The dangers of workplace bullying

desperate woman with head in her hands in the office

It’s in our nature to protect things that are fragile. We wrap our precious china and glassware up, tiptoe through shops when there are breakable items on display, and take great care when we handle delicate ornaments.

Workplace bullying: desperate woman with head in her hands in the officeWe’ve even invented something to protect them – who doesn’t love bubble wrap? It’s not just for popping!

So why is it that some people are so careless with the most fragile thing of all? How can they think nothing of destroying someone else’s confidence through carelessness or, worse, deliberate bullying?

Especially at work, where a ‘good manager’ is often someone who ‘gets the job done’, regardless of how they’ve done it and who they may have hurt in the process.

The demoralising effects of bullying

I’ve been bullied in the workplace, more than once. It is devastating. It can be as almost as crushing as emotional abuse in a relationship, as you begin to believe your skills are defective, your intelligence insufficient, your work sub standard.

And it can become paralysing. The more I was bullied, the more I questioned my worth which inevitability led to more bullying and so on and so on. Just like domestic emotional abuse, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Rationally, I know that I am far from useless. I have skills and talents which I’m fully capable of applying appropriately and successfully.  But – and especially since I experienced bullying at work – it takes very little to shatter this rational view and make me question my abilities to the point of paralysis.

Workplace bullying isn’t always deliberate. It could be that someone hasn’t thought before speaking, or typing, or writing and simply not considered the reader/listener and how the words might be perceived.

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Or, worse, not even caring and having a focus only upon the task and the end result.  But even if it’s unintentional, it’s still bullying with the same shattering effects.

Confidence is so very fragile.  A careless word, an indifferent remark, can pierce the brittle veneer so many of us have projected to hold our flimsy ego in place.  Just a little thought before speaking, writing or acting could go a long way to preserving the sanity of others.

For example:

Try to focus on the positives

Most of the time, colleagues will have worked hard. Your children will have tried their best and your friends will have done what they thought is right.  Acknowledge this before discussing what else needs to be done, why it needs to be done differently, why it doesn’t quite work.

Ask yourself if what you are about to say really needs to be said, and is there another way to say it?  Think about the words you choose and about how they will be received.

Choose your recipients wisely

At work, don’t ‘reply all’ on an email if you have something less than complimentary to say to someone on the list. Would you really want to have been told off in front of the whole school? Ticking someone off in a multi-recipient email is the work equivalent of this. Send them an individual message, or better still, pick up the phone or go and see them and have a conversation.

Do as you would be done by

This is so important. The most resilient of us can still be brought down by a careless word just as easily as by a persistent bully.

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Be wise. Be kind. And be the bubble wrap to protect the confidence of your colleagues, friends and families.

Find out more…

How to take action if you’re being bullied at work: by Lester Aldridge LLP

About Sheila Sturgeon

I'm 50+ and living in the Midlands with my fabulous partner of more than 20 years. I'm a local authority officer working in the policy areas of children and families, having previously led local voluntary sector organisations for many years. We have two sons (one mine, one his!) who have flown the nest and set up home with very lovely young ladies, all of whom I am very proud of! My partner is CEO of a local charity. Follow me on Twitter