The Trauma of Workplace Bullying
Have you ever found yourself in the position of being the target (scapegoat) of a workplace bully? Have you been gossiped about, ostracized, or scrutinized by your coworkers or boss and found to be lacking?
How can you tell if you are being scapegoated at work? Here are some questions to answer:
- Do you find yourself being ignored, overlooked, and isolated? Do you feel that everyone knows a secret but you?
- Are you unsure of the “rules” but get in big trouble when you break one – and the repercussions do not match the infractions?
- Do people treat you disrespectfully, condescendingly, and insultingly?
- Do you feel confused about how you are treated by others?
- Have you been reprimanded or blamed for innocuous “offenses,” such as being five minutes late to a meeting, or standing the wrong way, or answering the phone improperly; all the while watching your coworkers committing similar or worse “infractions” with no consequences? Do you feel that you live in a world of double standards?
- Are you losing yourself and your voice in the workplace because every time you try to share a good idea you get put down or dismissed?
- Do you feel as if you have been ambushed, unsure of what you are experiencing?
- Do your bosses or colleagues correct your language or use of words, or feel a need to point out that what you said was somehow wrong (once again)?
- Do others sigh impatiently, roll their eyes, or otherwise belittle you?
- Do you feel like a “bad” child at work?
While this list is not exhaustive, it certainly is a good sampling of symptoms of workplace bullying, scapegoating, or mobbing. (Bullying tends to involve one individual, while mobbing involves a group. Keep in mind that every mob has a ring leader.)
Most instigators of bullying and mobbing are individuals with psychopathic traits; people who enjoys seeing others being hurt. And these tend to be master manipulators. They manage to get others to cooperate with their sinister deeds while often appearing innocent themselves. They can be covert abusers.
According to Katrina Cavanaugh (n.d.) the following statistics have been noted regarding bullying in the workplace:
- There is a likelihood of 1-out-of-2 that a staff person over the age 46 will be a bully target.
- Targets of workplace bullying have identifiable traits, including being “skilled,” “hardworking,” “truthful,” “very competent,” “intelligent,” “professional,” and “ethical.”
- Workplace bullies are predominately female and don’t always act alone.
- There is an ‘active’ bully in 66.6% of workplaces – and he/she is more likely to be in a leadership role.
- Workplace bullying increases stress levels at work in 9-out-of-10 staff.
- 7-out-of-10 people leave their job due to workplace bullying.
- 4-out-of-5 bully targets suffer depression and sleeping problems after bullying.
When you find yourself on the receiving end of workplace bullying you will most likely be fired or forced to quit. This can lead to complete emotional devastation. You feel ashamed and humiliated. It is hard to tell others, even your loved ones about this rejection. On top of the humiliation you feel, you have anxiety and depression – all the while having to figure out how to find a new job in order to support yourself and your family.
One of the hardest things to face when you are a target at work is the fact that none of your coworkers will stand up for you. You may believe that some of these people are actual friends, but find that when the going gets tough, these people have no actual loyalty to you. They would rather look good to others, or steer clear of you in order to remain “in” with the bullies.
Being in a workplace where you are the target can cause you many symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s a multiple-whammy; you are devastated emotionally, socially, physically, vocationally, and financially. Unless you’ve experienced this personally, you have no idea how traumatizing workplace scapegoating can be to a person. Most victims suffer alone because of humiliation and not knowing where to turn for help.
What are some healthy interventions to use on yourself to heal from workplace bullying, scapegoating, and mobbing?
Develop your support system. You must find people who love you, validate you, believe in you, and care about you. Talk to the people in your support system and allow them to hear your story and offer you comfort.
Refuse to wear the mantel of shame. Just because your coworkers and/or boss want to put you in the “bad person” box, heaped with shame, you can simply say, “No,” to their plan, and let it all go. Walk away. This can be done both figuratively and actually.
Let yourself feel. Feel the hurt and pain caused by the rejection of your coworkers. Going through your feelings of grief will help you heal. It is very hurtful to be rejected by one’s peers and supervisors. Allowing yourself to feel through the pain will help you get to a place of acceptance.
Value yourself. Do not let other people’s toxicity define you. Be determined to praise yourself, honor your gifts and talents; treat yourself with dignity. If you find yourself having negative or derogatory self-talk, stop. Eliminate any inner critics in your head.
Educate yourself on workplace bullying. Once you start reading about bullying, and particularly, workplace bullying, you will realize that the problem is caused by the toxic environment and the toxic people who perpetuate this type of abuse. It helps reinforce the idea that it is not your fault.
Remind yourself that most bullied workers have personal ethics and integrity, are warm and compassionate, do not retaliate or do the same to others, are competent employees.
Write a letter to your perpetrator(s). Write how you feel and advocate for yourself. Write details and get everything out on paper. You do not have to give this letter to anyone, but it is definitely healing to act as if you will and to process your emotions via writing.
Move on. Do not stay fixated on the abuse. Find a new environment. Get away from the toxic one and do something else with your time and your thoughts – other than focusing on the abuse. Life is too short to keep yourself imprisoned by a toxic workplace. Find a setting that is abuse free and spend your time there.
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Cavanaugh, K. (n.d.) Bullying in the workplace – how to survive, heal and rebuild your life. Retrieved from: https://balancebydeborahhutton.com.au/bullying-workplace-survive-heal-rebuild-life/
Stines, S. (2017). The Trauma of Workplace Bullying. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 22, 2018, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2017/07/the-trauma-of-workplace-bullying/