How a workplace bully changed my life

By guest blogger Jennifer Brown

I knew my first job out of college wouldn’t be for life but I didn’t realize just how quickly I’d want to get out of there. The job itself was fine, but while I quickly mastered my role and started to rise through the ranks, I came up against an obstacle I never expected: workplace bullying. The experience completely changed my career path and my life.

How Big of a Problem is Workplace Bullying?

According to Forbes, 75% of workers are affected by workplace bullying. While some workplace abuse is blatant, such as public verbal harassment or outspoken criticism, most office bullies prefer to hide behind the veil of plausible deniability. Exclusion, gossip, and professional sabotage, while hard for an outsider to recognize, wear down an employee’s self-esteem until they feel undermined, incompetent, and unwelcome in their place of work.

When faced with a workplace bully, we tend to focus blame on the individual. However, abusive bosses and coworkers don’t arise out of a vacuum. More often than not, they’re the product of a workplace dynamic that puts employees under a high level of pressure while offering little control. When employees feel pressured to get ahead but disempowered to achieve it through positive means, they’re more likely to resort to bullying to establish dominance in the workplace.

Unfortunately, notes these types of zero-sum workplaces are common, which can cultivate unnecessary ingroup competition among women. This competition can in turn be extremely harmful to the overall cause of advancing women in the workplace.

What Can We Do About Workplace Bullying?

That first post-grad job was short-lived, but not only did my experience with workplace abuse not hold me back from pursuing my professional goals, but it also gave me a new one: fighting back against workplace bullying. Everyone deserves a workplace where they feel safe and respected, and it became my goal to make that vision a reality.

In some workplaces, employees who experience workplace harassment are referred to mental health professionals who can help them navigate the far-reaching effects of bullying. A mental health professional may be a psychologist, therapist, or counselor.

  • Psychologists: Psychologists are licensed professionals who hold advanced degrees in psychology. In addition to providing therapy, psychologists can diagnose mental health conditions and recommend treatment plans.
  • Counselors: Counselors are also state-licensed, but they may not have a degree in psychology. Counselors may have an advanced degree in mental health counseling, social work, or another related field. Unlike psychologists, counselors focus on holistic mental health rather than diagnosing and treating specific mental health conditions.
  • Therapists: Therapist is a catch-all term for professionals who provide direct counseling, and may include psychologists, social workers, and clinical mental health counselors. Therapy can be an incredibly helpful tool for working through a wide range of issues, from anxiety to sleep to relationships. If working with a therapist, it’s important to clarify their educational background.

Investigating claims of workplace abuse and supporting victims is important, but it’s not all that companies should be doing to fight workplace harassment. Creating healthy workplaces requires a proactive approach to workplace abuse. Companies must develop clear anti-bullying policies, train employees on workplace harassment, and establish a company culture that promotes cooperation over competition. Because while fighting back against workplace abuse is important, preventing it is even better.


Image via Unsplash

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