January 1, 2017 at 12:50 am #1061
Act 3: Hoovering, Devaluation, Triangulation, and Discard
Sorry for the delay in posting this. I wanted to do so before New Year’s Day (i.e. leave the negatives in the past).
I avoided any social interaction during lunchtime for the next month, eating quickly and ducking out to a quiet area. I read up on anger management, attended a few sessions with a counseler as part of my workplace wellness program, and started a personal journal on whatever triggered negative emotions in me (e.g. anger, sadness, disappointment), and tying them to emotional trauma inflicted by my parents on me while growing up. From here on out, much of what I am sharing are from these journal entries.
I had resolved to keep my relationship with EAC professional to avoid any more mutual frustration. For a time, I put masking tape on the floor to separate my space from hers. Unfortunately, there was an expectation from my team for me to bake velvet cake for EAC’s birthday. (I did, and we went out for lunch as a team too.) Also, since she and I were still on Facebook, she was and I were still sharing non-work related stuff with each other (e.g. music to play, photos from weekend trips). (Looking back, taking into account her hoover attempts, my attempts to erect and maintain proper boundaries was an epic fail.)
About a month after the blowup incident I brought it up with EAC on our way to get lunch (should not have done so, looking back), who said I should apologize to the team member I blew up on, and that she didn’t want to discuss it further.
A couple of weeks later, with my own birthday looming (our team went out for that too), I asked EAC on a late Friday afternoon what work relationship she wanted. Nothing personal, she said, then wished me a Happy Birthday. Apparently I stepped over this line when she came into work wearing a knitted cap… in the first week of June. I asked if it was too warm to be wearing one, and she snapped at me, saying it was a personal question, and that she didn’t criticize what I wore. She snapped at me again when I commented on her eating lunch at her desk (she rarely ate at her desk). No apology from her at any time the rest of that week as she calmed down.
Eventually, EAC wound up sharing non-work stuff with me again, such as tongue-twisters and articles in her native language (I had been learning it on my own for a couple of years, as our workplace is close to a neighborhood of that ethnic background.). EAC got me and other team members to use WhatsApp, a chat app with incorporated read receipts. “So that you’ll know if the recipient read your last message” was her justification. Read receipts can be turned off in individual chat, but cannot be turned off in group chat. I would have preferred that work-related issues be handled via SMS and non-work with FB Messenger or WhatsApp. In practice, topics were getting muddled.
Even with everything seemingly returning to normal, I was still journaling my emotional triggers. Looking back, the following patterns emerged:
* I was too much of a people-pleaser, and thus a prime target for EAC’s verbal and emotional abuse.
* EAC hated when I inserted myself in her conversations she was having with other team members within a few feet of me. Even about everyday topics, nothing personal.
* Although some of my emotional triggers were due to everyday work stress, more and more I realized that the main reason I was journaling in the first place was due to this EAC. For example, she wound up criticizing me on:
* Personal finance (why am I keeping credit cards if I was such a champion for the podcaster we were all listening to; the pointlessness of budgeting for her since she wanted to “live life”).
* Piano lessons (I had given her some of my piano books from my childhood when she started taking lessons earlier in Year 3). She had shared with me how her lessons were going. I had told her that I had no interest in taking up piano after 10 years of lessons from my parents. Her reply was that it was a “waste of talent” that I didn’t do so, and that I wasn’t grateful for my parents for the gift. My reply: “Not my decision to keep playing for 10 years, and I never liked it.” Hers: “Sometimes it’s not about what you like.” I said I was done with this conversation. (Note to reader: my BPD mom wanted me to play piano more than I ever did.)
Despite her “no personal topics” declaration, EAC was still sharing non-work related stuff with me. A joke about East Asian stereotypes, written in her native language, got laughs from all the team members when she explained it to them (possible boundary testing, looking back). A video clip about her home country’s president visiting my parents’ East Asian country, which I summarized for her. Articles on baking.
About this time another younger male employee (YME) transferred into our team. EAC began to involve him into lunch and some non-work conversations. At one point he, she, I and another team member all went to an restaurant that was serving EAC’s ethnic food, and I proudly placed my order in her language. Even our server was impressed. (Little did I know at the time, but this was where the triangulation began.)
It was also at this time that our team got a new boss (internal transfer), and moved our team from two rooms of 3 employees each to one room with all of us, with the boss’s office occupying the center of the new room. Instead of an open layout, we all had cubicle partitions (our boss’s desk had its own walls). EAC was the last one to move into the room, not doing so until the start of Year 5. No doubt these changes would affect our workplace dynamics.
Year 5 was when the discard attempts began.
The first attempt happened mid-February, after I had helped EAC inflate her bicycle tires and covered one of her projects over the weekend (from Act 1, I mentioned she had a long commute by train from the city). I had accidentally missed a meeting to get documents approved that she and I had drafted, and EAC told me she would work on her documents separately. Our boss met me briefly and asked me a question about our documents, and I told him exactly what EAC told me. Despite her cubicle being right next to mine, EAC then blasted me on WhatsApp, saying that I “snitched” on her and that she didn’t need me to ever speak for her. (Immature behavior on her part.)
For the next month, she ignored me and had other employees, including the YME, accompany her for lunch. I was pretty much left alone, and although I was hurt emotionally, I did my best to let it go. Mid-March, I mustered courage to explain to her that I was simply answering our boss’s question, not snitching. She gave a non-emotional “OK” without looking at me. Another group lunch came up with all our team members, and nothing seemed amiss.
Then, I inadvertently gave her ammunition for EAC for her second discard attempt. I chimed in her conversation with YME about one of her friends visiting, and YME had mentioned that at least her friend wasn’t “scrubbing toilets”. I pointed out that in Great Britain, what YME said was a stereotype. EAC asked me to clarify what the stereotype was, and in my sheer stupidity I did. EAC began to state that her friend was visiting on an educational visa, and not “scrubbing toilets”. Me: “What are you frustrated about? YME said it.” YME: “No I didn’t!” (I was shocked and also confused, because EAC had shared a joke about East Asian stereotypes just months before.)
EAC left to visit her home country for a few weeks, and near the end of her visit shared on WhatsApp group chat pictures of a nicely-furnished apartment, with the occupants being able to afford amenities and a cleaning lady (with a dig to me). I told her that she was still ribbing me for my “British stereotype comment”; EAC confirmed this, saying that she would continue. I then stupidly sent her YouTube videos from a language-learning channel describing stereotypes of her country, typing that they were narrated in her native language by someone with her ethnic background. Her response on the group chat, “I STRONGLY suggest you drop this subject of stereotypes, because we might have a problem, thanks.” (Really? She was offended by this, after sending team members and me a joke in her language about my culture?) She then added YME to the group chat as a way to shut me up.
Needless to say, I was pissed.
On the second day of her return to work from vacation, and in response to something work-related, I lost my temper and gave her the Italian arm (I’ve never cursed at her or responded to her middle-finger salutes before). That evening, she sent me a long (probably pre-typed) text on WhatsApp to not involve myself in any of her conversations, and to stop non-work related conversations with me, that this situation was “getting out of control”. Once again, I wound up eating lunch alone. I had the foresight, though, to speak with my boss about this incident on an early morning, showed him printouts of the group chat and how everything went downhill two months prior, and disclosed to him that EAC would probably interpret my stereotype comment and links as a racial slur. He acknowledged my statements.
A new employee (only the second female on our team, who I’ll refer to as NFE) started the following week, apparently noticed that EAC and I weren’t talking, and offered to take EAC out to lunch for her birthday. I told NFE that I would go only if EAC came to me in person and told me it was OK for me to do so. EAC used NFE as a messenger to tell me that it was OK. Not comfortable with this, I told everyone at the lunch hour that I would not be going.
I also had issues with EAC hanging her many jackets on our partition, blocking the glass portion and my view of the office. With both YME and NFE present, I told her (rather pointedly, looking back) to please move them so I could have an unobstructed view; she plastered her side of the glass with photocopied paper. When I brought this up to our boss in his office (a month after discard attempt #2), saying it was a form of harassment, EAC did a DARVO and with an loud emotional voice brought up my British stereotype comment and the YouTube videos, followed by a “Goodbye, hilawnking52!!”. Our boss, after ignoring us, told both of us to resolve our differences ourselves, and get back to work. In the hallway, I reminded him of our early-morning conversation; he remembered, and a short time later sent me and EAC an email reiterating what he said, and that he would have to involve HR if not. He also emailed that photocopied procedures could not be posted in work cubicles; of course, EAC replaced them with photocopied reference-book pages in the presence of me, YME, and NFE.
Act 4 to follow. Happy New Year everyone.January 1, 2017 at 6:23 pm #1062
I hope your 2017 involves a lot less toxic people.January 2, 2017 at 2:42 pm #1063
I have noticed that, as I’ve gotten better at identifying persons with a PD, I have been able to avoid making friends with those folks and been able to hold them at an arm’s distance. Before I became attuned to these types of nutters I seemed to have so many in my life. (I hope I’m making sense, I’m not quite a full cup of coffee in this morning and I feel like I’m rambling, LOL).
ANYWAY, it seems those of us who are NOT PD have to learn hard lessons before we can keep those people out of our lives.
hilawnking, you’ll get very adept at never even opening lines of friendship with nutters and simply bypassing an overtures they make. Life gets MUCH easier when that happens :o)January 11, 2017 at 1:39 pm #1090
Pam and Kathy, I think I’m getting there. Thank you.
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