Bullied at Work? You’re Not To Blame

Why are some adults more likely to blame themselves rather than the bully boss bearing down on them? A recent study links self-blame (guilt) to depression and shows that this dangerous combo inhibits the ability to express indignation. The first piece of advice most targets of workplace bullying encounter when they seek help is the important mantra that it’s not their fault. This should be coupled at every turn with “seek counseling” to deal with the depression that often accompanies bullying and can lock targets into a feeling of hopelessness rather than seeking proactive solutions or leaving. Continue reading

Tracey’s Law: “My Bullying Experience Was Psychological” (Pt 2)

“She had her agenda – to get rid of me”

Q: Can you describe what form the bullying took where you worked?

Tracey: My bullying experience was psychological. if you have seen the video, “Tracey’s Law,” you will see that I was an emotional wreck when I finally left my job of nearly 20 years after being bullied for only 6 mnoths. I was a high-level employee, an office manager, and my bully was new to the institution. She had her agenda – to get rid of me but to have me quit instead of firing me (even though I was employed at will). She isolated me from co-workers by putting space between us and telling me I was not allowed to talk to any of them. She gave me time-relevant assignments to do without the necessary resources to complete the task efficiently. She lied about me, talked about my performance (or lack thereof) behind my back, and alienated me from coworkers I had been with for nearly 20 years. My bullying was thoroughly and successfully psychological.

Q: What steps did you take to try to stop it?

Tracey: Since my bully was a new hire, and my supervisor, I sought out different ways of working with her that I thought may be more successful and, in turn, she would see me as somebody who could really help her in her new role as Chair of a large department. Having been there for so long, I knew everybody and what their roles were, how they worked, etc. I went to some employee development, had one-on-one consultations with the university employee development department, and finally spoke with Human Resources – my biggest mistake. They would not listen to me and continued saying that I was having troubles simply because I was not used to her style of management. However, I had three supervisors before her who had different management styles and I adapted well to each of them. When I was confident they were not going to help me in any way, I had to use my last resort and reported that my bully was falsifying her timesheets. So much for the whistleblower law! After that, it was clear she had been spoken to about that because the harrasment got worse and worse. I was becoming more and more distressed and depressed.

Q: How did you cope during that time? Where did you draw your support from?

Tracey: I didn’t cope very well during that time. I had nobody to talk to in the department since they were all told not to talk to me. I drew my support from my family and from searching the internet for “workplace bullying” and found some resources there. Much of the information and steps the Institute for Workplace Bullying had laid out did not or would not help me. I had already tried what I could try and I was documenting information about my bullying experiences, but Human Resources was not going to be of any help to me at all. I met with my family practitioner and she suggested I take some time off to get myself together (I was an emotional wreck at that point and very depressed). I finally agreed and ended up taking a leave of absence that lasted 6 mos. When my six months had expired, I was told I needed to return to my job or resign. I was still traumatized and did not believe that anything would change upon my return, so I resigned.

Tracey’s Law is featured on our “Virtual Town Hall” page or can be accessed for free on both YOUTUBE &Vimeo.

A plea to fellow fighters of Workplace Bullying

I became a co-founder of the fledgling cyber-group called the International Educational Coalition on Workplace Bullying. I’m excited that the Coalition allows me to join so many others in freely promoting critical discussion, context and analysis of all the research taking place and how it impacts the overall understanding and  prevention of hostile work environments.  Everyone visiting our Facebook Page is encouraged to add their own opinion and approach.  Do I personally agree with everyone who posts on the site? No, and I’m proud to say that even the three of us who originally founded the IECWB don’t agree on all aspects of the issue and encourage everyone visiting the site to have that same healthy discourse. Our International focus has allowed different perspectives, coupled with personal experiences, to come together on one page.  It’s been eye opening to see how even countries with Workplace Bullying legislation in place are still struggling to define the best resolutions.

We bring together psychologists, lawyers, researchers, business & Human Resource representatives, advocates and victims to create a forum for all our voices.  And, there are so many things to discuss, below is just a sampling:

Support of strong Workplace Violence legislation that includes Workplace Bullying (Type 3 Workplace Violence) and making the link to Type 4 which includes Domestic Violence in the workplace as well as specific issue Workplace Bullying bills

Strengthening OSHA health harming protections

Strengthening Workers Compensation and how it can help targets currently suffering

Exploring Arbitration, ADR & Mediation as a way for targets to find relief

Putting aside the demonization of HR and Business owners and creating a true dialogue with those that want to support us

Discussing the types of policies and approaches that are actually effective and encourage a healthy workplace that discourages bullying behavior.

Staying current with evolving research in PTSD, Stress, Anxiety Disorders

Please take a moment to visit the IECWB site to find information, share information, and join the global discussion.

Here’s a link to our Press Release if you are interested in learning more about the IECWB. http://prlog.org/10829919

Are you a “bully boss”?

While researching my documentary on Workplace Bullying, I have often heard people say that it’s impossible to know whether or not a boss is actually a bully or just a tough manager.   The definition and list of examples is often so vague and all encompassing that it’s really not unusual for this to be followed by something like, I mean I have to manage people and I suppose I could be considered a bully boss.  Which, I suspect, gets to the root of the problem.  Finding the right words to convey that seemingly common actions in an office can be devastating when used to demean and humiliate.  I recently came across a great series of FREE Powerpoints created by Acas [ http://www.acas.org.uk/elearning/ ] which has a section on bullying & harassment.  Here are some things we all need to keep in mind when working with others:

Know your employees?

Do you know everything about the opinions, beliefs and lifestyles of your employees? As the answer to this question will inevitably be ‘no’, is it possible that you might be using language or expressing opinions that effectively amount to harassment?

Too much of a perfectionist?

Do you sometimes feel frustrated by your employees? Do you find yourself getting irritable at what you consider to be their lack of competence or initiative?

If so, are you, perhaps, a true perfectionist unable or unwilling to accept that not everybody will work to your exceptionally demanding standards?

Passion and commitment

If you are the owner/manager of a small business, are you perhaps failing to recognise that your employees can never share the passion or commitment that you will have?

Speed of learning

Are you an exceptionally fast learner who can pick up new skills and carry out new tasks with a minimum of effort?

Remember, this may not be true for all your employees. Perhaps you are forgetting to see a situation through the eyes of someone who needs a little more time to assimilate new information.

Fast-paced market?

Is your organisation selling into a fast-paced, ever changing market? If so, are the requirements you have of your employees constantly shifting?

Is it possible that this could be creating an environment of fear and uncertainty?

Too much change?

Are you simply asking your employees to deal with too much change? Is it possible that they feel they spend their working lives in a permanent state of flux? Have you considered how unsettling this could be for some people?

Keeping the business afloat

If you are the owner/manager of a business, are you constantly struggling to bring in enough revenue to cover all your overheads?

If yes, is it possible that you are constantly communicating your concerns about this in a way that makes your employees just worry about job security?

Could you communicate this information in a way that emphasises a team-spirit and encourages a desire to work together to improve profits and job security?

Feeling irritable?

Are you often tetchy and irritable during the working day?

Do you fly off the handle when faced with the smallest problem or challenge?

Getting access

Are you inaccessible to your employees when they need a decision from you?


Are you constantly changing your mind?

Do you explain why decisions might need to change or do you simply communicate the change?

Just as your language and opinions could unwittingly be causing offence, so could your body language.

Too close?

What distance do you stand or sit from employees? Might some of them consider that you stand or sit too close when giving instructions or explanations? Might some of your employees interpret this as being intimidating?

A touch on the arm

Do you sometimes touch people lightly on the arm or shoulder during conversation. You may feel this is a warm and friendly gesture. Is it possible that some employees may see this behaviour in a different light?

Eye contact

Do you avoid making eye contact with people during conversation or perhaps you make an effort to maintain eye contact. Your reasons for doing this are perfectly innocent. Could they be misinterpreted by someone else?

Bullied at work in the UK

Recently I asked people who are currently being bullied to send me their stories to share with others.  Here’s one from TWITTER representing the UK:

Anonymous: “I’m still with the same employer, its been an an absolute nightmare.  It started with a newly appointed manager; being particularly nasty, abusive voice mails on my personal phone which escalated to not being invited to meetings, disability discrimination both direct and third party.  I’m partially deaf and was refused safety equipment that the same manager provided for another member of the workforce, being told I would gain no further promotion owing to my disability, being accused of lying about attending the hospital when our son, who is autistic, was rushed into hospital. So, I took that through the grievance procedure and the manager was moved to a more prestigious job with more responsibility and even perks. His PA developed stress and eventually resigned at his new place of work owing to his behavior and treatment towards her…I’ve been with the company for 15 years, and worked hard to get to where I was.  Continue reading

Canada Takes On Workplace Bullies!

Special Guest Blog from Workplace Bullying expert and Legislative Advocate Dr. Lisa M.S. Barrow, author of “In Darkness Light Dawns: Exposing Workplace Bullying“ and “Hope For a Healthy Workplace“.  She was deeply involved in Canada’s recent passage of anti-bullying legislation.  Continue reading