For a long time I’ve been in a work situation that’s not suited me but I’m the type of person who just likes to keep my head down and get on with it. I don’t like to be noticed and my work is not my life so, I thought, if I could just go to work, get my work done and come home, I would be ok.
But things started to build up.
My GP asks me to keep a migraine diary and I realise I was getting a migraine at work every day that meant I was driving home with one putting myself and other road users at risk!
One of my colleagues said “I think you’re being bullied”, it took me aback, but thinking about it this was probably because, the person doing it was so manipulative I couldn’t quite admit what was happening.
I took on other people’s work (more senior than me), I wasn’t thanked by them, nor did I feel boosted, I felt more and more down trodden every single day.
I thought my request for reasonable adjustments was…reasonable but I was made to feel as though I was asking for the earth!
Occupational health asked for the same reasonable adjustments and pointed out I was covered by the equality act but still no adjustments were made.
I’d go into meetings feeling confident and come out feeling disrespected, belittled and devalued.
I started to open up about the struggles I was having to senior management but I ended up feeling incredibly vulnerable and felt like this was then actually being used against me.
This was jus the tip of the iceberg! Things build up slowly over time but little by little the toxic environment takes its toll!
No matter what part you play in an organisation, my opinion is that everyone has the right to be valued, but I felt as though I was being treated like the lowest of the low.
It wasn’t that my employers were passive un-listeners, it appeared that they actively had their fingers in their ears and were saying “no-no, we do not want to know about your needs, your needs are not important to us, it would be better for us if you didn’t have needs.”
I needed support but I felt like they didn’t care whether I was there or not, it felt like I meant nothing to them, it felt like they were saying “you are nothing” and the longer it went on, I started to believe it.
My self esteem has ended up in the gutter.
Something had to change!
I tried desperately to manage things from the inside, I had my union rep on my side. I had my GP advising me on what was best for my health and (eventually) I had occupational health recommending reasonable adjustments as I’m covered by the Equality Act.
But what do you do if at every turn, no matter how reasonable I am with my requests, I’m left feeling as though I’m banging my head against a brick wall?! At points, it felt like I was saying “please can I have air to breath?” and Senior Management replied, “It’s raining today.” Their sentence was accurate but completely unrelated to my request and made no attempt to solve the ongoing difficulties I faced.
I was left absolutely bewildered as to why they wouldn’t support my needs.
There are 3 main causes of workplace stress:
- A mis-match in skills/knowledge—this is why the application/interview process is so important to match the correct people to the correct role. I may be highly over qualified for the role but I’ve managed this in previous roles by my unique capabilities being valued in other ways. I felt like the skills I offered at interview were ignored and I was left feeling completely exhausted by how they treated me.
- Lack of support—no matter what level of the organisation you’re at, we all need support. I felt like, if I kept quiet all was fine but as soon as I found my voice (to ask for support), I was severely reprimanded.
- Lack of control—autonomy is something humans desire for the good of their health. Organisations can become so process driven, they forget about the people doing those processes. I felt like a very small cog in a machine that wasn’t working very well. I have no problem being a small cog but sometimes I had ideas about efficiency or improving the process, not only was I ignored, I was made to feel as though I really shouldn’t have stepped out of line.
At one point, I attended a meeting to ask for reasonable adjustments, recommended by occupational health to be put in place. They were denied. I was slowly starving to death but the “choice” I was then given felt similar to being offered the one food to which I was allergic. Seriously, how was I meant to choose?!
Returning to work after some time off sick I was actually grieving after but I felt I had to hide this due to lack of support. Because I’m such a hard worker, no one noticed. I should never have been in this position!
At times, I wondered if I was losing my mind. Because of my disability I have specific needs. I was asked to work in conditions that I’d explained were inappropriate for me. It felt like my employers were deliberately trying to make my working conditions so impossible that I would choose to leave. Would they really do that? Surely not?!
The current climate is not one in which finding a new job is easy, believe me, I applied to 10s of job and went to a near equal number of interviews! Whenever I was given feedback it was always “we really liked you, there was just someone with a bit more experience…” or similar.
I found it really hard to pick myself up after each interview. My workplace were grinding me down, my self esteem was no where to be seen and at each interview I just wasn’t quite good enough. It’s really hard to go to the next interview and persuade them “I am good enough”!
I even began to wonder, if there’s something wrong with me, even if I move workplace, I will take the problem with me, I will still be treated badly in the next place…
But, I have found a new job and it is with some really wonderful people. The are friendly and kind, I have been made to feel welcome and, although I am a very small cog in a machine, I am already feeling valued.