When Corporate doesn’t want to deal with a problem, there are many subtle ways for them to turn to victim blaming instead.
Now, I wouldn’t describe myself as a victim. I think “target” is a bit more suitable for my situation. But victim blaming is terminology that most people are already familiar with, so I’m not going to re-create the wheel over it here.
But if you’d like extra insight into victim blaming overall, I found a good article from Very Well Mind which gave this effective definition: Blaming the victim is a phenomenon in which victims of crimes or tragedies are held accountable for what happened to them.
But one thing that happened to me when I started to escalate my issues with my stalker at work… is that I was told to change MY behavior, in order to not provoke any more situations that needs to be escalated. THAT is absolutely victim blaming.
One example that immediately comes to my mind, is that I was actually told to no longer walk by his office anymore.
Nobody ever told him to stop walking by MY office instead. Nobody ever told him to LEAVE.ME.ALONE. You’d think the best solution would be to address the root cause. But no, they didn’t do that.
And if you check out the floorplan I drew up (lol, no it’s not to scale), that’s a big change that I had to accommodate in order to prevent any inconvenience for him. It’s kinda disgusting. And, he actually enjoyed that I had to suffer the consequences of trying to escalate issues with him. It definitely served to be a deterrent for me to try to escalate anything. He experienced no deterrents at all. He was practically giddy over this turn of events, and it only emboldened him to behave even more outrageously towards me because he believed that he was protected.
And he was right.
His behavior later led to the point where he ended up bleeding on my desk and completely got away with it. I posted about it here if you missed it. And he never experienced any consequences for it.
He was protected. Not me.
And me changing my behavior to prevent any more issues didn’t fix anything. Because I wasn’t the problem.
This post is about the moment I realized that HR is unethical and will lie to employees. Blatantly. Right to your face. Just know that HR is not on your side and they are not ethical.
[In an earlier post, I gave a quick intro into my experience at this toxic office environment. If you’ve missed the intro for extra context, you can find it here.]
HR is on the side of company leadership. They serve to protect them at all costs, at the expense of every single employee if necessary. I looked-up how Wikipedia defines HR and I was able to find this definition here: A human-resources department (HR department) of an organization performs human resource management, overseeing various aspects of employment, such as compliance with labor law and employment standards, administration of employee benefits, organizing of employees files with the required documents for future reference, and some aspects of recruitment (also known as talent acquisition) and employee offboarding.
I was always so naive about HR. I mean, I’ve never been in trouble at work before, so my experience with HR was always concerning annual enrollment and a few random questions about benefits.
And until I needed to escalate a work issue to them, I believed they would be on my side. They actually advertise pretty heavily that they have an “open door” policy to hear any employee concerns or issues, etc. But that is a flat-out lie, as this is only a ploy to hear issues ahead-of-time, so they have time and can assist leadership in any cover-up work in the background.
The work issue that I escalated to HR was concerning a male employee that was stalking me, inside and outside of work. He even texted to me photos of himself OUTSIDE OF MY DAUGHTER’S DAYCARE. This is how bad it got for me with him. Unfortunately for me, this male employee was also a buddy of the guy running the company, so he acted quite outrageously towards me because he had confidence that he could get away with.
I had already gone to my stalker’s boss because I thought maybe she could intervene and help. I also thought because she was the only female executive at that company that she would be the most sensitive towards this problem. But she did not help me. She chose to protect my stalker instead and advised me to “toughen up”.
I lost all respect for her leadership at the company at that point.
Because he kept getting away with everything, his behavior kept escalating.
One day, I arrived at work early to find BLOOD. Everyone knows that I arrive early, usually before anyone else. The blood was on the floor and the wall en-route to the restrooms. Then I arrived in my office and there was BLOOD on the papers on top of my desk. When I found that it was on my desk, I KNEW it was this stalker guy doing it. And I KNEW I was the target.
I know this because I’ve had issues with him in my office after-hours before, going through my papers. He’s the last person to leave work everyday. He even stays after the cleaning crew. So the person who did this, must have done this AFTER the cleaning crew and he’s the only one that stays that late.
Here are pics of what I found that day when I arrived at work. I’m sorry the photos are crummy and poor-quality as I took them on my cell phone only. Seeing it in-person was alot more startling.
I immediately went to HR, and told them I know my stalker did it. I gave them them the papers with blood on them. And there are also surveillance cameras all over the office and I asked them to confirm with the surveillance cameras. They said they would investigate and sent me away.
Never heard back from them so a few days later I asked them what they found in their investigation.
They seriously played-dumb with me. Like, “what investigation?” I told them they were supposed to find out if my stalker did this or not and they said nothing happened. I told them I gave them the papers with his blood on them (I watch enough Forensic Files that I know that’s legit evidence that can PROVE who it was) and they were like “No, you didn’t give us anything.” WTF! I told them I wanted the surveillance cameras checked and they said they couldn’t do that because no one was currently employed that knew how to review the surveillance cameras and they would have to hire/contract someone and they weren’t going to do that because nothing happened.
I later find out that the surveillance camera excuse was also a lie, because a few weeks later, the guy running the company turned 50. And some employees decorated his office overnight and he arrived to see his birthday decorations and freaked out about people being in his office and demanded to see the surveillance camera footage about who all was involved, and within 30min, he was watching the footage for himself. Everyone involved were his buddies so he was happy and not freaked out anymore.
I was completely disgusted with HR and leadership at this point. I lost all trust in them. I consulted with a lawyer over this event and he advised me that HR’s purpose is to protect the company from lawsuits, not to protect the employee. I never knew that until it was already too late, when I already delivered to them actual evidence when I needed help.
Please be aware of this fact yourself. You need to protect yourself at the workplace. Don’t trust HR to protect you. If you do have an issue that needs escalation, please consult with an employment / labor lawyer first. Never give HR any original copies of evidence if you want to be able to escalate the issue. From my perspective, it’s practically the same thing as wiping off all the fingerprints at your home after you’ve been robbed but before you call the police.
I’ve worked in the corporate environment for 22 years at 3 different companies. (Lol, don’t even try to calculate how old I am). Surviving the toxic office and workplace politics is definitely a skill that I have not perfected, but, I’ve experienced enough of it that I can share my trial-and-errors here… and perhaps others can benefit from my lessons learned.
Intro – What’s a Toxic Office?
I googled what could be a good definition for a toxic office and found this definition on Wikipedia: A toxic workplace is a workplace that is marked by significant drama and infighting, where personal battles often harm productivity. Toxic workplaces are often considered the result of toxic employers and/or toxic employees who are motivated by personal gain (power, money, fame, or special status), use unethical, mean-spirited and sometimes illegal means to manipulate and annoy those around them; and whose motives are to maintain or increase power, money or special status or divert attention away from their performance shortfalls and misdeeds.
For the most part, I do believe that the majority of employees will utilize office politics ethically. They will maintain transparency and communication with everyone involved, and will not use this influence to hurt others.
Intro – “Cloudy”
But then I spent 2 years of my life at the brunt end of the most unethical person I’ve ever known, who utilized his ability to manipulate and threaten others to gain power and attack those that didn’t conform. I did not conform because I could not bring myself to do some of the things he required of me – such as LIE to customers, such as falsify documents to make him and his buddies look good, such as take the blame for mistakes I did not make, such as allow myself to be sexually-harrassed at work because he’d rather protect his buddy, etc.
Unfortunately for me, this person was at the top of the workplace food chain too. So my career there was basically over. He definitely created a toxic office for me. But for those coworkers who rallied around him instead, they had a completely different experience working there.
I think I shall nickname this guy “Cloudy” in this series of posts about the toxic office. I’ll name him Cloudy, because for all his buddies there – for the coworkers in his circle of protection – he always proudly claimed that he was “their sunshine” and “the air they breathed”. Well, he certainly wasn’t that for me. Whatever the opposite of sunshine is, that’s what he was for me… so, Cloudy it is.
Intro – My Headspace During This Time
I did put up a good fight at first. Tried multiple escalation paths. Tried HR (HR is such a joke!). Tried building an alliance to protect me. Consulted with lawyers. But nothing worked and I eventually gave up. And giving up was absolutely the best solution for me. At first, I felt so wronged by this whole situation that I was blindly driving towards fighting for fairness. It wasn’t fair and I needed to fight for what was fair. That was my motivation.
But this fight continued for almost 2 years and my mental health had deteriorated greatly during it. I had started to drink heavily everyday as a coping mechanism and I also got prescribed anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications. I was in bad shape. That whole situation broke me.
I’m out of that situation now and feel like I am finally ready to talk about it in small chunks via regular blog posts here. I’m doing it for my own catharsis. I’m also doing it so if anyone else is going through something similar, perhaps they won’t feel so alone now. I certainly felt alone at the time…
I have a more recent post regarding another experience I had at my toxic office, specifically about when HR failed me. You can read it here.