This week, we’re focusing on The Impact of Bullying, in our three-part series on bullying.
While the consequences of bullying are far-ranging, bullying in the workplace is particularly challenging because of the simultaneous impact on the personal, interpersonal and professional level. People are social creatures, programmed towards a pack mentality, and our professional relationships are one of the most ever-present examples of “the pack.” A workplace bully’s behavior separates the target from the group; being singled out and ostracized can provoke a primitive panic response even in the most modern professional. In addition to this initial sense of isolation and anxiety, targets of bullying may feel less motivated or confident in their work product, leading to professional setbacks.
If you’ve experienced bullying or other forms of harassment at work, some common short and long-term personal and interpersonal effects could include feelings of frustration or victimhood, anger towards your bully or towards bystanders who didn’t speak up, or upset with yourself — falling into typical “victim blaming” of yourself, thinking you deserve the mistreatment or are overreacting. These inward and outward reactions can take a toll on your mental health, and require time, attention and discipline to repair and recover. Here are some steps to take if any of this sounds familiar to you or someone you know:
- Check in with yourself: Are you angry? Hurt? Scared? Better understanding what you are feeling will help you respond to your own needs more effectively.
- Take care of yourself: Practice some breathing or grounding exercises, go for a walk around the block, or take a moment to journal your feelings.
- Consider next steps: Would it be safe for you to confront the bully, or report the behavior to a supervisor or HR department? While it’s important to not let your recovery hinge on the pursuit of “justice,” self-advocacy can feel empowering and help you reclaim your story.
- Get help: Given the socially isolating effects bullying can have, challenging yourself to find supportive colleagues or speaking with your friends and family about the experience can help you feel more validated and connected. Finally, if you are noticing that you can’t “shake” the feelings, it may be time to consider speaking with a therapist to help you in recovering your self-esteem, confidence and to get back on track personally and professionally.
The key in recovering from bullying is to find balance; to notice and interpret bullying behavior as inappropriate, and holding the bully accountable, while also recognizing your autonomy in moving past it. By holding space to acknowledge and sit with the experiences you are having, you can learn how to best care for yourself and be intentional in seeking the types of support you need, either in the form of self-care, social connection, or professional help.