Mary McGuire, author of Coming Home to You and s long-time transformation consultant, has published a book that deals with many life themes, including the destructive power of bullying, believes that we can find courage to overcome it. In her frank account of growing up being bullied at every turn, she shows how you can rise above it, find your inner strength and purpose and leave the bullies behind.
If you are the victim of a workplace bully it can be very undermining and make you feel isolated, unhappy or force you to leave a job you would otherwise love. But we can find ways to be courageous in the face of bullying, sometimes by little acts of defiance or resilience, that helps us to hold our ground and build our confidence.
One of the things she encourages us to hold in our minds is the strong certainty that bullies are always wracked with uncertainty and anxiety, which is often what drives their behaviour. They have very little belief in themselves, which is why they can show very little belief in anyone else. By understanding that you are dealing with a deeply insecure individual, it can help you to feel more secure in your own ability. Sticking to what you are good at and not giving ground by showing why something is the right way often helps to disarm the habitual bully.
The top signs that you are being bullied include:
- Becoming angry and aggressive towards you. Some bullies can have a barely veiled grip on their seething anger. They were probably angry and aggressive in childhood and whilst they know that the same level of outbursts is not acceptable as an adult, when under pressure their rage will boil to the surface.
- The subtle putdown. Sometimes the bully is far more subtle in how they behave. It’s not the big outburst but the constant belittling remarks. A certain look, tone of voice or the pointed lack of invitation to lunch when everyone else has been invited.
- Taking credit for your work. Bullies often operate from a place of insecurity and as a result are unlikely to allow others on their team to outshine them.
- Putting you down for the quality of your work in front of others. Some bullies need an audience to feel they have the upper hand and one of the ways they do this is to attempt to demean others. This can be very disconcerting if you have never experienced such behaviour before and it can be difficult to know how to respond.
Tips to help you overcome bullying include:
- Widen your network. A bully relies on your sense of isolation to hold power over you. The best way to counteract this, is to widen your network. Go out of your way to get to know colleagues in other departments. Reach out to your boss (or if your boss is the bully to your boss’s boss) to garner support.
- Email it. If the bully is blaming you for not doing work that you were never asked to do, or taking credit for work you did do, start to use email more tactically. After every meeting send a note back to confirm what you understood and what you have done. If necessary copy in others who can act as witness, should criticism come your way in the future.
- This one simple act has an immediate effect on our own sense of well-being and a positive impact on our relationships. For the bully that uses seeks to belittle or undermine, the smile can be very disarming.
- Record the instances when the bullying occurs. Write out an email to yourself every time you have an issue and hold it in a private folder. Be very specific about date, time and incident. It may come in very handy to build a picture over time or to share with a trusted colleague or HR in the future.
- Speak up. Bully’s get away with their behaviour precisely because people are afraid to speak up; yet you take away their power by doing exactly that. If you cannot address the bully direct, then start by talking to someone you trust. Many organisations have a welfare line to report the incident, or talk to your local HR who often have policies that will help to address the situation.
- Say thank you. Although this sounds like the very last thing you should do, saying thank you for their feedback and telling them you will bear it in mind, gives the bully and their bluster very few places to go. It’s hard to keep going on at someone who appears to have agreed with you. You have done no such thing of course, for you have only thanked them for the feedback, not agreed with their comments, but you have used gratitude to stop them in their tracks.
Finding courage is about finding belief in yourself. One of the most undermining things that a bully can do is to infect us with their own lack of belief. Every time you start questioning ‘Is it me?’, stop that thought in its tracks and hold on to a mental picture of all the times you have handled the situation perfectly well before the bully came into your life. No matter how strong or well positioned the person appears to be in the company, your self-respect does not have to be compromised for any job or employer. Find your inner courage and get the support to take positive action to stop that bully in his or her tracks.
Mary McGuire holds an MBA and an MSc in Human Resources and is Chartered Fellow of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). Her first book ‘Coming Home to You’ covers many life themes including dealing with conflict at work and is available Amazon and through www.findyourjoyfullife.com. Email Mary@findyourjoyfullife.com.