Whereas the last section A Christiaan Experience with Gaslighting spoke about what Gaslighting was and how I realized that I had been gaslit, this section is going to deal with my experience in corporate gaslighting.
One of the reasons it’s been so long between posts is because as I mentioned in my A Christiaan Experience with Gaslighting (Intermission) I am not trying to call people out – hence why I’ll use the military phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Sierra, etc) for the names of people.
But there’s a balance to be had. Because, just like any tale, we can’t appreciate the victory if we don’t know the struggle, and there’s a LOT of nuance when it comes to Gaslighting. So, I think I’m just going to summarize things and if it doesn’t appear to be Gaslighting, know that it was…
I met Sierra in seminary. He worked in the office of a manufacturing plant and mentioned that if I was interested, he’d vouch for me to get a warehouse job over the summer that could help pay for my last semester of seminary. He vouched that I was a hard worker, could pass a drug test, and would show up for work when scheduled.
I was good at my job. I revolutionized the way my job was approached.
I spoke with people outside of my department.
I learned processes of all the departments I interacted with.
I learned why/how they did things, and how they could be improved.
I used this knowledge to achieve things previously unachievable.
I was given two interns to train and eventually take over my job as I moved into a more advanced position in the back office of the warehouse. When the summer of 2015 ended, I maintained contact with my co-workers and Sierra. Sierra notified me of a desk job in the front office. I applied, interviewed, and was offered the job in a field and doing a job I had no previous experience with.
There were learning curves.
But Genesis 39:3 was applicable to me.
EVERYTHING I put my hands to prospered.
Throughout the time I worked there, I was applauded for my professionalism, attention to detail, ability to meet deadlines, communicate, be a team player who was willing to learn new things, and perhaps most importantly, that once I was trained on a task, I could be trusted to self-manage without the need for supervision.
I had a “there’s a box?” approach to solutions, which was nothing like anyone else who had worked in my positions. I was constantly searching for ways to improve. Sierra and I became better friends, we would meet for lunch regularly, and he helped me navigate some of the murkier waters at our company, helping me to understand what processes were in place, why they were there, and whether or not they could be changed.
“There’s a box?” meaning I didn’t just think outside the box…
I questioned the boxes’ own existence.
I continued to excel and eventually moved departments. By the end of my time there I had gone from seasonal to full time, was finding rolls in a warehouse to financially handling millions of dollars of materials, I had gotten a 30% raise across two years and six of my “There’s a box?” initiatives I enacted in my first year in purchasing had real world savings of $159,301.24 (prior to my leaving) with projected and unrealized savings much higher. I regularly worked with VP’s and C level executives
EVERYTHING I put my hands to prospered.
Then it happened.
The Director of HR, Alpha, asked me to do something unethical, in violation of company policy, and without managerial approval was an action that could lead to immediate termination.
I went to Sierra, who had become my manager, for advice if not managerial approval, and he told me that I should do whatever Alpha wanted, because I didn’t want to get on her bad side but he wasn’t going to approve it.
I told Alpha I didn’t feel comfortable, but I’d be happy to if she signed the managerial exemption.
I ended up ordering the items ethically and according to policy.
But something had changed in Sierra.
He began assigning me superfluous tasks that were diametrically opposed to my regular work and impossible (by his own admission) to complete within the time frame assigned. He began to hold me responsible and disciplining me for ordering materials based off internal documents that had been falsified by other departments. I was banned from doing aspects and essential parts of my job.
Within a month of refusing to violate both mine and the company’s ethics, I was written up three times (for alleged incidents happening as far back as four months prior) and placed on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) that was rewritten no less than three times becoming more and more vague to sidestep evidence disproving the false claims.
Every time Alpha rewrote the PIP, Sierra signed off on it attesting it to be true.
Sierra summoned me into his office to give me some advice as a “friend”. He advised me not to continue fighting the accusations in the PIP. He informed me that regardless of whatever evidence I produced, they were true, and I needed to stop trying to justify my behavior and realize that I was the problem.
I was the problem?
Amongst the accusations in the PIP was that I was unable to complete basic tasks without constant supervision. I didn’t communicate, wasn’t professional, couldn’t follow instructions, was insubordinate, and was unwilling to do or try new things resulting in failure to do the minimum requirements of my job.
I was told that they were following procedures according to the handbook, that meetings had been had and verbal warnings had been given when they hadn’t. I was told that they were only doing these things to help me grow in my carrier and that if I put in a portion of the effort into my job that I had spent on defending myself and my inexcusable actions we wouldn’t be in this situation.
The problem is that none of it was true.
Quite the opposite in fact.
But those are the reasons that led to my eventual termination. The very next business day I received separate calls from VP’s telling me that they completely disagreed and would be happy to give me recommendations. The Georgia Department of Labor investigated the claims, found them to be false, and granted me unemployment benefits.
I think it’s important to mention that ultimately our enemy is the Satan. I don’t believe Alpha nor Sierra knew fully the long-term effects of their actions. What happened was unjust, wrong, and evil and BOTH of them contributed and played a part to it. I’ve come to the following conclusions about the rationale of both Alpha and Sierra, I haven’t spoke with either of them about it.
For Alpha, she is a political player who has built a kingdom and must defend it, she doesn’t have much else going on in her life. Upon my refusal to violate the company’s ethics, I became a liability that had to be removed. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I was terminated a few hours after contacting our legal department to find out my rights as an employee and the process for filing a complaint against her.
For Sierra, while I had never associated it previously, I feel that his actions were explained by Paul in his letter to the Corinthians.
“I want you to be free from the concerns of this life. An unmarried man can spend his time doing the Lord’s work and thinking how to please him. But a married man has to think about his earthly responsibilities and how to please his wife.”1st Corinthians 7:32-33 (NLT)
Sierra is married with a number of children and had made enemies at work through his abrasiveness. Alpha held his family’s security and lively hood in her hands, and she knew it. I suffered for my decision to do both the morally right and ethical decision, but my actions affected mainly myself. While I obviously disagree Sierra’s choice, he was given a very difficult decision: Courageously stand for the truth and risk placing his family in a dangerous situation financially or protect his family’s financial security at the cost of his Christian witness and by violating his moral character.
With regards to Sierra, I am choosing to believe this.
I would have nothing to do with him if I found out he actually believed the lies.
He may read this, and that’s ok. I’ve forgiven him.
It’s not about him.
But what can be learned from my experience?
First: I wasn’t attacked in the areas where I was weak. I was attacked in the areas where I am the strongest. If you remember, I was celebrated for my ability to self-manage, to take on new tasks, and my professionalism. But these were some of the very things I was terminated for not doing.
Think back in our life.
Have you ever heard a sermon about the Devil attacking you in your strongest areas?
I’ve been attending church all my life, and I can’t think of one time where it happened.
Secondly: I learned that continuous negative reinforcement to actions, erodes your self-conscious defenses without you realizing it.
EVERYTHING I put my hands to succeeded… outside of God’s blessing me, it happened because I had a different approach to things. I went outside of the box. When I found out that our Velcro was purchased from Canada and had high shipping and lead times. I made a few calls and found a company in Georgia that was almost half the price with a lead time of less than a week.
After the incident with Alpha, there was a continuous push to get me to sacrifice my uniqueness to better fit in and be like everyone else – something I’m not good at.
‘This wouldn’t have been an issue if you had been like Z’
‘Don’t do Y.’
‘If you want to succeed you need to be like X’
Blame my parents.
No seriously. It’s their fault.
They taught me to be myself and not care what others thought.
I even addressed it with Sierra, that I felt like I was being targeted because I was different.
He never responded.
But what if I had played the game?
What if I had been more like X?
What if I stopped doing Y?
Would I have succeeded and had less problems?
Would I be in this situation if I had been like Z?
This is something I didn’t realize that had affected me so much. And I think that’s because I knew as an objective fact that I need to be myself and embrace that, because that’s where I succeed the most. Co-workers I trust and who knew me the best affirmed that – the leadership that I cared about did.
That’s the insidiousness of the targeted attacks that I withstood.
My brain knew it to be false, but that didn’t stop it from affecting me.
But even knowing that your story is an objective fact doesn’t help protect your sub-consciousness from being affected when your financial situation gets worse, and you hear that your name is being trashed and you’re being blamed for all the woes. When jobs don’t call you back, you can’t help but wonder if it’s because you’re too different. When you see those who did evil prosper, it really sets up some sub-conscious dissonance that waits to be triggered – I’ll discuss that more in part three because it really came to fruition there – even when all those who mattered supported me.
I don’t have any words of wisdom with how to overcome it.
Everything I can think of I knew or had.
Supportive friends, family, and knowledge of truth that I unquestioningly believed.
Finally: Sierra, my friend, betrayed me. He abused my trust of him. He not only attempted to persuade me of things that were blatantly untrue, but he also tried to convince me that I deserved what was happening. He prospered while I got behind in my bills.
I supported him unwaveringly.
I refused to speak ill of him when he deserved it.
I helped others understand him.
I did those things because they were the right things to do.
Sierra is a Christian. He’s one of those Christians that likes to call out other Christians for being in positions of authority and abusing it.
His hypocrisy gives me the opportunity to not be hypocritical.
When I speak truth to him and…
… tell him that we need to give grace to people who fall because we’re all flawed…
… tell him that we need to love and pray for those who do evil and call it good…
… tell him that a moral failure doesn’t disqualify someone from being used of God…
I am held accountable.
Not just because I said them.
But because they’re truth.
All truth is rooted in Christ.
Now, he’s not Judas.
And I’m definitely not Jesus.
But Judas was at the last supper.
He was part of the first communion.
How could Judas just chill with Jesus, knowing that he was going to turn Jesus in later that night?
How could Judas act like nothing was going to happen?
How could Judas…
How could Jesus just chill with Judas, knowing that Judas was going to turn him in later that night?
How could Jesus act like nothing was going to happen?
How could Jesus…
How could they?
I don’t know.
But I do know two things to be objectively true.
I believe Paul when he wrote in his letter to the Romans that all things work together that all things work together for the good of those who love Jesus. And I believe Jesus when he said in Revelation, “Behold, I make all things new!”
For now, we wait.
We wait for all things to work together for good as Jesus makes them new.