Workplace Harassment: Jack’s Case Study
Jack is a 59 year old single male who is a manager in a busy retail firm. Jack feels that life has passed him by a bit. He is regarded as a good manager but he has no ambitions at his stage of life to advance any more. He has worked for the firm for most of his working life and knows everything there is to know about the firm, including who to trust and who to avoid. Recently a younger woman Clare aged 25 years was assigned to do some work with him on some marketing and there was a deadline to get things done. Jack felt that Clare was ambitious and worked very hard.
One night at the office Clare was all over Jack saying how she always wanted to seduce an older man and how good looking Jack was. Jack was shocked that she was even interested in him and felt flattered. From that moment they had a passionate affair. Clare told Jack not to tell anyone because it could affect her career.
Clare asked Jack if he could help her with a promotion she was applying for. Jack of course agreed as he was so thrilled to be the centre of her attention. Clare enticingly asked Jack to get some confidential files that could help her to have an edge in her promotion. Clare knew that Jack had the keys to a supervisor’s office and filing cabinets. Jack felt very uneasy but he was so smitten by Clare and her amorous ways that he agreed to Clare’s overwhelming appreciation.
Clare got her promotion. Clare knew that Jack would not have the influence to get her any further in the firm. Clare had moved offices and she told a stunned Jack the he had better leave her alone or she would report him for sexual assault. She stated to Jack ‘Why should I be interested in some fat, bald old git like you anyway — you were just a means to an end and went back to her work. Jack was devastated and angry. He just wanted to wring her neck but where would that get him. He was physically sick.
He kept having flashbacks of their relationship and would wake during the night in a sweat for the next few months. He couldn’t tell anyone and felt so alone, used and abused and his self-esteem hit rock bottom. He became depressed and overawed with emotions especially whenever he saw Clare at work. Clare of course just ignored him. His concentration and memory were becoming problematic and affecting his work.
Jack realised that he was a fool but also realised that he needed help to get over this affair. He rang a local professional counsellor and spilled out his story and cried for the first time in a very long time. He related how he was so lonely and that Clare had given him a will to live again and to feel wanted and loved. He realises now that Clare was just using him to get ahead. During the counselling sessions the counsellor worked on Jack’s expression of his feelings and why he felt the way he did. Why did he not like the way that he looks? Why had he abandoned an idea of forming a close relationship with a woman in his life? Jack wrote down his feelings and emotions in a journal and at times the words that he poured out shocked him for their violence — but he felt damn good about it afterwards.
An action plan was agreed to with his counsellor about the sorts of changes Jack could make in his life to feel good about himself. Jack came up with ideas such as going to the gym and getting his body back into some shape, going on a better more nutritious and less fattening diet, having his hair professionally dyed and signing on for membership with a reputable internet dating service.
After a couple of months, Jack’s life was transformed. He had so many enquiries on the internet from gorgeous women and he was about to date one next Friday evening (dinner and then go out to see a play). He couldn’t believe how his life had been turned around and that his self-confidence had risen literally out of this Earth. Jack put Clare right out of his mind most of the time though there was some hurt still there. He now felt a slight bit sorry for her as her life would be one long lie.
What can we make of Jack’s story?
There is no doubt that Clare was a bully and manipulator and preyed on Jack?s vulnerability. Clare would sleep her way to the top assuming that she survives long enough to do so as she is really playing with ?fire? and with peoples? emotions and someone may take more than simple offence. Jack was devastated by her actions ? he thought for once in his life that someone cared for him and could make him happy.
He was also caught in a catch 22 in that he could not tell anyone about the affair. When Clare broke it off she threatened him in a frightening way and he had little recourse but to agree. Jack was all alone and feeling depressed and contemplated suicide for a short while. No-one in the office or anywhere else could surely believe that such a relationship could exist outside of sexual assault and he fantasised himself being portrayed in the media as a nasty lecherous old predator. Jack showed great strength of character to admit that he had a major problem and sought the services of a professional counsellor.
This is exactly what he needed because he couldn?t confide his story to anyone else. In doing this Jack was able to understand more about himself and his life and that this was actually a precursor for a change that was long overdue. He picked himself up and did something to change his life positively through an action plan developed with his counsellor. It was hard work at first but after a while he was feeling fitter than he had been for twenty odd years. He felt good.
This story could have turned out much differently and potentially with tragic consequences. It demonstrates the dangers of workplace harassment and bullying and gives a glimpse of how horrific it can be in terms of consequences for the victim.
Good on you Jack!!!
I feel sorry for Clare now. What a shallow life she lives.
The bully Clare picked Jack precisely because Jack is vulnerable – low self esteem, arrested ambition to advance further in the workplace, “middle age” – and deliberately takes advantage, knowing precisely the reaction Jack will have: become enamoured of her. Once she gets her promotion, she deliberately harms him further by insulting him on many levels, inducing such shame that he cannot conceive of reporting her for repeated sexual abuse. Claire has done this before and she will do it again.
I don’t know how common this scenario is in the real world. I don’t hear about them, that’s for sure.
I am a Union representative in Ontario Canada.
Thanks for the comments.
Judith, I think if a similar scenario occurred in a workplace environment, you?d find that most men would not be willing to share it with other people. Particularly in this case, lodging a complaint to a supervisor would also bring out the fact that Jack provided access to confidential files on the basis of a personal relationship ? which is highly unethical and potentially punishable.
The victim may seek professional assistance (e.g. a counsellor) to deal with his feelings and emotions; but making the situation public is a whole different thing and something that would highly affect their ego. This situation might be uncommon; but even more so would be the willingness of the victim to make it known by his work colleagues.
In a way what would she have done if he had been caught pilfering confidential information from the files. If she didnt stand by him then at least he would have known sooner exactly what her intentions were, but unfortunately possibly would have lost his job.