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Forums / Anxiety / Anxiety caused by toxic workplace

Topic: Anxiety caused by toxic workplace

8 posts, 0 answered
  1. Ferbs
    Ferbs avatar
    3 posts
    11 January 2019

    Hi friends,

    So i have been with my current employers for 4 1/2 years. In 2018 it came to my attention that i was severely underpaid so i hired a lawyer and got back the money that was rightfully mine but ever since my boss has made me hate going to work. She yells at me at times, she's told me not to bother coming back to work if i don't fix a mistake, she disregards request for time off ect. I would feel physically ill walking into work, heart palpitations, chest pains, stomach pains, diahrea, nausea were some of the symptoms that i had when i walked into work So i had no choice but to hand in my resignation. Last night i was up all night with severe anxiety so i called in sick for my shift this morning which was at 11am. I get a message at 11.30 this morning from my boss saying as i have no shown up to work she will take it as i am terminating my contract which wasn't the case as i had called and told the manager on duty that i wouldn't be coming in as i was sick and i had another week of my notice to work. So i called her and she blased me, threatened me that if future employees call for a reference that she would give me a bad reference. Then today i also found out that for 3 years she took all the other staff in my division for Christmas parties but never included me which has made my anxiety and depression worse. I went to the doctor's who has given me a week off work which means that's the last week of notice i would have had to work and which also means i wouldn't have to go back to work. But my question is can i use that certificate even though I'm still meant to be working my notice period? Also the thought of facing her to even give her the medical is making me anxious let alone trying to go back to working with her. I am so lost help please. I'm scared if i use my medical and don't work the last week of my notice she will give me a bad reference which can effect future employment

  2. Quercus
    Community Champion
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    Quercus avatar
    3015 posts
    12 January 2019 in reply to Ferbs

    Hi Ferbs and welcome to the forums.

    Ok so I have to say it... What. An. Asshat! That feels better. Your boss is not only a bully but also completely out of line.

    I wonder if you have considered calling the fair work ombudsman to ask for advice? I would be checking their website for sure.

    Ok so you are leaving and it might seem a little pointless to create more stress for yourself. But along with making you utterly miserable she has threatened to poison your chances of other employment by giving bad references. Stuff that. And stuff her.

    Why shouldnt you be allowed a fresh start and a working environment where you feel safe? Funnily enough it is something the law is meant to protect.

    I quit a job as I was very unwell and like you I was not well enough to work out the remaining time. I was fortunate to have a supervisor who understood I was unwell and stood up for me to management and made it happen. You don't have this luxury so it is important you have support.

    Is there anyone else in the organisation you can ask for a reference? Having a reference (even a colleague) is better than none I thought. Plus if a potential employer does contact the workplace and run into this yoad of a boss hopefully they will receive two very different references.

    One thing I do know is that you are within your rights to ask for another person to attend all meetings with you. So when you meet with your boss to give the medical notice please make sure you have someone you trust with you. It also means you have a witness to any bullying behaviour.

    On that note make sure you are documenting all of her threats and bullying. This is your future employment and she is in the wrong with no right to stop you from seeking a safe working environment.

    I hope you keep writing and reaching out. Not long to go till you escape and start fresh. Please take good care of yourself.


    1 person found this helpful
  3. geoff
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    geoff avatar
    11424 posts
    12 January 2019 in reply to Ferbs

    Hello Ferbs, and welcome to the forums.

    I think what Nat has said is very wise and to contact the fair work ombudsman who will sort out your query and I agree it would be good to have someone with you when you hand in your medical.

    With regard to getting a reference I've copied and pasted this from Fair Work Ombudsman: Best practice employers also consider what information is appropriate to provide in a reference. In some circumstances, it may not be good practice to disclose personal information about, for example, an employee's medical history. The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner can provide more information on this matter.

    Best wishes.


    2 people found this helpful
  4. Ferbs
    Ferbs avatar
    3 posts
    12 January 2019 in reply to Quercus


    Thank you so much for your reply. I have contacted fairworks and they put me on to workplace health and safety who said what my boss is doing is bullying and discrimination and they have sent me documents incase i want to peruse any further. I wanted to end things on a good note even though they have made my life living hell for the past year+ but i guess that isn t going to happen. I have since spoken to two colleagues who have said they are willing to be my references so yay.

    Am i within my legal rights to use my sick leave for the remainder of my notice? As i do have a medical? Also does having a medical for a week mean i can't be out seen doing things ie: going to the shops, going to the gym ect? Because once i called in sick as my anxiety was so bad and i ended up doing a supermarket run and someone told my boss and she went right off me. I have been writting down all her threats and remarks. She even once said she doesn't know how i have been to uni when I'm so stupid. Honestly i just can't wait to get out i just wish i had done this earlier as it would have saved me from alot of health issues. I'm just annoyed that I'm letting the fact that i wasn't invited to all the Christmas parties get me down it's making me feel like i just wasn't good enough

  5. Quercus
    Community Champion
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    Quercus avatar
    3015 posts
    12 January 2019 in reply to Ferbs

    Hi Ferbs,

    Thanks for returning and giving an update. I'm glad you have contacted the ombudsman. What is happening isn't right.

    It is up to you whether to progress or not with a complaint. Perhaps it would help to reach out for more advice from your medical team to see whether they feel this will make your anxiety and physical symptoms worse? Do you see anyone for counselling at all? It would be a good idea.

    I was of the opinion you could access sick leave to work out your final hours at work given that you are legitimately unwell and have the certificate. I wonder do you have access to a union in your workplace? Their websites are generally a good place to start. You can search for your Enterprise Bargaining Agreement and see what the conditions are in your particular line of work. Considering you don't have to disclose what is wrong with you on a medical certificate what right does your employer have to stop you from grocery shopping? Again your EBA should cover this. I'm not sure.

    You mentioned accessing a lawyer before too are you still in contact? It is worth asking for advice. From what I read the law protects your right to access the ombudsman without being punished for it by your workplace. You have definately been bullied and punished to the point of having to quit (plus your anxiety and physical symptoms). Excluding a staff member purposefully from staff functions is considered bullying too by the way. There is a reason this upsets you... It is bullying. I'm not a lawyer obviously but from what you write I would be asking for a professional opinion if you feel this path will help you find closure.

    It is worth seeking techniques to help manage your anxiety too. In my 20s I developed irritable bowel sydrome and like you diarrhea made life so stressful. I made excuses not to leave the house. My family used to say they found it strange how the symptoms began randomly. It wasn't random but tied into years of anxiety and stress. A physical manifestation of the anxiety I bottled up inside.

    Medication (antidepressant) made a massive difference to my physical symptoms and it was so liberating not being constantly unwell and worried about leaving home. You said you have seen the doctor but does that include a mental health review? Worth considering.

    Whatever you decide to do we are here for you.


    1 person found this helpful
  6. Ferbs
    Ferbs avatar
    3 posts
    12 January 2019 in reply to Quercus

    Hi Nat,

    Funny how you mentioned ibs because i got really sick in 2018 randomly out of the blue. I train 6 days a week and yet gained 16kg and all in my belly started having bouts of diahrea and constipation, stomach pains, hair loss just to name a few symptoms. The doctors tested everything and put it down to ibs but everyone was wondering how the symptoms started suddenly but could it be linked to stress and anxiety?

    I took my medical in today my boss wasn't there but her husband was ( they own the business together) i finally got the courage to say exactly how i felt. I explained how she had no right to talk to me like that, how i felt alone and isloated when i found out about the Christmas parties and also said what kind of message was my boss giving my colleagues when she took them out but left me to work because that gives the wrong impression. I also said how i was bullied by another employee too who is best friends with my boss and she knew nothing about it. He was very polite and understanding and wished me all the best and said his wife was out of line to say she would terminate my contract as it is illegal but accepted my mediacl for the rest of my notice.

    1 person found this helpful
  7. jollydolly
    jollydolly avatar
    24 posts
    15 January 2019 in reply to Ferbs

    Great news, Ferbs. I'm glad the husband responded that way, and hope that this makes you feel a bit better.

    Best of luck for the next steps.

  8. Ghostsinmyhead
    Ghostsinmyhead avatar
    3 posts
    15 January 2019 in reply to Ferbs

    Hi Ferb's,

    Thank you for sharing, I thought I'd reply because like you, I have faced severe anxiety in the work place myself many years ago. The thing I can tell you right now is that things do get better, and resigning is by far the best decision you could have made for you, and you alone.

    I'll tell you a little about my journey - I faced verbal abuse daily for things that weren't my fault, I worked 14 hour shifts with no designated break time, and I was severely underpaid. When it came to resigning, I bluntly stated "I can't work with my boss". This reason was not accepted and I had to list another reason so I said "I can't keep up with full time work commitments and study" and that was that.

    This place gave me invaluable experience I never listed my boss as a reference for obvious reasons. So it didn't leave me many options... It left me worried about moving forward and how past jobs might affect me in future. I was willing to cut my losses and not have a reference, knowing that I did what was best for my mental health. However, I was thankful that I made friends within that work place that were happy to assist with a reference, even if it was a personal written reference or a phone number to call, it reflected positively on my time spent at that job.

    Do you think you feel comfortable with any other managers or team mates that you worked with to give you a reference?

    I think at times like these it's important to remember that you've done something very brave by cutting out a toxic relationship, if that's all you've gain from this... it's a pretty big milestone.

    If you feel like talking a little more I'll check back into this thread, but I hope my experience helps you with your journey.

    Be kind to yourself xx

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