A few years ago, I suffered for two years from moral harassment from my direct manager. It was a painful life event but it was a defining event in my personal development. As surprising as it might seem, I’m very grateful for what it taught me and all the positive consequences it generated in my life.
Re-opening an old wound that has never healed
A voice, a masculine silhouette and for a second I thought it was him and the hell I had buried so deep resurfaced.
In the waiting room, I thought I recognized him as the man who just entered and a wave of panic went through me. What should I do ? Ignore him? Leaving? I inhale deeply. I close my eyes. Exhale. Then I open them again. It wasn’t him. I catch my breath and I blame myself for being that silly. This is the past. I chase away all that negativity and go back to my daily business.
Several days later, tonight, I enjoy a TV night all by myself. Despite the new lockdown, my kids are asleep and my husband is working downstairs so I enjoy watching Little Women from Greta Gerwig I obviously missed it when it was released in 2019.
I start the movie and after only a quarter of an hour I stop. I feel too bad. The actor playing Frederich Baer is his spitting image. The same look, the same profile and charisma as him. He was gorgeous and it was his strength. Watching this actor finish opening the wound reopened a few days ago.
Then I decided to stop the movie and put my laptop on to let go of all these negative emotions. Writing is what I do best. 2 years ago I tried to write to him a letter telling me I forgive him and I wish him to find peace. I’ve never finished this letter. I burnt it.
Once upon a time, my worst nightmare
It was 5 years ago. For 2 years, I’ve lived a slow descent into hell where my dream job became my worst nightmare. I had lost my self-confidence, I didn’t believe in anything nor anyone. I was sure I was the most useless and stupidest person in the world. I was a living nightmare for my husband and Mr A, who was very young at the time. I was chasing everyone away, family, friends and I would have done much worse if he didn’t lose control.
That’s what saved me. His excesses and mistakes woke me up and helped me to go and look for help to protect myself.
It all began with emotional pressure
When I began my new job, everything was dreamlike.
It was the job I dreamed of, in the team I dreamed of. My boss had an impressive charisma and was so bright. Creative, gifted but tortured. I knew he had a dark side but I thought it was in the past.
The learning curve of a new job always takes time and I knew I had a few hard months ahead of me. But things didn’t improve over time. Oh, he was never verbally aggressive, it was very subtle.
At each one to one, his comments were always playing with my sensitive strings : the affect and my guilt. I am a whole person who is very transparent so I used to accept each of his comments to improve myself. I didn’t hold back to tell him everything about my doubts and difficulties. And he played along to gain my trust by talking about his own difficulties. I gave him all the weapons to hit me. And he used them all.
Gradually, I doubt myself and my image. I didn’t believe in myself anymore. His comments on how People saw me had shaken me so much I began a full makeover process. It was an amazing journey I don’t regret and it taught me so much ! That’s one of the things I thanked him for in my unfinished letter.
My descent into hell
But changing my look and wardrobe wasn’t enough. I fell into depression.
Then I decided to find a psychiatrist to support me and prescribe me antidepressants. It was such a great opportunity I had to find this psychiatrist and the work we’ve done together was essential to liberate myself and build me free. But at the time, it didn’t look like an opportunity.
Faithful to my blind trust, I talked about my medical process to my manager and he used it against me. He praised my courage to do this work on myself and to talk about it. He even confided in me about his personal difficulties (he had a burn-out). And at the same time, he pointed to the fact my intellectual abilities were down, my behaviour was erratic blaming the medicines. I totally admit I have a strong temper and I don’t let things go if they aren’t fair or justified. And we didn’t often reach an agreement on our common files, which irritated him a lot.
At that time, my husband and I thought about a second baby, Mr A being old enough for launching ourselves in a new maternity project. But my boss’ words had shaken me so much, I dropped this idea, sure I had to follow his advice and save my job as a top priority.
And the trap closed around me
The paradox in my situation is everyone knew I wasn’t OK. Everybody knew how much he was an ambiguous manager.
Digging into his former teams, I discovered later he pressures 3 persons into depression before me. But his supporters advocate his performance as a gifted and generous coach. His talent and charisma were also his great assets. However everyone could see how unhappy I was and how much I was off when he was in the same room as me.
I felt trapped, alone, even if I still believed in my company and the support of my former colleagues and managers.
That’s the moment I discovered what is a narcissistic pervert and that he was one of them.
And he made a major mistake
My luck was the arrival of an internal reorganization and the strength of my networking. I knew what was about to be announced before my officiel interview. So, when my boss told me I was losing my job and my future in the company was jeopardized, I knew something was wrong and I was in some kind of danger. That’s when I had the chance to be supported, coached I should say, by colleagues, elected representatives and human resources. They asked me to search for a new team to join, as my job was indeed cut.
And that’s the moment where he showed his hand off and lost his control. He lost his self-assurance and made many mistakes. He became verbally aggressive. If, as in my text, the word “moral harassment” hasn’t been said officially and official measures weren’t taken, off talks happened and the direction was warned. And when things came out of control, I’ve been officially released of his influence. I’ve been on sick leave several weeks and relocated on a former team.
And after ?
After I’ve done what I’ve been asked, I’ve moved on. I had become persona non grata in my former team and the ones I believed were my friends rejected me.
I rebuilt myself. I went on with my therapy. I found a kind place where I’ve come to realize my intellectual abilities were still there and I was still able to build a professional career. I’ve had my second baby, Little H.
But everything had changed. I had lost my innocence. I didn’t believe in hierarchy fairness. I didn’t believe in the integrity of my company. I desacralized what was my life for a decade. And I began to wonder if it was really what I wanted as a life and if it really was the values I wanted to live for.
What about him?
He was vaguely called to order but nothing official. On the contrary, he got a bigger team to manage. He never spoke to me again, except for the day he had to make my end of year evaluation in the presence of his own manager since we weren’t allowed to be alone in the same room.
I did my best to avoid him and I must confess I was very angry at first. I wanted to get revenge. I wanted for him to pay for all what he did to me and the others. But I was scared to launch myself in a legal proceeding. Anyway, it was too late to build a case without written proof.
That’s why I went on to work on myself and my values. And time after time, I forgot him. I forgot all these events.
But I had to think about it twice.
- When I learned he quit the company for a prestigious job. Since then I do my best not to give him a thought when I cross one of his billboards in the street.
- And when a friend suffered from moral harassment from her manager, I tried to advise her and help her with my own experience.
Since then, my life has changed so much, I didn’t need to think about it.
I’ve never finished the letter I wrote and it was a mistake as I’m sure this step totally prevented me from making a full recovery. That’s why I’ve written tonight.
My conclusion is therefore this one.
No one is supposed to suffer at his/her work. This is only a job.
If your manager is as mentally disturbed as mine was, you have to defend yourself. You have the law with you and you have to seize it.
Since all this is in the past, I won’t thank my stalker as I began to but the Universe.
Thanks for offering me the opportunity to take care of my mental health through my therapy and to let me sort things and people in my life.
Thanks for showing me the true value of my job and my company. Without it, I won’t have changed my career this way.
Thanks for teaching me how to believe in myself and defining my highest values and true purpose.
Thanks for teaching me a life lesson and getting me the opportunity to share and help others with this experience.
Thanks for offering me extraordinary adventures (makeover, changing career) and for connecting with amazing people.
Thanks for giving me such an amazing partner in my husband.