Workplace bullying: What it is and how it can affect you

I am extremely passionate about helping people deal with workplace bullying. A few years ago, I saw the terrible implications that bullying can have on someone’s life when a family member was the victim of relentless workplace bullying. It was soul-destroying to see his self-esteem eroded by the negative behaviour he had to deal with. The good news is that he engaged in strategies to take control of the situation and is now working in a wonderful environment where he feels valued and respected. His confidence is back on track and he is more equipped to deal with bullying if he ever experiences it again.

survey released last year by the University of Wollongong found that half of all Australian employees experience workplace bullying during their careers. The study also found that current attempts to deal with workplace bullying are failing.

Several experts have suggested that people need better skills to manage bullying in the workplace but it can be tough when so many victims feel fragile and are struggling with low
self-esteem at the time.

What is workplace bullying?

Workplace bullying is repeated, unreasonable, negative behaviour directed towards an employee or group of employees that creates a risk to their health and safety. It can include verbally abusing someone, joking about and teasing someone, spreading malicious rumours or sabotaging someone’s ability to do their job.

One of the most common forms of bullying is peer-to-peer bullying and it’s not always obvious. For example, someone might be discriminated against by being excluded from team activities, conversations and meetings.

Bullying is not non-aggressive workplace conflict, one-off altercations and differences of opinion.

How do you know if you’re being bullied?

Workplace bullying can make you feel depleted and anxious while sucking all the joy out of your working life. Do any of these scenarios seem familiar?

  1. You keep working long hours but can never get on top of your mammoth workload. Despite your best efforts, your manager keeps pressuring you to do more.
  2. Your ability to concentrate and prioritise tasks starts to diminish and you second guess yourself constantly as you are petrified to make any errors.
  3. You feel like an outsider in the work environment, alienated and excluded from important meetings and group activities.
  4. You have difficulty sleeping and find yourself exercising or increasing your alcohol intake late at night just so you can relax.
  5. You suffer from severe Sundayitis and find yourself dreading the working week. When you wake up, it takes all your will to get out of bed and start the day.

What to do if you’re being bullied

Most organisations have a policy and procedure on bullying. Understand how your organisation handles these situations and follow the recommended protocol. It would be great if everyone felt strong enough to speak up and report bullying. Unfortunately victims are often in such a fragile state that they don’t have the strength to go through the reporting procedure and they decide to resign. As a counsellor, I never judge how my clients react to these situations. We just figure out what is best for your unique circumstances.

The most important thing is to ensure you have the support you need. While family and friends can offer you love and comfort, there is a lot to be gained from seeking the advice and support of a counsellor or psychologist. Over the years, I have helped several people remove themselves from unhealthy work environments by empowering them to devise their exit strategy. Whether you want to try and resolve things in your workplace or want to find the strength to move on, I can help. I can also assist in rebuilding your self-esteem as it usually takes a big knock when you’ve been bullied.

If you recognise your current situation in any of the examples listed above, please get in touch. I’d love to help you find a way through this difficult time. Everyone deserves to feel safe, valued and respected at work, including you.

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