Today I read an article written by a woman who made the TIME magazine cover for becoming a change maker after speaking up against workplace harassment. As I read the article, I was in awe of her bravery and also horrified by the consequences that followed.
But it would be at the end of her article where, for me, she would go from hero to superhero. She asked herself if the fear, horror, and anxiety she went through was worth it?
Her answer? Ultimately, yes.
I sat for a bit to ponder my answer to that very question. Could I have said yes after everything she’d been through? Would I even be able to say yes after my own story, which was much less severe?
It didn’t take me long to answer… And let’s just say it wasn’t as heroic.
But before I get into the why of my answer, I first must admit…
I Have A Confession
Truth is, there are parts of my story I haven’t shared with you. In addition, there’s an unmentioned reason I didn’t sue. And there’s the ultimate reason I don’t “name and shame” my company for their blatant mistreatment after years of devotion. What’s that reason?
I was afraid.
Afraid people I loved would lose their jobs. Afraid of ongoing attacks to my reputation. Mortified of public backlash. Petrified of becoming more sick. And frightened my family would continue to suffer.
But before you think this fear is the kind that fills me with shame and makes me feel weak, I have another confession… It’s not.
Turns out, those are some pretty legitimate fears. And something to be seriously considered before speaking up in a way that turns one’s life completely upside down.
The Truth About Speaking Up
I think it’s important that you understand something about my mission. As much social responsibility as I feel to speak up about workplace abuse, I feel just as much responsibility to make sure other’s know how to do it safely. I have an undeniable interest in saving others from the pain I went through.
Prior to realizing the price I’d pay for my heroic actions, I felt that intense need to take a stand for what’s right no matter the cost. But as I discussed in my prior blog, Dying To Stay, I didn’t understand what that cost would fully entail.
I have learned so much through my study of workplace abuse: employee rights, current legislation, and human aggression. And I now understand the importance of knowing one’s rights, our ability to detach from the experience, and the options and resources one has to survive it all.
Truth is, workplace abuse is a complex situation and in the U.S., employees face overwhelming disadvantages that can cause our situation to end tragically.
So What Can We Do?
How does one take a stand against injustice, but do so safely?
Below are some advisable options shared by experts in the field and why they make so much sense:
- Making collective complaints, whether within the company or through a lawsuit are stronger, more effective and result in higher awards than individual complaints. Simply put, there’s power in numbers.
- Sharing your story anonymously* still allows your voice to be heard, while protecting future employment necessary for one’s financial security.
- Naming and shaming a company may feel good at the moment. But this can result in slander charges that can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars, and years of your life trapped in a lawsuit you never saw coming.
- Leaving your toxic work environment doesn’t have to be a total loss. Looking into an exit strategy can save your career, health, and benefits. It’s not quitting, it’s negotiating for an exit with respect and dignity.
- Joining legislative efforts and working collectively towards change can still result in the protections, safer routes for reporting, and holding companies accountable, all of which you’re so entitled to.
I’m OK Not Being A Superhero
So what’s my direct answer to if I could go back, would I do it all again? Was it all worth it?
The answer is no. At least not in the heroic way I thought I was doing it.
However, if asked if my bravery, self-sacrifice and the efforts I have spent since then have been worth it, I would say ABSOLUTELY, YES! Because now I’m able to do the right thing and fight back in a way that keeps me healthy, empowered, and filled with purpose.
So, while I’ll continue to be in awe of the superheroes who have paid the ultimate price to make our world a better place, I also applaud those that choose to fight back in a way that keeps them safe.
Yes, I’m ok not being a superhero. And I’m here to tell you it’s ok if you’re ok with it, too.
Wherever you are in your career, I wish you success, peace, and most of all, good health.
*To safely share your story anonymously, you can contact Deb Falzoi of Dignity Together.
If you’re new to my writing, you can visit me at The EmpoweredThe Empowered Employee Employee to read more of my blogs and find the resources I found helpful. You can also join me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.