Victims of a Workplace Bully: Dealing with the Damage
Jill had taken all she could from the office bully. One day, in the middle of her tirade, she looked the bully straight in the eyes and said, “I quit.” The feeling of freedom she had as she cleared her desk and walked out the door lasted for a long time.
But the feelings of relief didn’t last…
Several months later she began to have recurrent nightmares in which she experienced the same fear and shame she had felt when the bully was “after” her. She’d wake up in a cold sweat. For the rest of the day, she’d have trouble concentrating. She didn’t want to tell anyone about the nightmares. Everyone assumed Jill had moved on, and she was embarrassed to bring it up again.
Jill’s uncomfortable feelings, unacknowledged and unattended, became more and more of a barrier between herself and her life’s activities. Like many victims of a workplace bully, Jill did not know what to do.
What can Jill do to help herself?
• First and most important, Jill needs to acknowledge her feelings. Guilt, fear, shame–whatever form her feelings take, she must recognize them as a normal reaction to a very painful time. She is not “crazy,” she is not overreacting, she is not “making a mountain out of a molehill.” Being targeted by a bully is a terrible experience. The aftermath can often be as painful as the experience itself.
• Once she has honored her feelings, Jill may be ready to evaluate her options. Are her feelings getting in her way to the extent that she is having trouble functioning in her everyday life? If that’s the case, she may want to see a counselor. The relief that Jill and any other victims of a workplace bully will feel from having someone “understand” will be powerful.
• Perhaps Jill wants to “test the waters” first, by going to a good friend and telling her about what’s she’s feeling. She chooses a friend she can trust to listen carefully and give gentle, constructive feedback. A good friend can be very helpful.
• Above all, Jill needs to trust herself. She has temporarily been robbed of her self-confidence, but it’s not a permanent state. With some help, guidance and faith in herself, she can put herself on the right track again. Feelings of grief and stress are common after such trauma. Honoring this stage is about honoring yourself right where you are at, at the moment. You cannot rush grieving.
• To help put things in perspective and create a possible future of brightness, Jill can create a list of things she is thankful for and seriously concentrate mindfully on these areas. This helps with dwelling on the unresolved fact of “How could anyone be so cruel to me?” and help someone like Jill focus on the good, the safe and the support she and anyone who has been bullied at work desires.
Valerie Cade, Founder
Bully Free at Work