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THE QUESTION

A year ago, I was hired by my employer as a manager, moved across the country for the job – they provided me with a house contaminated by animal feces that I had to clean up – and things have gone from bad to worse. And it all started just days after I began work.

When I asked my supervisor for training, I would be told to "figure it out." My boss berated me publicly, telling me I didn't have the skills to do the job, all about things I hadn't been trained for. They extended my trial period by a month and said I could walk away from my contract.

My self-esteem plummeted. I haven't left because I need another job to go to first. I met with the CEO, armed with e-mails backing up my complaints. He didn't listen and told me I was under a six-week review, after which a decision would be made about my position.

My anxiety became unbearable, my stress skyrocketed, I lost weight and couldn't sleep. I started treatment for depression but work issues are getting worse. The CEO has told me I'm not suitable for the job and has set up meetings where a decision would be made, only to reschedule them, heightening my anxiety.

What should I do to protect my personal well-being? I feel like a massive failure and have little self-worth now. Do you have any advice for me?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Marc-Etienne Julien

President of Randstad Canada

One steadfast rule to live by: Always separate your employer from your home. Don't live with a boss, don't rent from a boss and try to disconnect any habitat you call "home" from your workplace.

Even when you aren't bringing work home with you, If your work life and home life are tied to the hip in this way it will lead to professional burnout. Work is stressful, but when your job and your home are connected, the work pressure will intensify – "If I screw up I might be homeless."

Your workplace sounds abusive and it hasn't served you well. Now that you've entered into treatment for anxiety, it is time to improve your mental health and find a workplace where you feel welcomed, not alienated, verbally assaulted and undermined.

Your employment situation has had a serious impact on your health. There are programs to help people transition to a new phase in life – professionally and personally. Connect with your new community, work with your treatment providers and find additional resources.

Your self-worth shouldn't depend entirely on your work – you need peers outside of work to provide balance to your life. Moving to a new city, with new people in a new workplace can be too much in the best of circumstances; add on serious conflicts at work and the results are clear.

Searching for a new career while staying at a job you cannot bear can add additional stress. But looking for something new is worth it. Sharpen your résumé, iron your suit and get on the job hunt.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Greg Conner

Principal, Human Capital Dynamics, Victoria

First, I must assume that HR hasn't been involved, as they have responsibility to ensure compliance with provincial and federal employment legislation, and at the very least you can start with a systemic and extreme case of harassment. This appears to be targeted to get you to resign your employment, rather than terminate you.

It is a tactic I have seen before. It appears they don't wish to pay you severance, which could be considerable given you moved across the country.

This has had a lasting and traumatic impact on you and I urge you to go to your local employment standards branch, or a lawyer and get some advice. The employment relationship between employee and employer is based on trust, and bluntly put, that has been irrevocably broken and so you need to leave, but with dignity.

This is such a sad case, and frankly there are better ways to deal with the situation. Please trust me that there are good employers out there who would never act in such a way, and I hope you find one soon.

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