This will be the first in a series of posts about Workplace Bullying and how to cope. First I must remind you about the Anger Solutions approach to resolving anger and conflict. There are THREE key parts of the proces. The first part of the process that we will focus on in this blog is to THINK.
What is happening?
What does it mean? (What is the LIFETIME value of this event?)
How do I feel about it?
How would I like this to be resolved?
What can I do to resolve this?
What is the best/worst thing that can happen if I choose this response?
Now, one of the things that continued, repeated, unwelcome harassment does is it takes away your voice, and causes you to feel incapable or incompetent. It can cause you to feel incapable of defending yourself, or of standing up to the bully. You may have tried standing up to the bully and had your wrist slapped as though you were the aggressor. This is a typical response from employers and contributes to feelings of learned helplessness. You may feel as though you are no longer capable of doing your job because of repeated comments or attacks focused on your performance. Your anxiety about the toxic work situation may also contribute to poor performance, impeding your memory, concentration, and focus. Bullies point all the attention at YOU, and as such, your interpretation of each bullying/harassment event may be somewhat skewed.
Because of this interesting phenomenon, the questions you ask in the THINKing stage must go beyond what I have listed in the traditional Anger Solutions model above. You must not only ask the questions, but you must also frame the answers in such a way that they are empowering, rather than paralyzing. The difference in the way you answer is that one response affirms the bully’s position, while the other response affirms your ability and competence. Here is a comparative example to show you what I mean.
|Question||Paralyzing Response||Empowering Response|
|What is happening?||I’m being bullied/attacked/criticized (puts you in the position of victim, affirming the bully’s power)||Mr/Ms Bully is trying to make me feel or look incapable or incompetent. (The word “try” infers that they may not succeed, affirming your position of strength). Why would they try so hard to make you feel/look incompetent if you actually were already those things?|
|What does it mean?||It means that I am a victim. I am powerless to stop this behaviour. It means that I am not capable, or that there is something wrong with me||It means that Mr/Ms Bully has some serious self-confidence issues; otherwise s/he wouldn’t have to target me.|
|How do I feel about it?||How you feel is how you feel. Be careful of how you interpret the events as your interpretation will contribute to how you feel.||How you feel is how you feel. Be careful of how you interpret the events as your interpretation will contribute to how you feel.|
|How would I like this to be resolved?||It doesn’t matter what I want – this isn’t going to stop.||I would like Mr/Ms Bully to stop targeting me. I would like to be able to stand up for myself in a way that is safe for everyone. I want to feel confident and capable.|
|What can I do to resolve this?|
|What is the best thing/worst thing that can happen if I choose this response?|
You will notice that I have left the possible responses for the last TWO questions blank. Those will be touched on in future blog posts.
What is important to learn for now, is that you can regain control of your thought process and your perception of what is happening in your workplace. That is the very first step to reclaiming your power. Remember that people can take away your status at work, they can take away your responsibilities, they can take away your support, and they may even be able to deprive you of monetary gain that is rightfully yours – but they cannot take away your sense of self or your dignity, unless of course you give them permission to do so.
Start here – and begin reframing your thoughts about what is happening at work. I’ll be back with more advice on how to cope with workplace harassment/bullying.