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Our Silence Is Their Greatest Weapon

This week I’d like to tell you a true story – although details have been changed to protect privacy. It concerns a recent dinner conversation I had with a well-balanced, well-educated, professional gentleman who has worked at the same company for over a decade. Why? Because he believes in what they do, he loves his job, and he loves the people who work there. This man is articulate, intelligent, great company, happily married and by any measure has made a success of his life – I’ll call him James. So, you can imagine my surprise when, in a quiet moment, this strong man took me aside to confide in me about the horrors he had suffered at the hands of a female boss who had recently left the business.

The antics of this particular individual took its toll on every member of her team – and indeed on the many others who witnessed the carnage but didn’t know what to do about it. From what James said, it appears she would take delight in ridiculing, menacing and threatening her dedicated team of people. She would have one face for public appearances, and a totally different face behind closed doors. She would make a statement about her team to colleagues, and then berate individuals for (allegedly) going behind her back or for non-performance. Rules were changed at the last minute, promises made and broken, rumors spread and threats made – all cloaked with the repeated warning “you’d better keep this to yourself – don’t say a word to anyone else, you know what I can do”

The Only One

I asked how long it had been going on and whether the other bosses knew what was happening? “It had been going on for years” he replied, looking down at the floor “but they could never get any concrete evidence on her. We were all too scared and didn’t realize the extent of what she was doing. I honestly thought I was the only one”

My heart bled for him, as he went on to explain that he’d been on medication to combat stress and depression. It was only after his boss had finally been asked to leave that James realised just how many others had suffered similar symptoms. I was intrigued to know how the other leaders in the business had allowed such bullying behaviour to go on for so long.

“Well, it’s just the way it is. We all love the business and the people in it – we just have a few really strong characters who still think it’s ok to shout and belittle people. We just get on with it and learn to take the blows…”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I personally think that this is a terrible way to go on – and I am constantly horrified that people in positions of authority do not stand up against this sort of behaviour? For me, as I’ve said before, it’s not about witch-hunts or persecution of these individuals. It is not about identifying who may or may not be the sociopath, the narcissist, or the disordered person. No, it’s not about pointing the finger out and hunting them down. It’s simply about recognizing when something ‘bad’ happens (from whatever source, no matter what, where or from whom) and then finding a way to something about it. Because if we keep silent, or continue to take no action, then we provide ‘them’ with their greatest weapon… and they become more lethal the more they gain confidence that they can continue getting away with it.

It doesn’t have to be anything major or personally endangering. Even the smallest and seemingly insignificant of actions can have a dramatic result. Making an internal “no” decision, viewing the bully as a coward, maintaining a blank expression when dealing with them, or just simply walking away.  All those are within our own control. And all of those diffuse and deflate their perceived power over us. Each and every one of us has the power to do this, and it’s multiplied when we join with others and do the same. Yep, that all makes sense – so what stops us then?

I Thought I Must Be Wrong

I asked James the same question. His reply was quite simple. “Having taken the emotional beatings for so long, I just got used to it and found ways to make the pain more bearable. I thought I must be wrong, that I was misinterpreting the situation and that I should just get on with it. In hindsight, I can see that the problems started and escalated when I did nothing about the very first attack – because I just brushed it off. As we all did. It gave us a sense of unspoken bonding, surviving the bad stuff together”

 But now he knows. And now he is keen to share his experiences so that others can also know.

I come back again to the saying “we see things not as they are, but as we are” – and it’s the nice-guys who make excuses for bad behaviors in others. We’re perhaps too willing to forgive or defend other people, on the compassionate understanding that they might just be having a bad day. I’m not saying that’s wrong. On the contrary, I believe it’s a healthy quality to maintain and nurture. Along with that quality, though, I also believe that it’s time that as human beings, we all learn to re-set our internal barometer to super-sensitive, and commit to speaking out any and every time we recognize something is even the slightest bit off-course. It doesn’t need to be an accusation… but it certainly needs to become a question.

The on-going libel issues surrounding my book, for example, have become a farce – and I have been questioning the wisdom of their progress. Because, not content with the mountains of black and white evidence and witness statements that I have already provided, together with substantial name, relationship and location changes, the legal team are currently of the mind that the next step is to make direct contact with the ‘baddies’ in my story and ask them for sign-off on the entire manuscript, just in case there is any way they have any comeback later on. I am flabbergasted. So far as I am concerned, the suggestion demonstrates naivety in the extreme – why on earth would I place myself once again at the mercy of people who I know for a fact to be disordered? The madness of their suggestion just goes to further confirm my own opinion that the law has lost its way.

Action Is The Key

Who, now, is the law protecting? Where, now, is the support for freedom of speech? How, now, is the law standing up for those less able to make their case? It seems that the easier road to take is that where they, like James, have learned to roll with the punches and protect themselves against the bad people. Because from my experience, they are usually the ones who will cite their civil rights when caught doing something wrong, and who will be familiar with every legal loophole. They are the ones who cost most time and money, because they’ve learned to twist the legal system just the way that they learn to twist the true and generous hearted among us. So the automatic route now is to second-guess against what ‘they’ might or might not do – rather than to stand up to them and say ‘enough is enough’. And yet, in my heart of hearts, I am certain that many in these professions are themselves sickened by the on-going change of focus – feeling powerless to make a difference when common sense and judgment has given over to tick-boxes and back-covering.

And yet – the more we stay silent or take no action, then the more it will just carry on. Because what we allow, will continue.

I believe that there are far too many professionals who, even though they feel frustrated, continue to keep their own silence, refusing to hold their hand up and ask questions when something is wrong. I read a quote this week by Martin Luther King and I believe it sums up the message I intend to keep sharing – particularly with those in positions of influence who insist on hiding behind bureaucracy, fear, and any number of ‘company rules’ and defunct mantras of ‘that’s just the way it is’ that keep them trapped in the belief that doing what appears easier automatically translates as doing what is right. Here is the quote that spoke so loudly to me: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”

Well, folks, my life is just getting going – and, like many of us here, my voice is getting stronger day by day. Because we’re the ones who know what’s out there…

With love, appreciation and blessings to all 🙂

 



9 Comments on "Our Silence Is Their Greatest Weapon"

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  1. Mel – you are so right. So many people think, “That’s just the way it is,” and “There’s nothing I can do.”

    I think part of the problem is that sometimes we look at big problems in society and throw our hands up. We feel like they are simply too massive to change. Perhaps the answer is to be cognizant of situations where we can make a difference in our day-to-day interactions. Small improvements add up to large improvements.



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  2. Babs94540 says:

    I have been in that very situation myself: I was an employee of a huge, famous old entertainment company that I loved, but one day found that my old, wonderful boss had been replaced with a true psychopath. I can say from experience that the employee/employer dynamic that evolved was toxic, not just for me but for coworkers in my department.

    Coworkers who desperately needed their job, and/or who were naturally genial and easygoing, or who loathed confrontation simply “went along” with whatever dysfunctional policies the psychopathic boss chose to institute. Longer, unpaid hours of labor? Sure. Public humiliation? OK, I must deserve it. False accusations? Well, you’re the boss.

    It seems to me that when a psychopath is given a great deal of power and control over a group of people AND has the backing and blessing of upper management, most of the employees are NOT going to heroically buck the new boss, they’re just going to knuckle under and take it. They know that merely having a differing opinion than the new psycho boss will get them fired on the spot.

    I tried to adapt to the new, abusive environment but my body decided for me that I needed to get out of that department ASAP; my blood pressure went through the roof, I started having chest pains and couldn’t sleep well. I went on anti-anxiety meds, and began doing everything I could to get myself transferred out of there.

    I got lucky; I was able to transfer even though I’d been targeted for disciplinary actions which were occurring with increasing frequency. Why was I being called on the carpet? One time it was because I objected to being criticized for falling behind schedule on a project *I’d been pulled off of* by the psycho boss. How dare I fall behind on a project I was told to not work on!? That’s the kind of mind-f**king I was having to deal with.

    Actually, being able to escape from her was a kind of mini-miracle!

    So, from my point of view you can only take a strong stand and proactively deal with a psycho boss if you have nothing to lose: if it doesn’t matter to you if you get fired or not. Otherwise, my advice is to scramble to get a transfer, or go job hunting while you’re still in the department from hell.

    When the psycho boss has all the power *and the mandate of upper management to use that power*, and you have no power whatsoever, its not a fair fight.



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  3. hope52 says:

    I am already planning my march in front of the county courthouse if my case is not heard by the Judge.

    I have contacted friends about where I will be and if I disappear they can contact an attorney.

    I will be exercising my First Ammendment right to free speech.



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  4. hgg522 says:

    The road to change is one step at a time…one voice at a time. Once we know what we are dealing with when we realize we are dealing with a s/p, we are much more powerful than they could ever be. We just have to believe it. Peace and Love.



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  5. sea storm says:

    I am finding this discussion very helpful and interesting. I find it interesting because people who admonish others to fight back are unaware of the serious consequences that can come down on someone who does this.

    I work in a school district as one of the support team for all the schools in the district. All the members on the team were dedicated, skilled and highly educated. Nevertheless our team leader concentrated on productivity and outcomes. Some of this needs to happen in the course of working with severely challenged children and their families. But it became a nightmare of minusia. We had to keep detailed logs of every minute of our time and submit them bi weekly or monthly. For some strange reason she was most oppressive to the really good workers who were beloved by all. Other workers would laugh and say that they never filled in reports like this. the staff were so hen pecked and in fear of being her next target that they did not help each other out. I became a target and suddenly all the principals in the schools were treating me like i was irresponsible and they wanted logs of all time spent with kids and diaries of what I did. i worked in four schools with a population of over one thousand kids.

    Years later I found out that she had tried to get three staff member fired . They got a lawyer and won their case after years of abuse. One woman, a psychologist who was amazing with kids, received a monetary settlement. She had tried to leave the district but the principals had been told not to give her a reference. None of those three staff members let on that they were embroiled in this legal case. They knew I was being hounded and driven nuts. They were told by the lawyer that they were not to divulge any information on their case.
    My accountability and my caseload became huge and unmanageable. I kept trying and really had not idea about narcissists and sociopaths. I did watch her hound one guy who worked with the deaf and hard of hearing out of his job. He was the sole support of his family. He left but never talked. I don’t think he knew that others were suffering too or if he knew he thought a lot of shame about giving up.

    Other staff members avoided me and did want to become the next target. My self esteem was almost nil and I was trying to fake it through. My body finally told me to stop. My blood pressure went through the roof, I developed many symptoms of fibral myaglia and i could not sleep. I went of on sick leave. When I stayed off for a few months I went back to work, still thinking that I must not have a victim mentality and must create my reality. It all started to happen again and I lasted about seven months.

    The only thing that got rid of the sociopath was that she developed a fatal illness. I had spoken up diplomatically at meetings and it got me a mountain of trouble. I was not in a position to leave as I was sole support of my family. Speaking up further backed me into an impossible prison and I became a scapegoat and we all know what happens to them. They are often the truth tellers.

    Even talking about it here helps the world realize that there are dangerous people out there and they wear masks of respectability. They devastate the people around them. Everyone targeted by that woman feels it took at least ten years off their lives. One woman became a serious alcoholic. i am pretty sure the administration knew exactly what she was. One of them was sleeping with her and the others backed off completely. They were happy that she was so efficient. Scarey.

    I would love to talk to anyone who has been through this. It was not my lover but my workplace that was so horrendous.



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  6. Stargazer says:

    A few years ago one of the managers in our office mistakenly hired a woman who was nasty and undermiining of the other office staff. The manager immediately regretted her mistake. Everyone knew the employee was like this, but no one wanted to say anything, especially to her. This went on for about a year, and it brought the office morale down. Finally, she got a new boss. The new boss seemed pretty nice. So I took a gigantic risk and told the new boss how difficult it was to get along with that one employee, and how uncomfortable I felt working around her and approaching her. I spoke only for myself, and I listed behaviors that made me feel put down or demeaned. To my surprise, the boss supported me. Afterward, several other office staff spoke up, seeing how I had been supported. Within a few weeks, the nasty woman took a different job in a different cost center. Though she is still on our floor, none of us have to deal with her anymore. Speaking up can make a difference. But you have to do it the right way. You have to document exact behaviors and how those behaviors make you feel. Refrain from any name calling or judging. Stick to behaviors and the impact of those behaviors on you. “I feel sick when I come to work” is a VALID feeling to express.



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  7. raised by sociopath says:

    Omgosh! I lost my job of almost twelve years to a female director who is bullying to all her subordinates and gratifies herself with creating slander by twisting the truth.
    She has verbally stated that once she starts focusing on someone she has decided to destroying their career she just can’t stop. To everyone else she has this pleasant, smiling, and generous appearance however; the unfortunate who have to report to her she throw under the bus, sets-up for public humiliation, and micromanaging as a way of harassment. She is also noted for sabotaging other people’s work.

    She has written a note to herself to treat her employees with respect. Her personality can change within minutes from a smiling pleasant demeanor to yelling angry harassment. Not kidding within minutes.



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  8. raised by sociopath says:

    Your so right about being bullied to not tell the truth as to exposing the sociopath or psychopath.

    They will always seek revenge and are always one step ahead on the game board of covering their tracts. Plus a collection of people who will lie for them due to their own fear of being the next target.

    The naive don’t know what’s happening and find it difficult to believe the sociopath could be anything but the ideal human being until; they become the next mark and in which case keep wondering what they’ve done wrong for the sociopath attacking them. The victims start feeling paranoid and sometime suffer from a nervous breakdown.

    Gee I wonder why I know this, could it be due to having a boss who is either a sociopath or has a personality disorder?



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  9. Truthspeak says:

    Spath coworkers and supervisors are just as adept at gleaning “valuable” information about the empaths in their workspaces.

    I’ve noticed that they either learn about, or generate, a situation that could call their targets’ integrities into question and, with that tucked neatly under their belts, they have means to force “silence” throught the workplace.

    Boundaries is what most empaths have a hard time with, IMHO. Because we believe (or, would like to believe) that people are generally “good” and that we should be able to trust our coworkers and supervisors with sensitive personal information, we give it to them, or they cause us to disclose under the guise of comraderie.

    Personal feelings, issues, facts, or situations need to be left outside the workplace door. Even if it’s something as simple as having a chronically ill child, this bit of information is valuable to spaths. For example, a parent known to have a child with special needs (whatever they may be) will be hard put to the fire if they need to take time off for the child’s scheduled appointments, or emergencies. Knowing this, spaths can use these events to their advantages to sabotage the efforts of the target so that supervisors, etc, are dubious about giving them leeway.

    I’ve worked for some incredibly helpful and understanding bosses, and some very, very cruel ones, as well. My boundaries were never even constructed, much less maintained. So, my present approach is to keep every aspect of my life to myself.

    Yes, this is a sad state of affairs when simple office or breakroom chatter can be contorted to produce workplace carnage, but it’s a hard truth. It’s even sadder because a sense of community in any workplace can generate an atmosphere of cohesiveness and purpose. Workplace friendships can be very valuable and wind up being lifelong.

    Having said that, workplace romances are one of the worst dangers for empaths, imaginable. We rely upon our jobs to sustain ourselves, and a workplace romance can obliterate our job security and integrity.

    Stargazer, I agree that “outing” bad workplace behaviors can be done effectively if one uses their heads instead of their emotions. Documentation is an imperative. A situation of “he/she said, he/she said” can only compound any existing issues.

    Brightest blessings



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