Sunday, May 3, 2009

Psychological Violence in the Workplace

I do not really know how to convey what I feel at this moment in regards to my job because there is a mixture of intense, chaotic emotions. I do know I am fortunate enough to be employed, while many people all over the world are struggling with unemployment--to still have a job, I should be extremely thankful. However, it saddens me to no end that I work for a company which sucks me dry, makes me feel vulnerable, helpless, and depressed.

February last year, I thought I had landed a good job. I had just separated from my husband at the time, and was in need of a job to support myself. In no time, I had a job. At first, I was eager to learn and I thought my co-workers were very supportive. It was a good working environment, or so I naively thought.
In a couple months time, I was offered a management position, which I took against my own will. When I say I took it against my own will, it is because I was pressured into taking the position. If I didn’t take the position, my hours would have been cut drastically. The reason why I didn’t want this lead position is because I felt, at the time, I needed more training. Since I had only been with the company a short period of time, the position I was about to jump into was one of the most important jobs in the company, and I just didn’t know if I was ready to take on the major responsibility after seeing the manager before me crumble under the pressure.
In the end, I gave into my boss’ pressure and took the promotion. So there I was, working my ass off, supervising a team, basically learning as I went along since nobody had taken the time to properly train me. I did all of this work under my direct supervisor, who had--and still has--mood swing issues and a fierce temper.
After a couple months, I felt more comfortable in this position, even though my boss started on me about every little thing, yet failed to see what my team had accomplished. Before I took on the position, the department was in disarray. Things were not set properly and everything was messy and out of order. We managed to fix everything in just a couple months time through hard work and a strict deadline.
Then one day in late January I was called into the office. My boss explained to me that two positions had been cut. As a result, I was pushed out of my job. My boss said to me, and I quote, “well, I guess the good side of this is you can now find a job you want to do”. I was floored. This was coming from someone who so wanted me to take the position, who even threatened I’d risk having my hours cut if I didn’t take this promotion, and now he’s telling me I am terminated? Just like that.
I was given the option of severance pay, but then learned I would not be eligible for this sum of money because I was just shy of one year of employment. The boss had me thinking I was entitled to this pay, but I read the literature on the severance pay, and it said I was not entitled to the pay if I had been employed with the company for less than a year. Again, I was floored, but quickly picked myself up and asked him what my options were. He told me there was a commissioned sales position available, so I took it.
Meanwhile, I had been struggling to make my child support and car payments. Since I had such a drastic pay cut, it was tough, and still is tough to get through the months.

Fast-forward to March, 2009. I started commission after extensive computer and floor training. It was going well until one day I rolled my eyes at my supervisor (the manic one), and she flipped out at me and called me “insubordinate” because I refused to put away her garbage. She did not ask me to throw a piece of paper away for her, but demanded I throw it away. I gave her a look of anger and grudgingly threw it away. Then she yelled at me for it. If you know me, it takes quite a bit to get me mad, but the way my supervisor acted toward me, like I was one of her slaves, it really set me off.
Last week, while looking at my pay stub, I found out I had not been paid for commission all along. Again, I was livid. Here I was scrounging for every bit of money I could, trying to not get into debt, and it could have all been prevented if I had received what was rightfully owed to me.
On top of it all, some of the products I’ve been selling are so horribly defective. I brought this up to my supervisor, but she didn’t care one bit. The only thing she cares about is how much I can sell. Well, the problem is, we can definitely sell a lot, but can we keep it sold? No. Customers are dissatisfied with the products, they are bringing them back for refunds. As a result, we are losing a huge profit. Does the boss care? No. He claims it’s us, the salespeople, that are lazy and incompetent. It is our fault, and our fault only.
Every day the tension mounts. The work environment becomes more hostile and based solely on numbers. My supervisor walks around every day in a horrible mood, which means we wind up getting yelled at for no reason. We all get treated like criminals, and the managers act like we should be indebted to them for still having our jobs.
The managers don’t even want to do anything now. If we ask for their assistance, they grudgingly do it, but then tell us to not call them again--to handle the problem on our own. They’re all lazy and incompetent, yet treat us as if we’re the ones who are lazy and incompetent.
Every day we get harassed. If our numbers aren’t up to their liking, they verbally attack us.
One day my boss even threatened us. He said if we do not do this certain thing called “taking the lead”, we would all be fired. So, we all made a pact to not do what he said, that way nobody would be fired.
When I was in management, we had weekly meetings on current issues and events. I remember on one occasion we were discussing the attendance policy, and we spent the whole meeting creating scenarios on how an employee would “manipulate” the system in regards to either calling out sick or leaving early/late. In the end, the point system was enforced to the T. One condition of the point system says that if you call out sick, you automatically get points against you. If you call out, and are out for a couple days with a doctor’s excuse, you STILL get points against you. If you get a certain number of points, you’re automatically put on a PPI, which is a warning. If you get another PPI, you’re fired.
What got to me during this meeting was how mean the managers were being. They had this us-against-them attitude, which really irked me. These people do not see good in any of us, yet we are all good and work hard.
It’s management that is not good. Example: last week one of the managers was arrested and taken out of the store. I found out later he had stolen $40,000 over the year he had been employed with this company. We take a pen from the supply closet and we would be penalized for it (which is why they have now locked the room due to our excessive “stealing” of office supplies). And yet, this guy stole $40,000 and it takes them a year to catch him!
Moving along, because this sounds like such a horrible rant, I went online and found a definition and description of “psychological violence” in the workplace. Here is an excerpt:

Psychological violence in the workplace is the persistent, unwelcome behavior, mostly using unwarranted or invalid criticism, nit-picking, faultfinding, exclusion, isolation, being singled out and treated differently, being shouted at, humiliated, excessive monitoring and much more

I, and my fellow co-workers, have been through all of this. Something needs to be done--quickly. Our free will has been stifled horribly. There needs to be some reactionary statement--something big. Calling the complaint department will simply not do. This game of instilling fear has got to stop.


Ray said...

The 3 job sites chosen by as getting the best results for job seekers - (professional networking) (aggregated listings) (matches you to jobs)

good luck to all.

Robert said...

my gawd, it sounds fucking horrible, Matina

sadly, it is all too common...the prevailing attitude is that we are just "lucky" to have a job, so putting up with shit is pretty par for the course

about the only thing that can even counter that trend, albeit all too temporarily, is the kind of worker-solidarity you alluded to in this post...but you wind up risking your very job taking those kinds of stands

ultimately, that may be what we all have to do, risk it all just for our basic human dignity

fucking fuckers

LukeBuckham said...

My advice, which is probably nearly worthless: threaten these people with a serious lawsuit. If you can't afford a lawyer, educate yourself in the relevant legal language and scare the shit out of them, if possible.

We live in a literally fascistic society, and its attitudes leak into everything. Fuck Amerikkka. I have lost several jobs and am now losing my apartment because I wouldn't give in to this strange and terrifying mindless entity known as "authority". But at least I still have a scrap of dignity. It's harder for you because you have a child, but hopefully you can use that to your advantage. As an atheist, I won't offer the insult of useless prayer, but I am outraged on your behalf, and I hope you get to rub these people's faces in shit, somehow.


your friend


PS--The only thing wrong with your piece is the title; it's not a "rant" at all, merely a judicious and perfectly reasonable bloodletting.