I work with clients who have been subject to workplace bullying, and with those who use bullying behaviour.
Workplace bullying involves one colleague trying to remove personal and organisational power from the colleague they are targeting and place it with themselves.
To achieve this, the colleague using bullying behaviour tries to limit the behavioural choices available to their target at the time of an attack, and to introduce a bullying dynamic into the relationship – one they want to become an established way of interacting between the two of them.
Incidents of bullying behaviour usually involve the person using bullying behaviour over-riding, disregarding or ignoring their colleague’s normal workplace boundaries and choices, while also attempting to secure their outward compliance to their will.
This combination of factors can result in the person subject to repeated bullying behaviour feeling as if they are being treated like an object rather than as a person, a situation which can quickly render them powerless in their own working life.
Under these circumstances many people struggle to cope.
Their wellbeing suffers and their performance levels decrease as they work less efficiently, less effectively and less ably. Their work standards start to drop, they miss deadlines, get less done during any working day, and their credibility and reputation among their colleagues and customers starts to be adversely affected.
Why is Bullying So Toxic In the Workplace?
The greatest challenge that people subject to workplace bullying face is to remain objective about themselves during and after an experience of bullying. Every client I have worked with starts to think less of themselves as a result of being bullied.
Some lose sight of who they are, what qualities they possess, what skills they have developed, and what they are good at doing. These clients start to believe things about themselves that they would not have believed before the experience of workplace bullying, such as they are useless or ineffective or won’t be happy again or won’t feel safe in the workplace again.
In many cases, clients start to believe things about themselves that are simply not true and which do not reflect either their behaviour or values. Nonetheless, these beliefs take root in their distress and in the emotional overwhelm they experience at being unjustly targeted at work.
Most people who have been seriously bullied at work suffer a catastrophic collapse in their self esteem, their self confidence and their self belief. They find even the simplest tasks – things which they accomplished without even thinking about them before the attack – difficult or impossible to do. They end up second guessing everything about themselves, double checking their actions, procrastinating, unable to make decisions or get things done so great in the collapse in their self worth and sense of their own competence.
Feeling so down on themselves renders many of my clients vulnerable to depression. Because they feel they can’t cope with simple tasks, never mind the complexity of a workplace or social situation, they avoid people and don’t want to go out. They worry that something might happen which they won’t be able to cope with and which will reinforce their belief that they are useless.
They don’t want to socialise, see family members or keep up their usual hobbies and pastimes. They often don’t have the energy to contribute to their life outside of work as fully as they usually would because so much of their energy goes to coping with the assaults upon their character and competence at work and the consequences of being attacked in this manner.
Lowered Self-Esteem, Reduced Performance
It is against this backdrop of escalating issues that many of the people subject to workplace bullying come for coaching. My role is to help them detoxify from the experience of being bullied at work; reduce the overwhelm with which they are struggling; assist them as they sift through the beliefs and ideas they have begun to generate about themselves because of their experience of being bullied; and facilitate them as they replace damaging, self destructive and often simply untrue beliefs with truth about who they really are and what they really can do, so that they can rebuild their lives and work again for their employer in a productive and committed way.
Often the true consequences of workplace bullying are internal to the person and therefore not readily obvious in their full extent to those around them. It is the destructive internal
dialogue with themselves that further undermines a person who has been subject to workplace bullying as they start to blame themselves for not being able to prevent what happened from having occurred.
An experience of workplace bullying is often devastating whether it is an isolated one-off incident out of the blue which took the person over a personal threshold and into overwhelm; or whether it was a series of incidents over a period of time. Workplace bullying creates dynamics within the person subject to it which leave them feeling unsafe in themselves, unsafe at work, unable to predict when the next attack might happen, unable to defend themselves when it does and, often, unable to find reliable or effective sources of help at the time they are needed.
For any adult these are toxic dynamics to experience.
Recovered Confidence, Raised Performance
I am passionate about the possibility for clients to choose their way out of the emotional overwhelm, the self-doubt and the despair which can follow an experience of workplace bullying so that they can become bully-proof for the future.
People who have been bullied often, worry that they will not get ‘back to where they were’ before they were attacked, and that they will continue to let their employer and themselves down because they are unable to handle the complexities of their work and workplace relationships with anything like the degree of facility they did before they were bullied.
Some people who were capable, active and confident before they were bullied truly think that they will not be able to work again, anywhere, at any time in their future so adversely affected are they by their experiences.
And yet, people who are struggling to handle their experiences of bullying behaviour, and whose performance and wellbeing are being compromised by their overwhelm, do recover. Completely. I coach clients whose wellbeing and confidence have collapsed as a result of
experiences of workplace bullying. In a relatively short space of time, they re-discover their self confidence and learn new and more self-protective and self-preserving behaviour.
They return to work with greater self awareness, are equipped to perform effectively once more, and are ready to enjoy the workplace again. At the end of their coaching programmes many clients own their personal power more fully than they did before their experience of workplace bullying, and in every case they are equipped with a wider range of assertiveness, influencing and people-handling skills. They find the courage to turn a bad situation into an opportunity for learning and growth, and they and their employer
benefit as a result from their renewed self confidence, and enhanced leading, influencing and self-management skills.
If you would like to discuss an experience of workplace bullying in a free, no obligation 30 minute phone call please contact me.
I look forward to hearing from you!
More about Aryanne
Aryanne works as a chartered psychologist, executive coach, author and interactive speaker. Her books on handling challenging workplace situations include
- Managing Workplace Bullying
- Handling Politics at Work
- Working in Adversarial Relationships
- Building Influence in the Workplace
- Managing Challenging Clients
She also wrote Starting and Running a Coaching Business.
Visit http://www.oadeassociates.com/ to find out more or call Aryanne on +44 (0) 7747 868 368.
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