Bullying has no place at work. (And no place in the rest of our lives either.) I’ve seen bullying come from all sorts of people like peers, colleagues, leaders, managers, students, staff, parents, the list goes on. We’re told to expect that as we grow up bullying eases, and sometimes that’s true. But not always. In truth, anyone can end up being a bully, or feeling bullied.
And the effects of bullying can be long-lasting and truly devastating.
I was bullied in primary school – the messages I took on board about myself stuck to me like glue for years afterwards. When, as an adult, a boss bullied me relentlessly, those same feelings came flooding back.
Bullying can have wide-ranging implications and effects. Being belittled, threatened, attacked, harassed, ignored, stolen from, or lied to regularly is awful and hurts much more than the old sticks and stones maxim would have us believe.
Workplace bullying can cause anxiety or depression, make it harder to do a good job, make you feel sick at work. and make you avoid turning up to work. Then there’s the relationship issues that play out at home, and the impact it has on your physical health (especially your heart).
It would be awesome if all bullying stopped. But right now, it’s still a tool in some people’s toolbox. Poor them and poor us.
In order to cope (and to avoid being a bully) we need to investigate our relating styles, our ideas about social hierarchies, our personal attachment patterns, and own emotional regulation strategies.
Skills in these areas can help for two main reasons.
1. People can be equipped to cope with bullying behaviour directed towards them, and understand how to deflect it, manage it or change it.
2. If bullying isn’t effective then people will stop using it as a strategy (against you at least).
This Comcare page has an excellent resources section containing policy documents for businesses, checklists, practical guidance and fact-sheets.
If you are being bullied at work and it’s taking a toll, here’s the first thing I get all new clients to do.
Please have a think about your light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s really important that you know (in your bones) that there’s a way out.
A different future.
This is not all there is. This isn’t how work has to be.
So start making an escape plan.
Set a time limit on how much longer you will put up with what’s happening to you without change. Do you still want to be experiencing this in 5 years? How about 1 year from now?
Then investigate your options for leaving the situation. Can you get a transfer in the organisation? Is there a new path you’d like to take instead?
Get a hopeful window open in your mind and heart. Not because there’s no other options for resolution, but because it’s wonderful to have at least one optimistic certainty in your heart and in your control to start feeling better.
The next step is to figure out how you can best survive this. I’m a big fan of Evelyn Field’s bullying work and she’s written a great self-help book for you to start with Strategies for Surviving Bullying at Work
This book contains lots of empowering tools to help you cope well when you’re being bullied at work.
“When speaking to an audience about dealing with bullying I often say: ‘I was brought up to believe that if you’re nice to people, they’ll be nice to you.’ I ask for a show of hands to see if anyone else was brought up like me. Generally, about half of the audience volunteer. I wonder whether the remainder are shy or weren’t brought up like me. Then I say, ‘This is ridiculous. About 5% of the population are psychotic, psychopathic, drug or alcohol addicted, about 15% are neurotic, many people still treat women, homosexuals, different races or cultures, the unemployed and mentally ill differently anyway and the rest of us might be just having a bad day. It could be you or me. It doesn’t matter how nice you are, someone might be mean to you’ This usually guarantees a healthy laugh!
Human beings go into survival mode when they are feeling threatened. If you show signs of fear, panic, anger or hurt you catapult the other person’s survival instinct into action. They fight or become defensive, like an animal guarding their territory. Sometimes it does not matter how nice you are, if you are dealing with stressed-out employees or sociopaths, they can harass, attack or backstab. If you stand up for your rights and fight back, you lose power and they win. When nothing you do to obtain respect makes a difference, sometimes you need to block people from using difficult or nasty behaviours against you.
Imagine if someone stood on your toes. You would tell them to get off very quickly because it hurts. You could use a similar mental approach with difficult people. You do not want them stepping on your emotional toes. You need to build clear boundaries, like wearing protective body armour to block their psychological bullets. Alternatively, you could visualise yourself plotting a course through a minefield, or around fragile coral at the Great Barrier Reef, or safe in a soundproof room while they yell outside.
You need to maintain your power, not donate it to others. When you block toxic vibes, you protect yourself. As you modify their perceptions, you are less likely to be attacked because you become less threatening. Then others are more likely to respect you.”
If you’d like to get more help, please call me and we’ll work our way through this together 0456 033 200