Workplace bullying has always existed and no doubt always will. Even though it is totally unacceptable, and can cause the victim severe stress, mental health issues and PTSD, leading to absence from work and possibly – if the sufferer has enough resolve – a law suit to compensate for the bullying.
I Had to Talk Myself Into Going To Work Every Morning
I personally have suffered from workplace bullying in a major UK retail concern, and it was horrendous. Already suffering from low self-esteem, I was reduced to periods of extreme depression. I had to talk myself into going to work every morning because ‘I needed the money’. When I complained to our Human Resources Department I was told I would have to talk to my manager, even though it was him that was doing the bullying!
Quite often the abuse was subtle and nine times out of ten he would get another member of the management team to deliver his messages so he could deny he was involved. Had I been totally compliant, I would have been doing the work of three people. Inherently I knew there were some things that he could not get away with, and on occasion refused to do what was ordered. At the time I was doing administrative work. He took my desk away, so I had to find another place to do the paperwork, without the relevant files and the computer that I needed. I was told to do this, whilst also serving customers. No doubt in an attempt to make me mess up the paperwork and get sacked! I refused to do it. I wish I had had the courage to take the matter further, but my psyche was so downtrodden that I did not believe I could win. Just what my abuser intended.
I eventually had a breakdown and was absent from work for a very lengthy period of time which turned out to be very costly for the company.
The Threat of Unemployment
Due to the downturn of the global economy, more and more workers are threatened by not just bullying, but in severe cases are treated as slaves. At a time when fewer jobs are available, it appears that workplace bullying is more intense, and leaves the victim little resources to escape the abuse simply because they need the job.
I recall a time when every morning the staff would be told what to do and if we didn’t like it we could leave. We would be referred to as ‘scumbags’ if any goods were missing. Their message was very clear: we could not complain about the working conditions or methods used to subdue the workers. The company I worked for pays the minimum wage to their staff, and yet their expectations were so high for the pittance they unwillingly paid.
How to Combat Their Bullying and Remain in Good Health.
The first thing you need to do is realize that you are being targeted through no fault of your own. No-one will ever go to work wanting to be bullied. Knowing that you have been targeted is important, but also know what form the bullying takes, i.e. psychological harassment, emotional abuse or financial abuse, so that you can name it when complaining.
Then it can help to step away from the situation. Taking time away from the workplace allows you to strategize and heal from the abuse. It will help you decide whether you want to leave the job, or stay and fight. Obtain a sick note from your doctor to prove that your health is being compromised, and consult with an organization who deals with this subject or a lawyer.
The next step is to expose the bully. This is better done in the office rather than an anonymous HR department, if at all possible. Keep your details minimal and be as objective as you can, so ‘a personality conflict’ cannot be used against you. Make sure that you document and file everything that happens. Print emails, take photos of work conditions etc. The more you document, the easier it is to show the abuse in a factual manner.
If you decide to leave your job; stand tall. Tell your fellow employees just why you are leaving, and who is responsible. They may still be working in the lion’s den, knowing that someone has stood up for themselves may give them the strength to do the same.
Remember when we encounter bullying in the workplace it cannot be ignored.