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So you want to keep your lover or your employee close. Bound to you, even. You have a few options. You could be the best lover they've ever had, kind, charming, thoughtful, competent, witty, and a tiger in bed. You could be the best workplace they've ever had, with challenging work, rewards for talent, initiative, and professional development, an excellent work/life balance, and good pay. But both of those options demand a lot from you. Besides, your lover (or employee) will stay only as long as she wants to under those systems, and you want to keep her even when she doesn't want to stay. How do you pin her to your side, irrevocably, permanently, and perfectly legally?

You create a sick system.Collapse )


( 329 comments — Leave a comment )
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Jun. 15th, 2010 11:20 am (UTC)
Amazing. This SO is my last job, the one that damn near killed me over a period of nine years. The reason I'm never going back to an office job if I can help it.
Jun. 15th, 2010 01:58 pm (UTC)
(added to memories, tweeted and emailed on)
Reminiscent f so many past jobs and relationships. SO MANY. Thank you for writing.
Jun. 15th, 2010 02:53 pm (UTC)
This is so accurate that it's literally scary. The abusive relationship for me ended almost 20 years ago now, and yet reading this made my stomach clench and turn somersaults as if it were only yesterday. Thank you for writing this, it needs to be heard!
Jun. 15th, 2010 02:54 pm (UTC)
Holy shit, this is my family dynamic. I don't dare link around -- stupid enmeshed communication systems -- but I do want to thank you for this.
Jun. 15th, 2010 05:00 pm (UTC)
Referred here by stattus_quo...

I *know* you must have a hidden mike in my office...
Jun. 16th, 2010 02:48 am (UTC)
I do, but if you'll give me a cut of the Mars bars you keep behind the files in your lower right desk drawer, I won't tell anyone what you said about Tony.

Seriously, the similarity between sick offices is creepy. You have the odd outlier (boss throws screaming tantrums every couple of weeks, the next morning all the witnesses come in to find large packets of apology money on their desks) and the position of the sick person fueling the system makes some difference, but once you dig into it, living in one sick system is pretty much like living in any other. Bosses even say the same things, and the people trapped in it do the same crazy things in defense. It's terrifying. They say madness is a great creative force, but IME, it's a homogenizer.
(no subject) - issendai - Jun. 16th, 2010 02:49 am (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 16th, 2010 01:17 am (UTC)
This...makes so much sense for the relationship I'm in. For so long I've thought that my girlfriend has been going out of her way to make sure I can't leave without falling into financial ruin...and this fits my situation so perfectly that I keep coming back and reading it over and over.

You've helped me make up my mind about my relationship. You've helped me realize just how toxic it really is. Thank you.
Jun. 16th, 2010 01:50 am (UTC)
Holy fuck.

You just described my nine years of marriage.
Jun. 16th, 2010 07:21 am (UTC)
Dear Issendai,

The things you wrote here (and in the following post) were so spot on it is giving me chills. I've been in a sick system like that, and I've got family members that look like they're in a relationship sick system. This list, it puts words into that nameless dread that followed me after I left my first teaching job, and it gives me the courage to face it and say "I wasn't the (only) one who fucked up."

I'm downloading it, recommending it, you name it. Thank you! Thank you for writing this!
Jun. 16th, 2010 02:34 pm (UTC)
I'm a teacher and you have described school culture perfectly. Would you mind if I printed this out and distributed it (secretly) to some of my fellow teachers?
Jun. 16th, 2010 03:42 pm (UTC)
Not at all. I hope it helps--and I hope there's a healthier school system out there for you to transfer to.
Jun. 16th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)
Here via another friend's blog. Thank you for posting this. I am in the process of trying to get out of one of the worst sick systems I have ever been in, and your post made it possible for me to explain to friends that it really isn't that simple for me to just "walk away" from everything. I'm trying, but so many things are contingent upon me to keep afloat that everything involves thinking out strategies ahead of time to see if they will work. Add to the fact that I was just (illegally) fired from my job last month (which, after reading this again, realized that had a rudimentary sick system set up - it was retail), so now the one thing I needed to get out is essentially gone. I've been enmeshed for 10 years. I've gotten out of sick systems before, but this one is the grand poobah of sick systems.

I think the entire country has become a huge sick system - have you seen the latest bull that employers are trying to use? "Unemployed people need not apply." Their excuse? They are getting inundated with so many resumes from people that are just sending them as a shot in the dark, that have none of the skills needed to perform the job; that "employed" people are happy and so are not desperate to find another job, blah blah blah. So the people that need the jobs most can't get a decent job, are forced to stay on the unemployment system, have crises every day/week because bills are piling up.....but there is an occasional "reward" of unemployment extensions.....

Keep the people tired, hungry, and in fear, and you can do whatever you want to them, and make them believe anything. No wonder so many of us as individuals end up enmeshed in sick systems. God forbid anyone should have an independent thought, or a radical idea....that might f*ck up the system and set it on its ear! Nope, can't have that. Not in this country. :/
Jun. 16th, 2010 04:58 pm (UTC)
What I want to know is, how do I recover from one of these relationships? I got out, I drug myself out, when to therapy once a week for 9 months, read a lot of Al-Anon literature and have done a lot to improve my personal life, but I'm still really screwed up over that man.
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 16th, 2010 09:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you SO much for writing this. I've both bookmarked and saved a copy of this, it's that important.

I'm on the way out of a sick system at the moment myself, while making some last minute stabs at changing what I can.
Jun. 16th, 2010 10:16 pm (UTC)
This is good stuff. Thanks.

I want to send this to my boss, my co-workers, and many of my dear friends.

Jun. 17th, 2010 12:25 am (UTC)
And this is why I ended up having a nervous breakdown from living with my parents. This is exactly true! Get out while you still can!
Jun. 17th, 2010 04:06 am (UTC)
I feel like there's some context I'm missing--the post seems to resonate with everyone else, but it just doesn't seem familiar to me.
Jun. 17th, 2010 03:04 pm (UTC)
You may be lucky enough to have never gotten caught in one of these systems. Do you have a friend caught in a bad relationship that they don't feel they can leave because they feel responsible for their partner? Or do you know someone who hates their job but is always too exhausted to find a new one? They're probably stuck in a sick system.
(no subject) - klarfax - Jun. 17th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mercyorbemoaned - Jul. 14th, 2010 08:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jun. 17th, 2010 10:16 am (UTC)
Having the misfortune of wasting 18 months of my life working at Wal-Mart before I wised up and quit, the list you posted is something I am familiar with with what I saw at Wally World. I was fortunate enough to not be stuck with personal burdens if I quit so I did and used a temp service to find another job, one which I still have and one where they actually care some about their employees.

I could add a few other things like if you are hurt on the job they fight against you getting workman's comp (their bottom line of profit at our expense)but you can figure out the many deceptions and cons they've pulled and still are trying to do.
Jun. 17th, 2010 11:03 am (UTC)
I suspect someone else in the above comments has made this observation, but the present state of the entire social order is more or less running on this model.

Jun. 18th, 2010 01:43 am (UTC)
This was hard to read, which is a testament to how powerful it is. Thank you for sharing.
Jun. 18th, 2010 03:57 am (UTC)
Holy cow.

You just described my 12 year relationship with my now-ex husband.

Until I got some distance from him, I thought we had a great marriage.. with distance I saw how controlling and selfish he was.. what hurt the most was realizing that he never really cared that much at all- when he lost control, he threw me away like trash.

I'm so much better off.
Jun. 18th, 2010 04:55 am (UTC)
Excellent article.

For me, the system was high school. My greatest regret is all the stress I put myself through there. I lost years of creative potential.
Jun. 18th, 2010 05:32 am (UTC)
Hospitals work this way too.

Thanks for posting, I'll be passing it along too.
Jun. 20th, 2010 11:13 pm (UTC)
Yeah. I'm not in that field, but every time I read about interns (or regular staff or friends in it) working 16-24+ hour shifts, I'm reminded of the study that demonstrated that being awake more than 16 hours straight impaired one similarly to having a drink...
(no subject) - wtchywmyn - Jun. 21st, 2010 01:01 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 18th, 2010 09:12 pm (UTC)
sick educational institutions
I agree that high schools and colleges can often be or contain sick systems, but I think it needs to be pointed out that they differ significantly from relationships and jobs (at least for the students). Most of the differences arise from the variability between and within schools, and from the fact that not all educational institutions are intentionally designed to be "sick."

In any given educational institution, there will be a wide gradient of students and teachers. Students can range from motivated hard workers to slackers, apt to disinterested, or abstract thinkers to hands-on learners. Likewise teachers can range from strict to understanding, obscure to clear, or challenging to easy-going. This variability allows for lots of different possible teacher-student systems, some of which might be healthy and others sick. Given luck, intelligence, and skill, a teacher or student might remain perfectly sane; lacking them they might not. In a sick student teacher relationship, for example, if an average or below average student who cares about their grades gets a teacher who assigns challenging homework and grades harshly, that student will find themselves in a sick system. However, an average student with an easy going teacher or an excellent student with a challenging teacher will probably do fine without tiring themselves out too much. Generally a student who either does not care about their grades or gets good grades easily will be fine. Thus, sick systems in institutions often exist on a student-to-student or classroom-to-classroom basis. They can be transient as well, when teachers change policies or students switch classes. Much of it is in the mind of the student: a students and teachers can exit their little sick system bubble if they realize that (a) learning in and of itself is more important than grades, and/or (b) the limitations of mind and body must both be respected.

Schools are usually not completely sick systems because they do not need to be. Sick systems form because the creator of the system wants to get something out of its prey for less than it gives. Students (well, parents) pay money regularly (as taxes or straight up) for education. However, the quality of education received by the student depends not only on the amount they pay, but on the integrity of the administration, the skill of the teachers, and the attitude and aptitude of the student. Thanks to how it is funded, a school has little motivation to slack off on giving the students a good education and create a completely sick system. Thus schools do not become sick systems in the same way as other institutions: they become sick by accident.
Jun. 19th, 2010 01:16 am (UTC)

...thank you for putting all of this in easy-to-understand terms. I've worked in that sort of situation before. On several occasions. Having it all explanified like this will make identifying the problem easier in the future.
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