I need to do the thing that will have the least harmful effect on my health but will have consequences that are enforceable for my horrible boss.

Sadly, every time I have to think about this or actively do something it makes me feel a higher level of pain and my entire body feels overwhelmed. I can’t figure out how to process this situation in a way that makes it ok. How is it right for anyone to treat another human being this way? How can it be right for an employer to act so violently against a sick employee? How can it be right for an employer to take away the very things an employee needs to take care of their health and recover so they can return to work? How can it be right that someone living with debilitating pain should have added layers of trauma piled on them by their employer when they are most vulnerable?

I want this stress eliminated from my life.

 

Maroon 5 – Misery

My Horrible Boss

Since the day I called in sick to work 18 months ago my boss has been a nightmare.

I have not been left alone long enough to fully process that I’m so sick I’m unable to carry out most basic daily tasks; or that I may never be pain-free again; or that my body may never be healthy again; and that the one thing that should fix me could further diminish my health.

With this as my reality, my boss has made it her mission to add another layer of hell to my life.

Her attitude was cemented when I refused to share my diagnosis with her. Even though labour laws clearly state that an employer can not – under any circumstances – ask an employee any questions related to an illness. When I filed a complaint about her behaviour the blow-back was and continues to be unbelievable. I’ve actually ended up in the emergency room because I’ve become so stressed – which then caused my pain to flare up – about interactions I’ve had to have with my company.

A few months ago, my company terminated my extended health benefits for things like: prescriptions, dental, visioncare, nursing care, and other health-care services. The prescription benefits covered the cost of my pain medications. My pain medications alone cost hundreds of dollars each month, which I now have to pay for out of my pocket.

Shockingly, I learned about my termination when I contacted my pharmacy to refill my pain medications. My pharmacist tried to process the automated payments. He immediately received an electronic error message from my insurance company saying my benefits plan was terminated.

My boss carried out the termination of my benefits by terminating my employment without notifying me. To accomplish this, she first modified my employment status from ‘permanent employee’ to ‘contract employee’ and then pulled a date out of the air for the end of my supposed contract. She then claimed she had no way of contacting me, which is laughable because I have a collection of emails with retaliatory content spanning the course of my illness.

Not one person I’ve told about this situation can understand the motivation or the logic behind this behaviour. One question keeps floating to the surface: Would my boss’ behaviour be better if I had told her my diagnosis or is she just a horrible person to her core?

 

Depeche Mode probably wouldn’t understand this situation either…

Depeche Mode – People Are People (1984)