General Question

linguaphile's avatar

Would you say something about workplace abuse under these conditions?

Asked by linguaphile (14432points) January 7th, 2016

I used to work at a place where there was a lot of workplace aggression. A group of women there would gang up on certain employees, sabotage their work, create trouble for them, and just make life miserable for their targets.

When I worked there, I saw two strong men with excellent work skills beaten down until they needed mental health assistance. I saw 5 women run off the job but don’t know what happened to them. I was one of the targets for 6 long years—it was torture, but the economy was so bad, and I couldn’t leave, but once I could, I did. I know of at least 4 other targets—one hung in there until they left her alone, two moved away, one was fired. After I quit—two women ended up in the hospital due to suicide attempts. Another man started working there, but left immediately. Bottom line—it’s a horribly toxic workplace with a clear history of this problem.

I just learned that a new employee, who had only been there for a year, successfully committed suicide on Jan 1. There’s no way for me to know why he killed himself, but knowing where he worked, it’s hard not to assume.

I have the opportunity to speak up—a board member asked me for my input. Do I speak up, even though I’ve not been there for almost 4 years, or do I tell them to figure it out themselves?

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26 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

Yes, I would speak up. You might be helping to mitigate a grave injustice, and you really have nothing to lose. You re safe now, so you can speak, be a voice for the voiceless.

Jak's avatar

To remain silent condones the behavior.

Jeruba's avatar

> a board member asked me for my input

That didn’t happen randomly or out of thin air. There was a reason for it, and I don’t mean in a “things happen for a reason” sense. It sounds like you already have some kind of credibility and some kind of expected awareness of the situation. Someone knows that you know something pertinent. Here’s an opportunity to speak for justice.

Even though you’re out of the situation, it will take some courage to tell your story. But I think you already know the answer: do what you think is right.

And please come back and tell us what happened.

I’ll hazard a guess that the “group of women” really comes down to one woman who exerts extraordinary influence and that she is still there.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

Yes. If you don’t these bullies will continue to persecute other workers. Of course be cautious not to say anything that could land you in trouble in relation defamation. Stick to the facts.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I know this has nothing to do with your question but what you are talking about is why I love to work alone.
Now to your question I would speak up ,this is your chance to make that difference.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Yes. Come to the meeting with verifiable examples and facts. Imagine you are preparing for a court battle to put the offenders away. This has gone on too long and too many have suffered. Speak up and have some proof.

Earthbound_Misfit's avatar

I was on my phone earlier, but I also wanted to say workplace bullying is a serious issue. If someone has committed suicide and that can be linked to the actions of people in that workplace, the management would have to be concerned about their liability. Why have they let it go on for so long? The situation you’re describing is terrible. Surely management knew this was happening. They had a duty of care to act to ensure all members of staff were safe and their workplace was not toxic. I wonder why they are now asking for people to speak up?

So I reiterate that I think you should speak up, but be aware that if there is evidence that workplace bullying led to someone suiciding, that may lead to a legal case. I’m not trying to dissuade you at all. I think you have information you need to share. Just do think about what you want to say, what you can prove and I would keep your eyes open for hidden agendas. Find out who you will be speaking to, what will happen with the information you provide, and don’t sign anything without getting independent legal advice. If you have a union rep, someone with kwowledge of industrial relations legislation, speak to them.

I’m glad you’re out of that situation @linguaphile.

msh's avatar

You survived. You are alive- literally.
I have worked in similar conditions. It is the tough stuff of people’s lives. Or deaths.
The comments above are so insightful and well-put.
You have the chance to right some grievous and deadly wrongs.
This was not an accident that you were approached by a board member. You have a positive reputation.
Please. Please, consider giving your voice to the thoughts and experiences you have had some front row seats to view and survive.
If bullying at work continues as is, it will not be your fault. But if placed back to December 30th, with the knowledge you have now in the first week of January, would you choose differently?
But, if it will effect you to a point of unhappiness or worry, then make your choices with that in mind.
Good luck @linguaphile.
Take care.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I suspect you have one or more sociopaths in leadership positions. Do speak up, especially since it sounds like you don’t work there now

Cruiser's avatar

If you have an attorney you can discuss this with I would before you do anything. With that much alleged turmoil in that workplace and the high number of employees committing suicide I would not be surprised there is a lawsuit or two that may have motivated the board to want to talk with you. Your statements could get you locked into a legal mess you may need legal advice on how to proceed. Work place issues especially in and around harassment are potential legal minefields and you could even find yourself being sued for not saying anything when the harassment was happening. I know I would want legal counsel here.

janbb's avatar

I would definitely give my input. It is your moral responsibility to.

ibstubro's avatar

You were asked. You should speak out.

I don’t see how this can be anything other than a management problem. Management knows this is going on and condones it – even if only by inaction – or is totally incompetent.

It would be tempting to run down the employees you disliked the most (and there may be a time for that later), but I would focus on management. It’s the only way to change the culture of the work environment.

After 4 years away you should relish the opportunity to put in a relatively dispassionate condemnation of the management. It’s your chance to make a difference in one little (unfair) corner of the world.

marinelife's avatar

What could it hurt? It could only help.

linguaphile's avatar

Wow… your responses really helped clear my head. Part of me is still terrified of the people there, but you’re right—thank you for reminding me that I’m safe now. I’m really appreciative of how astute the responses are, in how you filled in the blanks of what I said with accurate observations.

Yes, it’s a management problem—and yes, they’re aware. They consider it ‘not our problem’ because all of the people who are targeted are outsiders who move in from other states or places, so when they get rid of someone, the attitude tends to be that the person couldn’t hack it. Yes, @Jeruba, it’s one woman at the heart of the “group.”

@marinelife I still have some friends there that I could lose by speaking up. That’s the root of my hesitation, but hearing from everyone has helped me focus my purpose.

I’ll also be careful to avoid legal issues and will post a update.

THANK YOU. Hugs to all!

Love_my_doggie's avatar

I don’t know if you’d achieve anything by speaking up.

Workplace culture begins at the top and flows throughout an organization. If the bosses are good people, do their jobs competently, and treat people fairly, their values are contagious. “Bad apple” employees don’t last long, and nice people are enhanced. The opposite is more blatantly true; miserable bosses drive away good staff and foster inequity.

It sounds as if these women have been in place for a long time and are firmly entrenched. The management has watched so many of your co-workers leave, often after emotional damage and scarring. It seems that your bosses don’t care and will never change a thing.

I’ve worked in plenty of toxic offices where bullies were in control. I always walked away. But, I had the luxury of highly-trained job skills that are in demand, so I could easily find another job. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone stay at an abusive place because that person needs the job so badly.

janbb's avatar

It sounds like the Board is interested even if management sets the tone and boards can have a lot of power. I definitely feel again that given the severity of the situation, it is your obligation to tell what your impressions are. While you may lose some friends, the fact that you haven’t worked there in four years should make it easier to be a “whistle-blower.”

Zaku's avatar

Um. I’d probably turn it into a book (and/or see if an author friend wants to turn it into a book), and also anonymously report all the things I knew to whoever might be interested and able to do something about it.

dxs's avatar

It seems you have plenty of evidence to support it. That’s a whole lot of people who had problems. Maybe you can contact some of them.

janbb's avatar

@dxs I don’t think she has the obligation to take charge of the investigation. All she has been asked to do if give feedback on her experiences there.

Coloma's avatar

Absolutely, and hold nothing back. There is excuse for bullying tactics and abuse and we should take down those that are behaving in such a manner. Good luck!

Coloma's avatar

Edit…NO excuse for abuse.

dxs's avatar

@janbb Well, yeah but she’ll just see how much it helps the cause. Maybe it will, but I was just suggesting that she could really “say something” by strength of numbers.

ibstubro's avatar

I agree, @dxs, that it might be a good idea to feel around for some support. Especially if @linguaphile happenes to be in contact with any of the other former employees that were abused.

In this situation, if the board takes the accusations seriously at all, it’s almost a given that the top dogs running the office are going to do a Trump and just flat out lie, then try to bully their way through. Knowing you had some back-up would be nice.

LuckyGuy's avatar

Right now “the Board” thinks they are the highest authority. If they choose, they can sweep it under the rug not unlike the church pedophile tragedies. But, if there is a hint that a number of victims are willing to step forward to law enforcement or are willing to talk to a few lawyers they will sit up and take notice – and be forced to do something about it rather than just transfer the toxic characters to another location.

ibstubro's avatar

@LuckyGuy makes an excellent point. It’s not ‘safety in numbers’ so much as being able to speak with authority because you know you can back yourself up.

I wouldn’t start an all-out campaign (yet), but if I knew some abused former employees, I would make some discreet inquiries.

If you still have friends there, @linguaphile, they should know you’re doing what’s right. What was asked of you. Your friendships might have to lay low for a while as things shake out, but I see no reason you should lose a true friend over this?

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