If you are staying in your job you will need all of your personal strengths and your external supports ready. Know why you are staying. What are the values and motives that drive you to see this through to the end? Is it about fairness? Protecting others? Respect for yourself and what is right? Understanding why this matter to you will be important when things get tough and you want to throw in the towel. You can also consider going part-time to help see you through until it is resolved.
We all have self-doubts and internal criticisms. If you have made mistakes, own these and take responsibility for your actions. It will also remove any ‘ammunition’ that could be used against you. It is also important to see the abuse as being about the abuser. If you can perceive why a person is bullying you it will help you to understand what driving the abuse. Sometimes their motives will be unclear and may have more to do with their personal life than work.
Name the abuse: ‘bullying’, ‘psychological abuse’, ‘emotional abuse’. Naming the abuse helps you, and others, to see it for what it is. It reinforces that it isn’t about perceptions but it is something real that is happening to you.
Build allies. Co-workers can be good sources of emotional support but managers hold more influence. If you are making a complaint against a bully, go up two levels of management hierarchy. Organise a 30 minutes meeting to outline your case and leave behind a single page outline of your main complaints1. Then follow this up with an email. If you disclose your complaint before the meeting, you may find yourself walking into a room with managers already on the offensive. If your manager is the problem, their manager may feel responsible for having hired them. Going up two levels of management reduces the chances that there will be an attempt at covering things over and instigating spin.
Be assertive but don’t retaliate with anger or sadness. If you appear overly distressed—and you are likely feeling very distressed—it may leave you open to being unfairly labeled as an ‘emotional employee who is over-reacting’. Rather than making the complaint about how distressed you are. Use cold, hard facts. Give specific examples of the bully’s behaviours with dates, times, and witnesses if possible. Make your complaint about the incompetency of the bully. Business are, usually, created to make money. Show them why the bully is bad for business. Bullying lowers moral, inhibits communication, and damages the image of the company. Bullying is costing the business money.
Have your escape plan ready. Even if you have an excellent plan and are able to negotiate in a reasonable and effective manner, things may not work out how you like. Knowing that you have a parachute ready to go takes the pressure off. You know that you no longer have everything riding on your current employer. This reassurance will likely make you a better negotiator. You have fewer reasons to become tangled up in complex emotions and this help you to see the big picture and all of the moving parts. You may even wish to gather letters of reference for your next job before you begin. You could also negotiate a good letter of recommendation as part of your exit.
If you’re going to fight, be prepared and be smart. Also, be wise enough to know when to walk away. Keep an eye for our next blog on making a good exit. If you need immediate support, give us a call know to book in for a one on one session. You can continue reading Part 3 on making a strategic exit.
Darius is a published author and registered clinical psychologist in private practice. He holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychology and has worked as a trainer and adjunct lecturer in psychology and counselling. When he isn’t conducting or researching therapy he enjoys going on outdoor adventures with friends and abseiling off cliffs.
1 Bullying at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job, Second Edition (Namie & Namie, 2009).