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.”
You can also listen to Shannon’s story and insight into workplace bullying on iTunes.
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 that is plain spoken and 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.”
Tweet: Dissatisfied employees are treated like pain management patients: Here’s a pill to cover up symptoms for a while–leave us alone. @Behavewellness
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.