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Bullying In The Workplace

What to do when you have a bully in your workplace

Mental health in the workplace is something that should be taken seriously. Certainly more seriously than what it often is. There are many industry sectors who seem to believe that aggression, intimidation and blatant verbal abuse are all ‘part of the job’ and that people should learn to just ‘suck it up’. The reality is often different with long-term exposure to these types of environments potentially eroding someone’s self-worth and their belief that they’re capable of even doing the job successfully.

In short, if you have someone standing over you, screaming that something is not good enough for long enough, you’re going to start to believe that you, too, are just not good enough. If you're carrying a shame message from your childhood development that you're not good enough, not worthy enough, not smart enough, not (fill your own blank in here) enough, then this kind of environment is only going to subconsciously reinforce that belief.

Friends, this is just not good enough.

And the old saying of ‘if you’re not part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem’ is, sadly, very true here.

It is such a shame that I find myself writing lines like, ‘I think many of us can say that we’ve all found ourselves in a job at one point or another with a manager or business owner who felt that intimidation and aggression was an acceptable way to “manage” their staff.’ It is estimated that half of all Australian employees will experience workplace bullying during their careers. The fact that so many of us have experienced that kind of environment only reinforces my original point that the mental health of staff is often not taken seriously enough.

The funny thing is that, for many people, they may not even be aware of the impact on their mental health that the bullying is causing. They may be consciously aware that someone is being horrible to them... repeatedly. They may know that someone has an explosive temper and will constantly yell at them and make an example of them. They might begin to feel sick in the stomach, find themselves going home at night and bursting into tears for no reason, and snapping unnecessarily and cruelly at their partner and just put it all down to, 'I hate my job and I just need to lift my game.' The reality is, for many of us, we've had a period in our career where we were working under someone who was just not equipped to manage people in an emotionally and mentally healthy way and that is where the problems start.

How does it happen? How does someone become a bully?

For a moment, let’s step away from the concept of people being ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and look at it more from the perspective of how people cope. We live in a world where people climb the corporate ladder and often, the higher they go, the more responsibility there is. With that responsibility comes additional stress and anxiety. Managing other people. Managing timelines and deadlines. Managing direct managers who might constantly complain that things are ‘just not good enough’.

We all have a friend who just doesn’t seem to handle situations well and who always has a drama. It doesn’t mean we don’t like them, we just know that they’re not very good at creating strategies to cope with these situations. Often it will result in them become stressed, incapable of thinking properly, and potentially even rage and blaming others for their inability or poor outcomes.

As people are promoted, rarely are they given training around how to deal with the added pressure of their new responsibilities. As a result, often people continue to climb until they reach their breaking point. This isn’t healthy for them or for the people directly under them, nor is it healthy for the business. Last year, it was estimated that the cost of mental health on business was around $200 billion dollars on the Australian industry; you would think that would be enough to make a business stand up and take notice, yes?

Keep in mind that there are also the corporate psychopath as well, which is a different situation all together. You'll find more on that topic in the TED Talk at the end of this piece.

What defines bullying in the workplace?

According to the Fair Work Ombudsman, workplace bullying is when a person or group of people repeatedly act unreasonably towards them or a group of workers or when the behaviour creates a risk to health and safety.

Unreasonable behaviour includes victimising, humiliating, intimidating or threatening. Whether a behaviour is unreasonable can depend on whether a reasonable person might see the behaviour as unreasonable in the circumstances.

Examples of bullying include:

  • behaving aggressively
  • teasing or practical jokes
  • pressuring someone to behave inappropriately
  • excluding someone from work-related events or unreasonable work demands.

What should you do if you are being bullied?

If you believe that you’re being bullied, then you need to take immediate steps to ensure that you protect your mental health.

Jot down any comments or incidents into your diary, complete with who said what and the time that it occurred. Also make note of any people who witnessed the event. Also document what actions you’ve taken to stop the behaviour.

Go and see your doctor. Let them know your situation and check to ensure that you’re handling the stress of the situation appropriately.

Speak to your HR person and ask them if there is a policy around bullying or a complaints procedure. Talk with them about the situation and, if it is safe, perhaps even approach the person doing the bullying to see if you can resolve the situation with them. Ensure that you report the situation though so that it is documented under OH&S.

If you’re going through a recruitment agency, call your consultant immediately and talk with them about the situation. Chances are they may pull you from the assignment however this will be for your own safety and they can take it up with the client directly. If the agency is worth their weight, they will not tolerate any form of bullying to their freelancers.

Research online to ensure that you know your rights and what you can do.

Some useful resources include the following links:

You might also enjoy this excellent TED Talk on the topic which was mentioned earlier, talking about bullying and the corporate psychopath.

How can hypnosis help with workplace bullying

There are several ways in which hypnotherapy can help with workplace bullying situations.

If you're feeling dis-empowered and 'not good enough', then hypnotherapy can help you to discover inner-resources that will allow you to find the strength, courage and ability you need in times where you feel intimidated or humiliated.

It may help with mental rehearsal as well, in allowing you to know how to appropriately respond in situations where you would've otherwise not known how to respond.

If you're in a situation where you don't know what to do, hypnotherapy may help you to find clarity around this and the strength to action those decisions if they're harder than usual.

As you may know, we are unable to change how others act in situations however we can work on and change how we may respond in these situations. If you find that you're lacking the strength and the ability you need, then hypnotherapy can assist in ensuring you stay psychologically well adjusted while you determine what the best next course of action should be.

Experiencing Bullying At Work? Find Control. Book a Session NOW!

You may also like to read:
Book Review: The Five Second Rule
Book Review: The Consolations of Philosophy
Book Review: Healing The Shame That Binds You
Book Review: The Happiness Trap