When your boss is wanting to destroy you.

Dear Bloggers,

Imagine the scenario - a woman goes into work one day and her manager acts in an abusive and malicious way towards her. This is so shocking that she spends the next three years suffering from the consequences of that incident. She cannot sleep at night, she has frequent flashbacks and nightmares, she turns into a different person. The way she has been treated by her colleagues at work creates an ongoing condition that requires serious psychiatric support. If she would not have done anything but she knocked on every door that she could find to ask for help but no one reached out to stop this mentally disturbed manager who did everything in his power to destroy her mentally.
Is it right to talk about this as a complex post traumatic stress disorder (Severe PTSD)?

I compare to a dog. This dog was good and it was loyal and if something might be wrong it would bark for a while to be heard. If it looks like a dog, if it barks like a dog, and if overall it behaves like a dog, then it is most likely to be a dog. In the case of PTSD caused by bullying and abuse at work, this is a particularly black dog that has been beaten with a stick until it either shut up or it would attack and could be put down.

But most of our images of Severe PTSD come from much more 'obvious' and dramatic causes of such shock. When we think of PTSD we are most likely to think of the soldiers in Afghanistan who have suffered from exploding devices or have been subject to combat and personal loss.
In the cases of PTSD at work, then the obvious examples are of fire-fighters, on-patrol police officers, and other emergency workers who have had near death shocks in extreme circumstances. Each of these clearly are people who may be suffering from PTSD.

So is it fair to use a diagnosis of PTSD for someone whose mental health has been severely affected by bullying at work, rather than some more easily identifiable event or incident? On the other hand, let's give some thought to how a person who has been subject to workplace bullying may feel about themselves.

If we are all used to thinking of PTSD only in terms of combat veterans and violent and near death experiences, then a PTSD sufferer is also very likely to feel that their own suffering and experience is 'trivial' in comparison to the more obvious triggers of PTSD. Unfortunately, someone with PTSD is already likely to have feelings of self-worthlessness and somehow a diagnosis of their condition as PTSD may only serve to make them feel worse.
The starting point for this is to recognise the problem.

Thankfully, the issue of bullying, abuse and harassment at work has become firmly acknowledged in many respects in recent years. (Although it is shocking that it was only in 1988 that it was given the term 'workplace bullying'). The psychological harm this can cause to someone at work is recognised, but it is still rare that such harm is understood in terms of PTSD.

It is becoming recognised that PTSD can be caused by abuse in non-extreme contexts. For example, the case of my dear wife she has been mocked by her former manager that she was smelling. So after a few weeks she went to the doctors office, who could not find anything and send her to a dermatologist and there was nothing to be found. Strange thing was that i did not smell anything either and I sleep next to her every night I kept telling her it looks to me like bullying.
'Traumatic experiences or strains imposed on us by others can often hurt more than accidents.'
Indeed, the manager was replaced inside the company and my wife entered a new team in the mean time she went to a psychological centre and got treatment from great psychologist. Her new manager got the bills for it as they wanted to keep it out of sight of their headquarters and placed the bills under education bills. After being halfway the sessions she needed her manger told her that it should be enough and they would not pay for it anymore (he probably ran out of budget) My wife disagreed and called our health insurance and they picked up the bills. 

After a while the manager got the reports of the psychological centre as well. So he was informed about the case totally and started a even harder campaign on my wife to get rid of her with no extra costs. In November 2013 something snapped in her brain and she was not able to do her job anymore as a call centre agent. They gave her different job tasks in the mail room, but the bullying continued. In February 2014 I called her boss that she was too sick to come to work. He straight away told me that she should agree to sign off. I informed the Union and they told me not to panic as in the Netherlands you can be sick for 2 years and the employer must do everything to make you reintegrate into work. Either in or outsourcing.

Well you probably can guess what happened they did not see it as their problem and they believed of course their own manager.

A psychiatrist put this to me very well: It is already recognised that PTSD can be caused by experiences that are outside of the extreme shock of a life-threatening situation (such as combat or an accident). That is, there are many people suffering from PTSD due to various forms of personal abuse particularly domestic and/or sexual abuse. Such PTSD may have been caused by a single incident of abuse, or a series of events stretching over a period of time, even many years.

And so if domestic abuse or school bullying can cause a person to suffer from PTSD, it should come as no surprise then that PTSD can also be caused by abuse in the workplace. We might like to think that the workplace is a safe enough place where people behave with respect and do care, as perhaps we used to assume was the case in the home and at school. Many employers would like us to think this. But this is simply not the case. People can be nasty at work to their colleagues, just as they can be at home with their families.
For many people, the workplace is a site of bullying and abuse by their own workmates and managers, and is not a safe place at all.
If we give this some thought, most of us can probably pinpoint one or more examples of such bullying we have seen in our own careers - either done to us or others. It might not always cause PTSD, but the consequences are always nasty. 
The employment tribunal system has slowly begun to pick this up and use what powers it is given to redress some of the wrongs caused by employers against their workers. The most high profile of I know is the case of my wife who was subject to a nasty campaign against her by her managers and senior colleagues over a number of years. She suffered from this to such an extent that she was diagnosed with severe PTSD, and until now she is covered by the law that she can be on sick pay but this will stop in the month of April 2016. If it is up to me, she should receive compensation of €285,000 in order of lost wages, money that she could make until she could go on pension benefits in the year 2037 just towards this personal psychiatric injury, as part of a larger award amounting in total to €500,000. as all our family members suffered from the direct effects of the PTSD.

Our claim is that she is suffering from a post traumatic stress disorder and depression after being ridiculed by co-workers and managers in the call centre department of big telecom provider. My wife had had to endure a 'hostile and degrading' environment in a company which had 'lacked empathy'. It had left her in a state where she was unable to do the simplest of household chores.
In some respects, when it comes to a law suit the process will be hard and emotional and let us hope we are fortunate (if we can use this term). The system should be able to help us at this stage. It is a kind of abusive discrimination. If there had not been that element to the abusive behaviour of their managers and colleagues, it would be much harder for us to be compensated for the PTSD that her workplace has caused.

But I think most would agree that although bullying is harmful and nasty, there are many other forms of bullying and abuse that do not involve any particular forms of putting some on down and a make you feel undetermined.
It is estimated that at least one in ten people in the workplace suffer from bullying, but not all of them develop PTSD. If we can take the figures for this we should do more as employers as they are in some way indicative of the problem, then perhaps one third of these people may have some form of PTSD. This calculates as 3.3% of the working population suffering from PTSD caused by workplace bullying. With a workforce of around 7 million, that means nearly 231000 people in the Netherlands are perhaps experiencing PTSD caused by workplace bullying and abuse. That is a lot of people, and a lot of time lost from work by the people suffering the terrible consequences of PTSD (and of course it also time lost from their normal lives). It is a complete waste for everyone, apart from those who do the bullying.

It is simply the case that many people suffer the terrible experiences of PTSD due to bullying and abuse in the workplace (as can also happen or at school or at home). Although this has been happening for years, and is likely to continuing happening in future, there needs to be much more recognition of this problem and the harm it causes.

Such recognition of workplace PTSD needs to be acknowledged particularly for the sake of those with the PTSD, and also for those around them, their families, their friends, and also their employers. It is no one's interest for someone to suffer from PTSD without recognition and support.

Bastards are all over the world, maybe we should hang them.

The Old Sailor,


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