An abusive relationship is an abusive relationship–even if it is coming from your boss. We tend to think of abuse in the context of a domestic relationship, such as boyfriend-girlfriend, wife-husband, partner-partner, etc. However, the truth is, an abusive relationship can be found in the workplace, and it shouldn’t be tolerated.
I am going to tell you a little story about my abusive boss.
In 2015, I was presented with an opportunity to work for someone who had started several multi-million dollar businesses. On paper, he was remarkable. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work beside him and be his “right-hand man,” as he said.
He talked a great game. He built me up by telling me I was the most impressive candidate he had talked to. He was so ready for me to help him grow this business. He loved that I had started my own successful businesses and that I was younger than him. (He was in his 50s, and I was in my 30s.) He viewed that as a chance to train me and have me lead the business. This was going to be huge for my family. This was going to set us up financially for every need we would have and give us a great financial future.
He lived in New York City but would come to Atlanta from time to time to get his business up and running. My first day rolled around and he was in town. I was nervous.
The day was going smoothly until we began discussing ideas for our grand-opening month events, and I suggested a day during which we could cater to the Autistic Community. My very best friend has two wonderful boys on the autism spectrum, and for the last ten years, I’ve tried to reach out to the community as much as I can with any business I am involved with. I was confident when I told him my ideas and thought they would be well-received. As I took a sip from the Starbucks coffee he had just brought me moments before, he responded, but not at all like I thought. He said, “That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Why don’t you get your head out of your ass?”
It felt like someone punched me in the gut. I actually had no words to say. I was humiliated and completely confused. Why would he feel he could talk to me that way? NO ONE had ever spoken to me like that in any business arena. I had to walk into the bathroom to gather my breath.
As I stood there, my gut told me to go out there, tell him off, and leave. But… the other part of me that wanted this dream to turn into a reality for my family said to just brush it off. To shut up and take it. Some false narrative played in my head that this was what it was to be a grown up. To take the garbage and do what you have to do. For the past ten years, I had been the boss at my work, and I never had to take anyone talking to me that way. Of course, I didn’t talk to anyone like that, but again, this was a huge chance for me, and I had to suck it up. Or so I told myself.
I walked out of the bathroom, and he asked to speak to me outside. I obliged. He began with this: “I just wanted to tell you that I am sorry for that little outburst back there. If my girlfriend knew that I spoke to you that way, she would be livid. She would kill me for speaking to a woman like that.”
That was it. No mention of the fact that what he did was not only irrational but completely unacceptable. No true feelings of remorse. Only fear that it would get back to his girlfriend, who was a partner in the business. Again, I was left with no words. The little girl that didn’t take any crap from anyone reared up once again, wanting so desperately to tell him to go to hell, but I silenced her again and reminded her of the end result.
That night I told my husband what had happened, and he was furious. He was going to call my boss up and tell him if he ever spoke to me like that again he would beat the living crap out of him. I assured him it was just stress as this was a huge time in his business life. I told him it would never happen again.
And so my journey as a battered employee began.
For the next four months, I would endure countless times like the scenario mentioned above. My abusive boss would belittle me, cuss me out, and then about an hour later, tell me I was the best. He kept me hanging on to the dream, the vision that we would rule this company together. I began to doubt that I would ever have an opportunity better than this one. I had to take the good with the bad and hang in there.
Little by little, I lost pieces of myself. I began to defend his actions and words and felt myself becoming less compassionate to those around me, just like him.
Finally, the time came for my vacation. I had been planning this trip for almost a year. I was going back to California, where I was from, for a family reunion and to see my grandma who was 93 at that time. When I took this job, I had told my boss about this trip and that it was nonnegotiable. I was going and that would never change. I was going to be gone for two weeks. I worked overtime leading up to the trip so that I wouldn’t have to take more vacation time. I was salaried, but I wanted to be fair and not take advantage of the fact that I was salaried.
I spent two weeks in California, talking about how great this business was, how amazing the company was and how it would revolutionize the way we saw the cycling industry. I had a magical time with my family. I was ready to return home and get back to work.
On my first day back at work, my boss called me from New York and started in with the abuse. It was innocent at first, with the whole “I can’t believe you were gone for so long, we really missed you,” and then it got more and more intrusive. He finally said to me, “How many days did you spend with your grandma out there?” What?! You are asking me about my personal time? How many days did I see my grandma? “Four,” I answered.
He exploded! “Four? You saw your grandma four days and yet you were gone for two weeks! You could have only been gone for a week! I can’t believe you!!” That was it. Something inside me snapped, and I was able to see him for who he really was. He had to abuse people, it made him feel better about himself. He abused customers, employees, and people in his personal life. He was negative and disgusting. He was a monster. I had been abused by him for far too long. I was done.
I was so terrified that I wouldn’t find something that would sustain me like that opportunity. I knew, though, that if I chose to love myself, the universe would applaud me and send me something better.
That day I told him I was done with his abuse. I was done with the allowing him to speak to me that way. I was done. Do not ever contact me again.
I spent the next few days dealing with what someone in an abusive relationship deals with. The feelings of going back, minimizing the abuse, etc. I didn’t go back. In fact, I never spoke to him again. I don’t even know if he is still doing what he was doing.
I was right, too, the universe did reward me for choosing to love myself. A month after leaving my abusive boss and toxic work situation, I was sent to Iowa, and my entire transformation happened. I healed my body from chronic illness, lost 80 pounds and became a Certified Holistic Nutritionist and Holistic Health Practitioner in order to help others who suffer. I was happy. I was healthy, and I was no longer being abused.
If you are being abused by your boss, you might be justifying it just like I did. I want to tell you that it is abuse, even if it is coming from your employer. You deserve better. You are far more special than that. An abusive boss doesn’t see that in you because all they see is the ugly inside of them, reflected on those around them. They will continue to abuse you until you stop it. Stop it today. The universe will respond in kind, and you will end up in a much better position. Trust me.
Have you ever had to deal with an abusive boss? How did you cope?
Also by Ange: How I Became Organic Vegan, Lost 40lbs & Changed My Life
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