Why can’t we live free from expectations? Post-COVID, will we be crushed by workplace demands, and is spirituality the answer? We’re all familiar with generic, New-Age wellness programs. Vanilla approaches to truth rarely help those struggling with addiction, serious bullying, and other real issues. Nick talks to Hank the Sonic Shaman about all those uncomfortable topics, from Jesus and prayer to shamanism and mental health.
No, we’re not talking about whips and chains and safe words, although healthcare workers do seem to attract narcissistic lovers more than average. I’m talking about negative work situations that may or may not qualify as bullying, even after familiarization with related definitions. Let me explain with a story instead of yet another helpful link that might take you away from this life-changing blog post.
I (Nick) am typing this from Greece. It doesn’t rain all summer, and the landscape turns so brown and dry I fear that halitosis from all the garlic I’m eating might set this island ablaze. My first time here, when I was 10 years old, someone scolded me for wasting water while brushing my teeth. I was a precocious, old-soul type of child, so I didn’t resent the scolding (which we Greeks invented about the same time as democracy and geometry). Instead, I thought, “Oh great, I just reinforced this lady’s stereotypes of wasteful Americans.”
Well, just now as I tried to wet my toothbrush with a trickle of water, I realized something. Greek life features many paradoxes. The precious H2O they try to conserve roars out of the faucets like a pressure washer. It wasn’t my fault at age 10. Careless engineers smearing tsanziki and spanakopita filo all over the plumbing blueprints are to blame. I’m not encouraging everyone to search through every memory and find new people at fault in boring stories about indoor plumbing like mine or even life-altering situations. However, re-visiting memories, even those with black and white details lacking shades of gray, does allow for new perspectives–that’s why we emphasize role playing in our anti-bullying programs. Sometimes we can’t see the crucial detail our perspective is missing in the moment or by ourselves.
Granted, the concept of truth gets watered down when we reduce any situation to individual perspectives, but singular perspectives limit learning and creativity. This is the sentence in almost every BEHAVE post with the word “holistic” in it. We don’t naturally focus on what matters while ignoring the microscopic that will take care of itself. The water tower at the beach where I live (in Florida, not Greece, because remember, they don’t have water here) features a beach ball on top. Every tourist spends twenty minutes taking a perspective picture hugging or squeezing the beach ball, as if they were the first ones to think of it.
Trying an objective approach by taking yourself out of the equation and/or empathizing with the other person’s point of view is one technique to expand your understanding and limited perspective. I’d also suggest you ask friends at work, “Am I being bullied?” and “Is this normal?” I’ll tolerate a naturally surly person much longer than someone who chooses not to be nice to me. All of us at BEHAVE Wellness have real jobs. We’re much more practical than bullying activists who would insist on not tolerating incivility for a second. They’re right, in a sense, but who really wants to hire or work with an overly sensitive person? By waiting to bring up an issue until you validate exactly what’s going on, you’ll be taken more seriously. If no one at work is trustworthy enough to ask these questions, that’s a problem right there. We’ve mentioned before that any relationship can tolerate so much more if there’s grace, occasional pockets of fun and joy, and the freedom to be who you are. Friends at work act as shock absorbers when customers, managers, and co-workers start grating you like a good Greek cheese.
Grated Alive vs Hanging Out with Coworkers
Do I really have to spend unnecessary time with them when I already see their unattractive faces five days out of seven? The point is not to make fellow employees your besties or use them as an invincible bullying shield. It’s simply that enjoying their company makes “microaggressions” and annoying slights disappear, so when unruly behavior catches your attention, it probably is bullying. When someone is being rude to me at the hospital, one of my first thoughts is, “This is going to be a great story. I can’t wait to change enough details so it’s not gossip and tell all my work friends about this.” Granted, I’m weird and pride myself on being unoffendable, but grit your teeth and be friendly–it’s the only way to make friends.
What do you think? Am I making light of behavior you should report right away? Tell me your perspective in the comments, even if it’s wrong. Just kidding. If part of the problem is the learning curve at a new healthcare job, I’ve recently written guests posts about ventilators and CRNAs (including more thoughts about paradoxes and OR culture) you’re welcome to use as a resource.
Today we are featuring Shannon’s story. She spoke about workplace bullying on the Dropping Bombs on Bullying podcast.
From her first job as a staff nurse until now, Shannon shared about the types of bullies she encountered–from the “Screaming Meanie” to the “Constant Critic”–and how they affected her. Her own struggle led her to travel to Bellingham, WA and become certified by Gary Namie’s Workplace Bullying Institute. Shannon learned how to cope and not accept the self blame.
One nugget from her journey to self-love and wholeness:
“Use professionals who specialize in workplace bullying: corporations are very good at combating this, so the first lawyer or therapist with a Groupon might not be the best choice.”
That doesn’t come natural in today’s data or app driven world of quick fixes–many of our competitors simply use algorithms to solve problems. Both the target and the bully often need an individual approach rather than a blanket one. Remember, “Work shouldn’t hurt.” Workplace shootings trend for a day, but the news never follows up with the back story. This is the reality of workplace psychological violence that can turn physical.
So the solution is more rules, right? Bullying policies often don’t work because fear of retaliation causes under-reporting. Take a step back to avoid tunnel vision and really understand what is going on in your workplace. We are here to help, whether in the comments section or our resources and services. As you process how to respond in your own situation, remember Dr. Sood’s quote,
“Dominance may impress, but it is humility that inspires.”
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.
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.