Personal recovery from workplace bullying
It’s hard to overestimate the emotional effects of workplace bullying. When you’re in the midst of it, you may see no way forward. When your self-esteem is in tatters, as it so often is, you can feel isolated and disempowered.
When I was bullied at work, many years ago, the bullying dominated my every waking hour. I was physically sick every day before I set off for work. If I took any time out, I dreaded what I might find on my return. My family and friends were hugely supportive, but my time with them must have felt like Groundhog Day as I picked over the latest attacks.
Every bullying situation is different. One person’s bully may be another’s strong manager. Organisational and national responses to workplace bullying vary enormously. I learned that ultimately, my emotional recovery depended on my own will to make it happen. That’s very challenging, but it’s also liberating.
Here’s how you too can start to recover, learn and move on.
First take responsibility
Although you may not be able directly to change what’s happening, you can take charge of your response to it. If you sink into a victim mentality, you’ll end up looking for someone to rescue you. That gives away your power.
When you take charge, you recover your capacity to manage your response, and you’re in a better position to go forward on your own terms.
Watch your health
Signs that things are getting out of hand include chronic tiredness, being susceptible to every virus doing the rounds, anxiety, depression and general lack of energy. Take notice of any health issues that have started recently, or that seem to be made worse by the bullying. Visit your doctor if you need to.
Learn to centre your energy
Tune in to your body. Take some deep breaths, right down into your abdomen.
Now stand or sit in balance, feet shoulder width apart, shoulders balanced and neck straight. Scan your body and notice any points of tension. Consciously relax them.
Take another slow breath. Remind yourself of what matters to you and aim to keep it as much in focus as you can. Do this as often as you can, and especially when you feel stressed. (Based on an exercise from Integration Training.)
Get clear about what you want to be different
You know what you don’t want, but the first step forward comes through knowing what you do want. Answering the question “what exactly do you want to be different?” moves you towards the possibility of change.
These three related questions will help you to get clear:
- If your working life was as good as you’d like, exactly what would be different?
- What one change would make the most difference?
- How can you bring that into your working life?
Mind-mapping and other creative tools can help you to expand your initial answers and give you a visual reminder of where your recovery is heading.
Make a plan
Now you know what you want to be different, create a plan for bringing about the change you want. Do you need to talk to HR? Have a conversation with your boss? Look for a new job?
You may need to keep a record of what has been happening. If so, do it away from work. Office computers are subject to scrutiny.
As you choose to move on emotionally from bullying, finding someone to cheer you along will help. A coach, a mentor, a good friend or colleague who can see the bigger picture, all will be valuable.
Getting support will also help prevent your dumping the same stories on your family day after day, minimising the damage that can result from taking problems home.
Find a personal affirmation that resonates for you.
For example: ‘I am worthy of as much respect as everyone else. I respect myself’. Write it on small cards and place it where you will see it.
Allowing the possibility of being able to create a better situation lifts your spirits, and reduces the pressure of negative emotions on your whole being. The mind-shift you experience can feel like a sudden ray of sunlight on a wet day. It will begin to restore your sense of proportion.
It took me three years to find my level again. No-one should have to suffer the effects of bullying for that long. I wrote Recover Your Balance to help others move on more quickly.
When I did find a job that used my best strengths and that became the foundation for my subsequent career, I rarely looked back. You can do it too.
As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “no-one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
Author: Ann Lewis – Guest Author for 3Plus International
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