We recently assisted Cheat Sheet with the topic, “How to Answer These 6 Questions from your Nosy Coworkers“. If you read the article, make sure to click on “View All” for a better reading experience. The problem is that we previously noticed a similar question posed on a Facebook group for healthcare professionals, and most of the answers consisted of bullying and shaming the curious coworker into pensive submission. That’s kinda the opposite of what we’re all about here at BEHAVE Wellness.
That doesn’t mean it’s wrong to use the situation to get your jollies, as evidenced by Nick’s most cherished comeback when confronted with a bullying intruding coworker attempting unsettling questions: “I look really serious and say things like, ‘Cheetahs can only charge at 65 mph for about a quarter mile, but the key is in the flexibility of their spine.’ They get unsettled trying to find the passive or aggressive meaning behind my nonsensical statement and leave me alone. Forever.”
While we don’t typically advocate messing with people’s minds by discussing feline hunting attributes, this situation is usually one you’ll have to creatively handle yourself. Unless the perpetrator starts asking, “Why don’t you look as pretty as you used to,” most intentionally Nosy Nancy’s are crafty enough to avoid questions that could send them to HR or the boss’s office. Trying to be passive-aggressive won’t help, and “putting them in their place” only contributes to a toxic work environment. Another pitfall is trying too hard–remember that your coworker may be innocently curious. Is it really worth it to take focus away from work to craft perfect answers that won’t reveal personal information but serve to move them right along? Feel free to answer that question in the comments.
Oh, here are some other ideas if sounding like a Discovery Channel narrator somehow doesn’t get the job done. Excuse yourself. Give boring or vague answers. Ask, “Why do you want to know?” Respond with your own personal question–this serves to gauge the questioners intent. Respond with humor or be straight-forward about the fact that you don’t like being asked personal questions. As that last sentence highlights, we really believe in staying true to ourselves. Our most authentic self is the only sustainable one, so try to lead in a manner consistent with who you are, rather than striving to be plain spoken or assertive or funny and spontaneous.
We thought “Combating Work Stress” was a catchy title for this post, but combat itself is stressful. This topic came up recently because the three of us wrote a Continuing Education article about workplace bullying. We’ll post the link in the Media section once it’s published. Rather than discuss definitions and the statistical prevalence of various bullying behaviors, we devoted most of the paper to practical ways to increase wellness and resilience regardless of one’s workplace situation.
One useful method is to find camaraderie outside of work. For example, nurses tend to obtain support during bullying situations from their coworkers, which doesn’t work very well if gossip and rumors are the weapons of bullying. Social support is necessary to combat bullying and work stress, but how do you grow your own? Enter Meetup.com. It’s not a perfect solution, and the cost to run a Meetup group is embarrassing compared to free services such as Facebook groups. However, the site and app does allow people to find those in their geographic area with similar interests, whether that be yoga, theater, or in today’s example, writing. Nick recently published a book of medical satire and other short stories in collaboration with a dozen authors who are also in his Pensacola Meetup group.
The solution isn’t for someone to clutter the rest of their lives as an escape mechanism so they only have time to think about work at work. Staying ridiculously busy isn’t too different of a philosophy than drinking alcohol to (unsuccessfully) escape stressful situations. Some of us have jobs that do occasionally require preparedness that begins before work. Rather, maintain a healthy work-life balance. Remembering long term goals and keeping everything in perspective prevents us from spinning on the proverbial hamster wheel. This brings up the topic of mindfulness and living in the present. More on that next time.
Expanding wellness for employees is a noble and necessary task. Many large corporations we’ve visited post signs telling employees they can confidentially talk to someone in employee health about their problems and receive free psychiatric screening. It’s not that America’s workforce is routinely committing suicide or going postal over their jobs, but it’s difficult to attract good talent to replace those who couldn’t take it anymore and abruptly quit. The problem is that without a holistic approach, nothing changes. The treatment of dissatisfied employees is like typical pain management in this country: “Here’s a pill that will cover up your symptoms for a while, so leave us alone.”
Although we are going to briefly talk about alternative medicine today, this isn’t one of those seemingly normal blog posts that suddenly disintegrate into calling all pharmaceuticals poisonous. They can and do work effectively as part of an overall plan for wellness. It’s important to note, however, that many antidepressants, anxiolytics, and other drugs meant to fix altered brain chemistry are primarily for symptoms with unknown etiology–meaning that you feel bad but it’s not linked to a specific situation in your life. Drill down to the root cause. Otherwise, you might accept a new job elsewhere, but your Zoloft is going with you.
So what is a holistic approach to taking care of yourself at work? Litigation, complaining to HR, and changing jobs aren’t always options, and they certainly won’t decrease stress in the short term. Medications potentially affecting alertness can decrease performance, so we’ve ruled out that approach as a magic bullet. It takes a combination of therapies and a philosophy that understands that physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects are all one: compartmentalizing work life doesn’t work long term.
With that in mind, read this article by one of our founders comparing complementary and alternative medicine to conventional philosophies. http://nursing.advanceweb.com/CE/TestCenter/Content.aspx?CourseID=1178&CreditID=1&CC=287295&sid=3835
Maybe a relaxing magnesium drink or Epsom salt bath will help you unwind better than the wine you’re dependent on. Perhaps probiotics and a better diet can level out your energy levels throughout the day better than multiple cups of coffee. For others, yoga and Eastern medicine provide an outlet for work stress, or corporate sport events like the one pictured below. We at BEHAVE Wellness are here for you, and unlike employee health, it’s not for the ultimate goal of making you as profitable as possible for the company. How do you keep yourself from becoming overburdened by work?
Bullying doesn’t necessarily take place when someone gets offended. After all, in today’s world, “offended” often means “have a different point of view.” Because different opinions exist to describe seemingly simple situations, it’s important to understand what bullying is. The Tim Field Foundation defines bullying as conduct that cannot be objectively justified by a reasonable code of conduct, and whose likely or actual cumulative effect is to threaten, undermine, constrain, humiliate or harm another person or their property, reputation, self-esteem, self-confidence or ability to perform.
The Workplace Bullying Institute calls it repeated, health-harming mistreatment by one or more people of an employee: abusive conduct which is verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, humiliation, work interference, sabotage, or a combination of any or all. Incivility or disrespect are more gentle synonyms for bullying, while horizontal violence and lateral violence refer to mistreatment from fellow coworkers or managers and supervisors.
Now let’s define another half dozen terms so you can tell if you’re being bullied. Actually, that’s not necessary because even when we couldn’t define it (probably around kindergarten), we’ve all known when we’ve been treated unfairly. As busy adults, sometimes we need to slow down to fully comprehend a hostile work situation. It’s more subtle because no one is throwing dodgeballs at your head and stealing lunch money.
Are you being bullied? Bullying takes on many forms in the workplace and signs and
symptoms vary. All of a “sudden” is your work not good enough? Are you accused of incompetence despite a history of objective excellence? Do you find yourself feeling sick to your stomach the night before work or obsess about work on your days off? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be in a bullying situation. Tell us your experiences in the comments. We’ll explain what do do next in a later post, but besides our website, the Workplace Bullying Institute is a wonderful reference.