Bullying in the Workplace

A lot of attention has been paid to bullies in schools and bullies via the cyber world. It seems like it’s gotten worse lately…or maybe it’s just that our eyes are more open to things such as simple name calling or a push in the lunch line. There are shows dedicated by Dr. Phil and Katie Couric about bullying and kids at least monthly. But what about the adults? Does bullying stop when we hit 18?

In my experience, no, it doesn’t. There is bullying in the workplace–a place where humans are expected to act like adults and treat each other with respect. Where there are rules, but most of them are assumed.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), the definition of bullying is as follows:

The repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
  • Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done

I had struggled with my own workplace bully for a while, but it didn’t get to a point of concern for myself until the past year or so. My stress level was sky high; my unhappiness reached a point where I could no longer cover it up by a simple slight smile. I felt threatened for my job, even though I worked hard not only from 8-5, but on the off hours, to, trying to make sure we were on the top when it came to different aspects of our industry. And yet, there were times that no matter what I did, it didn’t matter–it was like I was still a screw up and I was difficult to work with.

The WBI says that workplace bullying is driven “by perpetrators’ need to control the targeted individual(s)” and “requires consequences for the targeted individual.” There was control being forced upon from many directions. And even though one of the said-bullies wasn’t even my manager any longer, there was still that need to force control over me.

My personality can tend to be a little strong, I’ll admit that–I am a Scorpio (through and through), after all. I’m hard-headed and I will battle to show that I am right. But majority of my actions have never been malicious in any form towards anyone, yet there were a couple of people who took it that way. Instead of talking with me about it, they’d go to others to show their displeasure and ask that something be done. It was like I was targeted for some reason or another. I never took their same route–I was afraid of being labeled as a tattle tale or someone who had to rely on someone else to do their fighting. I’d straighten my posture, clear my throat, and focus solely on my job and doing the best that I can.

But some times that best isn’t good enough. And somehow, even though other parties in the company knows that you’re being targeted by someone, there’s no one that stands up for you. No one that says for a second for everyone to just stop and confront the situation head-on. No one that really has your back in the battle. Instead, everyone keeps their noses to the computer screen, until one day they’re shocked by a company-wide email. They walk around the office, wondering what happened, and how this could happen to such a hard worker, where the one who they knew was the bully got away scot-free without even a hint of a scar.

I’d hate to think that the bully won…mostly because they got what they wanted. It was a bad situation for a while, and many knew how unhappy I was and how stressed I had become (though I’ll admit I was immune to my feelings of stress until I had a few days to reflect on life then). I wanted out. I needed out. This was just more of a kick in the pants to make a move faster than anticipated, and a kick in the pants to truly start my life over, like I had dreamed of for a while now.

So maybe the bully didn’t win. But that’s the point, right? To not let your competition feel as though they’ve won? To just pick up and move on, dust off your shoulders and move forward like no one saw you trip and fall? You’ve been dealt with a shitty situation–now it’s time to make the best of it. It’s not about lemons and lemonade–this is your life, your career, your passion we’re talking about. The bruising from all the punches you took for the past year or so will soon fade. The things you were forced to remember because you had been there for longer than some will soon disappear and your memories will be filled with better, happier things. But how do you move on, without that feeling of bitterness, without that feeling of being letdown by those you trusted and thought had your back? How do you move on from the hurt that has damaged your trust?

That’s what we do. That’s just what you do. You continue showing that you’re a strong person (in your will, physicality, mentally, etc.) and that you are better than your bullies thought of you. Their opinions and their thoughts mean nothing to you any more. They mean nothing to you any more. That time you spent in that work environment now only means time on your resume. And for that, you should be thankful for that experience, because it’s taught you more than the career skills you’ve acquired for that next job and that next experience, but it’s taught you how to be a better person than they were and how to be a better employee who hopefully stands up for herself better.



8 thoughts on “Bullying in the Workplace

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  2. You have perfectly captured so much of what I feel in my own life right now. Being strong-willed but not malicious. Working so hard, but still being forever in the wrong a difficult to work with. Thank you so much for putting into words the sentences I’ve been having difficulty forming.

    I have to make it 6 more months before I can potentially change jobs (I’m on a work permit). People tell me “just 6 months!” but I feel like it’s forever. I just want to go into work, do my job, and not have to justify myself.

    • Thank you for sharing your struggles as well. Best of luck with those 6 months…hopefully they’ll go by quickly. Try surrounding yourself with friends and activities that keep you busy and happy when you’re not at work, and hopefully that’ll help time go by faster.

  3. I’m so sorry you had to go through all of this, hun. My mom used to be bullied by two women at her job. It was like they saw her as a threat to their own jobs. Then at some point, it all just stopped and whatever differences they had were gone. One recommended me for a job at the company after I graduated and the other (who at one point became my boss) recommended me for a job with the company down here three years ago. My mother still keeps in touch with one of those women who was laid off and now lives about 10 miles from me. I remember her saying to my mother that she was hesitant to recommend me for the job down here because she felt like I would be bullied by my boss, which I was. It’s so strange how things turn out sometimes. But I remember her being stressed and hating her job. 15 years later, she’s stil there, just waiting to retire. Somehow she was able to see it through. After 7 months of being bullied at my job, I quit and put myself in a horrible financial situation. But honestly, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I found a job that I absolutely love and I’m really happy with. I think good things will come to you now. I like to think that everything happens for a reason even if that reason seems illusive. xoxoxoxoxoxo

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