I used to subscribe to the belief that if you lived your life in a good way, when others heard malicious gossip about you; they wouldn’t believe it. Unfortunately, despite my attempts to do everything right and do the right thing, this has not always been the case. In the workplace, this is really discouraging.
In my early twenties I worked two jobs. I got up early and went to the nursing home and worked as a CNA from 06:00 a.m. until 1:40 p.m., and then went up to the hospital and worked from 2:00 to 110:30. I was living in Lander, Wyoming, was recently divorced, and had a baby girl to take care of. The days were long and would often blur into each other, but I was young and though often tired, did what I felt I needed to do.
If you’ve ever spent much time in a nursing home, you know that they are often under staffed, and it’s really hard work. So, many of the other nurses and CNA’s resented that I left a half hour early during the shift in order to go work at my other job. I naively felt that since this was the agreement when I was hired, that they would be grateful for my help. Maybe some of them were, but there was one nurse in particular who did not, and I got to witness her and our boss have it out in front of me- as to how she did not like that I left early and the big boss telling her that they needed the help, and it was better than nothing. This shut her up a bit, but it didn’t make my ability to relax any greater, because she was always on my ass.
One day during a shift change they discussed bringing on a new nurse that I happened to know from the hospital. I sat and listened as they talked about her and how it was still up in the air and nothing was definite yet. However, many were hopeful they would have some more help.
That following Sunday, I happened to be working at the hospital with this nurse, we’ll call Mary. So, I came right out and asked her. “I heard over at the nursing home that you were might come on board. Are you thinking you might do that?”
“Where did you hear that?” Like I said, over at the nursing home. During shift change. I work over there too.
“Oh.” She said.
She gave me some real non-committal answer and I shrugged it off and went about my day. We were working the Alzheimer’s unit and the only two there that day. It was Mother’s Day. She made a phone call I paid no attention to and then shortly after, she said she was going to go talk to the Director of Nursing over on the other unit. I told her I would hold down the fort and see her when she got back.
She was gone a little while, and upon return, she told me that the DON wanted to talk to me. I found this a bit curious and wondered what was going on; but I certainly did not expect to hear what I did when I got there! Mary had told the DON that I was gossiping about her and she was upset by it; and let me tell you, I caught a whole ration of sh*t while she was at it. She attacked my clothes and even my hair while I was there. I was caught completely off guard and totally inept as to how to handle that situation. So, I told her that I was not gossiping about Mary, but had just asked her a question, but that I was sorry. I apologized for my attire as well. When she gave me a hateful look and wanted to know why I wore my hair in such a way that it was always in my face, I asked her how it was different from another gal’s who worked there too. She looked away and told me that she would have to speak to her about that too. Quite honestly, I found the whole topic a bit ridiculous. There was nothing wrong with my hairstyle or the other gal’s, nor did she have a right to insist that we wear our hair a certain way. But, I started pulling my hair up in a pony tail after that just so she wouldn’t have any ammunition.
When I returned to the unit, Mary looked quite pleased with herself. I felt like I had been hit by a Mac Truck. The only thing I could figure was that she was afraid that I would say something to the wrong person and she would get in trouble or something. I never really got what she was being so touchy about. But, I found it rather upsetting that I had not been gossiping about her at all, and had in fact gone straight to her and asked her what was going on, and she still blew it way out of proportion.
Funny thing….I don’t think she stuck around long after that…hmmm…
It wasn’t long after that, I changed positions in the hospital and went to work the switchboard since it paid better, believe it or not. I left the nursing home a few months later too, because I was burnt out and tired of the constant struggle. I just didn’t see the point in it.
I would later marry again and be a stay-at-home mom raising three girls for several years, and though we made many sacrifices in order for me to do that; I think it’s totally worth it. But hen I had to get back into the work force, it was rough. People had not gotten any easier to work with, and navigating the crazy was a full time job within itself. I think this is my pet peeve. Getting the crazies to just leave me alone. I can try to avoid them like the plague, and still, there they are, sticking their noses in the middle of my business. Drives me completely insane!
I think the worst attack upon my character, integrity, and job ability was in my early forties when I worked as a case manager at a treatment center for youth ages 12 to 18 in Colorado. I already had an idea about a couple of them, because I had worked the units with one of the gals who got a promotion to case manager and she had come to me and told me that she was afraid she had made a mistake because they two gals would gossip all the time and she just didn’t really feel like she fit in. What was interesting about this was how, over time, she, Miranda, became best buds with them. I would later be promoted to case manager as well, and she would have little to do with me.
Granted, we were working our asses off. This was not an easy job and the learning curve on that position was a good year, for sure. However, it seemed like even into my second year, I was still putting in a good 45-50 hours a week and struggling just to stay on top of things. What was even more frustrating, was how the other girls were out of there at quitting time, right on the dot; and I was constantly asking myself how the hell they were doing it. How were they getting everything done? I was not an idiot. I just could not understand it. But I kept plugging along in hopes that things would get better. Even though I was working nine, ten and up to twelve hour days, and with a drive home that took the better part of an hour, I had no life outside of work except on the weekends. Even then I was so exhausted from the work week I would spend most of Saturday in bed.
The worst part of the job was knowing that these other case managers did not respect me, and probably didn’t like me, and were doing whatever they could to take a poke at me. Granted, I wasn’t there to be liked, or vice versa, but it was very disheartening to hear from my boss how he thought I was a bit…oh, I forget the descriptive word he chose. What I do remember is that it was the same word I had heard one of the other case managers use towards me not long before that. Gee, I wonder how he got that opinion of me when he’s spent all of fifteen minutes total with me?
This guy, my boss. He had no clue. It’s not that he wasn’t good at the job or didn’t know what he was doing. It was that he was not a good leader. It was that he could not be bothered to invest in those under him. It was that he was completely uninterested in training me and telling me to go ask someone else. They didn’t really want to train me either, and how could I blame them? They weren’t getting paid for that.
So, there I was. Trying desperately just to hang on and figure out what the hell I was supposed to do. Often learning everything the hard way with very little to no support or guidance whatsoever. And my boss, we’ll call him Jim, not only did not care, but was oblivious to the things going on around us. He relied on his sister, who was second in command, and her best friend to tell him how I was doing. Then he was apparently reporting these things to his boss the Clinical Director. I didn’t stand a chance., and those two had very little direct contact with me or any clue about who I was or how I operated, at all.
I realized my first mistake in trusting anyone, when I assumed that one of the therapists I worked with could be trusted with some information about someone I had dated a few times. I say this, because I assumed that since she was a therapist, she knew how to keep her mouth shut. This was not the case at all. In fact, she was good friends with the two case managers that were telling Jim I sucked. It didn’t take long to get back to me from these two (Stormie and Celeste) that the therapist, Jodi, had told them this personal information I had confided in her with. Not only that, I realized that part of the problem was that she had the hots for this guy and had been flirting with him, but he had not responded in kind.
Stormie was the worst mean girl. At least, she was the most vocal anyway. She would just come right out and say the worst things to me. She would make remarks, like, about how when they made a mistake, or they “did a duh” that they would insert my name in place of the word duh.
“When we make a mistake now, we just say we did your name.” She had said and then cackled.
I told her that was really amusing and did my best to ignore her. I had already figured this kind of thing was going on, and worse, behind my back.
The days continued to blur together with me getting home at 7 or 8 at night, grabbing a bag of chips for supper because I was too exhausted to cook, going to bed and getting up the next day and do it again. I still couldn’t figure out how the other girls were getting all their stuff done and leaving right on time, yet I was leaving my house at 7 a.m. and not returning until at least twelve or thirteen hours later.
Then one day I walked into Medical and got my answer. The file room where all the records for each youth were kept in the medical building. That meant that all of our notes and other information that needed to be filed, were kept in there under lock and key. We were to do updates weekly and file them in their files. Any other docs we were given had to be put in their files too.
There was a med tech and a nurse there I saw quite often and seemed pretty friendly towards me. As I walked in one day to do my filing, the med tech, Tad, said, “Here comes the only case manager who gets things done around here!”
“Ok, what do you want?!” I said back with a smile.
“Nothing.” He said. “I was just telling it like it is.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“You are the only case manager who comes in every week to do your filing and you get things done.” He said in a matter of fact manner. “People know if they need something done, to ask you; because you will make sure it’s taken care of.”
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“It’s what I see and hear. I just know.” He shrugged. “You are the only one we consistently see in here. And when they did the file audit, you weren’t in here.”
“I already had all my filing done.” It was my turn to shrug. “There was no reason for me to be in here.”
“But all the other case managers were in here like mad people filing for hours!” He chuckled.
“You’re Kidding!” I exclaimed.
“Nope. It happened.” He said.
“Wow.” I said, with the wheels turning in my head like crazy now. I finally understood a big part of it. The reason they were always “done” with their work was because they weren’t really doing it all like they were supposed to!
Tad piped up again. “Remember when you had to have the cops come get John Doe and send him over to DYC?” He asked. (Department of Youth Corrections.)
“Yeah, that really sucked.” I said shaking my head. His poor mom was so mad and gave me hell for an hour on the phone.
“I had the utmost respect for you for bringing him down to admin to wait for the cops and staying with him until they took him away. Where was his therapist? Nowhere to be seen! No goodbye, good riddance, or anything!”
I knew what he was talking about. While his therapist, Courtney, seemed sweet, she often dropped the ball and left me holding it in my lap. She called off on the day of his staffing, and I know it was because she didn’t have the balls to deal with everyone. She was glad to get rid of this poor kid. And honestly, I felt sorry for him. He didn’t have anyone.
His mom adopted him when he was a baby, and he had RAD. (Reactive Attachment Disorder.) I don’t know if this was something he had at birth or developed later, but to hear this woman talk, she was not exactly a patient or understanding woman where he was concerned. She had also gone on to be able to conceive and have kids “of her own” after adopting this poor kid. It was obvious to anyone who spent five minutes with them that she was far more concerned and involved with “her own” kids than the one she had adopted prior to having them. It was bad enough his mother gave him up, now his adopted mother had all but done the same thing, too.
After that, Courtney was no longer as nice to me. I already knew it was because she knew that I knew what a shit she was. Leaving me to deal with his staffing, and then not even having the decency to talk to this kid before he was hauled off to DYC…yeah, she avoided me like the plague after that. She tried to reason that it was actually better that she didn’t say goodbye. Right.
So, Jim leaves and goes to work for another company and I am scared to death that Stormie will be my new boss. So, even though I don’t feel quite ready to assume that position, I do meet the quals, and I apply. I figured there was no way I would get it, but I had to try. Sure enough, they give the job to Stormie, and she’s my new boss. It’s about this time that all things start spiraling out of control and coming to a head.
Stormie and Celeste inform me that they have volunteered me to be on this new committee. I am not happy about this, but agree to give it a shot. I already have so much on my plate, I am just thrilled to have something else plopped onto it. (Not) Both my parents were now having some health issues too, and I felt guilty for never being able to be around because I was always at work or recuperating from work.
I go to a couple of the meetings and finally decide that I just really do not have the time to do this. I send Stormie a rather long email and tell her that I am not going to do it anymore because I felt I already had a lot on my plate and I also wanted to be home more for my parents. (None of which, by the way, I needed to tell her. It was voluntary. All I really had to say was I wasn’t going to do it any more.)
She writes me back with some ramblings, trying to sound so superior, about how everyone has to learn to juggle and find a balance between their personal lives and work and blah, blah, blah. She’s trying to tell me that I have to keep doing it! I couldn’t believe it! That B…
I write back and tell her that I really can’t and she writes back that we can talk about it, but never says when or follows up with me on it.
So, a couple of weeks later, I get an email from the program side as a reminder of an upcoming meeting. I write him back and tell him that I had already told Stormie I couldn’t do it any more. So, he forwards it to Stormie and copies me, saying that he would like a replacement for me to attend the meeting. Let’s just say Stormie’s a tad bit pissed.
I have realized that it’s time for me to leave. That things are not going to get better and for me to keep trying to beat my head against a wall was ridiculous. So, I apply for a county job in Pueblo.
In the meantime, one of the newer case managers, Cindy, has befriended me and I can see the apprehension in her eyes. She is struggling too, and spending tons of hours at work trying to get things done herself. So, I take pity on her and do what I can to help her, though I am not a huge help, either.
One day, Cindy tells me that she really needs to tell me something. So, we sit down on a wall outside one of the units and she begins to tell me how that a lot of the times, a few of the therapists and case managers would come to her unit and eat lunch. Specifically, Jodi, Courtney, Stormie, and Celeste. She threw in a couple of other names of people who would sometimes participate, but not always.
Anyway, she went on to say, that this group of four to six people would often sit there and eat lunch and gossip about me and run me down. I honestly had to laugh at this. First of all, I am the most boring person on the planet. What on Earth are they finding to talk about?! Secondly, to think that people like therapists, who are supposed to be considered a “professional” were engaging in this type of behavior…this place is a joke! I was grateful to this new friend for confiding in me and telling me what was going on. She never went into any details about what they were saying; most likely for her own protection, I guess. I can’t say as I blame her. I never confronted any of them though, because I knew the hell she would catch, and she was already having a hard time dealing with them as it was. It had to be hard for her to sit there and listen to them run people down and not wonder what they must say about her when she wasn’t around. She was probably as scared as Miranda was when she first started. And she took Miranda’s place. Isn’t that interesting.
I had interviewed with the county and was just anxiously awaiting any news. It seemed like it was taking forever and I was miserable. One morning, I had an upset tummy and was in the bathroom a while, so I texted Stormie that I was going to be late. She wrote back that I really needed to see a doctor, and that she was “worried about me.”
No. I don’t think so. I was done with her crap.
Since I was already well aware of what the clinical director must have thought of me, by means I won’t go into here, I went straight to HR. I took my phone with the text Stormie had sent me, and the email she wrote me trying to tell me how I could not quit the committee and told her everything that had been going on. I told her I knew beyond the shadow of any doubt that Stormie was not worried about me at all. Nor could she insist I see a doctor when I had not even missed one full day of work!
Obviously, the clinical director was brought in and there was a discussion between the three of us. I was reassigned, effective immediately, to answer directly to the supervising therapist. No more being under Stormie. Thank God! This did not mean all my problems were solved, of course. There was plenty of whispering going on and sideways glances made at me. Well, at least they had something real to gossip about now.
Thank the good Lord, I got a job offer from the county within a week, and I could NOT get out of there soon enough! The pay was actually a bit less, but I wouldn’t have to commute anymore, and there was a lot to be said for my sanity at this point! Not only that, but there was more potential to move up-and I did. Funny how I didn’t suck so much there, now, isn’t it???
There was an issue with me not starting on the first of the month and having to wait another month to start being covered by the insurance, so I went to the clinical director and asked her if it would be ok if I was only able to give them a week and a half’s notice. She said it would not. That obviously, I could leave whenever I wanted, but if I wanted to be marked down as eligible for rehire, I had to give two weeks. So, I offered to work weekends to make up for it, and she asked if I would work Labor Day too, and I agreed.
When the lady in HR asked me how things were going and I told her what the Clinical Director had said, she told me that no, I was not working Labor Day and for me to tell the Director she said so. I was so thankful for that little bit of support from her, I can’t even really describe it.
So, with the exception of Labor Day, I worked two and a half straight weeks with no days off between my new job and my old one. It was great. Not. But I got the hell out of there!
There was a therapist and a case manager who did stick up for me at the end all of this, and apparently, a conversation was had with the clinical director in which she seemed to come around to the realization that maybe she had gotten the wrong idea about me. In fact, according to the story I was told, after she said that, they piped up and told her that she lost a damn good case manager when she lost me. That made me feel a lot better.
My poor friend Cindy did not fare so well. After I was gone, they sought out a new target and she was it. She and I kept in touch a bit and she would call crying and telling me what they were doing and asking me what I thought she should do. I told her not to go to the clinical director because they were already in her ear. To go straight to HR. She did not listen. From what I understand, her departure was pretty rough. I felt so bad for her.
I think after a while the clinical director finally started to see the pattern and how the new girls were always working tons of hours and having problems with these particular case managers. I guess they were given an ultimatum and told they either had to step down or leave entirely. They chose to leave and both went to work for Spanish Peaks in Pueblo last I heard. They truly are inseparable, it would appear.
A few years later, I ran into them at Ross. They had walked into the store right ahead of me and saw me coming. Celeste looked at me timidly and gave me a half wave, while Stormie looked at me half apologetically and scared and said a soft hello. I gave her a look that said, “as if” and kept on walking. That bridge had already been burned, and I saw no point in trying to rebuild it, or build a new one.
It has taken me a long time to get this through my head, but I am finally figuring it out. When someone treats you poorly, you don’t have to keep being friends with them. In fact, that’s probably the worst thing you can do. You don ‘t have to “be nice” to them either. In fact, the best thing you can do is cut all ties, and permanently. Otherwise, people like this, get the message that it’s ok. Because even if you don’t say it’s ok, the mere fact that you are allowing them to be in your life and continue to treat you poorly is tacit agreement. People of that ilk are rarely, if ever, remorseful for their reprehensible behavior, even if they say they are. So, it is in the best interest of anyone who encounters such vermin to remember this and steer clear of them as much as humanly possible.
The workplace is, I have found, a place where a lot of mental and emotional abuse occurs with little to no clear regulations on the matter. It is often set up where you have to go through channels designed to keep you down, and if the abuse comes from a supervisor, your chances of survival decrease substantially. You can be an exemplary employee and still end up in the wringer, and it truly bites the big one.
Despite our best attempts to live a life that would make gossipers look like liars, that isn’t always going to happen. You can do everything right, and still come up looking like the idiot and the bad guy to a supervisor who is not paying attention and lacks discernment in these matters. Often times, they are so overburdened with a work load they can barely manage; they don’t want to be bothered with such things. Other times, they are just plain lazy, don’t care, and want to get back to Facebook.
In my case, I have learned that keeping my mouth shut would have helped some. That is to say, I have learned not to share much personal information about myself to others at work any longer. It would not have stopped the attacks however, but definitely given them less ammunition. I have also learned that there is a difference between being polite and professional with a coworker, which is all that is required; versus our tendency to think we need to be “nice” or try to be friends with everyone. In fact, it is our belief that we should be nice, that predators prey on. Niceness should be reserved for those who have earned it. Same with trust. No one is entitled to these things merely because they exist and think they should be.
On a spiritual level, I think there is more going on here. As some of you may have figured out, I am a spiritual person, so I can’t go without mentioning some thoughts here on this aspect of our beings. We are after all, physical, emotional, and spiritual beings. It is these three things that make us whole. Not unlike the trinity itself.
I have mentioned before that we wrestle not with flesh and blood, but of spiritual wickedness. So, I think as a Christian woman, I am definitely going to suffer attacks, merely because my spirit does not mesh with theirs. (Either that, or I definitely have a “kick me” sign on my back.) They may not be able to put their finger on it, and would not recognize it if it hit them in the face. But I believe this happens all the time. Whether you want to call it vibes, or by any other name, our spirits emanate who we are when we come into contact with other people, and vice versa. Often times we will have a feeling about someone and can’t shake it. We need to listen to that, because our spirit is telling us something is wrong. Call it a woman’s intuition, if you want. Just listen to it.
The other aspect of this is that often times, making us very uncomfortable, is God’s way of getting us to move on. A pushing us out of the nest, so to speak. (Though it will happen more than once!) I don’t know about you, but I tend to get comfortable in a situation or circumstance. Even though I’m not completely happy, I am not miserable enough to do much about it either. Often times, I have to be completely miserable before I will move on from a bad situation.
I think that often times God turns up the heat so we will move on, and we are wise to really look at a situation and ask for guidance from him in this way. There are all too many stories in the Bible where God has instructed someone to move on, and I can think of few who actually wanted to. Consider Lot’s wife, who was so distraught about leaving everything she knew behind, even with the threat of her very life; that she looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt. (If you visit over there, by the way; you can see what’s left of her pillar. It’s real, and people who are native to that area know where and what it is.)
I think this story can provide us with a great analogy. There are a lot of things we say today that can be taken back to the Bible. When I think about this story, I consider it the equivalent to an old saying that we may need to apply in these situations.
“Pack your bags, and don’t ever look back!”