THE ROAD TO FORT WORTH
And other works by Michael Jackson Smith

 

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Free - Chapter 8: Danville


Working For A Bullying Boss

I once worked as a project manager for a home builder on a barrier island accessible only by boat or airplane. Part of my job included running a skiff over the water to the island on the southwest coast of Florida. I was in contact with my boss on a daily basis on the telephone, and he toured the building sites on the island about once a week. Although we had contracts with a wealthy clientele, the company began to feel the effects of the decline when the building bubble broke. My boss made some expensive errors in estimating prices and a few very costly engineering mistakes, and as time went on, the company faced bankruptcy.

My boss became increasingly intimidating toward me with outbursts that increased in frequency from once a month to a couple times a week. His rants were extremely caustic and included degrading remarks--accusations that weren't factual, and he attempted to interrogate the veracity of my actions. I learned quickly that any response that I made was an exercise in futility, so I didn't answer or defend myself. I had never been the target of a bully, and it took some time for me to understand what was really happening.

I made several attempts to discuss the problem with my boss long after his anger had calmed. Often, his reply was to not take it personally. But it was personal. I was working for a man who was extremely insecure and used words as weapons to vent his unhappiness.

Although I knew that his accusations were false, I was still the target of his tirades, and I became aware of why I felt so badly after he concluded his rants. My mind sensed the presence of danger and alerted my body to prepare itself to either fight or run. The flow of adrenaline increased, and my heart beat faster, but I couldn't run and I wouldn't fight. It was my boss screaming after all, and I felt trapped. I had to remain calm if I wanted to continue to get a paycheck. The economy was weak, and I'm at an age when finding a job for the same amount of money would have been difficult, if not impossible to do.

Verbal abuse is not illegal as long as it doesn't contain threats of violence or violate the Civil Rights Amendment. If it were illegal, it would be difficult to prove. Who would the defense call for witnesses--co-workers? They would feel intimidated in testifying for fear of losing their jobs.

Bullies have an innate sense of who they can and cannot intimidate. I wasn't the sole object of his anger, but I noticed that there were some employees that he didn't target. They were the kind of people that would have walked off the job after the first confrontation. The fact that I continued to work for him, in spite of his behavior, was a confirmation in his mind that he could continue to verbally abuse me.

The only successful way of dealing with most bullies is to end the relationship. Very few change their ways. My job ended when my boss declared bankruptcy, leaving me without an income and without the hope of recovering the money he still owed to me. I would have been far better off financially to terminate my employment years ago when his rants began. And I would have avoided the emotional burden of trying to deal with a dynamic that was intolerable as well as unchangeable.

I know that I will never again allow someone to intimidate me. It is a method that a bully uses to try to control someone. No job is worth the emotional distress. Next time, I would simply say, "This is the last time that you will ever be able to verbally abuse me," and then I would follow through with my promise by leaving.

Copyright ©2012 Michael Jackson Smith


Overview of The Road To Fort Worth

Jack Wendell's rite of passage into adulthood began three hours before midnight on the eve of his twenty-first birthday. On his stroll across campus, he watched one foot follow the other in a rhythmic pattern and thought about time. As he stepped from the past into the future, he was stunned by the realization that the present moment was so fleeting that it couldn't exist. His breathing became shallow and feelings of horror flushed through his body in spasms, like waves crashing on the shoreline, retreating, then returning in another blow. He was convinced that he had entered a portal into hell, and he endured the agony of the next three hours. When the clock struck midnight, he entered a bar, ordered a glass of whiskey, and the elixir washed away his panic with three magic bends of his elbow.

This was only the beginning of Wendell's long love affair with booze, his only relief from the anxiety attacks that haunted him in an era when little was known about the disorder. He couldn't function with the anxiety that possessed him and drank in an attempt to control his horrifying feelings, but couldn't work in a perpetual state of intoxication. On his journey, he encountered a host of unlikely companions and circumstances, including rehabs, institutions, therapists and a horde of dysfunctional people who would harbor him for a time, yet, sooner or later, he was forced onto the street again in search of another haven, where he could drink to his heart's content.

The Road To Fort Worth is a long overdue novel about a man suffering from panic disorder and alcoholism. It could be seen as a continuation of Charles R. Jackson's classic novel, The Lost Weekend. It's the story of a life on the rocks with a twist of lemon. It's the story of how one man learned to untie the inextricable knot binding two debilitating disorders that so many people have been unable to unravel. -Michael Jackson Smith

"Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."


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