Workplace bullying and PTSD are not a good combination

I started a new job four months ago, and right away I knew something was “off” in the office. It literally took me one day to realize it, when I went to a lunchtime birthday party for someone in the office — again, my first day — and no one, literally no one, talked to me. No one introduced me or welcomed me. Nothing.

I thought, at first, that maybe I was misreading cues.

Well, I wasn’t misreading anything.

I’m working in an office dominated by a “clique,” and the ringleader is one of the two people I report to. Believe it or not, it feels just like high school: a small clique isolates other people, plays pranks on them, humiliates them and so forth. But the “teacher” — in our case, our director — is fooled because around him, they act like angels.

It is really sick. Really, really sick.

As the weeks have gone on, I’ve noticed that I’m not the only one being targeted, so it’s not necessarily personal against me. But in the past two months, particularly, the bullying behavior has escalated to an almost daily occurrence, in one way or another.

While I don’t want to give specific examples here, I will say this: My body was telling me that something was wrong within the first two weeks of my starting this job. I have developed panic attacks, which I’ve never had before, along with insomnia and serious intestinal problems, neither of which I can ever recall having.

On top of that, this clique’s behavior — mind games, setting traps to make me look stupid and literally laughing at me in front of other people — is causing PTSD symptoms to flare up. That feeling of walking through a mine field every day, of wondering how people are going to treat me and never being sure … it’s a recipe for serious problems for me (and for anyone, actually).

Clearly, I need to get out of this situation, and fast.

I’m taking steps to do that, starting with official channels where I work. While I don’t feel stressed about having to make these “exit strategy” decisions, I do feel stressed from being in such an incredibly toxic environment. I didn’t think it was possible, but this is the worst work environment I have ever worked in. Ever. And I’ve been working for almost 40 years; I started working at my father’s company when I was 13 years old.

What’s really sad is that I like the work itself. I’m making a difference, people are noticing my results and my professionalism, and I’m gaining the respect of people I admire.

But all of that will be gone sometime soon, because I will have to leave a job I like and do well because of a bullying clique. I heard that at least two other people were forced out in years past because of this kind of mistreatment.

I’m also planning on seeing my doctor and my trauma therapist again. I need help to cope with this until I have a definite plan to leave.

Isn’t this sad? I finally found a job that I actually LIKE doing, earning a good salary and working with really interesting people — doctors, researchers, Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners — and I have to give it up because of 3 people who have nothing better to do than bully people.

I will not tolerate being abused. Period. Abuse in the workplace? Absolutely no way that I will allow it to happen, no matter what tough decisions I have to make to get away from it.

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