Imagine how elated and joyful you would feel to receive a confirmation letter to resume your dream job but your excitement is replaced by unhappiness and anxiety a couple of months later because your upline has a habit of subtle condescension and making you feel like you are not good enough?
That was how Vanessa felt at her dream job daily. She dreaded showing up at work and attending meetings led by him. It felt like there was nothing she did that was good enough. She even studied harder, executed faster, and increased her productivity, but they mattered little to him. It felt like he was dedicated to shredding her morale and esteem.
Finally, she escalated to the human resource team, who intervened and reduced the emotional heat for a while. But her upline continued until she couldn’t take it anymore and resigned.
A couple of months after, she got a higher-paying job and an emotionally healthier workplace. Vanessa, however, observed she had some painful residue left in her. She felt her upline never understood the impact of his words, tone, and physiology on her. He also never validated her feelings or took responsibility for his passive aggression. Vanessa’s traumatic experience started seeping through her new job, she walked on eggshells and lived on the edge despite the kindness and support she received. To her, their love was unreal, and they would very soon reveal their true identities.
Interestingly, her new team was waxing stronger and happier, so she knew she had to confront her pain and trauma. She had to forgive someone who may never understand her pain nor apologize to her. She felt grief at the thought of how much sacrifice she had invested in her work, only to be treated with disdain and disrespect. But Vanessa eventually realized that she needed to begin the journey of forgiveness.
The path to forgiveness can be difficult, but there are steps each of us can take when we find ourselves in a similar situation.
The first thing she did and I suggest we do is to tell ourselves that if people knew better they will do better. People do the best they can with what they have. Her upline didn’t have the emotional tools to connect with his team, he didn’t understand the importance of the word human in human resources. He had good intentions but bad execution.
I also suggest we write ourselves an apology letter we wish we received. Empty our hearts with our ink. Excavate and evacuate our thoughts, feelings, and emotions on the sheets just like Vanessa expressed everything she felt while working at the organization. Appreciated the good seasons and moments and acknowledged the subtle toxicity. By the time she was done, she felt a sense of relief lifted off her heart.
Finally, we must forgive ourselves for suspecting our capacity and not feeling good enough. For allowing subtle attacks to pierce our core and make us doubt our competence and expertise. For transferring the aggression to some of our co-workers, partners, and children. If we can, can we reach out to them to apologize and take responsibility for our share of the emotional pain and transferred aggression, please?
Vanessa not only forgave her upline she also forgave herself. She forgave herself for processing and holding tightly to the pain. Let’s do that, too.