We are grateful to our friend “Tobey” for sharing her story about the workplace abuse she experienced. Many of us know what it feels like to be gaslit by a friend or lover, but how many of us have experienced gaslighting or covert abusive behaviors in the workplace?
In Tobey’s story, you will see:
- Unjust treatment by a CEO intent on ruining her professional reputation.
- The dynamics of a workplace poisoned by complicit employees.
- The anguish of experiencing betrayal not just from colleagues, but from a spouse.
- How the power of healthy boundary-setting and accountability can lead to personal growth and transformation.
Let’s get started.
Workplace Betrayal and a Husband’s Unwitting Harm
Sometimes it’s the organizations and the professionals you interact with who are the narcissists. My sanity last year hinged on whether I had support from the people in my life. Double Abuse eventually damaged my health.
Excitement Quickly Turned Into Confusion
In the Fall of 2022, I started a new job as a grant writer for a nonprofit. It looked promising, and I was able to negotiate my salary upward.
But something felt terribly wrong from the very first day. I couldn’t put my finger on it. From the moment I walked in, I felt isolated, despite the warm reception I received during the hiring process.
It was confusing. Was I missing something?
Others Immediately Questioned My Instincts
People who knew me portrayed my difficulties in the first couple of weeks as a matter of temperament, ignoring cues from the organization.
Perhaps I was having trouble dealing with office slights?
Perhaps I wasn’t used to organizational behavior after many years in more unstructured environments.
After all, I just got there, and an organization wouldn’t waste time undermining its own hire on the first day, would it?
But the organization did.
The CEO Sabatoged Me
I later learned that the CEO had found an essay I wrote previously (unrelated to this job) and she didn’t like it.
Instead of rescinding my offer, she secretly asked her employees to push me out.
So they did.
On the first day, my supervisor didn’t provide instructions. She simply put an old grant proposal on my desk without any direction. Then, she left me with almost no work to do for two weeks, while my coworker, who came in at the same time as me, was kept busy.
The carpool that my supervisor introduced me to during the first two weeks was awful. The driver pulled over twenty minutes from my home, shooed me out of the car, and left me on the side of the road to find the rest of my way home.
When my supervisor went on vacation, she also withheld information from me about another grant proposal. She gave me old grants to work from, but they provided little material related to the current project. Then, she blamed me for burdening one of the program directors when I approached her for the information I needed for the proposal.
Blame at this organization was never followed by a call into the office. There were never conversations addressing mistakes and improvement. There was only insinuation.
The Hostility Against Me Ramped Up After My First Win
Within a month and a half of taking on the role, I won a major grant. The CEO congratulated those who helped a little bit then thanked me as an afterthought.
Everyone else with a major win received direct congratulations from the head office.
From that point on, the hostility ramped up. I was given a seat at a luncheon at the far end of the room away from everyone else on our team.
A couple of people started to bang loudly on my door when they greeted me in the morning.
Later, one of the people I worked closely with told a racist joke targeting my ethnicity at a staff meeting, and no one came to my defense. When I tried to lodge a formal complaint, the head of my department refused to accept it.
I Tried To Get Help But Had to Resign Instead
My husband and friends said I should stick around in order to make the job hunt easier. Others were speechless.
I called employment lawyers about the harassment. They didn’t believe me and told me I was being overly sensitive.
I tried to hold on just a little longer but finally decided to resign after my work was removed from a grant proposal behind my back.
When I called the office about the lack of communication, the lead on the project berated me, interspersed with lectures on the editorial process despite my thirty years’ experience in the writing business.
The same coworker warned me not to publish reviews of the organization.
Double Abuse Slowed My Recovery
I managed to weather the aftermath of the job and was on the road to recovery, but Double Abuse, the invalidation of my experiences by the people in my life, put me over the edge.
Most damaging was the narcissistic therapist I hired. He was supposed to explore my reactions to work and help me recover. I later realized that he was working against me as he minimized my concerns about the kind of interactions I was experiencing. Even when I started to hallucinate, he blamed my former employer for my state.
When my husband and I raised these issues, he became defensive and couldn’t apologize. He eventually launched a direct attack where he blamed me for insurance matters related to coverage that I had no control over.
Even My Husband Added To My Pain
Just as upsetting was much of my husband’s behavior.
He was lurking on the phone line during my coworker’s final screed and somehow chose to believe the apology I received a few minutes later. He had his own history of narcissistic encounters from childhood. That shared understanding helped build our relationship, but it also taught him to manage difficult behavior by becoming emotionally absent and sometimes prioritizing other people over me.
Even more painful, when the job was at its worst, he would target me as something to get rid of since he couldn’t deal with the pain. I felt increasingly in danger from his inability to confront the problems that were staring us in the face, even after I resigned.
By Setting Clear Expectations, My Husband Became My Champion
I eventually walked out. Over the course of the week and a half elsewhere, things became worse as chance encounters with relatives and strangers worked against my interests.
By the time I returned home, I had fallen into psychosis, no surprise after months of direct and accidental psychological manipulation that people treated as a figment of my imagination. Nevertheless, there was strength at the bottom.
As I was recovering, I demanded my husband work out his relationship with his family and start being my champion and defender.
As I was buying three different security apps for my phone, I demanded a united front from him in all public forums.
Even as I was still unwinding conspiracy theories, I started to explain the damage of his emotional distance in the relationship.
The beautiful thing is that my husband has turned into my champion. He has helped me recover and reintegrate into the world around me.
We can overcome the damage of old and new narcissists and put them where they belong: in a little box far away from where we live.