How to Handle Workplace Bullying
Recently I’ve had many clients express the challenges that they face in the workplace when it comes to relationships – how to develop positive relationships when there is a considerable amount of negativity around you.
This often happens when there is change – unwelcome change or unexpected change – because we are naturally creatures of habit and when there is change, we experience an element of anxiety. “What’s going to happen to me?” we may think.
And as protection we close ranks or we build a wall around us and we try not to be affected by this change that we are afraid of. Some people react another way and to protect themselves then belittle others in order to make themselves feel ‘safer’.
Sometime the challenges are not due to organizational change but due to personality. There may be a negative person that you have to work with on a daily basis and that starts to affect your sense of self and your happiness level. You may feel frustrated and annoyed at first but then it starts to plant seed of doubt about your own abilities.
Deepak Chopra said:
‘Negative people deplete your energy. Surround yourself with love and nourishment and do not allow the creation of negativity in your environment.’
This may be easier said than done as sometimes this extends into the area of workplace harassment.
Have you experienced or witnessed workplace bullying? Workplace bullying is not to be tolerated.
It affects individuals by causing severe anxiety and other mental health issues and it also can affect business results for organisations.
In 2010, the Productivity Commission found that bullying at work costs Australian organisations between $6 billion and $36 billion a year in lost productivity.
An Australian Human Rights Commission report cites “The Beyond Bullying Association, estimates that between 400,000 and two million Australians will be harassed at work while 2.5 to 5 million will experience workplace harassment at some time during their career”
Look closely at your network, and ask yourself if any of the people in it:
- Drag you down
- Make you doubt your abilities
- Never seem to have ideas of their own, but take your ideas and comments as their own
- Always see the negative in every situation
- Put you on the defensive
- Make you hesitate about your decisions and what you want to do
- Talk about themselves all the time and show little interest in you
I was in a meeting once at a client organisation, negotiating the fee for an opportunity that had arisen due to someone specifically asking to work with me and the person with whom I was negotiating with at this meeting said to me, “You will never be able to find an opportunity like this on your own.
That was, to me, quite a put down and I felt very disappointed that he would have said something so negative and derogatory.
I could have felt insecure and agreed with him and then taken a lower fee because of the implied slight. But luckily, I knew that what he said was untrue as I had other clients who were paying me more than the sum we were negotiating at the time. So I was able to counter that comment with confidence.
In fact, I countered with logic and stood my ground – the deal didn’t go ahead but I maintained my integrity and to this day I am so glad that I did because I was told of this man’s regular bullying tactics during negotiations and later realised that I had automatically made a good call by believing in myself rather than place my worth on someone else’s inaccurate perception.
Now this was not ongoing bullying, it was hard-nosed negotiation, but my point is that self-belief and not backing down to techniques that may place doubt in your mind about your own abilities is so important.
So, what is workplace bullying? According to a University of Wollongong study, workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker that created a risk to health and safety. The report said this could include verbal abuse and humiliation, social isolation, withholding information and spreading rumours.
The Chief Executive Officer of beyondblue Georgie Harman said, “those who experience and perpetrate workplace bullying have higher rates of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder and health problems such as cardiovascular disease.”
According to SafeWork Australia, workplace bullying can be harmful to the person experiencing it and to those who witness it. The effects will vary depending on individual characteristics as well as the specific situation and may include one or more of the following:
- Distress, anxiety, panic attacks or sleep disturbance
- Physical illness, for example muscular tension, headaches, fatigue and digestive problems
- Loss of self-esteem and self-confidence
- Feelings of isolation
- Deteriorating relationships with colleagues, family and friends
- Negative impact on work performance, concentration and decision making ability
Workplace bullying can also have a negative impact on the work environment and incur direct and indirect costs for a business, including:
- High staff turnover and associated recruitment and training costs
- Low morale and motivation
- Increased absenteeism
- Lost productivity
Safe Work Australia has an excellent guide to preventing workplace bullying this is one of the recommendations they make that would help if this is an issue where you work:
The implementation of a policy that is adhered to when negative behaviour is observed and reported that will help to develop productive and respectful workplace relationships
Good management practices and effective communication are important in creating a workplace environment that discourages workplace bullying. Examples may include:
- Promoting positive leadership styles by providing training for managers and supervisors
- Mentoring and supporting new and poor performing managers and workers
- Facilitating teamwork, consultation and co-operation
- Ensuring that reasonable management actions are clearly defined, articulated and understood by workers and supervisors
- Ensuring supervisors act in a timely manner on unreasonable behaviour they see or become aware of.
Now, what can you do to practice self-care?
Find someone you trust to talk to, don’t bottle it up.
Find a counsellor or health professional who will provide professional assistance to help you rebuild your self esteem and develop resilience during challenging times.
If you start to doubt yourself, analyse your stress level, as there may be other contributing factors that are affecting your sense of self worth and confidence.
Think about what has happened over the past few years that may contribute to your cumulative stress levels?
- Assess what’s happening in your life holistically at this point in time
- Talk it out with someone you trust, practice positive self talk – use positive affirmations regularly
- Sweat it out – raise your heart rate through regular exercise as you will feel more in control of other aspects of your life if you are in control of your body and your health
- Organise your physical environment – again if you are in an environment where there is order, you will feel your life is more in order – and take ACTION.
By tolerating negativity you are letting it breed. Say NO to negativity and put a smile on your face – anyone who wants to bring you down will think twice about approaching you if you act confidently and with self-assurance.
Never let someone else’s opinion affect your own sense of self worth. Stay true to yourself, follow your values and act with integrity at all times.
Theodore Roosevelt put it so well:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Download the GUIDE FOR PREVENTING AND RESPONDING TO WORKPLACE BULLYING from Work Safe Australia
Until next time, believe in yourself and be happy my friend.
If you need coaching to help you in your career, book in for an exploratory chat with me here