While in the midst of cleaning out a car, putting away fishing gear, and trying to ignore continuous requests for ice cream, I received a shocking text that sent me reeling to the nearest chair.

It said, “I am moving to Texas, today was my last day at work.” This came from someone I took under my wing two decades ago, groomed for greatness and then sent on her way to bigger and better things. After 15 loyal years to the same company, she feels she was targeted to quit.

When I asked her how, in her mind, this targeting began, she shared, “I would talk to people around me, and I would get in trouble but never the other person. Soon it was one small thing after another, and I would make the change they requested. Once that change was made, I was in trouble for yet another issue. I cried so much, and was filled with anxiety. I would panic at the thought of meeting with my management team.”

To hear this broke my heart. Through all my years of working several different jobs, this is a feeling that has not once struck me.

Needing to hear more, I listened to what seemed to unravel into an unreal combination of passive aggressive behavior on the part of a small management team. On one day, she was told to watch her talking on the phone while logged out. The next day, she was in trouble for having work-related conversations while logged in. This was followed by criticism for time off the phone when she was also assigned special projects. If this would not confuse a hard-working employee, I am not sure what would.

Can you picture yourself in a meeting and being blindsided with your phone calls played out loud? Well, that was next in line. The phone calls were all work-related with a little chit-chat mixed in, yet she still had to sign a contract stating termination would be next should the side conversations continue. Frankly, whenever I have someone on the line whether it is making an appointment for my dog’s haircut or talking to an airline representative while making a flight for a client, I always make small talk. I certainly hope I have not gotten the person on the other end of the line in trouble.

My next question was whether or not she, or any others, took any action against those who were doing the targeting. To the best of her knowledge, several people took their complaints to the Human Resource Department where they received backlash. Of that group, a couple have been terminated and others are still being “punished.”

The last straw was when the constant criticism came when doing work tasks she was assigned to do that took her off the phones. Her job description included “special projects,” so she was doing exactly what was asked of her.

At some point in this process, she expressed her concerns with management. Their response? “Do not look at ‘this’ as four people against one, rather, four people trying to help one.” Punching one’s supervisor is frowned upon, but really?

Working in a toxic environment can be harmful in so many ways. One’s mental health, job satisfaction, social life and home life are affected. Is it worth the cost? Yes, the job you have might pay the bills, but seeking a company with a spot for you that values your contributions and allows you the flexibility to do your job the best you can is worth it. Those jobs do exist.

Kristen Asleson is owner of Midwest Virtual Assistants. Send comments and ideas to news@postbulletin.com.