Leaving an Abusive Job is Like Leaving an Abusive Relationship
I have two clients who left abusive work environments. Both show signs of recovering from an abusive relationship.
I want to tell you their stories and get your feedback.
Denise worked for the same company for over 15 years. She rose up through the ranks to be the CEO’s chief of staff. The CEO was a bit of a cold fish. He was largely emotionless and could be quite verbally and emotionally abusive when things did not go well. Being a divorced woman in her 50s, the CEO’s wife never treated Denise with respect.
Denise got along with everyone at the office most of the time. She interacted with people at all levels and treated them with the same level of respect. She prided herself on how she interacted with others, which was in sharp contrast to the behavior of her boss.
A few years ago, she realized that the lack of emotional support and abuse really ate at her. She asked to work in another area within the company. Everything went downhill from there.
Denise managed a small staff in a highly visible marketing function. After about a year, they laid off all of her staff quite suddenly. Her department’s work level did not diminish, but now Denise had to perform the functions entirely on her own. After another year, they laid her off as well. The kicker was that they laid her off and walked her to the door immediately.
Denise felt like she had been kicked in the stomach and had a knife in her back. She felt betrayed.
All of Denise’s professional relationships still worked for her former employer. She had few networking connections outside of this group. For the next year, Denise tried to get hired back into the company while, at the same time, looking for work out in the real world. She did land some contract work and was later hired for a lower-level job at the company that formerly laid her off. Later, she was let go again after 90 days on the job…and was never sure why.
It was similar to splitting up with your spouse and then trying to get back together. The relationship ended in a divorce.
Denise now works as a Chief of Staff for the Chairman of the Board of a high-profile company. The first few months have been very strange for her. The culture at the new company is warm and welcoming, She finds herself asking, “Why is everyone being so nice to me?”
Denise is just beginning to realize how affected she was by the abusive and demeaning environment of her former job. But now, she is on the road to recovery.
For Denise, this was just like leaving an abusive relationship.
Wendy worked as a product/project manager for a Fortune 50 technology company. She worked in a division that was acquired and then integrated into the main company. Wendy never felt like she fit into the corporate culture after her original employer was acquired.
Musical chairs occurred with her first boss, and a new one rotated into her office every few months. Wendy’s next team lead began to treat her in an abusive manner. The kicker was that her team leader purposely baited her to go to human resources.
Wendy was given projects in which she was not privy to the important information she needed in order to be successful. She was set up to fail.
Wendy felt isolated with nowhere to go. Through this abusive pattern, she learned that she could not to trust anyone at the company. The abusive behavior may not have been overt, but it was woven into every part of her role…kind of like a low-level headache that just won’t go away.
Wendy was soon hired for a job within a different part of the company. It took months for her old group to let her go. They made it as difficult as possible to get all of her work done so that she could move on to her new job.
Wendy’s new boss treats her with respect and she really likes her team. In the first month, they asked her to attend a conference half a world away. She is being challenged and is taking on new responsibilities
Like Denise, Wendy is asking herself, “Why is everyone being so nice to me?” It feels very odd and uncomfortable that things are going so smoothly. She was still conditioned to expect the worst from her colleagues. Good treatment just didn’t feel natural.
I would like your opinion on this post. Both Wendy and Denise are women. They both worked in companies that were very balanced in gender and the abuse came from both men and women.
Both are recovering and enjoying their new environments.
Leave your comment on the social media platform where you found this or click on the Contact Career Pivot tab and send me a message. I am interested in your perspective.Marc Miller