Should I Report a Conflict at Work?
7:06PM Aug 18, 2020
Okay, so here we are. Hello, Rebecca. For those who don't know us, I'm Meredith Holley. I'm a lawyer and life coach. And I founded Eris Conflict Resolution, where we help employees stop sexual harassment and toxic work environments without quitting their jobs. Rebecca is another trainer in our office. We take people through Cultural Health Impact training, to help them address toxic issues at work. And Rebecca and I both do the trainings. So we wanted to get on and I'll let Rebecca introduce herself too.
So, hi. I am Rebecca, as Meredith said, and I also am a coach for women who have had sexual trauma in their past and are feeling a little stuck. Maybe they've completed therapy, they don't really know where to go from here. But they just know that they could use a little more help and want to move forward with their lives.
So, Rebecca has her separate business doing that. And then she also trains our office. Rebecca has extensive history in HR and in the military, and she is fantastic human.
And so we both wanted to get on today and talk about something that we hear a lot of people say to us, that when they're experiencing something at work, that is making them feel afraid, or that potentially is even illegal, or that is at least abusive... They don't want to make waves with people. They don't want to be the problem.
A lot of us when we experience discrimination, harassment, abuse at work, where we don't want to talk about it, because we think that then we'll become the problem. And, so then, what I see a lot is that things get worse and worse and worse until ultimately, a lot of people come to us after they've been experiencing abuse for like eight years. They're having panic attacks. Their hair is falling out. They're afraid to go to work every day. And they have sort of long-term physical impacts from it. So, what we say, what we tell people is, you know, what I think is it's not you making waves. It's the person's behavior. That's the problem, but it's a little more nuanced and harder than that.
So Rebecca has talked to a bunch of people who've been saying this lately, like, how are you seeing that come up for people?
Yeah, a lot of people are like... a lot of people, a lot of our clients will try to convince themselves that it isn't as bad as it really is. Or they'll they'll compare the situation that they're having at work to some situation that they heard on the news. And they're like, well, I wasn't tied in a coat closet, with a gag in my mouth, so you know...
Maybe it's not abuse? My boss is just yelling at me, or giving me really nice backrubs. I mean, I don't have a broken bone, so maybe it's not that bad? Maybe I'm just making it up?
Yeah. Yeah. Like, well, you know... it's probably just me. And there'll be all these ways that they will diminish their experience. And sometimes I think that is a safeguard to having to confront it, or be the person that rocks the boat. And, they like, they're never in this place of thinking how it could turn out better for everybody.
It's always, like, the client always is like at this unfortunate place and thinking like they're going to lose their job and like live out of their car.
Right. Or, they have kids and is their child going to starve? Are they going to become homeless... like we go into disaster scenarios of "if I talk about this person's behavior, everything's gonna fall apart," right? And I'm gonna be the problem. No one's gonna believe me. And I also think that, like, if we are thinking like that, we're basically saying that me talking about someone's behavior is more aggressive than someone abusing us, right?
Yeah, yeah. It's just, it's really interesting to see how it comes up. Like when people would finally come to HR to report something. And I say finally, because I can think of a handful of times it was one time and then they came. You know, when people, like, come to me, it's like, we had to create this situation that was so so bad for ourselves, that we finally had to do something.
Like, how about we don't stand for it in the beginning...
The whole time. And we trust our own instincts, which is like easier said than done, right?
I mean, cuz I think we all also have worked with people who just complain about everything, right? There's like, so we're... but then we use that as evidence against ourselves, that if we talk about any problems--which only makes abuse worse and only leads to a situation... I mean, I think when people come to us, like I'm thinking about we had a couple people come to us recently who have invisible disabilities and so their bosses were saying, like, "well, you don't look sick." Like, "why do you need all this time off? Why do you go to see the doctor, you don't look sick." And kind of minimizing and diminishing the impacts of their disabilities.
And, I think the people who came to us recently, I think they both said, "well, I don't know... if we work with you, like will it cause a bunch of problems and will it like, will I be the bad guy? They already don't like me, they already don't believe me." Like, what's going to happen? Is this just gonna make it, everything I've done so far has made it worse. And is this going to be one of those things that's gonna make it worse? And what we've seen with them, these are just two really, like, they came to us almost at the same time totally separately... and these are just two cases that stand out in my mind of people who, like, really were able to get back into their work and honor themselves, and really are in different situations now, as far as I'm concerned.
Yeah, like 1,000%. And I think for both of them, it was: you're not standing up to the other person. You're standing up for yourself.
And just honoring yourself. I mean, sometimes I don't even think it's standing up, right?
Right? Because we just have the inherent power to say yes or no, yes to what you'll tolerate. But, we're just never taught how to do that, right?
No, we're not. And there's this thing like... and there's this thing, there is like a danger in work that if you don't go with the flow all the time, you are gonna lose all your security.
Right, right. Everybody's gonna hate you.
Everybody's gonna hate you.
You're bad employee. Never gonna get another job. It's going in your permanent record.
Yeah, yeah. I know. And it's just like, I remember, it was like, something I thought too.
Yeah, me too! Not to laugh at anybody who thinks this because I'm talking about myself. Yeah.
Well, and I remember that. And I had, "oh, I hope I don't get any, whatever pushback." But the military was always like, you don't want a dishonorable discharge, because it follows you around for the rest of your life and you'll never get a job at McDonald's.
Okay, here's the thing: you don't have to tell anybody you were in the military, then they won't know. Ever, ever. And it's just like, you can literally go somewhere else. And nobody's ever going to know that you rocked the boat somewhere.
But the other thing that we see though, is people, when they are speaking their truth, when they're honoring themselves are not rocking the boat. The boat is the abuser, that's rocking the boat. And if you call out and identify behavior, I just think it's a lie to say that's rocking the boat at all. The thing I see make the biggest difference for people who do work with us versus people who decide to go out on their own or to, like move from job to job to job is that they see the impact it makes on other people in the workplace too. They're not just thinking about themselves. They see the next person who's gonna have the invisible disability. The next person who's gonna wear a cute dress one day to work and to, like, get assaulted.
Because none of us are talking about this.
And, and sometimes that person is right there, right? Like...
Yeah! In our workplace.
Yeah, sometimes it's like the next person that might come after you. But it's like literally a person in the next cubicle, where the person is having the same experience as you, right? Like, abusers don't just usually, let's say that, pick one person to like go after and nobody's ever been like, nobody's like, surprised that somebody was doing that behavior. It's what happens a lot, right, is like a flood of people come in after someone has spoken up and been like, "yup..."
But a lot of people are surprised though, because a lot of abusers aren't 100% abusers. They're also like a really good dad, or an amazing woman who rose to the top of the company who's inspiring. Like a lot of abusers... and maybe all... abusers have both sides to them.
And so, a lot of us are afraid to rock the boat because we're like, "oh, but he contributes so much to charity, or he does this really good political organizing, or they like have been so brave to come out about their sexual identity. I don't want to challenge that," like people have both sides.
And it doesn't mean if somebody has a good side. If somebody is a good dad, it doesn't mean they can't also be an abuser at work, unfortunately. I think.
I have a couple, we had somebody reach out recently about one of the cases that we filed and the person was like, "oh, like, this person you filed a case against does all this good charity work." And this was true for me too. Like, the person who was giving me back rubs, otherwise does amazing stuff, right?
He was not targeting me because he thought I'm going to torture her today, right? He just thought he was entitled to touch me every day.
And so when you can call out that behavior, it doesn't mean that you're saying somebody is like, the devil.
Necessarily, or it could be. You could feel that way.
But I think, I think even if other people get push back and say this person is a really, does really good charity work, or is a really good parent, there will be other people who also say "and I experienced abuse from this person, too."
Yeah. And, it's like, you don't want to... it's not that you're like taking away from the good part of the person.
It's that you're, you are highlighting, I guess, it's like you're highlighting maybe an area they really are not aware of that they're doing. Like, I don't, I don't personally believe a lot of abuse is conscious, like, "oh, I'm going to go in and creep Meredith out today. Right?
I've seen, I have seen people were like, I've sat them down in investigations and said, "well, do you realize that when you do this, that is perceived as this?" And, they're totally shocked. They're like, "I had no idea!" And, they don't want to be that person either.
Right? And this was what happened with me, ultimately. When the person who was giving me backrubs stopped, is he said, "I don't want to creep you out. I'm sorry."
But, like, it took a while for me to get to the place where he would say that, right?
But I think we see this a lot of times if we give up on ourselves, if we don't trust our instincts early on...
We kind of take the side of the abuser and say that talking about abuse is worse than abusing.
So we just wanted to send this message. I think what people, if anybody has this struggle of like, I don't want to make waves. I don't know if it's bad enough yet, is one of the ones that you brought up. I, like, maybe if I ignore it, it'll go away. That if you're having any, seeing any of that stuff come up, that is the time to check out Cultural Health Impact training, because I think the only way that I see that go is that things get worse.
Like, if you're thinking it's not bad enough yet, you don't need to make it bad enough before you turn it around, right?
So, people can check out Cultural Health Impact training at erisresolution.com/training.
If anybody that is listening to this, if you know somebody who's in a work environment like this who's thinking it's not bad enough yet, send them to that page to check it out, have them give us a call, or reach out any way that's comfortable. So thank you, Rebecca.