Healing from my toxic workplace || Part III
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Okay, so we left off with me sending Sarah an email about not taking the raise, right? I’m so sure. So, I get to work on Monday, and I find out that now HR has to be present during all of our weekly meetings. How fun. Now she would get to see what I deal with on the daily.
Now, before you guys get too into it. HR was not a strict HR. Actually, the company president barely took anything she said seriously (which is extremely problematic). If you watch The Office, they treated her like Toby. She’d give advice, but they wouldn’t take it. Sarah thought she knew more than her (our HR was also our Controller for Accounting), and she let them. She’d been at the company for more than 12 years by this time, saving it from going broke, and she was still treated as such.
For privacy purposes, we’ll call HR July. Her and I had our separate issues. She was “colorblind” (meaning she says she didn’t see why color was a big deal), and I constantly had to check her on her ignorance. She once didn’t understand why I wanted to make children’s books for little Black and Brown girls to relate to. She told me,
“Why not make them for all little girls. Why separate them?”
I said, “when you can show me a White children’s book that is made to be relatable for all children, then we can talk.”
I then gave her 3 packets the next day showing why being “colorblind” is actually racist.
So, now I have these women in this meeting presenting me with a new action plan that they’d put together without my input. The action plan laid out everything I was in charge of doing for my position, even though neither one of them had actually asked what I do in my position. By this time, so much had added on that even they didn’t know.
It laid out that I had to be at work by a certain time. It also laid out that I could take two 15-minute breaks every 4 hours of working. It had a schedule of due dates I had to follow for projects and that I had to email both of them every week with an updated plan so they could see what I was doing. This company was a laid-back company. No one had strict hours, and no one had strict breaks. We came and did our work and should’ve been trusted as such.
I was furious.
I went into July’s office that day and asked her,
“does everyone have strict break times or is it just me?”
“It’s just you so that we can make her happy and get her off your back.”
“Yes, but what about my happiness. I’m the only person here that is being treated like this, and I’m the only person that has to have a strict schedule? There’s no policy for this anywhere in our workplace. But I have to follow it?”
“It’ll just be for a little while so she can see that you do your work, and she can keep her nose out of your business.”
So basically, by letting her nose be in my business, it would keep her out of my business… interesting. I had no more fight left in me, especially when HR sided with Sarah. So, I started to email my old supervisor to ask if he could help me find a different job.
As I job searched, my attitude towards work became dark. I felt alone, broken, and honestly depressed. I went home and cried many days. I went to work in a funk. I still went to our meetings, grudgingly. I never made eye contact, I shrank under authority, stopped standing my ground and showed zero excitement. I felt defeated and I felt worthless. As I’m writing this, I’m tearing up because this was such a dark time in my life. Sarah and July noticed, but they took my depression as a threat to them.
I had sent an email to July of my completed action plan, completely forgetting that Sarah had to be CC’d to it (it was our second meeting after-all, and the first for the action plan). The following Monday came around and we decided to meet in July’s office. Sarah wanted to always discuss grievances from the week at these meetings. She basically wanted us to hold onto whatever problem we had with the other person and share them at our weekly meetings with each other. The problem was, only Sarah was able to get a word in edgewise, and only she was allowed to be hurt or frustrated.
She started our grievance section of the meeting by saying, loudly, how her feelings were hurt that I didn’t include her in the email I sent of my updated action plan. That “per our agreement” she was supposed to be included in all emails, and that I did not follow directions. July jumped in saying that it was not intentional, and that she (me) will include her next time.
I guess I had no say in what I did or didn’t do. July had a way of trying to explain what someone felt, instead of letting someone feel it. If I said something like, “I don’t agree with what you’re saying” she’d jump in and say, “what she’s saying is…”
So, I sat there and looked at Sarah who was extremely flustered and red in the face, go back and forth with July about something I did. I interrupted and said,
“I didn’t intentionally leave you out-“
“Yeah, but we signed papers that said you have to include me. So next time I’d like to make sure you follow directions. Because my feelings are hurt.”
I looked at her and wanted to slap her across that table so hard. All I could think was, “YOUR feelings are hurt? Yours? Because you weren’t included in ONE email? Are you that controlling that you have to know what’s going on at ALL times? Come on now, give me a break. This is what I be talking about. Ignorant White people…”
That night, I became the bigger person and text her a loooong text apologizing (why? Because I felt bad). I told her that I don’t like making people feel bad or hurt, that’s not my personality. So, when it is brought to my attention, I like to make sure they knew that it was not intentional. I don’t regret sending that message, no matter how stupid the situation was. The problem is, Sarah “forgave me”, but still ended up being the same Sarah. Treating me like crap.
In another one of our meetings (I’m giving you these examples because I want you to see how unproductive they were), I created this packet to show how to properly work with people of other cultures/ethnicity/races in the workplace, and how to manage. I took my findings from my Equity and Inclusion Task Force I sat on during college, and the documents I’d been studying. I presented this to them to let them know that they were basically suppressing my work ability. That their very White biases were oppressive in nature and they are not giving me a say in anything I feel was important for this position.
Sarah told me, at our next meeting, that she read what I wrote but it had no hold because she didn’t see resources cited at the end.
Let that soak in.
July believed that it was a diary type packet where I was trying to let them know how they should be treating me specifically. She was getting close, but just wasn’t quite there.
They decided that it would be “exciting” to start an activity with all the employees. Every meeting we’d pick a name and they’d have to come up with a team building activity so that we’d learn more about each other and people would get closer. Here’s the kicker, they wanted me to implement it.
I was 100% against the idea, and I told them so.
“This isn’t not a productive way of hitting that goal of yours. Those meetings are short, people are busy, and this isn’t high school. If we get grown adults to have to take breaks (which they don’t usually do) and come up with activities that have nothing to do with their workday, it’s not going to fit. It’d be better if we did something that is more of a group outing, or have someone come in.”
“I feel like you aren’t giving it a chance.” July responded.
“Well, you think about it. But we expect this to happen.” Sarah said. In the clear way that I had no choice.
When that meeting was over, Sarah went to July’s office to complain about me being “negative”. At the next meeting, I made sure they knew I didn’t agree with this activity, and that I didn’t support it. Needless to say, we still had to do it.
Sarah was upset that I wasn’t happy or excited during our meetings. She said my responses were proving to her that I didn’t like my job. No Sarah, I don’t like YOU. She said that because I didn’t respond in kind, that I was making it hard to do her job. I looked at her for the first time in a long time, with anger in my eyes. She stared right back, in an attempt to kick me down more, and I said, “hmm.”
That day, July pulled me into her office to discuss what we’d do about my position under Sarah.
To be continued…