One of the greatest and most humbling experience I’ve had was interviewing people about workplace bullying.
The stories they told me were inspiring, and in many case, tragic. I wanted to share with you one specific story called “A Father’s Confession”.
This is just one of many stories you will find in my book.
TIM’S STORY - A Father’s Confession
In 2010 Tim’s Dad, Fred, called him to come to his place as soon as possible. “I don’t have much time left and I have a confession to make before I go,” was his sombre plea.
At twenty-five Tim was the eldest of Fred’s three children. Fred left his wife Mary eight years before and lived with his elderly mother, who was the only person who would have him. Fred was an unemployed alcoholic and he had very little contact with his family in the eight years since he left.
Tim recalls Fred’s drinking problem started around ten years ago when Tim was fifteen and suspected that it was related to Fred being fired from his position as CFO of a Canadian retailer in 1998. In the few years before he left Fred was verbally and physically abusive to everyone in the family.
While Tim was civil whenever he had contact with Fred, he resented him for leaving and he considered Fred a loser. Andrea and Jim, Tim’s brother and sister, were more charitable in their feelings towards Fred, as was Mary. She regularly sent Fred’s mother a check to help her out with the expenses as she knew Fred had no income and her mother in-law was not in a financial position to support him.
Fred was in a lot of pain; Tim could tell when they met. Fred told Tim the whole story, and by the time he was finished Tim felt both outrage and regret. Outrage for what happened to his dad and regret on how he treated and misjudged him.
Fred joined the company in 1987 as a comptroller and was promoted to CFO in 1996, reporting to Janice the CEO. Janice was a very demanding boss, but because of his performance and capabilities Fred did not suffer the abuse Janice doled out on a regular basis to others in the organization.
In August of 1997 Fred was offered a CFO position with a larger retailer. When he advised Janice he was leaving, she begged him to reconsider, giving him a huge raise, a staying bonus and a promise that he would be considered for her replacement in a few years’ time. Fred reconsidered and decided to stay.
A month after he decided to stay, Janice started to ride Fred, criticizing almost everything that he did. The emails from Janice were endless, every day, at all hours, weekends and holidays.
Everything was ASAP and Janice expected immediate responses, and if he did not respond immediately, she would send another. Janice started excluding Fred from critical meetings, did not communicate decisions she had made and started dealing directly with one of Fred’s subordinates without involving him.
All of this started to erode Fred’s confidence and as a result his performance. He did not know how to handle the situation. This is when he started to drink heavily, which led to the downward spiral. As a result of the stress and the drinking, Fred gained weight and started having heart problems.
The harassment and abuse lasted eleven months. In August of 1999, exactly a year after Fred told Janice he was leaving, Janice fired Fred “for cause,” citing his poor performance over the last year. Her parting comment was, “Nobody quits on me!”
Fred sought legal advice and the lawyer indicated to him that Janice had built up a very good case for terminating him and advised him to accept the three months severance that Janice had offered.
Feeling he had no choice Fred accepted the offer.
Totally broken, unfit, and an alcoholic, Fred was not able to find new employment. Janice blacklisted Fred by discrediting him in the industry. Having told the story to Tim, Fred felt a great relief.
It was the first time he had confided to anyone about what he had gone through, because he was ashamed.
His health had deteriorated to the point that he had only weeks to live and he wanted to make things right and confess and apologize to his family, and he chose Tim as the conduit.
Fred passed away five weeks later. Believing he was at fault rather than the victim was the major reason for his downfall, which happens with all too many targets. There is no question that Fred suffered from PTSD, and if he had not dealt with what he went through alone, or those who were close to him recognized