My Work Environment Was Turning Into An Abusive Situation So I Got Out Of It

by Jessica Schirripa
Warner Bros. Pictures

I should've seen it coming sooner, but just like any other person who's gone through a messy breakup, I was going to do anything in my power to make sure the next one worked out. I needed it to be "the one."

The thing is, it wasn't a romantic relationship I was trying to force -- it was my job.

After undergoing two years of manipulation, broken promises, and verbal and psychological abuse, the thing that bothers me isn't that I went through all of that -- it's knowing I'm not alone.

(Despite the comparison, I am in no way trying to downplay the severity of the various types of domestic abuse. However, harassment in the workplace is an issue that's depressingly more common than we think.)

Unless you're hired under a workforce with a HR department (and keep in mind, they work to protect the company, not you), various forms of sexual harassment are simply tolerated.

Women especially don't want to come forward and risk the financial cost of filing charges or risk having their names and reputations dragged through the mud. So instead, many women choose to brush it off and tell themselves "it's no big deal" or "it happens to everyone," simply to avoid the turmoil.

Aleksandra Jankovic

Meanwhile, the reality is it is a big deal and it doesn't, and shouldn't, happen to everyone. Still, it's happened to me at every single job I've ever had since I was 16.

Through the years, I've always kept my mouth shut, and so have plenty of others. Why? Because young adults are made to feel like we need to be silent and take it, or we risk being stereotyped as "cry-baby" Millennials.

And it goes beyond that. Us young adults are in a constant state of fear as we're vainly threatened with potential termination if we don't play by their rules, which are subject to change daily, with zero regulation or protection.

Some businesses are led by true and authentic entrepreneur types, ones who are driven and on a mission toward success. However, many are incompetent, oftentimes sociopathic, leaders who bully their subordinates as they constantly get away with inflicting torture with their inappropriate words and actions.

They want to look the part and play the part, but not actually be involved or accountable. Who can you turn to when it's the owner of the company putting you through such an ordeal? The answer is, sadly, no one.

I'm sure many people would wonder: If it's really that bad, why would you stay? The answer is simple: money.


I'm not trying to sound like a sellout, but we have to pay for health insurance, rent, car, food, heat, water and every other basic need. These bills come around like clockwork. They don't care what you have to do to pay them, just as long as they get paid.

Like many others, I don't come from money or have a financial fallback -- and I don't want to. I want to be independent. I need to work.

However, job hunting isn't a walk in the park; it can be difficult to find stable and secure employment. The fear of being jobless and broke keeps many people working hard at jobs they hate with people who don't even treat them like human beings.

The worst experience I had was working under a man who truly encompassed all of the qualities of the three demonic honchos of the movie "Horrible Bosses."

Warner Bros. Pictures

The owner was having an affair with his "assistant." She never had to do any work -- like, literally AT ALL. The rest of us were forced to clean up after her disgusting mess of garbage, open food containers and crumbs while she didn't lift a finger.

Other hardworking employees would get into arguments with him over his neglect, his drinking in the office and his assistant's lack of contribution to the company.

If the assistant made a mistake, higher ups weren't even allowed to correct her. Bring it up to him and he would imply we are all jealous of her beauty, even going so far as to say her physical appearance is what "kept the lights on" -- not his loyal employees and their dedication and talent.

While others worked hard for their bi-weekly check, his assistant paraded around in shiny red shoes, driving a custom car. (And our owner, a married man, was the one publicly paying for all of it.)

So naturally, resentment followed. People began challenging him and he grew more threatening and abusive -- even going as far as screaming and cursing in a female employee's face for questioning him.

I would receive menacing phone calls for hours on end from him, where he would continuously try to manipulate me and speak poorly about the other staff, trying to turn us all against each other.

If you requested someone else be present in a conversation or said you weren't available off hours to talk, he would threaten you with termination, as you were a salaried employee and therefore his "slave."

Slowly but surely, he got rid of any employee, one by one. He openly boasted about making their lives a living hell until they quit, proud he could avoid paying them a severance.

Still, the worst part of this story was no one could really help me. I went to employment lawyers for education and help, but it wasn't enough. No one could do anything.

After one consultation breaking down the nightmare I was living, the lawyer's response was, "I'm not even speaking to you from a legal perspective right now, I am speaking to you as a human. Get out of there immediately."

When your boss is making your life a living hell, it can be tough to find the nerve to quit and move on to a job where you're treated better. But in the end, that's often all we can do.

Having financial security is great, but it's not worth any price. If your boss makes you feel scared or unsafe, my only advice to you is to get out. Your happiness and health is what matters most.