I realized something this morning that may sound quite odd to many but, I am grateful for the bully that came into my life. I know this sounds completely strange and it has taken quite a concentration of healing work and peaceful contemplation to be able to come to this conclusion. During all of the pain, hurt, anger and confusion that felt like it would nearly destroy me, ultimately, it spurred me to dig deep into healing, dig deep into exploration of ancient pain and ancient scars. My experience with bullying this past year was horrible and vicious and unnecessary but I realized that I have come through it! (well, still sort of coming through it presently) The point is, I survived. Even as I was contemplating suicide, feeling so trapped that it felt that it was the only way out, I didn’t do it. I didn’t give in, I didn’t give up and I kept fighting. It’s been proof of my own strength and grit and fighting spirit. That is a powerful affirmation! It’s been the catalyst for changing my life for the positive. I have changed my diet, I have returned to my yoga practice and have been integrating meditation into my daily life. I am learning – finally – to be gentle and kind to myself. Not because of the bullying, per se, but because I realize that it is imperative to my survival and to my surthrival (heard this word recently and really love it!).
I am going through a bit of a transformation lately and it is one that I hope I can continue to pursue because it is allowing me to listen, really listen, to my gut. To learn what is really right for me, to recognize trauma and focus on healing. A friend wisely said to me that the more pain and suffering we have experienced means the more potential we have for an opportunity to grow. Pain really can bring about change like no other and anger really can be a motivator for positive change if you can direct yourself to heal and grow through it. Throughout the bullying ordeal, I have experienced bitterness and torturous pain (emotional, psychological and physical) while I grew sicker by the day. It’s time for that to stop. It’s time to heal. It’s time for my story to have a positive outcome. Gratitude. That is my word of the day. It arose out of my yoga practice from my deep inner self this morning and I’m going with it!
It’s been a while since I have written and I apologize for that. There has a been a lot on my mind lately, not least of which has been my health. So, here’s a post on bullying and it’s effect on health …
What does bullying do to my health?
Targets of bullies suffer adverse effects to their health. These are a few of the symptoms that you may be experiencing. Do you recognize any of your own symptoms below?
- constant high levels of stress and anxiety
- flashbacks and replays, obsessiveness, can’t get the bullying out of your mind
- tiredness, exhaustion, constant fatigue
- frequent illness such as viral infections especially flu and glandular fever, colds, coughs, chest, ear, nose and throat infections (stress plays havoc with your immune system)
- aches and pains in the joints and muscles with no obvious cause; also back pain with no obvious cause and which won’t go away or respond to treatment
- headaches and migraines
- sleeplessness, nightmares, waking early, waking up more tired than when you went to bed
- irritable bowel syndrome
- skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, athlete’s foot, ulcers, shingles, urticaria
- poor concentration, can’t concentrate on anything for long
- bad or intermittently-functioning memory, forgetfulness, especially with trivial day-to-day things
- sweating, trembling, shaking, palpitations, panic attacks
- tearfulness, bursting into tears regularly and over trivial things
- uncharacteristic irritability and angry outbursts
- hypervigilance (feels like but is not paranoia), being constantly on edge
- hypersensitivity, fragility, isolation, withdrawal
- reactive depression, a feeling of woebegoneness, lethargy, hopelessness, anger, futility and more
- shattered self-confidence, low self-worth, low self-esteem, loss of self-love, etc
Physical health problems from stress include:
- Cardiovascular Problems: Hypertension to Strokes, Heart Attacks
- Adverse Neurological Changes: Neurotransmitter Disruption, Hippocampus Shrinkage
- Immunilogical Impairment: More frequent infections of greater severity
- Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Skin Disorders
Some physical indications of the above stress might include.
- Tremors of the Lips, Hands, Etc.
- Feeling Uncoordinated
- Profuse Sweating
- Rapid Heartbeat
- Rapid Breathing
- Elevated Blood Pressure
- Chest Pain
- Uncontrollable Crying
- Debilitating Anxiety, Panic Attacks (>80%)
- Clinical Depression: new to person or exacerbated condition previously controlled (39%)
- Post-traumatic Stress (PTSD) from deliberate human-inflicted abuse (30% of targeted women; 21% of men)
- Shame (the desired result of humiliating tactics by the bully) – sense of deserving a bad fate
- Guilt (for having “allowed” the bully to control you)
- Overwhelming sense of Injustice (Equity – the unfairness of targeting you who works so hard; Procedural – the inadequacy of the employer’s response to your complaint)
In my own personal experience, I have had many if not most of the above health issues. In addition, I have been suffering with another unmentioned problem – irregular bleeding. The bleeding is something I am still dealing with and seeing a doctor for. Just this past Friday, I had to have an endometrial biopsy which, I must say, was a pretty traumatic and upsetting experience. I hope to get the results in about a week and 1/2. Until then, I wait and try to distract myself in the meantime.
Unfortunately, the stress felt while being bullied at work can not be understood by most people who have never experienced such turmoil. It is a very lonely and isolating experience. I know. I am still untangling myself from the pain of my own bullying experience. Please share your own stories, if you feel safe doing so. Perhaps you can find some comfort knowing that you are not alone.
Before my own adult experience, I thought bullying was something that happened to kids; foreign to workplace professionals. I also thought that if it ever did happen to me that I would recognize it and know what to do. I was naïve. I was wrong.
Workplace bullies are sneaky and highly manipulative. They enact all of the abuse they deliver within the constructs of the office culture. I was caught blind-sided by these tactics because it hadn’t even occurred to me as a possibility that someone would want to hurt or sabotage me for seemingly no reason. In the hopes that I may offer help to others by learning from my own past, I am creating this blog. I hope to assist you in finding awareness and understanding of your situation so that you will know how to fight back. Like me, you may be the target of a bully (or bullies) but you can refuse to be a victim!
What does bullying look like? Bullying is different from harassment or assault because rather than just a few incidents or a single incident, bullying tends to be a large accumulation of countless small incidents over a long period of time. Each incident that you may experience from a bully, out of context or on its own, appears to be trivial but there is a pattern to this type of abuse that, over time, can be extremely psychologically damaging among other things.
For a start, let’s identify the types of behaviors:
Types of bullying behaviors
- Threat to professional status – including belittling opinions, public professional humiliation, accusations regarding lack of effort, intimidating use of discipline or competence procedures
- Threat to personal standing – including undermining personal integrity, destructive innuendo and sarcasm, making inappropriate jokes about target, persistent teasing, name calling, insults, intimidation
- Isolation – including preventing access to opportunities, physical or social isolation, withholding necessary information, keeping the target out of the loop, ignoring or excluding
- Overwork – including undue pressure, impossible deadlines, unnecessary disruptions.
- Destabilization – including failure to acknowledge good work, allocation of meaningless tasks, removal of responsibility, repeated reminders of blunders, setting target up to fail, shifting goal posts without telling the target.
The tactics used against me were subtle and covert at first, which is probably partly why I didn’t understand what was happening when it began or how I eventually came to feel so demoralized and humiliated. Sometimes bullies are much more obvious and easier to pin down. No matter what the technique, all are damaging.
Below, I have listed some of the tactics found by researchers. The ones I have put an asterisk* in front of, I experienced personally and elaborated in more detail in italics.
- *Falsely accused someone of “errors” not actually made (71 percent). – Supervisor accused me to higher-ups that I wasn’t doing work that she was asking of me.
- *Stared, glared, was non-verbally intimidating and was clearly showing hostility (68 percent). – My supervisor would roll her eyes at me and/or laugh at me when I would try to speak.
- *Unjustly discounted the person’s thoughts or feelings in meetings (64 percent). – Would say to others that she “was joking” when I would raise any kind of complaint of something she had said or done
- *Used the “silent treatment” to exclude and separate from others (64 percent). – This one kind of speaks for itself
- *Exhibited presumably uncontrollable mood swings in front of the group (61 percent). – A co-worker actually calls her “Sybil”! (As in that famous movie from the 1970’s) Though it kind of amusing, it does paint quite a picture.
- Made-up rules on the fly that even she/he did not follow (61 percent). – I think this illustrates a propensity for hypocrisy which is one of my supervisor’s unfortunate qualities.
- *Disregarded satisfactory or exemplary quality of completed work despite evidence (discrediting) (58 percent). – Kind of goes along with #1
- Harshly and constantly criticized having a different standard for the target (57 percent).
- *Started, or failed to stop, destructive rumors or gossip about the person (56 percent). – My supervisor said that I was mentally unstable and “using every opportunity” to be abusive towards her, harass her and that she was, “afraid to go home for fear of what [I] would do [to her]”. It was insane, really. AND people actually listened to her. I couldn’t believe it. I was ordered to seek personal counseling out of my own pocket as a contingency of my continued employment.
- *Encouraged people to turn against the person being tormented (55 percent). – See #9
- *Singled out and isolated one person from other coworkers, either socially or physically (54 percent). – Failed to include me on meetings that directly affected my work
- *Publicly displayed gross, undignified, but not illegal, behavior (53 percent). Name-calling and accusations in the office
- *Yelled, screamed, threw tantrums in front of others to humiliate a person (53 percent). – She did do this but it ended up making her look bad, not me.
- *Stole credit for work done by others. (47 percent). – Claimed my work was her own
- *Abused the evaluation process by lying about the person’s performance (46 percent). – See #1
- *Declared target “insubordinate” for failing to follow arbitrary commands (46 percent). – Absolutely. And then the people above her accused me of having “authority issues”
- Used confidential information about a person to humiliate privately or publicly (45 percent). – Thankfully, I was smart enough not to share anything personal or confidential with her.
- *Retaliated against the person after a complaint was filed (45 percent). – Everything I had brought issue with in reference to her behavior, she accused me of to try to make it look like I was lying. My word against hers. Unfortunately, they believed her because she was higher up and had a longer history with the organization (though not as an employee)
- Made verbal put-downs/insults based on gender, race, accent, age or language, disability (44 percent).
- *Assigned undesirable work as punishment (44 percent). – and unnecessary, redundant kind of work
- *Created unrealistic demands (workload, deadlines, duties) for person singled out (44 percent). – See #20
- *Launched a baseless campaign to oust the person; effort not stopped by the employer (43 percent). – Yes, I was almost fired because of this ruthless and tireless slander campaign by this bully and no one believed me when I tried to tell the truth.
- Encouraged the person to quit or transfer rather than to face more mistreatment (43 percent). – She didn’t encourage me to leave but she did tell the people above me that I needed to be fired.
- *Sabotaged the person’s contribution to a team goal and reward (41 percent). – By claiming work I had done was hers
- *Ensured failure of person’s project by not performing required tasks, such as sign-offs, taking calls, working with collaborators (40 percent) – Excluded me from collaborative meetings and activities
Abusive workplace behaviors
- *Disrespecting and devaluing the individual, often through disrespectful and devaluing language or verbal abuse
- Overwork and devaluation of personal life (particularly salaried workers who are not compensated)
- *Harassment through micromanagement of tasks and time
- *Over-evaluation and manipulating information (for example concentration on negative characteristics and failures, setting up subordinate for failure).
- *Managing by threat and intimidation
- *Stealing credit and taking unfair advantage
- *Preventing access to opportunities
- Downgrading an employee’s capabilities to justify downsizing
- *Impulsive destructive behavior – name calling, throwing insults
- *Having your opinions and views ignored – silent treatment
- *Withholding information which affects your performance – exclusion from meetings and activities
- *Being exposed to an unmanageable workload – and unnecessary workload
- Being given tasks with unreasonable or impossible targets or deadlines
- *Being ordered to do work below competence – lunch suggestions, googling and printing directions to meetings, scheduling her appointments, proofreading her emails, etc. (p.s.-My job is/was not her secretary or assistant. She’s just higher on the workplace food chain and the person I report to)
- *Being ignored or facing hostility when you approach – Absolutely.
- *Being humiliated or ridiculed in connection with your work
- *Excessive monitoring of a person’s work (see micromanagement)
- *Spreading gossip
- *Having insulting or offensive remarks made about your person (i.e. habits and background), your attitudes or your private life
- Having key areas of responsibility removed or replaced with more trivial or unpleasant tasks
What is workplace bullying? Check out these videos below and you’ll get a little bit of an idea …
This problem is wide-reaching, rampant and extremely damaging …
As Gary Namie mentioned in the above video, there is a Healthy Workplace Bill in motion! Want to help? Want to get involved? Click HERE
I welcome your comments and your stories. And please remember that you are not alone!!