When I was in elementary school, I had many encounters with bullies. I was bullied because I was smart, I was quiet, I looked a certain way, and other reasons I will never understand. I remember the dreaded fear I felt on the school bus (one location of the bullying), praying to disappear in thin air. I think most people, more than who would probably admit, have been bullied at least once in their lives. I’ll save the research for another time though. Those experiences have made me a more compassionate, kind, and considerate person. I’ve invested time over the years in working through insecurities stemming from those experiences and I’m in a much better place…or am I?
I’m here to tell you friends there are real live bullies in the workplace. Some of you know this already and cope the best way you can. I’ve encountered bullies at several agencies I’ve worked for. One bully at a work place is too many yet I’ve seen several over the years. I do believe it speaks to a toxic or an emerging toxic work culture if these people are not stopped and allowed to perpetrate their bad behavior.
You might have heard the best way to deal with a bully is to stand up to them head on. Although this can be very difficult emotionally and mentally, I agree to a point. It also takes courage.. We all knew in school if you told the teacher or other adult in the school you may suffer worse consequences, plus that never stopped the bully anyway. I finally dug up the encourage a time or two to stand up to a few bullies in my preteens. I’ve had to do it in my adulthood too.
The stakes are high in the workplace in that there are risks detrimental to staff morale, staff retention, and whatever the agency’s bottom line is. I think any agency should take bullying seriously because the behaviors are toxic. But what if they don’t know it’s happening in their organization? Then, it’s your job to SPEAK UP and tell them.
Last week was rough and tested my emotional boundaries at work. On top of it, I had a strange interaction with a colleague that made me realize she is a bully. After several email exchanges, she sent a very inappropriate email and there was no mistaking the meaning. I decided not to respond because I will not feed into toxicity. Not only that, I forwarded the email to my direct boss who forwarded it to her boss.
Thankfully, I had a therapy session that afternoon and was able to talk it through with my therapist who validated me. That experience was triggering and I needed to separate myself from the emotion which was difficult at the time. She encouraged me to have peace knowing someone else will handle it.
The next day I was able to speak to my boss and my boss’s boss about it. I felt so much better afterward, especially learning this person has displayed a pattern. My boss’s boss plans to address with this person directly. I emphasized the behavior was manipulative and toxic and because of my choice of words, that got their attention. My boss’s boss stated she had never heard me talk like this so she was definitely taking what I said seriously. She took it a step further and apologized to me which I wasn’t expecting. I’ve reported toxic behaviors to leadership at several agencies and maybe one other person apologized. I was very appreciative, relieved, and felt supported.
This person is not going away anytime soon so I’ll be dealing with her again. What she won’t get from me is a response to her email. She will learn I have boundaries and I will not tolerate the toxicity. I truly care about the people I work with, those I supervise, and most importantly myself too much to not SPEAK UP when I know this isn’t right. I hope if in a similar situation this post encourages you to be brave, stand up for yourself, speak up, and seek support.
There will be a Part II on what happens if nothing changes after you SPEAK UP. In the mean time, I hope you have a productive, exciting, love-filled week with pops of fun and joy.