Other Voices

Through Twitter I stumbled across an interesting website/project all about workplace bullying. The site allows people to post their own experiences which I wholeheartedly support since those who do experience this abuse usually do so in isolation, not realizing how extensive this problem is.

Within the website, documentary filmmaker Beverly Peterson and her team have made available a number of resources and information that I recommend you explore. Education on this issue provides the tools for change. And, I must say, Ms. Peterson has done a superlative  job on capturing the many sides to workplace bullying via multi-media platforms.

Please explore her website nojobisworththis.com

The Home Team vs. The Away Team

Are you at the breaking point at your job? Perhaps you have decided to take your complaint to your HR department. Before you take that step it is crucial that you understand which side you will be spilling the beans to. Even though sports gives me the hives, this analogy is one of the best ways for you to figure out what to do if you are a victim of workplace bullying.
You need to have your own team working on your behalf. The home team has your best interest at heart. They know your value, understand the victimization you are suffering and want the best outcome for you. Rare is the HR staff member who will be part of the home team.

A personnel department has very specific responsibilities in a company.  They [should] have familiarity of labor laws, they should know employee benefits, implement protocol and understand how the roles of employees make the company fulfill its mission.  But ultimately, the human resources department is there to support the best interest of the company. The individuals in that department are also insuring their own jobs. Image

If a manager is mistreating a staff member, I would think that the HR rep would inform the boss how his or her actions may be violating, let’s say, anti-discrimination laws, depending on what form the bullying takes.  But once informed the bully can take his attacks in any direction and unless the higher ups in the company rein in the bully, things can quickly get worse from the time of the complaint on.

The HR rep has done her job by informing the boss of his actions, now the rep can go along with the bully by either ignoring the situation or being roped into the scenario by backing the boss.  The HR rep will not outwardly take part in the bullying but will start maintaining one-sided documentation provided by the bully/boss. 

Now don’t get me wrong; your human resources department is vital to the functionality of your place of employment and at sometime you will have to loop them in to what’s happening with your abuse but consider this on an fyi basis.  Your rep definitely can be of help to you if they have the moral fortitude, but they also are looking out for their own jobs and have to lean toward the side on which their bread is buttered. For many who work in the field of human resources, it is not an easy road, but is clearly founded on discretion and confidentiality. 

I share this information so you don’t score points for the opposing team. If you are a victim of workplace bullying, be wise, be discrete and document everything so when the time comes when you have to go to your human resources representative, you go with clarity and a realistic approach.

 For more information on this, go to my website at www.workplacesanctuary.com



And Then There’s The Bystander

I’ve been noticing in some articles on workplace bullying, that the position of the witnesses or bystanders are finally being acknowledged. This is great since the abuse of the victim seldom happens in a vacuum (or empty office).  A witness is perfect fodder for the grandstanding bully. But we don’t know how that witness may feel about the situation.

We can, first of all, assume that the witness is glad that they are not the bully’s target.  So if the torment falls on the usual victim, then at least it’s not falling on the witness (es).  The next step though, which is the challenge in the long run is to be sure to stay on the bully’s good side. That is easy at first, but if a person has a moral code, and that code is continually challenged by what he or she is witnessing, it does turn into a stressful situation. That employee knows that he or she always has to be, not only on the bully’s side but be cognizant that they are appropriately boosting the bully’s ego. That’s because bullying tends to come down to the wielding of power and feeling in full control.

The stress therefore, is not as fast and hard-hitting as on the targeted victim of the bullying, but it does have a gradual and perhaps escalating effects on the witness.  And rest assured that it does happen and presents a whole set of basic concerns that need to be addressed by the witness.  Those issues are:

1.  Self-care, both emotional and physical so the stress in minimized;

2. Finding a way to support the victim. It can be anonymous but will be of immense value to the victim and allay growing feelings of guilt for the witness, and

3. Jotting down notes about incidents of bullying that are witnessed.  At some point the witness may be asked to speak out on what he or she has seen or heard. If the witness does decide to take that step, then he/she will be prepared to present truthful statements of observed incidents.

Some of you may not be in agreement with the information in this blog, but, if you are a witness, it is worth taking the time to decide what you should do if you do see bullying at your job.

Conferences for HR Staff

One way that your company can address issues with bullying is by having staff from your human resources department attend conferences and trainings to establish healthy workplace practices. This is the perfect indirect way to get some training on how to deal with bullying without being disloyal to the company culture.

Yes, this may be the coward’s way around dealing with this issue, but guess what! HR staff’s first line of allegiance is to the company that employs them, not the staff. With that in mind there may be HR personnel who do see what’s happening but feel powerless to help the victim.  By attending healthy workplace-themed conferences, the HR rep can learn about bullying along with other topics that make for a happier and more productive work environment.

As you can imagine there are any number of these types of trainings and conferences happening nationally and internationally.  The one I came across on Twitter is called Work, Stress and Health 2013: Protecting and Promoting Total Worker Health which will be taking place this May in Los Angeles. Maybe you can share the tip with the HR person with whom you may have a friendly connection. Details for this conference can be found at  http://www.apa.org/wsh

Self-Esteem: Reclaiming Your Life

Food for thought:  If you reading this because you are a victim of workplace bullying, the one piece of advice I would give you, which should be your foundation for “recovery”, is (re)build your self-esteem.   Yes, holding on to or rebuilding your self-esteem is the one component that acts as the indicator of how well you will rise above your work situation when the bullying ends.

If every day you are either trashed by your workplace bully or are anticipating the next attack, it can wear you down.  It therefore makes sense that you rebuild and replenish how you feel about yourself and not buy into what the bully says or does.

The bottom line is that no matter what the bully’s agenda may be, it is imperative that you take care of yourself and your own well-being.  The bully thrives on breaking you down, but you triumph by maintaining a healthy opinion of your own self worth.  Image

I would suggest the book Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden.  This is not by far the newest book on the subject but it provides a lot of rich information to help you reconsider what you have been feeling as a result of the torment you’ve been receiving at work. It also provides realistic steps to repair the emotional damage.

We are all here for a reason. We are valuable individuals who make this world a richer place. We should strive to hold a positive picture of ourselves in our minds and not give one person the power over how we feel about ourselves.

If you need any additional help or information, feel free to contact me at www.workplacesanctuary.com

Big Pharma Profits from Workplace Bullying

How about the latest study done on the use of anti-depressants by victims of workplace bullying? An interesting read but, duh, a no brainer. Come on, how does a person who happens to be the bully’s moving target, get through the day or manages to get any sleep at night? That’s right; in order to get through the day and as many nights, victims may indeed need help in the form of anti-depressants or tranquilizers.  So yes, indirectly the workplace bully supports the Big Pharma juggernaut.   Image

We are supposedly moving toward healthier lifestyles, at least that is my hope as more information is disseminated about better food choices, the importance of exercise and getting adequate rest. But for those who live with the day to day stress of victimization, any possibility of healthy living is smashed to pieces as the adrenalin kicks in and the stress amps all the way up at any point in the workday.  Exercise and meditation to deal with stress are mere band aids, because when the office bully moves into full demoralization mode, it is not long before the stress-relieving strategies dissolve and the victims are left trying to just make it through the day.


If you happen to be a victim of bullying where you work and are struggling to hold it together, then you may indeed have to get some medical assistance for your situation.  Do seek out a competent healthcare professional to explore options to help you cope.  But whether or not you chose that route, the real work starts when you begin to explore real solutions to your plight. Should you stay at your job or look for other employment, have your legal rights been violated, does your human resources department present a reasonable solution to your predicament?

Yes, of course there are those other tools we can use to help combat the work-related stress as mentioned; exercise, relaxation and even diet. But these are more beneficial when you also start mapping out and implementing your action plan. You can see a light at the end of the tunnel to work toward.  By taking these steps, you can also be secure in your knowledge that you won’t be feeding Big Pharma for long since your need for medication to cope with the stress will be short lived. Just be sure that you are working with a reputable healthcare professional who supports your goal of using medication as a short term aid to your job-related stress.

To see the study on prescription medication use related to workplace bullying, go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/18/workplace-bullying-prescriptions-insomnia-depression_n_2294469.html

Inside the Sisterhood

Just imagine, a team of women working collegially in their ideal jobs.  They are doing their best at what they love.  Now screech to a halt as the bully (aka She Devil) enters this picture.  The dream job morphs into a living nightmare.  This is what happens to many women who are victims of workplace bullying.  What compounds this scene is that they are somehow taken aback that their perpetrator is another female.  But the stats support just such a scenario. 

According to a poll taken by the global organization Employment Law Alliance, 45 percent of workers nationwide say they have been abused in their place of employment.  But of that number 40 percent of female abusers pick on other women 70 percent of the time.  There goes the hoped-for camaraderie.

While men tend to rant and rave about a specific issue or person in the company, a woman will be more creative in her method of attack.  There is the gossiping to defame the victim and undermining the work production of this staff member.  Women relish in attacking the physical appearance of the worker and even the employee’s family is not safe from underhanded verbal slights by the bully. The bully is smug in her confidence that her victim will not fight back.

The main issue that comes up with taking the fight outside of the place of employment is that women as a group are a protected class under federal law and most state laws, so the employee has great difficulty in trying to file a complaint against her female workplace tormentor.  Taking this a step further the US happens to be one of the most lax industrialized countries in the world when it comes to addressing the issue of workplace bullying by failing to create and implement strong laws that would prohibit such treatment of  workers.

Unfortunately, bullies somehow manage to have staying power within their companies.  But all is not lost.  Once the problem is identified, the victim should immediately take steps to create a multifaceted exit plan whereby they are able to leave the job, if necessary, with dignity and the upper hand.

I welcome readers to explore my new website for further information at www.workplacesanctuary.com.


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