Shocking story of Sarah’s courage and persistence will help anyone who finds themselves being bullied at work. It is based on my working with her to support her during the ‘lived experience’ of being bullied by her boss.
Sarah was recruited on a temporary six month contract as a social media specialist for the CEO and the executive team in a of a UK financial services firm. By the time she arrived a new head of department Nigel had been appointed. Immediately, he used the first team meeting Sarah attended to tell her that he would be doing social media. There was never a moment to discuss this in private. Nigel made sure of that. Meanwhile, to help out her new team, Sarah agreed to cover the highly political and sensitive job of media relations. The CEO personally thanked her for doing so. Not Nigel, Sarah says he told her:
“It was extremely unlikely that my contract would be renewed and that he, Nigel, would give me a reference and time off for interviews. I felt sick.”
Things got even worse when:
“He tried to hold a 1-2-1 meeting with me, in a room that was not visible from the main office floor”. HR advised Sarah to attend, and told Nigel to use a different room. Nigel told HR he made a booking mistake. But, then the following week booked it again
Public meetings were a nightmare too:
“He tries to humiliate me in team meetings”
“Today Nigel publicly demoted David, at our team meeting, and I have seen this happen publicly to others before”
“I feel depressed and humiliated, and totally undervalued as a result of all this. I feel as if I can never relax as I don’t know when, or where, an attack is coming from. I feel this bad treatment is deliberate and the aim is to make me so miserable that I will leave. He is consistently aggressive”
Valuable actions that Sarah took:
- Be kind to yourself – the battle takes a lot of energy
- Anger is valuable as it helps protect you – however, don’t allow it to drive you towards doing anything foolish. Your adversary may then paint you as the aggressor, the unreasonable one.
- Shine your light – actively project an alternative image of yourself as a calm and competent professional. Doing good work publicly reduces feelings of victimisation and protects your reputation
- Actively seek support – friends and family, especially anyone knowledgeable. Sarah said, “having Marjorie who understood the psychology of a bully helped immensely”
- Say as little as possible to a bully. Become boring to the bully, and he has little to use against you. Don’t ever, ever confide in a bully as they seek excitement from seeing people react and become upset. Conflict gives them a thrill of power.
- Listen well: Sarah was adept at noticing the bully telegraph his bad intentions – “I noticed immediately – I had the job he wanted, which he took”
- Document, document, document… as soon as you see/feel the first warning sign. Don’t wait. Do so fully, and date as ‘contemporaneous notes’ to show this is serious. And any email you get a feeling might be useful to you later on print out and save
- Never lose your cool or betray your emotions – and avoid accepting a meeting alone with a bully, especially off-site; say such meetings are “unprofessional”
- The benefits of standing up for yourself are many – you will not lose your confidence (it may increase) and you will not be depressed. You will probably prevent the bully giving you a bad reference. You may lose your job but you will not berate yourself later on for allowing yourself to be walked on and feel depressed and unable to work. You will also realise what a pathetic, empty person the bully is
If you need help then you can reach us at 07779 345 499, email@example.com
ACAS provide advice to employees: http://www.acas.org.uk/media/pdf/o/c/Bullying-and-harassment-at-work-a-guide-for-employees.pdf
Reach us at 07779 345 499, firstname.lastname@example.org
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We have experience in developing senior managers and their team members – both on an individual and team level – so they can develop practical approaches that encourage positive, constructive behaviour. This, in turn, leads to the development of positive beliefs and values. We are ready work with you, to help you get the best out of your people.
Here are some examples of approaches that can be used and tailored to your individual needs:
- Special projects, secondments and assignments
- Mediation, to address workplace conflict
- Personal development activities
- Individual and group coaching…Coaching – a powerful way of developing people
- Psychometric assessment, which can identify strengths as well as derailing behaviours and also include 360 degree feedback
- Structured module for understanding the psychological contracts in your organisation, both at an individual or team level
- Straight Talking: …Straight Talking create change through conversations