toxic jobs

Personal stories about toxic jobs and workplace woes.

August 15, 2007

promotion smeared by jealousy

Surviving at work or in any social arena involves overcoming a lot of obstacles that life throws at us, but Noretta - 29 and single - has found one type of obstacle that isn't easily overcome. It's an obstacle that people put in our path deliberately and it can dog us for the rest of our lives. It's called mud.

"When I think of the many people incarcerated for life for crimes they claim they never committed - and probably didn't," says Noretta, "I suppose I should be thankful that I still have my freedom and that the person responsible for throwing mud at me didn't go further than she did."

"It all started when a co-worker got jealous when I gained a promotion," explains Noretta. "After I had left her section, discrepancies started coming to light in the accounting figures and this women started a rumor that I had been responsible for them."

"It was pretty clear to me that she had doctored the figures in order to discredit me," says Noretta, "but management was forced by the circumstances and the rumors to investigate the matter. As a newly promoted staff member - promoted on the basis of accuracy and ethical behavior - I was easily type cast as a conniving corporate climber."

"Unfortunately, management couldn't nail anybody for the discrepancies and as a consequence the mud stuck to me - not her - because I was the subject of the rumors."

"Had the woman planted incriminatory evidence on my desk or on my person the matter might have had very serious consequences - the matter may have become a police investigation," says Noretta, "but the sticking mud did the damage it was intended to do."

"From then onwards my career was ruined - my reputation had been smeared by mud thrown at me by a jealous co-worker."

"The woman was very clever because she based her mud throwing campaign on the precept that people are more likely to believe what they hear than disbelieve it - they assumed that she knew something they didn't."

"And what's more," sighs Noretta, "the worst type of rumor is more likely to be believed than the benign rumor, and the taller the poppy being rumored - or the more type caste the accused - the more likely people are to want to believe bad things about him or her."

"Finally, to cinch the success of any rumor the listener needs to have a vested interest in the outcome - and everyone at work had a vested interest in the good name of the company."

"Being promoted made me a tall poppy among the women I once worked with," explains Noretta, "and that's how the rumor spread so fast. When I was one of them I was untouchable, but as soon as I moved up I became fair game."

"You'd think that in a company with a staff of over 200 people there would be at least a fifty-fifty chance that I would be believed," says Noretta, "but the very nature of mud means that once it has been thrown it sticks - especially so within an environment in which everyone has a vested interest."

"Some people gave me the benefit of the doubt - but reservedly so."

"From then onwards I became a pariah in the company. People would avoid me - probably because mud might stick to them by association - and eyes would look askance when I entered rooms."

"The joy of being rewarded with a promotion after years of hard work was ruined by the mud that woman threw at me - and after a year the tension remained so I had no alternative but to resign."

"I got excellent references from two managers and found another job quickly," says Noretta, "but mud not only sticks but it spreads. Someone at my new company mentioned to me that they had heard about the investigation at my old company!"

"This looks like something that's could dog me for the rest of my life," sighs Noretta.

"In the event that the woman did plant incriminatory evidence on me and the matter went to court I would have had a chance to clear my name," says Noretta, "but even people acquitted of crimes carry mud for the rest of their lives."

"It's all very well for the high minded to advocate that the person responsible for spreading a rumor always has an axe to grind - and that the finger of suspicion should always be turned at the accuser rather than the accused," says Noretta, "but how many people are capable of espousing high minded ideals?"

"The average IQ is 100 - not the 150 necessary for high minded reasoning!"

"With or without an axe to grind it is too easy to ruin an innocent person's life," says Noretta.

"Pick anyone at random - say Joe Bloggs down the road, a nice old man who lives alone."

"Tell a mother with young children that Joe is a pedophile and she will believe you. She will not dispute what you say because she assumes that you know something she doesn't know. She will assume that you are telling her this information for her good - not yours. And she will look at Joe Bloggs and find the rumor perfectly believable because he is so type caste."

"She will innocently pass this information on to all the mothers in the neighborhood and without even knowing that he had been targeted poor old Joe Bloggs will become a pedophile pariah."

"I would imagine that there are evil people out there who pick the victims of rumors at random - just for the hell of it without an axe to grind or a personal benefit to be gained from the victim's demise - but most rumors are started by people deliberately wanting to ruin an opponent's reputation."

"Politicians and ex-spouses are notorious for starting malicious rumors," laughs Noretta, "but we have learned to discount them simply because their motives are so self-evidently obvious."

"For ordinary people in ordinary situations you just don't expect this sort of behavior from others, do you? That's why small time rumors cause so much damage."

"I don't know how I could have avoided my situation," says Noretta. "Anyone gaining a promotion risks alienating other contenders for the job. I suppose it was just my bad luck that one woman turned out to be a real sore loser. Had she gained the promotion rather than me I would have congratulated her and tried harder next time around - but that's the difference between her and me."

"At the end of the day surviving has a lot to do with being comfortable with yourself," says Noretta. "That woman may have tarnished my reputation but I am at peace with myself. I doubt whether she can claim a similar blissful inner state. In fact, I am making sure she never does because every time I am reminded of what she did to me I am sending her cosmic messages to remind her, too."

"Whatever pain I feel, she will feel too."

"Wishful thinking? No, I believe that all human beings are cosmically connected," says Noretta. "When someone is thinking about me I know it instinctively - and vice versa. I can will people to call me and they can will me to call them. We have all had the experience of knowing who is calling as soon as the telephone rings, or knowing that a loved one is in trouble."

"By throwing mud at me, that woman made a cosmic connection with me that is as strong, or stronger, than the connection between loved ones," says Noretta. "That connection can only be broken by her undoing the damage she has done to me - and that will be achieved when she eventually discredits herself, which she will do sooner or later, I am absolutely sure of that."

"Why am I absolutely sure? Because whenever I am reminded of her mud slinging I will her to discredit herself. She will never be free of her wrong doing as long as I continue to suffer from it. Mud not only sticks and spreads but it also slimes right back to its source."

(Noretta's story first appeared as noretta: mud sticks and is reprinted with permission.)

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