In my final position at Texas Instruments one of the things we did was take a Myers Briggs Personality Test. I worked for a guy who had 20 direct reports, & I was the only woman engineer. Looking back, I suppose I should have seen this for the red flag that it was. This was the early 90’s, and I suspect that he had probably been told he needed more diversity in his work group, and that was why he took me on. But I was trying to get away from a woman manager who was a complete sociopath, so maybe he was the lesser of two evils. At any rate he apparently didn’t think much of women.
We took the MBPT and HR made a big deal out of the fact that we didn’t have to reveal what our type was if we didn’t want to. However, at the meeting where we got our results, for the first time I could ever remember, my boss deliberately sat next to me — which meant I could not hide my type from him. I could not keep my information private, even had I wanted to.
It turns out that the description for my Type was “hosts and hostesses of the world“, a description that my boss found hilarious and I therefore found humiliating.
Looking back, I can see that I was conditioned to accept this as hilarious, to accept the judgment of my boss, and not to speak up and say hey, these are strengths, and just because they are different from what you value doesn’t mean they are valueless. To accept someone else’s decision that who I was was a source of amusement, not value.
Over the next few weeks, my boss repeatedly made fun of me in front of my peers, mocking me by calling me the “hostess”. At one point in one of our morning meetings — in front of all the other (male) engineers and the technicians — he asked me if I had “brought refreshments”.
When I pushed back against these insults I was told that I wasn’t actually being insulted, because “the hostesses at Chili’s get to wear nicer clothes and cuter shoes than the waitresses.”
When he continued to insult me and I continued to push back, and eventually told him to get bent, I’m sure that was a problem, because women probably weren’t supposed to talk to him like that.
I’m surprised the old “don’t you have a sense of humor” card didn’t get played, but it was probably only a matter of time.
After that memorable meeting at which I told him to get bent, I wrote an email to HR complaining about the treatment of me by my manager. I detailed the fact that we were supposed to be able to keep our information private, and mine had been made public against my will, in a very humiliating way, by the authority figure.
Later that day an ally told me he saw our boss in his boss’s office, and it looked like he was getting yelled at.
And the way my manager decided to solve that problem was to get rid of me. Scapegoat!
Soon after, I made an appointment with him to talk about the quality of the assignments I was getting, which was basically nil. The male engineers were getting important things to do, and I was given the unimportant, crap assignments.
I was astute enough to have figured this out at least, so I did what you were supposed to do in that situation: I went to my boss and asked to talk about it. He agreed immediately and said how about next Tuesday at 2 o clock, which surprised me, but I said fine.
Turns out that was when he had the surprise appointment already made with HR for them to offer me a buyout package. I knew nothing about it until I showed up at his office, ready to talk about what more I could be doing, and the first thing he said was, “Let’s go to HR.”
I was offered a buyout package. A bribe. Six months’ salary if I would leave quietly and sign a paper saying I wouldn’t sue them.
As we walked out of that HR meeting and headed back to the office area, my boss FINALLY attempted to talk to me — sort of. Once again, he started to explain to me why I shouldn’t be angry, why his actions were perfectly legit, etc etc.
I think I told him not to speak to me. He never spoke to me again.
I worked there for another couple of weeks, and I hauled my belongings out of the building on the weekend, because I wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about the buyout package. I just disappeared.
Somewhere I still have my security badge, because my boss was too chicken to walk me out the door. Too chicken to stand by what he had done to me.
But it’s all part of the pattern right? Here’s a person who has been trained as a scapegoat, trained to minimize herself, not make problems, be a nice token female.
Except that I wasn’t fully trained. I will put up with a lot of shit, but at some point I won’t anymore.
And that’s when it becomes a big surprise for the toxic abuser: they’ve treated someone like shit for years and gotten away with it, but when they finally cross some line, and the target finally gets fed up and fights back, particularly in some unexpected way — well, of course they will continue to shift blame onto them and say it’s all their fault, I had nothing to do with it. They will never, ever choose instead to be humble, to learn, to change, to grow.