Two Female Approaches to Workplace Abuse

by Sandra Ford Walston

Bec’s “courage style” won her several good project manager and engineering jobs and contracts, but it also lost her at least one or two lucrative job opportunities. While working at an aerospace corporation, Bec experienced the stress and worry of making a tough decision: whether or not to file formal gender discrimination charges against her company.

Setting denial aside, she said, “I spoke out gracefully and wrote professionally via the How to handle workplace abuse or the toxic boss.formal corporate channels. I exercised the ‘Just Say No’ attitude to injustice, gender discrimination and retaliation against me and other women at that company. For taking that strong stand in my truth, I was fired. Following the rules of the legal system, I stood in my courage. I stood by my true being—strong and direct.”

Bec’s courageous actions may have cost her a job, but they also represent a significant step up. Refusing to act could have initiated a slide into complete denial.

Meet Brenda, a senior vice president for a media company. For over seven years, she lived in denial to endure the tyrannical abuse of her toxic boss. One awful day, she glanced down at her body and shook her head at the twenty-five pounds she had put on. Her anguish about his rude behavior and her self-inflicted abuse was squeezing the joy from her life. Brenda had the conventional justifications that keep a woman stuck in denial: she was the breadwinner, and their only child was about to start college. She pondered giving notice, but in a weak economy, she was unable to see past her paycheck or her corner office.

Finally, Brenda found the courage to inform the human resources director about her situation. She said, “As soon as my boss was appropriately confronted, he stopped delivering the abusive comments. Just like that!” While intimidating bosses are typically stubborn and resistant to feedback, uncomfortable with showing vulnerability and rarely self-reflective, you cannot let them get away with diminishing your spirit.

Brenda forgot to pause and reflect. Out of touch with her body, she had forgotten the tools to balance her professional and personal life, and she fell asleep to her Being. “Body awareness not only anchors you in the present moment, it is a doorway out of the prison that is the ego. It also strengthens the immune system and the body’s ability to heal itself,” writes Eckhart Tolle in A New Earth. The difference between Bec and Brenda’s stories is that Bec knew her “courage style.” She was able to summon it quickly, face the facts and remove herself from a bad situation.

How quickly do you size up bad situations and take a stand?

In spite of her best intentions, Brenda allowed herself to become a victim, “a very common role,” continues Tolle. “The form of attention it seeks is sympathy or pity or others’ interest in my problems, ‘me and my story.’ Seeing oneself as a victim is an element in many egoic patterns, such as complaining, being offended, outraged, and so on.… The ego does not want an end to its ‘problems’ because they are part of its identity.” Consequently, denial is essentially written into the ego’s psychological programming, and a meditative practice is the only proven method to switch off that programming.

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Sandra Ford Walston is known as The Courage Expert and innovator of StuckThinking™. Featured on the speaker circuit as witty, provocative, concrete and insightful, she has sparked positive change in the lives of thousands of leaders each year. She found that there is a direct correlation between your success quotient and your courage quotient.

She is the internationally published author of bestseller COURAGE The Heart and Spirit of Every Woman, the follow-up book The COURAGE Difference at Work: A Unique Success Guide for Women and non-gender FACE IT! 12 Courageous Actions that Bring Success at Work and Beyond. All three books are on based on over 20 years of original courage research.

Sandra is certified in the Enneagram and MBTI® and she is a Newfield Network executive coach. Please visit

Watch my YouTube on Courageous Leadership

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