Seven Negative Career Experiences

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I’ve written about workplace bullying and, more important, tools for standing up against manipulative behavior in a positive way. I’ve dealt with this time and time again in my career and in my personal life. In fact, I still haven’t recovered from the emotional trauma from certain events. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that I cannot stand manipulative people and those who support or shield them.

So I’m going to detail specific instances where I was emotionally abused. Some of these are embarrassing. I honestly don’t care anymore.

Gaslighting

Also, please note that my own family has been basically isolating (read: disconnecting) me for damage control and to save face. They have previously forced me to remove any blogs describing my life and workplace abuse from the web. But here they are again! I will not go through this bullshit and have NOTHING to show for it!

Seven Different Reasons to Sue:

Gluten Intolerance

A Toilet Exploded On Me

I Couldn’t Encrypt My Harddrive

OMFG the Bedbugs

Homeless for Several Weeks

Caught in Merger Politics

Scientologists ‘Audited’ Me at Work

TL;DR; scientology

Warning: do not tell me that I’m “living in the past.”

Gluten Intolerance

So a few years ago, I started having digestive issues and, for the longest time, I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I knew there was something in my diet that was causing problems – I.E. ‘fatty’ stools. I knew I had a food allergy, but I couldn’t pinpoint what it was. All I knew was greasy foods were to be avoided. Hamburgers were terrible. Pizza was the worst and that was my favorite food.

Usually, it wasn’t so bad, but there were times when it was terrible. However, it was incredibly embarrassing and the smell would literally follow me around for hours… Unless I took a shower. And no, it’s not bc I shit myself. So I have to leave work when it happens. The problem is that I haven’t driven in years!! Technically, I have a license now, but I don’t have a car. So if this happens, while I’m at work, I’m fucked. I can’t drive home to take a shower. And even if I can, I have to mysteriously leave work in the middle of the day.

Fortunately, when something like this happens, people know there’s something wrong. If they’re good people and they actually care about you, they’ll ask – privately. And they’ll offer to help you avoid embarrassment. However, if you’re surrounded by opportunistic manipulative assholes, this can be a chance to weaken connections you have with other people at work. Ewwww, that guy smells like shit, is he retarded or something? How can he not know?. If you have coworkers that really are trying to cut you off and get rid of you, this can be particularly effective, albeit a bit mean, donchya think?

At one particular place I worked, I started having these issues multiple times every week. The increase in frequency was probably related to the stress and undue emotional duress I was experiencing. And when I left work in the middle of the day to take a shower, so I wouldn’t ummm smell like shit, it became yet another reason to attack me.

And telling my manager that I needed to leave because I was sick wasn’t working because he had a tendency to respond inappropriately when I trusted him with information. In other words, if he was the only person I told about being sick or being late or something like that, it was as if I’d never said anything to him at all. The only way I could get him to respond appropriately to a situation like this was to make everyone aware of it. Not only did I have to constantly stay on top of my work, I had to expend a ton of effort making sure everyone was aware of what I was doing, why I was doing it, how I was doing it, etc.

If I didn’t take the initiative to make my coworkers aware of everything, then my work/actions would invariably be publicly misinterpreted by my manager. And always in a way that would lead to negative attention to me from my coworkers. Basically, if I left my manager any wiggleroom to distort the truth, he would. I’ve dealt with this in the past once or twice from a workplace bully, but only once from my manager. I even tested this by making my coworkers aware of certain information that would prevent them from misinterpreting what I’d done, but leaving my manager in the dark. I was testing to see if/how he would negatively spin my performance, publicly, if he thought he could get away with it and he did.

Sounds paranoid, doesn’t it? I don’t usually act in such a way at work by the way. Same team, right?! For me, the problem with his behavior is that I’m a quiet person – it takes a lot of effort for me to communicate every single detail to my coworkers. I shouldn’t have to do that just to protect my ass from an opportunistic person who tries to contort anything left unclear and left to chance. I’ve dealt with my share of manipulative assholes in the past. I have a ton of experience with it. I know how to deal with it, but the first thing I try to do is ignore it. I really don’t want to spin my wheels, expending a ton of effort playing someone else’s games.

Anyways, everyone was pressured to be present from 9:00 to 5:00, so we could get as much work done together. This makes sense and is fair. However, when I had a gluten episode, I had shit to deal with. And it’s really fucked up that when I had medical issues, my coworkers talked about it behind my back, didn’t ever direcly mention it to me, didn’t reach out to help me or ask me what was wrong. But when I had an episode and left work for an hour to take a shower and come back – remember, I couldn’t drive – I was publicly questioned and belittled for not being at work.

And what was I supposed to say, in front of everyone. “I went home to take a shower and wash the shit smell off” – that’s what I’m supposed to say? What’s fucked up though is that it should have been obvious to everyone (from the smell) that I had some kind of digestive issue to deal with.

It would be two years after the above episodes that I would finally realize – “Hey, it’s the gluten.” Now that I’ve (mostly) ceased my intake of gluten, these episodes have mostly stopped. When I have reluctantly mentioned these problems to people, they’ve suggested gluten intolerance, so it’s somewhat common knowledge to educated people today that digestive problems involving fatty stool can be caused by gluten intolerance.

However, the coworkers above? They ridiculed gluten intolerance and gluten-free food! Like, it was an everyday thing they would joke about. Impossible for me to conclusively determine whether they knew what was causing the digestive problems I was having. Regardless, no one offered to help me and no one directly talked to me about it. Instead, I ended up feeling further isolated from everyone and it was one more thing that added to my emotional duress at the time. Something else they joked about was how they had this giant turd they couldn’t flush.

A Toilet Exploded On Me

You’d think this was the worst that happened to me, but it’s not. Here’s another instance where coworkers had a chance to help me, but didn’t. Instead, it was another opportunity to hang me out to dry.

So, during the time where I was having these gluten intolerance episodes, I returned from lunch one day and within a half hour started feeling nauseous and sick. I went to the bathroom and one of the toilets was undergoing maintenance and had an out-of-order sign. So, I naturally used the other one. This was a particularly nasty episode. I wasn’t sure if I’d need to leave work or not.

I finally finished and flushed the toilet. I slowly started to get up and then, with dread, realized that the water was overflowing very fast. Like ridiculously fast, as if there was no water being drained, only water entering the bowl. It was too late, all the shitty water got all over my jeans. Like inside my jeans.

WTF was I going to do?! I thought I was going to have to walk all the way home, reeking of shit. I stayed in the bathroom for another 15 minutes, brooding and contemplating my next steps. Finally, I lucked out! At one point while working there, I was homeless and I had kept several changes of clothes in my old desk. I had taken all those clothes home, but I forgot about one pair of dirty jeans & underwear I had left in a locker at the bathroom. Better than nothing.

I gave myself a quick hobo bath with paper towels and changed into my jeans – my glow in the dark jeans. I walked back into the office, looking pissed. I was carrying my shit-soaked clothes in my hand. I was seriously about to cry at this point. I explained what happened, but very few people seemed to be concerned. I was 90% out the door by this time anyways.

I put my dirty clothes into the locker in our bathroom. I went to the gym nearby and took a shower. At least I didn’t have to go there in my shit-drenched clothes. I returned in about an hour.

Of course, this was nobody’s fault, just another random shitty thing to happen to me. However, it was another missed opportunity for my coworkers to reach out and help me.

I Couldn’t Encrypt My Harddrive

I couldn’t encrypt my harddrive without unlinking BIOS…

I had just started a new job and received my work laptop, which was a Macbook Pro. Our company had a strong security focus and we employed several people with pen-testing experience, which is essentially offensive hacking-for-hire. There’s a list of settings I configure for a new computer and they include setting a BIOS password and encrypting the hard drive.

One of the first things I did with my new work laptop was set a BIOS password. I also have a very specific list of customizations for OSX and after I made these configurations, I encrypted my harddrive.

My laptop wouldn’t boot to BIOS after the harddrive was encrypted. My work laptop was a Macbook Pro, which technically has OpenFirmware(OFW) and not BIOS. At the time of the writing, Apple stored the OFW program on a special partition on the harddrive. I’m not terribly familiar with the specifics, but if you’d like more info about OSX Rootkits, you can refer to these videos. And especially this video, which explains OSX firmware hacks in detail.

My point is, if a BIOS was modified to run code from an arbitrary location on a hard disk and then that hard disk is encrypted, that location will no longer point to valid, readable code. The BIOS would likely crash, which is exactly what happened repeatedly. I decrypted the hard disk and boom! – I could access the OpenFirmware BIOS just fine. Encrypted it again – boom! – locked out again.

It’s important to note that there are a multitude of issues that could cause the BIOS to crash after encryption. I’m not an expert with rootkits and it’s very, very difficult to verify whether you have one.

However, it’s a bit suspicious that a completely new MacbookPro out of the box has problems that does not allow one to encrypt the hard drive with FileVault. When my laptop couldn’t enter BIOS after encryption, I was immediately concerned about the slight possibility of a rootkit.

However, more concerning is that I was working for a security-focused business. Harddrive encryption is paramount!! Without harddrive encryption, anyone with physical access to your laptop can retrieve all of your data in an hour or less. All they need is a screwdriver and a device to read a harddrive. I mentioned to my coworkers that I couldn’t encrypt my harddrive without losing access to BIOS, but no one expressed too much concern.

OMFG the Bedbugs

So, I interviewed for one position for about a month. After I started the interview process, I came home one day and my roommate told me we had bedbugs. I had never dealt with a situation like this. I had just moved up to Boulder and hadn’t had time to make very many friends yet. At least, not close ones. I had just enough money left to live for a month or so, not enough to deal with a bedbug infestation, which would require me to renege on my belief that all life is sacred. And certainly not enough money to find a new place to live.

Furthermore, my roommate and I weren’t even subletting the apartment. We had no tenant rights!! So we couldn’t file a complaint to the apartment management. It was a wierd situation, where I moved into my friend’s brother’s apartment. There was no furniture, but his brother had left a fairly expensive mattress. I was extremely grateful for this. But it turns out, I didn’t get to use the mattress much.

I creatively minimized my time at my apartment. I was there for two months and the last five weeks or so, I stayed up every other night, occasionally passing out on my desk at Fuse, the coworking office. I only went into my apartment to shower and take a bath. If I slept there, I slept outside on the balcony. I was petrified of people finding out about what I was going through, especially since I didn’t really have a support network of good friends willing to take a burn to help me out.

“Neurotoxin, Neurotoxin, Neurotoxin!”

The stress of apartment search combined with the lack of sleep made it very difficult to excel at my new job, however much effort I put in. I made a terrible impression during those first three weeks, even though I got the feels from the manager on day three that I was not going to be there for long.

At one point during the bedbug episode, I met this girl at the Yellow Deli, which is a deli franchise run by a cult. Yes, this is real life. It was 5:00 in the morning. Maybe that should have been a red flag, but we talked for a while and she seemed cool, so I got her number. I can’t remember if this was before or after I started my job.

This was on the weekend and there was a barbeque going on at Fuse, my coworking office. I texted her and asked her to come with me to the BBQ. So, she shows up in the same clothes with the same bookbag. And it’s about that time that I realize – wait a second – this girl is homeless and I just invited her to hang out with my coworking friends!

Hilarious. Whatever, she seemed cool when I first met her and I’d rather not toss someone out just because they’re in a tough spot. I think the people at the party may have noticed, but I didn’t want to hurt her feelings, so I just went with it. Plus, I like meeting all different kinds of people and I was kinda on a “be kind to everyone” kick. Buddhism and whatnot.

Pretty fly for a homeless girl.

After the party, we hung out a bit in Boulder’s Central Park. Then, I asked her back to the apartment. We were walking back, but about halfway there, I told her about the bedbugs. She freaked out. Here’s the punchline:

A fucking homeless girl wanted nothing to do with my bedbug ridden apartment!

Half of why I asked her to the apartment was to find out what she would say. Finally she calmed down and said she’d hang out for a minute. She ended up sleeping there, but was so paranoid about the bedbugs, she slept in the bathtub. No, I did not pull moves on the homeless girl.

Oh, and that time my friends came out to Boulder? The girl I had a crush on for a few years? Bedbugs. They needed a place to stay and were kinda depending on me and I couldn’t help them. It kills me to forever be in a position where I can’t give back to my friends.

Homeless for Several Weeks

It’s important to note that I started my new job when I still had three weeks left at my apartment. It was clear to my manager and the people around me that I needed to look for a new apartment. They were aware of this. My apartment search was poorly timed with the start of the fall semester at the local university.

Furthermore, I didn’t have a car to search for an apartment.

My coworkers never offered to help me with my apartment hunt, though I can’t really hold it against them, since I didn’t really ask. It was especially hard for me to find a place. Everything in Boulder was either super expensive or too far away from work. Not owning a car was killing me at this point.

Even worse, as soon as I started my new job, my manager instituted a strict policy of 9:00 - 5:00 work hours. It was really hard for me to take off work to check out a new apartment. When I did, it took a ridiculously long time bc I would have to take the bus to wherever I was going. I was chastised at work for not being there on time and for leaving to take care of personal issues, like doctor’s visits and apartment hunting.

And then I was chastised for not getting an apartment. I was made to feel like it was completely my fault that I didn’t have it lined up – even though I was under significant duress from both work and my living situation at home. And I was made to feel that being homeless was not something they could help me with. At this time, I was under the clear impression that my days there were numbered anyways. I was constantly reminded that the writing was on the wall. It was completely heartless.

I had left all my stuff completely unsecured in the back of my friends truck for a few days. And he couldn’t keep carrying it around everywhere he went – he didn’t want to put it in his place bc of the bedbugs. One night, he brought the stuff to my office, where everyone was about to leave. As I was bringing it in, I was told there was no way I could keep it there “for insurance reasons.” I kind of understand the reasoning behind this, but at the same time HELP A BROTHA OUT!! Seriously?

I was told I needed to find a storage unit to leave my stuff, even though I owned no furniture and I could literally carry all my posessions in Boulder – barely. I was told to get a hotel, which I did, even though at $120/night that was draining all the funds I would have saved up for a security deposit.

I even got kicked out of my hotel! One morning, I was told I couldn’t stay there any longer. So I had to gather up all my stuff and carry it to the office. I tried to bring it in again and was harshly told that I couldn’t. So, I literally had to leave everything I owned in the parking garage of my office building! At one point, I was sleeping on the side of a mountain.

Here’s that recurring theme: no one offered to help me! And I was made to feel that it was all my fault and that I was completely pathetic for not getting all this straightened out. How could I possibly work at a startup when I couldn’t even sort out my personal life? Instead of viewing me as a new coworker who needed help and instead of viewing it as an opportunity to show me what the company would do to help it’s employees, a certain segment of the employees instead viewed it as an opportunity to indirectly attack me and continue whittling away at my reputation.

Now, remember, all of this overhead in my personal life required time. All of my time every day was alotted to being at work, searching for an apartment, moving my stuff from one place to another, retrieving clean clothes from wherever my stuff was located, etc. I can’t think of one time a coworker at this job helped me with my personal life. I realize I should have sorted this out myself, but I was so stressed with work early on that I simply did not have time. It was a situation I created myself. Nevertheless, anyone except opportunistic sociopathic assholes would help someone out in this situation, instead of using these situations against them.

Caught in Merger Politics

I got a job for one company I worked at who had just completed a merger of two very small companies. Both companies had less than 6 employees. I had never been through a merger before. If I had thought about it long enough, I would have realized that there would be turbulant office politics, but I didn’t think about that aspect much. At this point in my career, I was tired of office politicians who manipulate appearances of the people around them for gain.

I also didn’t realize that with a merger of two small companies, the usual politics of a merger would be an order of magnitude more turbulent. If I had known, I would have stayed far, far away. I’ll explain an anonymized version of the situation in terms of Company A (CA) and Company B (CB), who merged into Company C (CC).

The CEO of CA had originally approached me at a hackathon about 6 weeks before I started. During the interview process, they explained that they’d be merging with CB. I said I’d be OK with that. About a week after I started, one employee from CA was fired. I felt bad because I figured I had been hired to replace him.

I am not sure of the specifics of the merger agreement. I don’t know how each employees stock options agreements were modified, but they’d have to updated in some way to accommodate for the merger. Instead of vesting stock from either CA or CB, the employees would have their compensation agreement changed to receive stocks from CC. Company C should have a drastically different term sheet as a merged entity than either CA or CB, because the proportions of ownership would be decided by the merger. Honestly, a merger of two startups is sketchy as hell and I don’t understand why one wouldn’t just buy out the other, but whatever.

I didn’t quite see what was going on until the very end, when I saw that everyone from CA was gone. Basically, anyone with stock options was systematically eliminated before they could get options from CC. Everyone from CA, except one person, was eliminated within 10 weeks. Personally, I would have only received stock if I stayed there for three months. There were 5 employees from CB and they clung together.

Regardless of whether one side was motivated by financial interest to push people out, the politics were terrible. The end.

Scientologists ‘Audited’ Me at Work

At one software development position I held, I worked at a small company with less than ten employees. One day, around lunchtime, one of the employees asked me if I knew what an “e-meter” was.

“An E-Reader? You mean like a Kindle?” - My actual words.

No, they weren’t talking about an e-reader. They were talking about a scientology e-meter, the device used to audit members. Later on that day, two of the employees approached me and asked if I had anything to drink in the past 24 hours. “What? No, I don’t drink very often,” I replied. They then asked me if I wanted to try out an e-meter and showed it to me. I was like, “Sure, I guess.”

Two people objected. First, my manager at the time, who I would describe as “literally the worst human being I have ever encountered.” He was like “No!”, but then said “Well, he’s already seen it.” I get the feeling that he didn’t want me to know about their connection to scientology. The other person who objected was the only software developer who I trusted there. He tried to warn me, but I wouldn’t listen. I was intrigued and besides, I had met a few people several months before who audited me, though I didn’t know it was called an e-meter.

They started by asking me a few easy questions. And then proceeded to ask me shocking work-related questions. I was a bit pissed off. I quickly ended the interaction. So bizarre. These e-meter devices cost several thousand dollars, how could you possibly have one if you’re not a well-invested member? And it’s basically a crude lie detector. Do I need to mention how inappropriate it would be to see one of these used at work?!

It stuck with me for a while, but because I couldn’t connect it to anything else at the time, I just assumed that scientologists were assholes. I just assumed that if you disagreed with these people, they apparently ganged up on you and loaded you down with the exact psychological issues they claimed their “religion” freed you from. When I left this job, I was ** BROKEN.**

“Two months in a dungeon.” Haha very funny guys…

These two or three guys completely ganged up on me at work. It was a very small company with about ten employees. There was ABSOLUTELY ZERO CHANCE I WOULD SURVIVE. There was nothing I could have done to keep my job there. I was never meant to succeed. “Two months in a dungeon” was how they phrased it, offhandedly. They constantly insinuated knowledge of very private details of my life. The passive aggressive nature of it actually drove me a bit crazy. They never said anything directly, of course.

These were private details I had shared with very few people. In particular, details that I had only shared with one person I had met a few months earlier. Like, for example, that I experienced digestive episodes as a result of a food allergy I could not identify. This person suggested it could be gluten intolerance, but I didn’t believe them at the time.

This person had also approached me about scientology and was very persistant about converting me, though I doubt she realized how the details that I divulged would be used against me. Oh, and I divulged everything. One specific question she asked was “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done in your life,” to which I had three answers… She also asked if I knew what a “Black PR” package was.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It wouldn’t really piss me off that much to have this knowledge used against me in my personal affairs. It’d suck, but I’ve been dealing with that my entire life – knowledge of drug use being used against me, for example. It’s just that I ended up in a professional setting where my life was completely RUINED in a very emotionally traumatic way that has stuck with me for years. Oh, and before you claim I’m paranoid, my coworkers at this job also once asked me whether or not I knew this girl by name, whom I had forgotten at that time.

Reverse Auditing

So. My opinion of scientology? How high do you think that is? If I wrote a Yelp review, what would I say? How does their belief system mesh with my values? Their ethics? Do you think there’s anything in the world you could offer me to become scientologist? Even if you offered me a billion dollars, what would my answer be? Even if you could offer me my soulmate, the most beautiful, intelligent girl I’ve ever met, coupled with the most amazing story of how we met and the most impossible, fantastic things – why should I have anything to do with these people?

Up Next

The amazing story of how I roomed with a schizophrenic from Clearwater, FL for two days in Colorado in early November 2013. I had met this guy because he worked in my office building months earlier, along with the scientologists in the story above. He had recently been released from a mental health facility. I nearly had my skull bashed in during a psychotic episode, where he drew cryptic messages all over the walls as he lectured me.

Here’s a video of the aftermath, the day after I got help from two complete strangers and managed to call the police. And no, there were no drugs consumed during this experience.