What is workplace bullying?
The current legal definition found on the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) website is:
Workplace Bullying is repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is :
This definition was used in the 2014 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey. Its national prevalence was assessed.
What does workplace harassment look like?
For me, it took me experiencing a complete nervous breakdown and hearing the words directly from a friend’s mouth. I was being psychologically bullied at my workplace. 8 years of great reviews, training employees and being the go-to in the accounting department and suddenly I was the target for harassment.
My one time co-worker, office mate, and a perceived friend used what she knew personally about me to launch a calculated attack. I am not sure why I was so blindsided, I had witnessed other cruel and callous acts from her before, just not towards me.
For a couple of years, while she was on the fast track to being given the office manager job that she would use to slander, humiliate and emotionally abuse me, I answered several emails a day from her, helping her do her job.
Systematically she and her boss used my recent trauma of losing my daughter and my attention deficit to make me appear inadequate and not performing my job duties. Also, they were able to discredit me fairly quickly to the executives above them and they played right into the mental warfare mounted against me.
The nervous breakdown
At the time I had no idea that workplace bullying was a thing. One particular day after a surprise text from my manager while I was on break, attacking my nervous fidgeting, I encountered her in the break room while replying. Soon she was shouting at me while nurses and other employees were walking through. Humiliated and extremely upset I went to the bathroom in tears. I returned to my desk a few minutes later still crying uncontrollably. My coworkers convinced me to take my lunch then. I sat in my car in shock, crying.
I returned to my desk when I was able to calm down. I heard my boss and her boss walk through the business office and get in the personnel files but no one said anything to me, although I was meant to know they were in there.
The double team
After 5 pm I received an email from my boss’s boss, the administrator of the facility. She was punishing me for taking a long lunch that day and wanted me to start clocking in and out for every break I took. There were also comments about my role in a conference call that afternoon trying to make me appear inadequate. I was being talked down too without my voice being heard.
I felt lost, humiliated and hurt. I felt I had nowhere to turn so I packed my things.
While packing my things I was very vocal and hysterical about feeling helpless and picked on. I loved this job for eight years!
My coworkers were trying to calm me down and get me to quit packing when Mrs. Administrator came into the office finally. It was after 5:30, the time the last of us were scheduled to leave for the day. She was noticeably surprised to see that two coworkers were still in the office with me. Her demeanor changed and she pretended to care, asked me not to take the box and said we could talk about my problems with my manager on Monday after I had taken a few days.
Effects of mental abuse
I do not know how I made it home that day because I officially checked all the way out. I spent the next four days in bed crying, trying to figure out why? What I did to get this treatment. I happened to come across the term workplace harassment and at the same time, a friend in management told me I was being bullied.
I obsessed over every move that had been made since I transferred to the facility, replayed conversations, tried to rationalize their actions, from that point on I obsessed over it.
I made two plans of what to talk about on Monday because I just wasn’t sure if I could trust bosses boss or not. She had a personality and look that drew you in. You wanted to like her and wanted her to be genuine but also had the feeling she could be very deceiving.
What not to do:
Monday came and before I even settled in she came and got me. Somehow it went from If I wanted to talk, to a mandatory meeting between us. I went for script number two (she’s not your friend) and I let her lead. She brought two accounts up she thought to be incorrect and without any identifying patient information, I was able to tell her why they were not wrong. (This should have been proof to me that I wasn’t inept like they were convincing me to believe) She used those days I was off to try to start proving me incompetent and now approved of everything my boss did that previous Wednesday and claimed no wrongdoing. We were also alone this time, no witnesses.
She also sent an email out that Thursday making it a new rule that no one was allowed to be in the building past 5:30 pm and we weren’t to take any lunches or breaks together.
She had now isolated me and made sure no one would be in the building to be witnesses for coworkers.
#1 What not to do: Do not trust your bosses boss! That’s their biggest fan as they are likely their best soldier.
#2 Do not trust that everyone is as friendly as you believe. Tell only people you have 100% trust in.
Backup? What Backup?
The ugly truth about being the recipient of bullies emotional harassment: no one believes you! If you aren’t being physically beat down in front of the masses it isn’t happening. You are left feeling alone, confused, frightened and helpless. You are also often confused.
I had been the closest of friends with several of my coworkers for a long time and even through the funeral. A couple of these ladies helped me get through each day just by being there. Unfortunately, when it became me against management they all disappeared. I get it, they need their jobs, they have families to feed and can’t afford to be retaliated against for standing with the target.
Also, the abuse is so calculated and planned that it isn’t noticeable to the people around you. They get tired of hearing you complain and share your conspiracy theories quickly. They get comfortable falling into line with the bullies. One friend even said she wished they would just let me start over fresh like I was the guilty party.
Family thinks your crazy?
The worst-case scenario: Your family doesn’t believe you. My husband, my dad; I was told I needed to get to work on time as expected and I wouldn’t be at risk of losing my job. My marriage suffered. I experienced total isolation and fear. I was irrational at times but that was the plan.
They had people reporting things I said, how long I stayed in the bathroom, on break, etc.
By that time I was experiencing dissociation, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and fear. From the moment I told them I needed to see a doctor and apply for FMLA they never let up.
Who is HR there for?
At the end, I contacted an HR rep as a last-ditch attempt to get help. I scheduled a call on my cell at lunch. What happened? She had already heard their story and reflected it back to me. She let me know that harassment was legal as long as I wasn’t a protected class.
It wasn’t long before I was fired and they tried to slander my name by accusing me of stealing time. I was on FMLA intermittent at the time and even had the hour of the morning they fired me approved by their FMLA company.
Keep your head up!
I am proud to say I walked out of there with my head held high! I had already removed my things from the building and didn’t have to walk the walk of shame. Also, I recorded that session and the session before. I will never have to try to remember what lies they told and what was said because I have the conversations to replay when I want.
This was a long painful experience for me. One I will not soon forget and I am still trying to recover from it. I haven’t been able to go back to work and can be easily triggered into feeling those feelings all over again. It is hard to accept the damage done to me and my family because someone was intimidated by my knowledge and my veteran, trusted status enough to perceive a threat. Meanwhile, in one of the offices a girl sits and watches movies at her desk and video calls her boyfriends with no repercussions and has for a couple of years now. The few ladies I trained extensively have their same jobs doing exactly as I trained them to and they are on their fourth attempt to replace me with someone in the year I have been gone.
Stats per WBI
* 72% of workplace bullies are bosses, resulting from poor leadership and inept management.
* The biggest supporter of the bully is his/her boss and HR!
* 40% of targets never report the harassment.
* 80% of bullying is legal and complaints lead to retaliation.
* 66% are guaranteed to lose their job as soon as they became the target.
Research shows targets are usually the veteran and most skilled person in the group.
* They are independent
* They refuse to be subservient
* Almost always the target is more technically skilled and the office go-to person.
* Better liked than the bully
* Better social skills
*Greater emotional intelligence
*Feel empathy even for the bullies
* Most often the target brings warmth, ethics, and honesty to the workplace.
* The most easily exploited targets are people with a strong desire to help, heal, teach, develop and nurture others.
* Non-confrontational, non-aggressive and morally superior.
You are a badass!
Check, check, check, check. If only we could take being a target as the compliment it really is the bully wouldn’t have any power over us.
Save a copy of those characteristics to remind you that you were bullied because you were awesome. The bully is/was intimidated by your superiority and perceived you as a threat. No doubt after using you for a while.
Serious health-related effects
Stress is the biological human response to stressors. The emotional damage is physiological and it is real!
It is impossible to react rationally and controlled due to the overwhelming emotional state the abuse causes. The abuse creates distress and the body and mind go into the fight or flight status. The longer the abuse is endured and the longer it goes on before you realize it and put yourself in a position to defend yourself the more damage is done. The distress sends cortisol to the brain and body causing atrophy to the brain in areas that control memory, emotional regulation and ability to sustain positive social relationships.
Other stress-related serious health issues include disorders of the heart, neuro system, gastro system, immune and autoimmune disorders, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, diabetes, and skin disorders.
Psychological-Emotional – Mental damages
- Debilitating Anxiety
- Panic Attacks
- Clinical Depression
- An overwhelming sense of injustice
Note: PTSD is not just a war wound. PTSD can occur in anyone who has had their coping mechanisms overwhelmed such as in child abuse, domestic and workplace violence, violent trauma and sudden unexpected loss of a loved one.
The workplace becomes a war zone to the isolated, harassed employee.
29% of bullied workers consider suicide
16% of those had a plan
PLEASE CONTACT THE NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE IF YOU FEEL SUICIDAL, LOST OR HOPELESS! 800-273-TALK (8255)
In this day and age, it is outrageous that one person can harm the life of another coworker and their family with no repercussion and many times continue being promoted by the companies promoting the culture. These companies have to be held accountable for the reckless hiring of incapable managers and turning their heads to complaints and allowing retaliation to run so so rampant and so deep.
The following link will take you to reviews by past and present employees. This company that I worked for, whose HR rep allowed the bullies to continue and the CFO allowed the administrators to dictate how company policies would be followed and applied and also turned a blind eye to the continuous complaints from all over this country.
There is a common theme to these reviews.
Bullied, favoritism, nepotism, micro management, company culture, lack of training, cliques, inept management.
Many were employed happily for years before the culture changed and the bullying and harassment started. There is a mixture of all departments, roles and locations saying the same thing but nothing changes.
Take a stand!
Stand up for your coworkers because one day that person on disability for PTSD and depression due to workplace harassment might be you or someone you love . I can only hope that the two who successfully changed the course of mine, my husbands, my sons and my grandkids lives along with the loss of many relationships , my credit, my home, my car and my mental status taste the bitter taste of Karma. They will surely have to answer to the almighty and that is far worse than anything they have done to me. I am on my way back up, I am changed, I am stronger from piecing myself back together. With our GOD on my side nothing is impossible. ~Jennifer