Artist Column

Stand Up For Yourself

Stand up and advocate for yourself, when change is what is needed to replace a problem that you are faced with, which encloses you. Stand up for yourself, when you are experiencing workplace violence and bullying by bosses, supervisors and coworkers who come to work with personal frustration. And that is what it all boils down to: taking their frustrations out on you.

Welcome to the whirlwind of standing up for yourself. Today, I invite you to participate in an understanding of the difference between work place conflict and the need for RESCUE. So sit comfortably and visualize the flickering candle lights throughout this journey of substituting the pain, sorrow, debilitation, disintegration, intimidation, discrimination, harassment, intolerance, ignorance and back alley tactics that bullying forces upon you for survival through hard times and engage in how to stand up for what’s right.

Once upon a time, I was in a dark space during my first year of employment and was substituted for someone who could be pushed around. I was bullied and forced into humiliation, all in one nut shell. It was my first time ever being employed as a peer counselor at a mental health facility and I was a choice candidate due to being an ex patient of the mental health care system. I presume that my employer’s greatest failure was in her lack of attention to my personal background check: my likes, distastes, what strengthened me and pulled me out of dysfunction but also my triggers.

My first job, was a nightmare, I was misidentified and down the line my integrity was slowly sacrificed by others’ infiltration to persuade my independent thinking, which customized me. I was being harassed into changing my way of thinking into my employer’s belief of me. Unfortunately, throughout the hiring process, my employer missed my ambition for leadership. As an employee, I experienced agony, setbacks and disappointments eventually leading to a functional anxiety syndrome.

On a daily basis, I was targeted by coworkers and supervisors. I was blamed for things I did not do, accused of being dismissive and told I was deficient in my work performance; but never fired. My attendance at work became a strain for me daily. I came to a point where I chose not to go to work when my intolerance reached its peak. And we all know the consequences of missing days of work. I was called into my boss’s office repeatedly, but I did not stop at her request. I started my own quest to conquer being my own authority. Below I have painted you a mental picture of the bullying that I encountered at work.

Many facets of life have had a positive impact on me. It is unfortunate how the circumstances of employment bullying and workplace harassment can become everlasting, if they are not STOPPED. As a peer counselor, it became a routine to role play and be treated less than those who sold their soul to my former boss, when there was no reason for it. Years before I had accepted this position, I realized that I was going to make it out of poverty. This job was only one of the many paying opportunities to provide peer counseling services to mental health patients and fulfill a dream of my younger years and that is exactly what I did!

On various occasions, I was called into my former boss’s office for unscheduled supervision meetings. On one day in particular, my former boss called me into her office after a male coworker complained that I was being dismissive to him. At that point, I found myself lost and did not know what was happening. I’m still astonished at the fact that there were actually two supervision meetings held on this day. Regarding the subject matter of my former coworker, who stated that I put my hand in his face and was dismissive? To my dismay, other peer counselor supervisors also reported that they were told I was being dismissive and belligerent to this particular coworker. Upon my silence and her attempts at unlawful scrutiny, my former boss told the complainant that he did not need to be present for the remainder of the meeting. Without thinking logically, following my coworker’s departure from the meeting, my former boss stated she should not have said all that was mentioned in front of the complainant. I then asked for the names of those who complained about me and requested for the cameras to be checked, before further discussion. I was not surprised when no names were provided, but tears began to replace the rage that engulfed me, when my former boss stated that the cameras were only to observe if employees were signing in and leaving early. I had been reprimanded for something I did not do.

During the second supervision meeting of the day; my former boss discredited my work ability and added that it may be because I never worked before being employed by her, ha, ha, ha. She also premeditated that she could not give me a good evaluation due to the matter at hand. Oh my GOD, did I cry, and it naturally was not about her personal attack against me. It was my reaction to her not knowing enough about me and my temper, which had been dormant and unnecessary for the new woman that I had become. However strangely, I had been falsely accused, without proof upon request. Consequently, I sat in her office beside the wall, to the right of her feeling trapped, angered and confused about whether or not this ordeal would force me to retreat back to my normal unhealthy ways of behaving such as being argumentative, violent and destructive with her office stationery. Seemingly so, GOD, shed his light on me and allowed me to drift. I tuned into secrecy and started to concoct my own plan of sweet revenge, to square away the nightmare that I was drawn into on this day. It was now me against them. (I eventually contacted a governmental official to request an assignment, which allowed me to study the mental health system, utilizing the protocol of discrimination that was being tried against me.) As a result, I continued to look away from her and she kept telling me to look at her stating “what did I just tell you.” She spoke in an abusive and cruel tone, about my work ethics. She then gave mention to her bosses’ similar treatment towards her and the fact of her being a director. Simultaneously, she had the audacity to tell me that the manner of her discipline was to make me the best supervisor or case manager and I politely told her that I did not want the position. I suppose that I shocked her, because the next words that came out of her mouth were that she and I were not friends. Throughout this meeting one of her main puppets was present (who was also my supervisor) and was told “I taught you well.”

The very next day, my former boss approached me and stated “another thing, people are complaining about your lipstick.” I was told that an administrative and a patient put in a complaint about my lipstick. She then added that if she felt that I was dressing provocative, it was her job to let me know. So I stopped wearing lipstick completely and several months later, I started wearing a gorgeous pink lip gloss with a beautiful smile of dignity.    

As a peer counselor, I served my purpose and gave back to society the ambition that my city taught me to have, as a youth, and have a clear conscience. I made a break through, with patient care in the mental health system providing mental health services and advocacy for 1 year and 5 months, which included a 5 month extension period exceeding the completion of my probation. I then put in a request to go on medical leave, after I received a negative evaluation and it became obvious that it was time for me to move on. I considered the progress that many of the psych patients that I worked with made and my life experience. I then fundamentally found my way to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). I filed a complaint and submitted twenty three pages of things that were done and said to me at work. I was interviewed by an investigator after all of my documents were evaluated and I was authorized a letter to pursue a federal lawsuit. You can do the same, should you suspect that your rights are being violated at the workplace. Discrimination is against the law so “Stand Up For Yourself.” We have a choice to not be silent!     

Shaneis Garcia