Is your perfect job beginning to lose its shine? Are you starting to feel emotionally overwhelmed? Have you lost or are losing your confidence? Do you feel manipulated and you are not sure who you can trust? Are you are confused because things don’t seem to be what they are meant to be? Are you are miserable at work? Is your boss friendly with you one moment and cold and detached the next?
If you are experiencing any or all of these, then you could be experiencing bullying in the workplace. Whether bullying is clear or subtle the ramifications are the same … poor mental health, serious physical health risks, a moving away of what’s important in your life, negative company culture, increased absenteeism, and decreased productivity, just to mention a few.
Any type of bullying always leaves you wondering if you are being bullied or is it just in your head, and then you fall in and out of asking yourself why you are being bullied. Is it you? You ask yourself, what can you do to fix the situation – after all – you just want the bullying to stop!
Relationships and team work are important in the workplace but you know when a person is befriending you more to get what they want, only to drop you like a hot potato once they have it. Everything you say seems to be twisted and anything that goes wrong seems to be your fault. The person may pretend to support you but then openly disregard your comments, ridicule you in front of your colleagues, and not give you a chance to explain your situation or thoughts on an issue before it is completely cut from the discussion. This causes your colleagues to start treating you differently because of what has been said or done, and because of fear if they don’t play along with the bully, they may be next. You begin to feel frustrated, belittled, manipulated, disrespected, confused, angry, anxious, sad, drained, embarrassed, a failure, humiliated and you feel like you are losing control of things happening around you, but you don’t know how to stop or fix it. The frustration grows where you begin to act in ways that you would not normally act. You can’t think straight, and your decision making becomes blurry. If you didn’t forget a conversation, you just didn’t hear it because your negative self talk was taking over the conversation in your mind. You may get angry with someone, where you are usually helpful and patient. You may start to become confused with the relationships at work, as they are changing but nothing you do seems to fix whatever is going on. Your gut tells you something is not right, but you just can’t put your finger on it. You question yourself in every aspect of work and wonder if the approval and attention you are getting today is going to last tomorrow. This causes you to behave in ways that try to keep the approval going. You become highly sensitive to everyone around you and are not sure who you can trust. You find that people who you once felt close to and believed you could trust, start to turn on each other…or are they just turning on you?
You find yourself speaking and acting differently, because you are careful not to put yourself in a vulnerable situation or you may fear them getting angry at you. You think about everything you say as you are waiting to be criticized, questioned, or made to feel that you are unworthy in front of co-workers. You begin to say and do things that begin to go against your values, to hide your true feelings, and not to cause a situation that you may confront the issue. You begin to decrease your productivity and you don’t feel competent at your job anymore, but at the same time you work harder and sacrifice your personal health and psychological wellbeing for the good of the company. Your family begins to suffer as you obsessively think and worry about what is going on at work. You think about leaving your job but you believe you have put in too much effort to leave, and anyway – you don’t have the energy to put into finding a new job.
If you decide to fight back, as of January 2014, Australian workers have increased avenues to stop workplace bullying, and rather than leaving their employment can obtain an order that workplace bullying cease if it is found to be occurring in the workplace. Further to this, a worker may lodge a workers’ compensation claim with respect to any alleged illness or injury that may have occurred from workplace bullying. However, it is important to clarify that the ACT states that ‘reasonable management’ action does not amount to bullying. You need to seek advice over your particular circumstance.
As an employer, you could consider ensuring you have up to date Anti-Bullying and Work Place Health and Safety Policies, and ensure that the Board, Managers and Staff are actively trained in these on an annual basis, as well as other equal opportunity matters. Take a look at your internal complaints procedures to make sure that they usable. However, none of this will be of any assistance if the staff do not feel safe in the workplace to make a complaint or let you know that alleged bullying may be occurring. Please see my last article “Wellness in the Workplace” to give examples of how to increase safety and trust within the workplace (email@example.com)
The effects of Workplace Bullying is devastating to individuals and the organisation…
Either way – whether you are an employer or an employee, if you are experiencing this type of behaviour in your workplace, you need to seek help. For further advice and/or support please contact Michelle Costanzo at Mindset Synergy 0422288962