The Empowered Employee – A Blog About Workplace Bullying and How To Empower Yourself
Are you an empowered employee?
Hello, everyone. My name is Janice Gilligan White, and I’m a survivor of workplace bullying.
I worked in a company I believed in for over a decade and considered myself one of the lucky ones; I was an employee who found my work deeply fulfilling and I felt a strong sense of belonging.
Through the years, I became known as a respected leader and enjoyed the benefits of thriving in a safe work environment.
However, I’d soon learn that a shift in management would change everything.
The life of which I’d been so sure of would soon face negative forces so strong that neither my physical nor mental health could endure them.
The Red Flags of Aggression
The first red flag of aggression I would face would be the intimidating conversations. Soon to follow…the false accusations.
I’d find myself answering to charges of discrimination and theft; both specifically targeting the inclusiveness and honesty I was known for.
Although I was cleared of both of these claims, the residue left from these insinuations would serve to justify further aggression.
I’d soon find myself facing unwarranted disciplinary measures threatening my employment. I was placed on a 60 day final notice (PIP) just 5 days after I’d met with the CEO for a day of personal recognition for exemplary performance.
The pure shock of the situation would activate my survival instincts. I was now in fight or flight mode and felt an intense need to stand up for the principle of what’s right.
I spoke up, but to no avail.
Later, I would come to realize I’d neither the knowledge nor the resources to fight this kind of battle, especially alone.
The plan to eliminate a “problem” (me) in the workplace was now set in motion.
One Amongst Millions
Exhaustion set in as I chased management’s changing expectations and strived for the continued approval of my superiors, which was unattainable.
I would then experience the destruction of a valued project and the discrediting of my work through an extremely low performance review; the first one ever in my career.
But while these hurtful actions were taking place, there was something much more harmful happening…
Ever so subtly, I began to lose sight of who I was as a person, what I was capable of overcoming, and the belief that truth and justice ultimately prevails.
In October of 2017, I made the decision to save my health and walk away from all I’d loved and worked to accomplish. I’d soon find I was only one amongst millions of Americans whose lives had been derailed by this predictable, well-researched phenomenon.
I Took to Blogging
The weeks that followed were dark, all consuming, and filled with a pain I would have never thought possible from losing a job. It became very clear to me that I needed help.
I found a coach who was familiar with workplace harassment and the damage it caused. This encounter would change the course of my life.
During the healing process, I was encouraged to rediscover another passion of mine: writing.
But the translation of these thoughts into words would not be the sole fruit that would come from this exercise. During this time, I would discover just how multifaceted and complicated this particular form of abuse was.
I began to study.
I wanted to understand how workplace bullying works…What feeds the aggression…How it’s able to stay in the shadows.
I became curious.
What can be done about workplace bullying? How can employees protect themselves? Why is everyone so uncomfortable talking about it?
A Sense of Purpose
With each challenge I overcame, answers arose.
I found that as I slowly freed myself from the bitterness, the anger, and the pain that had taken over my life, I was able to see my event more clearly.
A sense of purpose was emerging.
A call of social responsibility was tugging.
I started to get excited about possibilities!
The chaos this event caused in my life was turning into a positive. I was now able to prioritize what was truly important. The distractions that blinded me from living in the present moment began to fade away. I was discovering inner peace and was feeling grateful for the lessons I learned.
I knew the realizations I was having could impact others.
The Empowered Employee
So, while we wait for US laws to catch up to legislation in many other countries that have already deemed workplace bullying illegal, we must find a way to protect ourselves.
On October 24th, 2018, exactly one year to the day after losing my career, I launched The Empowered Employee; a blog about workplace bullying and how to empower yourself. Since then, I have become affiliated with the Workplace Bullying Institute and End Workplace Abuse Now. I host a peer support group for Dignity Together and also serve as a board member for the National Workplace Bullying Coalition.
I invite you to join me, expanding to a network of employees empowered and in control of defining their own professional life.
My hope is that by continuing to write about this abuse, the trauma caused by the sheer shock of its unwelcome arrival in someone’s life will be reduced. That by spreading awareness, knowledge, and the resources that are available, others can be spared from the suffering of this growing epidemic in the workplace.
Thank you for hearing my story.
I certainly hope to be a source of light in yours.
Wherever you are in your career, I wish you success, peace, and most of all, good health.
So grateful, Janice, for the awareness and education you will be spreading with your blog. So grateful you are speaking for those of us unable to do so ourselves, whether due to traumatization or inability to separate self from story. So grateful for you!
And I am grateful for you. Your support and sharing of your own story has been so helpful this past year. You are a shining light and I am so glad my experience brought me you! ❤️
Janice, well what a journey you have experienced. All those beliefs that you hold tested. The belief that hard work and dedication is respected by all? I believe it makes us targets to some. In Australia it is called the “Tall Poppy”. You have stood up, achieved results, respect, it is now time to cut you down. The sense of disbelief, the sense of self blame, the trait of working even harder to appease the instigators of what is happening to you. All this you have captured. It helps us to see the reality of what can happen when the work place culture is destructive.
It’s amazing how similar everyone’s stories are. How exact the human body and spirit respond to it. But this gives me hope! The more we share and confirm experiences, less complicated it will become. Thank you, Graeme. I’m so glad it resonated with you. That means it may be resonating with others. 🙏
Two years ago, I was trying to appease deadlines that were set that were really not achievable, job management for some minor things that a chat would easily resolve. A two year program to sign each week that I had not left my phone on my desk this week!
A high achiever given top industry recognition four months back now like a school boy on detention. Twelve months of psychology to put me back together.
I resigned and changed industry. One I had never even heard of.
Yesterday I received my performance review. “We can not train people to work like this!” A glowing review in every facet. Rated as Innovative, helpful to other employees and departments. Asked to develop some training for the business.
So There are great employers like this who will pick you up, support you and recognise your talents. I at 61 years old used the skills and knowledge from, law enforcement, training adults, volunteering in mental health to now being a Mental Health Support Worker. I have never had such a rewarding job.
An employer who treats you badly does not deserve your talents.
What an amazing example you are for us! You are right, they do not deserve us. And there is so much more out there! Thanks, Graeme
Keep up the great work! Changing your lens so you can put information out that will help others is inspiring!
Thanks, Mike! And thank you for what you are doing to educate others. Listening to your podcast as I type this! I look forward to looking into more of your work.
You’re a milestone in my recovery journey, thanks so much for your articles and posts.
And thanks for your moral support and sympathy for all targets and survivors.
God bless you! /Z
I am so glad to hear you’ve reached some milestones! Each one is such progress and should be celebrated. I appreciate you being here. Thank you for your comment and please stay in touch! Love, Janice
Mary K. Logan
Janice as I read your blog I told my husband this sounds exactly what I’m going through right now at work! I am currently off work per my doctor because of the toxic environment my manager is putting me through I have documents and proof I just don’t know what to do because complaining to upper management isn’t always a solution it just adds more fuel. I am like you were I have lost the person I was ! I go back to work next Thursday and I am meeting with an Attorney tomorrow. I am currently on Anxiety Meds for this something I’ve never had to do in my life. Thank you for your story. I was beginning to think I was alone..
Mary, I am so sorry for the delay! I am just seeing this message now. I am so sorry you are experiencing this. But so glad you have found that you are not alone! If you need to chat, let’s set up a time. Thinking of you….I have lots of resources and help, if you should need it. Thinking of you!
Thank you so much for creating this site. I’m still reeling from my experiences and still at the trawling-the-internet-for-answers stage. Every time I think I’ve exhausted the blogs, forums and articles another one comes along and flings open a door to a deeper explanation and understanding. Today it’s been you and your writing. The day you launched this site on 24th October 2018 was bizarrely the first day I attached the word bullying to my situation. I remember it clearly, I blurted it out to a friend over lunch while trying to find a way to explain what my work life felt like. I’d grabbed the word in frustration, it felt out of place, something left behind in the school yard and it wasn’t quite right. Because I didn’t just feel bullied, I was being bullied and it was to get much much worse over the next two years. Sadly I didn’t start looking in to bullying or discover mob bullying until the deed was done and I was sat at home some time later completely broken and jobless and alone, ruminating, list making, unable to focus on anything else, unable to see way forwards. But I’ll get there, I am getting there. And lockdown has provided an unexpected upside of some time to heal. Thank you again so much x
Emily, I am so sorry to hear that you know this experience as well. I have been on hiatus and see now that you found my blog in April. I hope you have found some additional peace since then and are doing ok. It takes a great deal of time to return to full health. Thank you for being here. I am so glad something you read resonated, as that was the entire purpose of sharing it. Wishing you well! There is life after this abuse, and I’ve found it to now be so much better than what I had before. XOXO