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Bullying: From The Playground To The Office And How To Deal With It

Bullying: From The Playground To The Office And How To Deal With It

Introduction to workplace bullying

In a way, being bullied is… well, sort of… a good thing. Far from being a loner or a weakling, the reason you are being targeted by a bully is probably because you are smarter, more competent, more poised and better-liked than the bully. You’re probably too independent and savvy to bow down to the bully’s ego trip and become a slave. All of this means the bully has decided that you are a threat, and has launched an all-out war against you to keep you in your place.

Knowing this is probably not comforting to you. After all, you’re the one who feels like throwing up on Sunday nights, or who uses your paid time off for “mental health” days to escape from misery at work. On these mental health days, you can hardly drum up enough enthusiasm to get out of bed, much less have fun with family or friends. Perhaps you spend a lot of time fantasizing about killing the bully or killing yourself, or your doctor has become concerned about your skyrocketing health problems. If so, you are not alone.

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Thirty-seven percent of Americans reported being victims of bullying in this 2008 study from the Workplace Bullying Institute. (By the way, the Workplace Bullying Institute website is utterly fantastic, and should be one of your first stops on the web for validating your experience and beginning to do your research. A good portion of the research for this article came from there.)

What does workplace bullying look like?

Bullying is not:

  • Usually physical or sexual in nature, which the bully knows would get him or her into trouble.
  • Simply being rude. Rudeness – belching, spitting, nose picking, etc. – doesn’t cause undue stress. It’s just annoying.

Bullying is:

  • A form of emotional abuse.
  • Most of the time, done to you by your boss. Seventy-two percent of bullies are managers, supervisors, team leaders, or other people in positions of power.

Bullying might look like:

  • Being assigned the impossible task of doing a job without having the time or training to learn how to do it. The bully would then give you a poor job review.
  • Sabotaging your efforts to get your job done by throwing away your files, deleting your database, or intercepting important phone calls and emails.
  • Receiving snide comments about your appearance, background or lifestyle.
  • Hearing back-handed compliments, such as, “You’re smarter than you look.”
  • Hiding your personal effects (keys, wallet, jewelry, etc.) or work materials.
  • Calling you into the office and hurling accusations at you, or threatening such meetings and never holding them.
  • Trying to discredit you or turn others against you.
  • Constantly interrupting you so you can’t get any work done.

The list could go on and on. Bullies are insecure, but they are clever, and they can be infinitely creative in finding ways to torment you without overtly violating laws or policies.

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Should I report bullying?

You might think filing a complaint with the human resources (HR) department or your boss’s boss would be the first logical thing to do, but statistics don’t support this course of action. There are no state laws that require employers to address workplace bullying.

As a result, according to this 2008 study, when employers were told about incidents of bullying, only 1.7% responded with the best case scenario: a fair investigation that resulted in protection for the target and consequences for the bully. In 53% of cases, the employers did nothing, and in 71% of cases, the target was actually retaliated against.

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There are a couple of reasons for this disappointing response. Victims of bullying are often seen as “whiners” and “troublemakers,” while the bully is seen as producing a temporary increase of productivity from his or her employees – especially if the bully takes the time to “crop” business statistics so they present the bully in a favorable light. Also, hiring is often done according to the “who-you-know” rule. If the bully is a personal friend of the president of the company, it is going to be difficult for the president to hear bad things about his or her friend.

What can I do?

Here are some things you can do in the face of these dismal statistics. These suggestions are geared toward helping you feel more empowered while you’re in what is one of the most frustrating, hopeless situations that exists. Don’t underestimate the value of your mental, physical and emotional health in times of extreme stress like this.

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  1. Take extra good care of yourself physically. Vigorous physical activity helps a lot in times of stress, so make it a priority to engage in your favorite exercise every day, or start an exercise program if you don’t have one.
  2. Remember, your attention is the same as your respect. Do your best to disrespect the bully by ignoring them, both at work and at home. It’s difficult to simply stop thinking about something, so find ways to distract yourself into thinking about something else instead.
  3. It is easy to be dismissed as a whiny troublemaker by HR and upper management. Nobody cares about your suffering, and worse, any documentation about your emotional state can be used against you. Carefully choose one or two people to whom you can vent, but do not air your feelings anywhere else.
  4. Be better than the bully in every way you can. Dress one notch nicer. Get to work ten minutes earlier. Keep your office space, your conduct, and yourself absolutely pristine. Learn to work around the bully and get your job done in spite of him or her. Your present conduct will pave the way toward better work in the future.
  5. Start your search for a new job. Seventy-seven percent of targets lose their jobs, either voluntarily or not, so have your escape route in place. Don’t be afraid to look for “fantasy jobs” or start implementing any dreams you’ve had for starting your own business at this time. Remember, these steps are about maintaining your own morale in the middle of a war zone.

If you want to expose the bully

  1. Start doing research. Take time off if you need to. Find out whether or not he or she has crossed a legal line and can be prosecuted. About a quarter of bullies violate discrimination laws. Look for internal company policies as well as state and national policies.
  2. Start gathering data about the economic impact of the bully on the company. Employers will sit up and pay attention if a bully’s actions are affecting the financial bottom line of the company. Put dollars and cents to the expenses of staff replacement, demoralization from under-staffing, absenteeism and lost productivity. Make the case that the bully is too expensive to keep.

A final word

Remember, you are not at fault for being bullied. Bullies didn’t become bullies overnight; they all have a history that can be exposed through proper vetting. The fault for bullying lies entirely with the employer, for hiring them in the first place (negligent hiring), and for ignoring complaints about the bully (negligent retention).

While the legal landscape looks grim for bullying targets right now, awareness is gradually increasing. Twenty-one states have anti-bully legislation in the pipelines, and hopefully soon we’ll begin to see states signing these proposals into law. Again, the Workplace Bullying Institute is an awesome resource. Start there, and good luck.

Featured photo credit: gun.?/Israel. via flickr.com

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Last Updated on January 13, 2020

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

Physical Signs

Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

Mental Signs

One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

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I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

  • The tension in your neck
  • Difficulties with sleeping
  • Unable to concentrate
  • High anxiety
  • Depression

If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

Desire for an Increase of Salary

The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

Overnight Decision

Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

Rejected for a Promotion

I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

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Bored at Work

Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

  • How long have you worked in your career?
  • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
  • Do you receive recognition?
  • Can you consider working in a new department?

If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

  • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
  • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
  • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

How to Make a Career Change Successfully

The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

1. Write a Career Plan

A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

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You can learn how to set your career plan here.

2. Weigh Your Options

If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

  • Economic factors
  • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
  • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
  • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
  • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

    A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

    4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

    A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

    • What is required to be successful in the role?
    • What certification or educational development is needed?
    • What are the challenges of the role?
    • Is there potential for career advancement?

    A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

    Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

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    5. Research Salary

    Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

    It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

    6. Be Realistic

    If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

    For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

    Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

    7. Volunteer First

    A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

    Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

    Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

    8. Prepare Your Career Tools

    I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

    • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
    • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
    • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
    • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

    Bottom Line

    It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

    Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

    More About Career Change

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

    Reference

    [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
    [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
    [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

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