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Question
Posted by: Jenny | 2012/07/20

Abusive office environment

Jenny is not my real name for obvious reasons.I was retrenched and then took the job I still have now because beggars can''t be choosers and for the same reason I have hung in. 7 years passed. I have been emotionally abused some of it is subtle and some isn''t. HR turned a blind eye. My line manager was very difficult. Now we got new executives who have picked on these issues and my evident unhappiness was pointed out. I assumed a clean slate would mean starting over again in a better enviroment. Not really. It all came out and I told the new HR what I had been through and what I was not prepared to go through anymore. He agreed that it has been very one sided when it is a two sided thing actually. The problem is that I now feel so very down, I struggle to concentrate, I have put on 10kg by comfort eating, I am like a beaten dog that is also snarling and biting back. My GP put me onto Cipralex and he identified the problem as my job based on what I said of course. I pointed out to the HR that I am not myself, I cannot see how to just snap out of this head space, how to suddenly " move on" . The past few weeks have been dreadful with the switch of executives, the change to a new building, my new responsiblities, the fact I have to go on training to now learn to do a new job (same job, different ways). I wondered if they may be liable to have to pay for me to see a psychologist because I think that is what I need. I could never lay a grievance because the old HR would not allow it. The one bully is here still but I am not " under the care of HR"  bearing in mind it is a biz and I have to come right and do my work and learn new things. How do I do this - I struggle to concentrate and I feel bashed up like beaten although they did not have sticks in their hands. I am not the only one but the others work in other department and not right where the switch occurred. What kind of Dr. do I need to see? How do I change and just forget the abuse, get over the resentment, the anger and how I have been punished because you are not allowed to stand up for yourself. This is a big powerful company. I since joined the union which I think was a big eye opener for them. I think they realised how threatened I feel, how fed up I am and quite clearly that I will fight back even if I feel so fragile.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Some HR people are excellent, some are useless, sadly. Some collude with the abusive people they should be controlling. Its curious, though, from this message, it sounds as though you soldiered through bad years of bad management, and then began to feel more upset and depressed or sad when the possibility arose of some improvements. Odd though it may seem, this is a recognized pattern. Maybe, though the changes actually bring new opportunities you are more inclined to see new risks and to fear them ?
Counselling from a psychologist sounds like a really good idea, and have you checked whether your medical aid might cover this ?
It sounds as though the old HR person acted most improperly, if he refused to allow you to start a grievance - I though that was a right they were supposed to assist you with not one they should ever try to ban.
A counsellor could help you deal better with the anger issues - its not a matyter of excusing or forgiving the guy who caused you the misery, but of setting yourself free from unhelpful anger that still ties you to him and keeps you vulnerable to him, rather than setting you free.
Discuss with the new HR person, especially if there is any written evidence, the issue of the useless old HR person having refused to allow you to lodge a formal grievance - if this can be proved its surely improper conduct on his behalf, and in breach of the relevant regulations.
To protect a bully is to be a bully.
I hope the union will also now be able to insist that you be better protected.

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2
Our users say:
Posted by: cybershrink | 2012/07/21

Some HR people are excellent, some are useless, sadly. Some collude with the abusive people they should be controlling. Its curious, though, from this message, it sounds as though you soldiered through bad years of bad management, and then began to feel more upset and depressed or sad when the possibility arose of some improvements. Odd though it may seem, this is a recognized pattern. Maybe, though the changes actually bring new opportunities you are more inclined to see new risks and to fear them ?
Counselling from a psychologist sounds like a really good idea, and have you checked whether your medical aid might cover this ?
It sounds as though the old HR person acted most improperly, if he refused to allow you to start a grievance - I though that was a right they were supposed to assist you with not one they should ever try to ban.
A counsellor could help you deal better with the anger issues - its not a matyter of excusing or forgiving the guy who caused you the misery, but of setting yourself free from unhelpful anger that still ties you to him and keeps you vulnerable to him, rather than setting you free.
Discuss with the new HR person, especially if there is any written evidence, the issue of the useless old HR person having refused to allow you to lodge a formal grievance - if this can be proved its surely improper conduct on his behalf, and in breach of the relevant regulations.
To protect a bully is to be a bully.
I hope the union will also now be able to insist that you be better protected.

Reply to cybershrink
Posted by: purple | 2012/07/20

I''m glad to hear that things are improving for you at the office.

No, your company won''t pay for you to see a psychologist unless they have an employee assistance programme. Ask your HR practitioner about that.

What is of concern is that you laid a grievance and the HR department did not see it through to its conclusion. They are required to do so. If you had taken this to the CCMA they would have been forced to attempt to resolve the situation. Turning a blind eye to bullying is the same as turning a blind eye to sexual harassment or theft - it makes them part of the problem and they are held liable if people take matters further.

That said, sometimes the staff int he HR department are also bullied and try as they might they can''t take things further as there is such a thuggish bullying culture that grievances don''t ever get resolved. The more people who go tot he CCMA with these kinds of cases, the more likely the thuggish culture will be improved.

Its too late for you now unless this happens again, but if you find the company slipping back to their old ways, don''t hesitate to lay a grievance and if its not responded to and dealt with in the time frame allwoed i the policy, take it to the next manager up and keep going until you end up at CCMA or even the labour court thereafter.

Reply to purple

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