Anyone who has been a target of workplace bullying knows the pain that this type of harassment and humiliation causes. But once the bully has been dealt with, don’t expect to feel fine afterward. While you may experience a sense of relief, that you are no longer experiencing the daily stress of working with a bully, you also may have some residual effects from what you experienced. In fact, workplace bullying often has a lasting impact on your overall mental and physical health.
As a result, there will be days when the road to recovery may be challenging. Something someone says may trigger those familiar feelings of anxiety. Or, you may worry every time you disagree with someone. These feelings are all normal. But with a little work and an extra effort in taking care of yourself, you will get your life back. What’s more, you can take what happened to you in the workplace and learn from it. Use it to strengthen you as you move forward with your life and your career.
The key is to not allow what happened to you define who you are as a person. Recognize that workplace bullies have a choice. You did not deserve to be bullied. Place the responsibility for the bullying on the shoulders of the bully and move on. Leave the hurtful words and the actions in the past. Here are the top five things you can do to recover from workplace bullying.
- Make Your Health a Priority
- Find Emotional Support and Validation
- Educate Yourself About Workplace Bullying
- Change How You View the Experience
- Find Closure and a New Beginning
- Your boss is yelling at you. Now what?
- Resist the urge to fight fire with fire
- Understand the root cause
- Try talking it out (gulp)
- Take your issue up the ladder
- …or simply jump ship
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Make Your Health a Priority
Targets of workplace bullying deal with a host of health issues including sleeplessness, stomach issues, headaches, and stress conditions. They also may deal with post-traumatic stress disorder, panic attacks, eating disorders, depression, and thoughts of suicide. Talk to your doctor about any symptoms you are experiencing. It’s also a good idea to find a counselor. Remember, being targeted by a workplace bully does more than impact your mood or self-esteem. It also can impact your physical health. Do not delay in taking care of yourself. Ignoring your symptoms can lead to a host of other health issues. Getting healthy should be your top priority.
Find Emotional Support and Validation
When bullying takes place, the target is often accused of having a problem or being the problem. Constant criticism, rumors, lies, and gossip can take its toll leaving you feeling lonely, isolated and hopeless. But remember you are not alone. In fact, workplace bullying is a widespread issue that affects workers every day. Consider finding a support group in your area or starting one of your own. Find validation for what you have experienced and recognize that there is nothing wrong with you. It will take work to build up your self-esteem and overall confidence again, but it can be done.
Educate Yourself About Workplace Bullying
If you are confused by what has happened to you, read everything you can about workplace bullying. While it can be painful to read about the issue, in the long run, it will help you come to terms with what happened to you. What’s more, being educated about bullying will prepare you for future confrontations. Some targets of workplace bullying even become advocates or support group leaders for others suffering at the hands of a workplace bully.
Change How You View the Experience
Many times, people who have been bullied develop a very narrow view of life because the bullying they experienced consumes their every thought. Think about things other than what you have gone through, things that have meaning or purpose in your life. There are numerous benefits to positive thinking. If you are having trouble doing this on your own, a counselor can help you redirect your thought processes. What’s more, avoid feeling guilty about how you confronted the bully or the length of time it took you to take action. These things are in the past. Leave them there.
Find Closure and a New Beginning
Part of the healing process is being able to put the past behind you and detach from the trauma you experienced. Sometimes finding this closure involves changing jobs or careers. But you also need to discover that your identity is tied to more than just your work. Rediscover who you are. Develop new interests, new hobbies, new goals, and new dreams. Do not allow yourself to be preoccupied with what happened to you. Instead, find a healthy way to shift your focus and put the past behind you.
Your boss is yelling at you. Now what?
Just when you thought it was going to be a regular day at the office, your boss starts yelling at you in a staff meeting, embarrassing you in front of your co-workers and causing steam to billow from your ears while you grind your teeth in silence.
Why did you bother getting out of bed this morning? It certainly wasn’t to get berated in a conference room, that’s for sure.
While it’s normal to get emotional at work sometimes, there are limits as to what’s acceptable and what is definitely not. A toxic boss who often yells at you and others falls firmly under the “not okay” category.
“It’s important not to let that situation escalate and not let it continue,” says Steven Dinkin, president of the San Diego-based National Conflict Resolution Center. “Oftentimes in the workplace, people tend to avoid those types of situations and conflict, but those behaviors tend to escalate.”
When your boss’ temper tantrums are out of control, going to work every day can feel like a misery minefield. Will today be a good day—or will you need to take cover under the desk to avoid being in the blast radius?
Unfortunately, you can’t control how your boss (or anyone else, for that matter) behaves, but you can control your own actions. The following tactics can help you deal with a boss who sometimes can’t.
Resist the urge to fight fire with fire
The absolute first thing you must do when confronted with a yelling boss is…nothing.
Truly, the best thing you can do when your supervisor is yelling is to not react during the outburst, Dinkin says. Yeah, that’s easier said than done when someone is making a scene. But hard as it may be, you’ve got to try to maintain your calm.
“Some people are going to want to yell back, but that just adds fuel to the fire,” says Marie McIntyre, an Atlanta-based career coach and author of Secrets to Winning at Office Politics. “Others are going to get scared and want to run and hide.” And that approach won’t help either because avoiding a problem isn’t the same as addressing it.
Instead of going either of those routes, wait patiently while your boss breathes fire, and once he or she is finished, acknowledge and summarize what was said to show that you were listening.
“A lot of people think that tactic equates to agreeing with your yelling boss,” Dinkin says, “but if you quickly summarize what your boss said, your boss feels heard and is then more willing to hear your point of view.”
Understand the root cause
Before you take any action, try to assess what might be causing your boss to yell. There are three general types of yelling bosses, McIntyre says, and if you know which type you’re dealing with, you’ll have a better idea of how to respond effectively.
The first type of boss is a highly emotional person who lacks self-control and melts down when frustrated. The second type is an authoritarian figure that manages with fear-based tactics and doesn’t like it when their authority is questioned. The third kind actually enjoys yelling and belittling others and does so liberally. Neither the first nor the second type of boss actually looks forward to having an outburst; on the other hand, the third type of boss gets their kicks making people feel like dirt.
The first type tends to get back under control and return to the business at hand relatively quickly. So you may be able to wait it out. And you may be able to ward off future meltdowns by recognizing triggers and proactively taking care of those small problems that tend to set the person off, McIntyre says.
With the second type, the authoritarian boss, make a point to ask lots of questions to show you’re trying to do what they want.
The third type? Lost cause. Sorry—but you’re better off looking for a new job stat. Or a therapist, at the very least.
Try talking it out (gulp)
Now, if your boss is either the highly emotional or authoritarian type, and you have an otherwise good relationship with the person, consider addressing the issue directly—especially if the outburst was an unusual occurrence.
Choose a private location and a time when everyone is calm before presenting the issue, says Paula Brantner, a senior advisor and former executive director of Washington, D.C.-based Workplace Fairness. Present your case factually, using specific examples, she says.
For example, “I was really taken aback when you yelled at me in the meeting for not following up with the client. I know we’re all stressed about renewing our contract with their company, but I felt belittled and discouraged when you yelled at me, especially in front of others. How can we work better together toward renewing this client’s contract? I’d like to understand your main concerns so that I can strategically address them one by one.”
The goal should be to work with your boss to get to the underlying issues that are causing tempers to flare and troubleshoot them together.
Take your issue up the ladder
If a direct conversation with your boss doesn’t prove fruitful—or if you fear too much negative impact—consider going over your boss’ head to HR. Before making that move, it’s crucial that you evaluate your company’s culture carefully.
Some companies actively promote workplace happiness and want to confront such problems; making a call to HR may be appropriate in such cases. You should also measure whether you can trust your HR manager to take your complaint seriously and keep it confidential, Brantner says.
If, however, your workplace is volatile and has a culture that seems to accept everyone yelling at each other, your grievance probably won’t be met with much concern, McIntyre says. In this case, your best bet is looking for a more hospitable employer.
Once you choose to report your boss, approach it as a problem that is affecting workplace performance, McIntyre says. “Don’t go in and say, ‘My boss is hurting my feelings,’” she says. “Present it as a business problem.”
…or simply jump ship
There comes a point—sooner rather than later, if it’s a regular enough occurrence—when a screamer of a supervisor just isn’t worth putting up with.
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