Rejection in the Workplace
Welcome to Bully-Free Workplace Monthly and I’m Valerie Cade. Today we are looking at the concept of rejection in terms of being bullied in the workplace. It is always interesting that they have new statistics about bullying in the workplace, but we do not have new legislation. I want to inform you that in Canada, where howtohaveabullyfreeworkplace.com originated, there is new legislation and it is in the province of Saskatchewan. We already have legislation in Quebec, which was the Great White Hope. So now we have two provinces in Canada with legislation.
What does this mean? Well, this means that in the workplace, if you are being bullied, you can actually make a claim and the government will stand up for your situation. You do not have to wait for your employer to create a policy. You can go right to the government. This is great news; it’s great hope. There are so many states within the United States, provinces within Canada, and districts all over the world that are looking at forming legislation, but it is truly the trendsetters like Quebec, Saskatchewan, and the United Kingdom that have set the tone in terms of actually doing so. So if you happen to be searching the Internet, be sure to search Saskatchewan bullying legislation. If you don’t know how to spell Saskatchewan, it’s S-A-S-K-A-T-C-H-E-W-A-N, right here in Canada. It is hopeful for us to be aware of this.
This month, the concept of rejection will be covered. It is amazing to me to see how many emails we have received from people all over the world. And the one central theme that they all experience is the concept of rejection. I know so, because when people are emotional and they are not feeling their normal confident self, they will often go on at length; because it is their way of trying to express themselves. This tells me that they are in their emotional capacity, not their logical capacity. And this is a little bit dangerous when we are at work, if we are highly emotional. It is nobody’s fault if you’ve actually been in this emotional state. It’s not your fault that you’re being bullied, if you are in fact. But those who have been bullied, what they’re probably saying to themselves is “What can I do to get back to my normal confident self?”
So this month, we are looking at rejection: what is it, what you can do as a result of feeling rejected; and also understanding that this is something that is common to all people that are being bullied, that their feelings of rejection are real. And so we have a guest today. We have Nick Perrin, who is a speaker and author, and he specializes in creating trust in the workplace. And without trust, you really don’t have a team or in fact a positive culture. With companies that do have trust, there is a definite absence of bullying; and so we are looking at the concept of rejection, how it relates to trust and how we can create healthy workplaces. So, welcome Nick, to our podcast today.
Nick: Thank you Valerie, and I have to give you a real big accolade for having the courage to surface a subject such as this. And I think it’s very, very timely, as obviously your audience is reacting and responding to.
Valerie: Yes, thank you Nick. Well, as you specialize in creating trust in organizations, would you say there might be some people in a company that would experience the effects of rejection more so than others?
Nick: Absolutely. Our research really backs that up over the many years that we’ve been working in corporations; also working just privately with individuals and in the social element. An analogy is this: If you think of the population as a “pie” and sliced that pie in half, you would find the right side of the pie has more easygoing natured individuals, ones that process information in a reflective manner. They have a much different way of reacting to stress; and obviously bullying is a form of deep personal emotional stress.
Valerie: So if someone is easygoing, how might they react if they feel rejected?
Nick: Well, let’s look at the pie again and divide the easygoing half pie into quarters. If you look at the top quarter, that person would be more relationship-oriented. Their tendency would be to take this rejection personally. Then they would go out and gather a group around them and complain like the devil about how they’re being mistreated; or they wait ‘till they get home to just wash it all over the family.
Valerie: That’s interesting how you worded that. I have a fun little rule that if anything traumatic has happened – and even if it’s not traumatic but we think it is – the first time we talk to somebody, I call it free therapy. If we talk to someone else about it, it might be called complaining. And the third time we talk about it, I call it gossip! But seriously, would you advocate that it’s okay to talk to somebody if you’ve been traumatized or bullied at work?
Nick: Oh, absolutely. I think that’s an essential part of the emotion that has to be let out. And that really takes us to the bottom quarter of the pie: the individuals that are easygoing, but more task-oriented in nature. They tend to be more formal, and their complaint may not be vocalized, just internalized, and they shut down. They shut down, communication shuts down, productivity shuts down, and they will just leave. Period.
Valerie: Right. So what you’re saying is that with people who are easygoing by nature, there will be one of two ways that they will manifest this rejection. For someone who’s easygoing and relationship-based, they’re going to need to talk to somebody, maybe ad nauseam, and even then they might not feel better. For the person who’s easygoing and more task-based, you’re saying they’re just going to shut down completely; we might not even know what’s going on inside.
Nick: Absolutely. And they’ll just disappear from the scene, or they’ll just do enough not to get fired and not really complain overtly but will be affected on a very high level relative to their own stress factor.
Valerie: So knowing there are 4 different styles, or “quarters” to the pie, and that these are two styles ; what should managers be on the lookout for if they see these behaviors?
Nick: In both cases – if they experience someone that is in complaint or taking things personally; or if the person tends to shut down – the manager should react the same way. And that is to be able, in a warm way, try to draw the person out, to find out what it is exactly that is causing that behavior.
Valerie: That’s a great point. If you could offer some tips on how a manager might create that environment to draw somebody out, what would they be?
Nick: Well, the first thing they could do is to be very open with that individual and identify the fact of what they are seeing, by simply stating, “Look, I get the feeling that there is something that is bothering you. Are you free to discuss it now, or do you want to think about it and talk to me later?” To draw both those people out would be key. As it can be a very personal thing, I highly recommend that it be done in a private and confidential manner. The second step is to ensure that there’s a follow up to this; that the individual who you’ve spoken with has a chance to think about it. You come back to assure them that you’ve reflected on what they’ve talked about, and have shown them that you’re interested and you care. And I think that, whatever the communication style is, including the folks that are on the left “bold” side of the pie, it begs to be heard that “”We care about what’s going on here. Can you talk to me about it?”
Valerie: And that’s so true, isn’t it? Sometimes managers – and you can see this by the lack of policy and the lack of legislation – do not know what to do. They’ve not been trained on what to do. But what you’re saying is if they can provide a safe, private, caring environment for employees to put forward their real concerns, then they are in fact reaching out and being a support. They’re really leading at that point.
Nick: I think that’d be very correct, yes.
Valerie: So those are two styles or two types of ways someone might handle bullying. You’ve also got two more styles up your sleeve. What might these two styles do in terms of their behavior if they are actually bullied at work?
Nick: Well, these other two sets of individuals interpret and process information and respond quite differently. They will respond more boldly and directly. If we look at the top left “bold” quarter of the pie, we will find an individual who is relationship-based. They tend to be more talkative and expressive. So they may tend to chatter and to, I guess, get sidetracked very quickly. And tend to be able to push you in get in your face to a fairly large extent. Whereas the individuals on the bottom quarter, who are more task-based, will become much more bold; in fact, they’ll tend to attack you verbally.
Valerie: Okay, right. Now, will they sometimes attack the bully, do you think?
Nick: Sometimes, yes, absolutely.
Valerie: So, out of all four, the bold task-based style is the one that will most likely spar?
Nick: Exactly. And that’s the one that’s easiest to recognize and to correct. Next would be the bold relationship-based style, the top left quarter. The two “easygoing” styles are the silent ones and they’re more difficult to deal with.
Valerie: So if someone’s easygoing, it’s less likely they will stand up for themselves when they’re being bullied.
Valerie: And if somebody’s more bold, you’re into a sparring.
Valerie: Does the bully want us to stand up to them?
Nick: Oh, I’d be very surprised if you had a bully that ever wanted you to stand up to him or her.
Valerie: Right. And bullies often look for people that they could control, which means the lack of ability to stand up. So, we know that 1 in 6 people are bullied in the workplace. And 75% of those being bullied handle it relatively well – they might not like it, they could be quite emotional, but there’s a coping mechanism in place – friends, support, etc. But the remaining 25%, those are the ones we are really trying to reach, where they are really, really suffering. And I would think out of these four styles, not to pinpoint anybody, but somebody who’s more easygoing might have a harder time with this.
Nick: Yes. If you are the manager, just be accepting of and very observant of the behavior that you’re seeing, if you’re looking to recognize if there is a bullying situation that exists.
Valerie: Okay. And you know, we often talk about bullying, but there is also a concept called “mobbing”, when the entire group turns against somebody. We just had an email this morning from a woman who’s a nurse in a hospital. Usually with a long email, I might scan it and skim to the bottom; well, I read every word of her dissertation. I had to remind myself that this is actually happening to a person. It wasn’t a story, it wasn’t fiction. And I was appalled to see the way an entire unit or department can turn around and bully one person. By the way, this is a nurse who was highly acclaimed, top of her class – I saw her picture, I thought, “very nice looking person”, – she looked competent, served in a community. Well, that was the opposite of the culture in which she worked in, and they just did everything they could to bring her down. So I just remind people listening that when you are being targeted or bullied, it’s often because they want something that you have. And when we are rejected, no matter what style we are, often we will pull back, or we will act out in some cases. Some of us will eat more; some of us will eat less. We’ll stop doing things; we’ll start doing things that aren’t good for us. We will have self doubt. We are knocked off of our confidence base. And there’s another piece here and that is, often we think we have to change. And as soon as you start thinking that way, you’ve lost a bit of power. It’s okay to look at this at its entirety. But when you over obsess about the fact that you need to change, when in fact it’s the bullying situation that needs to change, that’s a very good first step to understand.
There are feelings that we experience when we are rejected. Nick, even as confidently as you come across, I’m sure you have felt rejected. But in terms of bullying, I can’t imagine it. I don’t know if I’ve had severe bullying. I have been bullied in my workplace before, and maybe I’m still in that denial phase thinking it never really happened, that’s what we tend to do when we’re bullied. But the feelings we actually have can be quite detrimental.
Nick: Well, and I always reflect, way back in my early days, when I was still in Grade 3, and that feeling will remain with me for life because I felt it was really so severe. I had the misfortune, short termed; but I was failed in Grade 3. And there were some bullies that were ever present in the Grade 4 class and they bullied me that whole year. And I did not know how to respond, unfortunately. One of the teachers recognized that, and provided a very safe environment for me to be able to express exactly how I was feeling. She definitely interpreted the bullying, and she took matters in her own hands, and it did cease after a while; but that feeling lives with me today, believe me.
Valerie: Wow. You say a mouthful there. I was also reading that someone said the effects of bullying outlast the bullying experience. Similar to divorce – you can be divorced, but those effects last for years. That’s why we have scars on our body when we’ve have physical trauma; it’s almost a reminder of that time. And same with bullying. We’ve had a number of people responding to our weekly tips, and we try to share as best as we can based on people’s responses to us: “What do we do as a result of being bullied?” I guess in terms of rejection, it’s good that we can define rejection: Rejection occurs when an individual is deliberately excluded from a social group or a social interaction, and that would be one in which they feel they must be part of. They were hired to be part of this group or team. But things such as being left out, not invited to lunch, being promised certain work, tasks or duties, and then having them pulled away from you, going to school and studying, thinking you have a certain position and them telling you it’s not going to happen but there’s no real reason for it – all of these things are very confusing, and they are operating in a form of rejection. And so, Nick, in terms of supporting those that have been bullied, I’ve always thought the power of encouragement is one of the greatest hopes and you just illustrated that with your teacher. It was one person that took you aside and provided a safe environment. Do you have any tips for managers and co-workers of those who have been bullied, if they’re not sure exactly what to do in terms of policy or even stopping the bullying, but what they could do in terms of encouragement and support?
Nick: I think one of the keys here is just to listen, as well as providing the safe environment where people will feel comfortable and relaxed and unguarded in, which is a high trust environment. So in addition to the encouragement, I really believe they need to be supported and for them to be safe enough to feel that it’s okay to feel the way you feel. That’s just the reactive, natural reactive feeling that you’ve had for what you’ve experienced. So, it’s okay. And also, talk about it and look at ways to be able to overcome that situation, even if it means getting yourself involved in something completely different.
Valerie: Right. 80% of people end up by leaving their jobs. So this almost becomes a holding time until you can actually find another job or move on, which is sad. So, making time for people and being interested. I heard somebody say once, “If someone is interested, they all of a sudden become interesting.” It’s something we should all be doing anyway just for good social relationships. But knowing that your two ears and your good heart is enough, might help you in your own coping if there’s somebody in your workplace that is being bullied. Do not underestimate the value of encouragement and support.
It’s going to be International Anti-Bullying Day on Wednesday November 7th. I just want to say that this is something that is very important. Not every workplace understands that there’s an International Day declared to stop bullying in the workplace. So it’s a start. Every day should be anti-bullying day! But you might be thinking, “What are some of the things we can do?” Some of the things that you could do are for awareness; we are still in the awareness phase. You can’t care about what you don’t know about, so we must spread the word that bullying is deliberate, repeated, harmful behavior that is done toward one person, called the target, and it is deliberate. That’s the key – it’s premeditated. The person what they’re doing and it occurs more than once. It’s not just a bad day. And if we can understand what bullying is and share that with others, then at least we’ve got a working definition. Of course, having discussions at work, just opening up the floor in terms of “Is this kind of behavior something that we want to tolerate? And if not, what will we actually do as a result if somebody is bullying?”
Having an open discussion will take some courage and confidence. If you have no workbook or no plans, go with your working definition and ask people to share their concept of bullying. You will have a lot of people coming forward with, either saying they have been bullied, or that they know someone that has been bullied; even if it was 25 years ago as in Nick’s case when he was in Grade 3. People want to be heard, because they usually have not yet been heard on this issue. It will bring your team closer together. And if you’re really looking for a way to take this to a deeper level, we have written a book out of response for the need, called Bully Free At Work. We have 21 exercises in this book. Feedback has been amazing. We wrote Bully Free At Work to make sure that there was something in the workplace that people could turn to, when they didn’t feel like they could go to their boss, or rely on policy or legislation. But the feedback that we’re hearing now, after this book being available for the last year, is that people are working through the bullying and they have gotten through to the other side. We still support them because nobody can take your memories away, and we still hope the best for them; but people are moving through their bullied situations. November 7th is a start. So I encourage and challenge you to do something on that day to stop workplace bullying.
If you’d like to get in touch with us, feel free and email us at info(at)howtohaveabullyfreeworkplace(dot)com. If you feel that there’s a friend, co-worker, or your boss that you’d like to enlighten about workplace bullying, feel free to show them our website. Have them sign up for our free Weekly Tip – it just helps in terms of awareness. Some people are thinking, “Who are 10 people that I could send this tip to?” Let them know November 7th is International Anti-Bullying Day, and say, “I want you to be aware. I’m aware. And it’s just going to help us all.” If we each do this – if everybody does a little bit – then we will win the war in anti-bullying. I’m Valerie Cade and we are in your corner.