Compliments of Pietromassimo Pasqui via Flickr

Stalking doesn’t occur solely in Fatal Attraction like drama. At work, it can slither into a throb of incessant contact, all in the name of “getting to know you.” Nestled in the protection of people who look, talk, and act like they do, have similar or greater power (and are willing to go to bat if anything goes south), higher ranked stalkers see a low stakes game. The problem is that things are never “OK” for their targets – because predators are not happy when their prey don’t play along – when stalkers no longer experience “consistency.” Like a fix that wears thin they ramp up their abuse – calling and hanging up until they force someone to pick up the phone. And just to maintain their sanity, targets do. Because the “unfortunate” are front and center in their obsessive minds, stalkers want to ensure likewise.

They are reluctant to leave messages, because what they say is often obscene. They have what amounts to a toll free 1-900 number where they happily and unabashedly say just about anything. Stalkees who resist experience a sudden flash of animosity, a lightning bolt that signals there will be trouble from a powerful abuser. In an ironic twist panicked targets may end up calling “Papa Bear,” to apologize for their “poor attitude.” Jobs are precarious, with employment hanging in the balance predicated on the whims of other people. Those in the hot seat gravitate toward self-preservation.

Targets who first experience stalkers as friendly, almost “paternal,” gradually, perceptibly, over time see their towel of feigned decency slip to the floor. One trampled boundary leads to another, with physical stalking/drivebys morphing into a regular occurrence. If targets do the unthinkable and sever ties, stalkers initiate a full court press recrimination lobbed at everyone within throwing range, and short distance telephone.

Yet they continue to “jiggle the lock,” plying dozens of phone calls/unwanted show-ups in the hopes they can fasten the cellophane wrap tight, and suffocate any semblance of an independent human being. In their minds they own you. Targets exist in a bell jar of someone else’s making, in which stalkers shoot prurient desire at them like tranquilizer darts. But no one at work would guess how lecherous they are on the side, because their mode of delivery results in an unprovable he said she said.

They cover their bases through careful target selection, sending up trial balloons of border line harassment (to see if they come back). And if they don’t, they feel like they are on safe ground. Those who “know their place” are fertile loam. The unrequited stalker all the while continuing the drumbeat of “this is person is bad” at work, complaining about them behind the scenes to throw people off their tracks. And if worst comes to worst – with stalkees managing to eke out an accusation – the stock, “Well, I don’t remember that” suffices. He presents himself as the model of propriety, while pointing to the target as anything but. Tarred and feathered by surrounding opinions, targets perceive a “no way out.” At least not in companies where employees deify their abusers, and long to stand within their shadows.

Related posts:

Ways to recognize stalking at work

The inner workings of a stalker

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All viewpoints expressed by Jackie Gilbert are her own, and not of her employer.

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