On bullies and abusers and getting paid for it

“I’m in an abusive relationship, so cheers to that”

Our weekly girl’s night turned sour very quickly when my friend uttered these words. I froze, my wine glass suspended halfway between the clink of our glasses in the busy restaurant and a sip.

I never, in a million years expected her husband to be that kind of guy. And I mean I should know. I have had my share of bad relationships. In fact, I think I’ve dated them all. Narcissist, Psychopath, sociopath – been there, got the t-shirt (and burned it). Abuse is something that makes my blood boil in seconds and I pride myself in the fact that I am FINALLY able to spot one of these bastards as soon as they cross my path. I was shocked and disgusted and surprised at her statement. Really, T would do this? Never!!!

My expression, as always, must have been a dead giveaway of the emotion washing over and through me. She quickly swallowed her wine and started laughing. “What are you talking about and why are you laughing?? It’s not something to laugh about!” I practically shouted at her

It’s my boss, she said. He makes me feel like a prostitute for abuse. If T had to abuse me, I’d walk away in the blink of an eye. When it’s your boss, it’s a different story. You need that paycheck at the end of the month, so you suck it up. You become a prostitute for his abuse. You know you should walk away from the situation, but every day you go back for more because you need it. It becomes a co-dependent / narcissist relationship. What makes it worse is when your boss knows that there is no one higher than him in the workplace and you need the job and work is scarce, so you’re just going to suck it up and take it day after day after day. That fuels his narcissistic power trip even more and he revels in the fact that he can do and say whatever he wants and you are just going to have to take whatever he throws your way. He doesn’t actually hit me, but everything else…. it’s an abusive relationship. He’s like the bully on the school ground who knows that you can’t stand up to him so he keeps picking on you every day.

I’m so incredibly tired of driving to work every day, not knowing what to expect. Will I get a coffee and muffin from Starbucks or will I get shouted at the minute I enter the office. Worse, or maybe not, I don’t know, are the days when I get the silent treatment and he just sits there, stewing, minding his own business, staring at me as I go about mine. I dread those days. I will literally do anything to avoid going to his office to ask him something. On those days you can feel the tension building with every second he doesn’t speak and when he finally does, it’s like opening a lucky packet, because you have no idea what you’re about to get. I hate it. I don’t have a contract, I don’t have a union, I don’t even have an HR department! It’s just him and it makes me so miserable. I go home at night and all I can think about is sitting down with a glass of wine to relax. And then poor T gets it from my side because I’ll either want to sit in a corner and cry or want to invite a whole bunch of people over for an impromptu braai or I’ll throw a tantrum because there are ants in the dogs’ food bowls! I really can’t do this anymore

I felt so sorry for her. She sat there looking utterly defeated and I can swear her lower lip quivered a little as her eyes glossed over with tears that threatened to spill over and into her wine. What do you do?

When you have no union rep, no HR, no higher power, who do you go to? The Department of Labour has much bigger fish to fry. The CCMA wouldn’t be interested unless you got fired. So what do you do? You become a prostitute for your paycheck. In fact, your bully pays you to come back to the schoolyard every day to take his abuse, and you comply because you simply have no other choice. It sucks

So from today, I am on a mission to find my friend a new job.

Have you ever been in this situation? How did you get out, other than finding a new job? Is it possible to “manage” a boss like this? I’d love to hear from you!