Focus First on Family and Job

Lindsey Novak on

Q. I'm a 33-year-old woman who was recently made manager of a small financial firm. I'm very capable, efficient and fair. After 6 months, my skeptical, mostly older and mostly male staff members have come to respect me. I'm pretty and have had to put up with ogling and even crushes, but I was determined to be a successful boss, and I succeeded. Then, a week ago, an incident just about destroyed my sense of authority and I'm devastated. I feel like quitting.

I arrived early at work and on that Tuesday as I opened the door of our small building I was accosted and pushed in by several men demanding money. I was trapped, frightened and shaking. They left me thoroughly bound and gagged in a storage room unable to get free, but luckily unharmed. I spent the next two hours desperately struggling to get loose, not wanting to be found like this. When I heard some staff members arriving, I was exhausted and still tied up. I then heard footsteps and voices and saw the storage room door opening. To my embarrassment, three staff members appeared, then several others, and in a daze, I felt hands untying me, removing the gag and heard them comforting me. I tried to regain my poise by joking (probably dumb), but on being found in such a position I had felt my self-esteem, dignity, and pride evaporate. Energetic, competent Ms. Proficient helplessly bound and gagged in a closet.

My employees have been caring and supportive, and I've tried to act normal, but my sense of authority is shot. I'm angry with myself for being careless, for lamely allowing myself to be bound without putting up a fight, for being unable to free myself. I go through the motions each day but feel worthless and still embarrassed. How do I snap out of this nightmare and return to my confident self?

A: Stop your negative thoughts NOW. You have no reason to quit your job -- one in which you worked so hard to gain your employees' respect. You were not careless. Those men were lying in wait for you. You were an unwilling victim of a crime and you handled the situation correctly. You are brave. You are not responsible for three men choosing to attack you. You are not responsible for your inability to untie yourself (as all TV characters seem so ably to do) and you were very wise for not fighting back, which would have pushed the men into applying additional force to subdue you into submission or worse. No matter what your size, assuming you are not Wonder Woman or a Karate Black Belt, you would never stand a chance to successfully beat and stop three robbers. There is zero cause for embarrassment.

Your employees sound like wonderful, supportive individuals who care about your safety and well-being. They are not laughing, criticizing or scoffing about the event. Any one of them likely realizes they could have experienced the same situation had they been alone that day to open the building. In fact, this event should be the catalyst for the building owners to ramp up security by installing an outside emergency call button and direct alarm to the police.


Your employees respect you and the job you do at work, so it is your job to continue on that hard-earned, well-deserved path. Your embarrassment will damage you far more than those robbers did if you allow it. Ask your doctor for a recommendation to a psychotherapist and check for crime victims' support groups in your area. You have several stages to go through; your current embarrassment must first turn into anger for you to move forward and put this behind you. In the meantime, you need to work and maintain your daily life to take your mind off the experience. Your job and loved ones should be number one in your priorities. Then therapy will help guide you on the path to feeling secure, safe and realistic about your future.


Email life and career coach with your workplace questions and experiences. For more information, visit and for past columns, see

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