Words are one of our most powerful tools to create change, harmony and cohesive relationships. Commandeered by your workplace psychopath, however, those words are twisted and misconstrued.
Now in the hands of someone who is willing to lie, a person who does so, in the blink of an eye and without a moment’s hesitation, you are now on track to embark on an epic battle with someone who is both armed and dangerous. Even worse, it was you who gave them the tools, those words, to use against you to begin with.
It is in this moment you recognise the benefit of the old adage:
Children should be seen and not heard.
I started working for a large trade union in Australia in 2017. The Chief of Staff, a male in his mid-thirties, third from the top, became fixated with me from moment I met him, except I had no idea at the time. It is only now, as we trek towards the end of 2021 I realise his obsession with me will take years to dissipate and, sadly, there is a chance it will not, not ever.
What I thought was an awkward male who lacked basic grooming skills and any sense of style would go on to ruin my career in unionism, ten years in the making.
Exposed to ongoing sexual harassment and touching in the workplace, I was forced to resign to avoid the one thing most Aussie employees love:
All-Staff Christmas Party
Now with the addition of an unexpected status to my employment record, I write anonymously as a whistleblower in the hope my experience, associated lessons and strong sense of justice will help others impacted by workplace bullying, harassment and assault. That’s right, I have experienced all three, in addition to advocating for those who’ve had the same while employed in a variety of industries. The goal is simple and warrants breaking down complex issues into small sound bites and graphics, along with more technical terminology, to help you make sense of your experience.
Definition: The art of acting like a grey rock, giving nothing of substance to another person, with limited use of emotions.
A person who is abusive towards another is seeking to elicit an emotional response. We won’t go into the underlying motive here, that’s another story for another day but, for now, keep that underlying goal at the forefront of everything you do from now on.
I’ll step through the types of personalities who rely on bully behaviour to get through life in a separate article but, in short, they are incompetent or have a strong need for control. They use a variety of means to make you react and their goal is simple:
To make you look crazy, feel as though you are going crazy and, eventually send you crazy.
The focus is on you being unstable and unable to perform your job, not on their inability to complete basic tasks; follow process and procedures; comply with company policy or play nice with others. Many people still cannot comprehend that another person would seek to make someone become mentally unwell because the victim’s brain is not wired that way. Once you realise this type of person exists, you first recognise the problem is not you, then acknowledge the goal is to navigate around them and, if required, get out.
The Chief of Staff, determined to get information on me and my method of communication, as well as increase time spent with me, due to his romantic interest, put himself in the role of subordinate. His communication style, awkward bordering on uncomfortable, was never sexual. The nature of his role prevented him from being explicit about his interest.* Aware we could not date while acting as my superior, he moved my Area of Responsibility around and I was allocated a new manager. Annoyed I no longer called him, a conversation at Friday afternoon drinks went as follows:
CoS: You never call me, not anymore.
Nell: No, I don’t.
CoS: We used to speak all the time, almost every day.
Nell: We did.
CoS: Well, why don’t we talk anymore? Why don’t you ever call me?
Keep in mind, he was high up the food chain, it would have been inappropriate and his tone, despite it being a non-work, social setting, was accusatory.
Nell: You told me, last time I tried to bypass my manager and call you for help, that I had to “follow the chain of command.” I’m following your directive.
- A short and simple response to every question or statement.
- Removing any emotion from my response — my voice was flat, matter of fact and without any intonation.
What Was The Goal?
His goal, as is most often the case with your workplace bully or abuser, was to make me become defensive and react badly. To do so means I’m the one not fulfilling my side of the employment relationship which, like any relationship, requires reciprocation to be considered workable. If it’s not balanced and fair then I’m the one letting down the team and there is the start of the real goal:
The ruination of your professional reputation.
It is known as the Smear Campaign and I’ll discuss it a lot in amongst my articles. It is one of the most damaging experiences of the abuse cycle but is one I can give you tools to overcome. You can see, by Grey Rocking the Chief of Staff by limiting my responses to him, removing any emotion and using company policy – following a process of talking to my manager for direction before escalating issues up to the Executive Team – I was able to avoid being painted as the bad guy. Keep in mind, no one else was subjected to the same treatment, only me. A person, in a position of authority, with a fragile ego, was never going to take rejection well* but I could limit the perception of rejection by using the Grey Rock method.
What Would I Do Differently?
I doubt, based on the information I had at the time, I would do anything differently. My reaction was, however, pure instinct. Had I known about the Grey Rock method sooner, I would have been able to use it more frequently and that would have limited his ability to turn me into the ‘over-emotional’ person. This was further escalated in the future, at which point he made me out to be the crazy one, even going as far as to suggest publicy:
You need to watch it, I’ve had to pull you back from the brink a few times lately.
That was untrue. But, it does take me to my little * dotted throughout this article and:
It is time to tell the real story, the real damage done and how far back it went.
*The Chief of Staff moved himself into the role of my manager for a period of approximately two (2) months. There is the risk that my manager at the time, a lovely male who was both competent and supportive, was ousted on purpose, so the Chief of Staff could step himself into the role of my superior. No one else was required to have the level of direct contact with him that I was.
There is the risk that this is an over-reach and the knifing of my manager was a move by the Big Boss; the Assistant Secretary, his 2IC; the Chief of Staff or a combination of the aforementioned people. That is irrelevant. The Chief of Staff used this portion of time as my manager to ‘leak’ to his friends, and friends’ friends within the union, that I was the one instigating romantic interest. I wasn’t.
It did create the ideal of a romance of epic proportions, a falsehood I still cannot undo, despite publicly protesting otherwise.
Part of this blog is pure self interest and a continuous protest against the Chief of Staff’s assertions we are destined to be because it’s in the stars. It’s not. I don’t date men who make me think I’m going crazy.
That does not stop him from:
- Ongoing stalking, despite me resigning, by force, in 2019.
- Following me, everywhere, making me move three times to escape him. He found me, again.
- Creating a reality of the Ultimate Power Couple that does not, and will never, exist.
This story is not a nice one, nor is it fun to tell. I do so with the knowledge it might help another and, after all I’ve been through, I do hope it does. Once exposed, these truths have the power to do a lot of damage. That’s okay. It’ll balance out the damage already done, all because of one man.
If you’re here, reading this, it’s because you have the same problem:
Your standard corporate psychopath.
What they’re doing is criminal, it is just not recognised because it’s corporate. It is criminal and it is even worse because corporate should know better. And, in case you were wondering, they do but they choose to ignore it. It is why, as victims, we need to carefully choose what we say, how we say it and when.