Are you being bullied at work?
Workplace bullying is so common and serious that Dr. Gary and Dr. Ruth Namie established the Workplace Bullying Institute in the United States with a mission to eradicate it.
The workplace is simply an upgraded version of the school yard and there will always be those people who feed their self-esteem by terrorizing others. When you think about the psychological premise of bullying, it becomes apparent that those who feel they must oppress others to get what they want are lacking in some way. When someone feels the only way to succeed is by pulling others down or intimidating them, it is quite telling. This says a lot about them, not you.
However, before you conclude you are being bullied take a step back and analyze. First, understand bullying requires some type of participation from you and that is determined by the way you interpret and handle the situation. For example, can your nine-year-old niece bully you? Why not? Most people would never feel intimidated by a kid, not if they see themselves as the one in control.
For instance, I know a young lady who took a job where she knew the manager was a bully. However, she had a clear goal in mind when she accepted the position. There was specific job experience she wanted to gain at that company for her personal career development and she decided she was not going to allow a bully to stop her. Although her tyrant boss sometimes made her a little angry she seldom talked about it. She was able to manage her by reflecting on her reason for being there. She found ways to work around her manager to accomplish her bigger goal. She accepted her manager’s unreasonable antics were a part of a personal problem that had nothing to do with her. She concentrated on getting her job done, relied on her own self-assurance and resolved to move on when she accomplished her mission.
Although she referred to her boss as a bully, she never saw herself as a victim. She handled her tactfully and used strategy. She did not fight with her; but refused to be intimidated. She was confident she could find another job when she was ready and that is what she did.
Here are some pointers you can extract from this true story.
Limit your concentration on the negativity. What we focus on expands. The more we talk about unpleasant circumstances the more we notice and the angrier we become. Verbally rehashing and meditating on someone else’s destructive behavior nurtures the negative energy and helps it to grow.
Empower yourself. If you decide to stay on this job, tell yourself “I choose to, not I have to”. “I choose to be here because this job enables me to keep my kids in private school”. This is so much more empowering than, “I need my job.” Those words subconsciously cause us to slump over and take on the energy and mentality of a victim. Bullies thrive on victims.
Get off defense. I choose creates a powerful mindset that says, I am here based on my choice and I am not going to allow you or anyone else to take that from me. This puts you on the offense instead of the defense. If you believe you are there because there is nowhere else you can go, you will accept the abuse. If you believe you can find another job where they will appreciate you, your entire demeanor will be different.
Know your worth. If you are lacking in self-esteem, it is time to start building your confidence. People who are confident set their boundaries and will refuse to allow others to cross the line. If you are being devalued at work in a culture that rewards bullies, take inventory of yourself and prepare your exit strategy. Notice I said “strategy”. I didn’t say jump up and leave without a plan. The very act of creating the strategy will shift your energy and probably confuse your adversary. Think about it. A part of your strategy should be to leave on good terms, so you will become this stellar employee, your whole approach will change knowing what you have planned. You will be less affected by your oppressor because you have a little secret. You will feel happier, because you are working on something to take care of yourself.
Feel free to confront. Knowing you have an exit strategy will help you to communicate with this bully. Sometimes humor works. Hopefully the steps listed above will relieve some of your personal tension and allow you to make light of the bully’s behavior, with the intent of making them aware that you see what they are doing. Name it and laugh it off. If you feel a more serious conversation may garner the results you want, go for it. Be clear and concise, “When you did (name the offense), I felt (name the emotion), I did not appreciate that but would like to work together with mutual respect. Please do not do that again.”
Achieve anyway. Do not relinquish your power to anyone. Know you can achieve despite the obstacles others may throw in your path. Only you can determine your success.
Learning to communicate in the workplace makes all the difference. Email me to learn about one-on-one or small group coaching.
- Kim Welcome is CEO & founder of Influential Voice. She assists businesses and professionals to develop deliberate, skillful, polished communication skills to increase their impact and influence. Her clients range from the country’s largest and most prestigious employers to public figures and individual professionals. Feel free to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.