Coping with Workplace Bullying
Workplace bullying is not only something that most people have experienced at least once in their lives; but, can also leave you feeling like your confidence has been completely knocked. It affects your mood, it affects you at home, it affects your sleep and can lead to racing thoughts and doubts. Workplace bullying can affect not only your life, but also health, leading to headaches, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, insomnia, clinical depression, panic attacks and even PTSD.
What is Workplace Bullying
According to Aryanne Oade, author of Free Yourself from Workplace Bullying, Workplace bullying involves a deliberate attempt to hurt you emotionally, to injure your reputation, or to undermine your self-confidence. The bully may begin to groom you to catch you off guard so that they can then do something to attack you, such as a whispered insult or spreading rumours. They try hard to leave you in a position where you can’t respond or defend yourself. She goes on to add, ” If they detect weakness in their chosen victim, they may then escalate their attacks by behaving in a variety of harmful ways. These may include giving [unjust] negative feedback, misrepresenting the facts, or telling blatant lies.” Ultimately, it leads to a feeling of powerlessness in the victim. Sometimes it can be hard to tell if something is bullying or not; but, the clearest sign that something is, in fact, workplace bullying, is when it happens repeatedly – it’s not just someone having a bad day or an isolated incident.
Coping with Bullying in the Workplace
Try to avoid becoming emotional in work. Although this is easier said than done, bullies feed off power and seeing when they can control your emotions. Bullies purposefully seek out people who they think are vulnerable. Even if you’re upset, try to express it when you’re in a supportive environment, and not a toxic one.
Interrupt the pattern. If the bully thinks you’re vulnerable, they do not expect you to stand up for yourself. By being silent and letting the person continue to attack you, there are no consequences for the person who is bullying. As Aryanne says, “It’s better to disagree and risk an argument, rather than remain silent and risk being bullied… Putting the issues back to the bully is about truth and responsibility, not revenge and counter-attack”. By remaining silent and doing nothing, you’re actually enabling the bullying to continue.
Mind your physical health. Even if you’re feeling low, try to do what you can to mind yourself outside of work. Make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep, socialising with others, exercising, eating well and avoiding excessive alcohol use. Even if you feel like you can’t control life at work, you can still control life outside of work.
Document the incident. Even if you don’t feel comfortable contacting HR or your boss right now about the workplace bullying, it’s important to document its occurrence in case you change your mind in the future. Include what happened, dates, times and who was there when it happened. Try to stick to the facts as much as possible during the event, and avoid adding nuances.
Seek Help. Try talking to someone like a mentor, friend or even a legal advocate. If you decide to speak to Human Resources, be very careful how you approach them. Remember that HR works for the company, and not for you. If the person bullying you is well liked by the rest of the company, there’s a good chance they’ll hear what you’ve said when meeting with HR. Human resources is not required to keep things confidential like a counsellor or therapist is. If you do go to HR, be sure to go to them with a detailed business case for why the bullying is bad for the company. While emotionally, it is very difficult, do not bring up emotions when speaking to HR directly; all the company will care about is their bottom line.
Learn Assertiveness Skills. If you feel like your self-confidence has been rocked a bit, learning some assertive communication skills can help give you the tools to learn how to stand up for yourself. You can learn these by speaking with a therapist or counsellor, or through many online self help resources.
To learn more about your rights related to bullying in the workplace, check out Citizen’s Information for more info.