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change the world
Remember: you are not a victim but a target.
top tips to take control
The first thing to recognize is that you are not alone, but you probably are one of the first few to attempt to identify, what you are going through as work place bullying. Hang on in there.
Psychologically I believe this has a bearing on how you think about the whole situation. You are a good person who is with out doubt well respected and probably admired by peers, colleagues and service users. By valuing yourself, you will begin to establish a clear picture of what is going on and why.
Nobody has the fundamental right to tarnish or harm you or your reputation as an individual.
Work place bullying is slowly raising its head and together we will continue to heighten its profile. People are charged and jailed for taking something which they do not have the right to take, your work place bully does not have the right to take away your confidence, your ability to do the job you are being paid to do and most of all your own self value, self worth, self respect and also your cognitive ability, which is often what happens.
I have listed my experiences towards the end of this paper. An excellent book I read by Tim Field called Bully in Sight was the beginning of my understanding of work place bullying.
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Disclaimer: Some of what you are about to read might prove to be very useful to you, some of it might not, but I hope you find it interesting and thought provoking. Accept it as it is intended, to offer you a picture of what eventually worked for me, it took me a long time to realise. The writer accepts no responsibility for the reader’s actions or events, which might follow challenging a bully.
Where the bully is a line manager
- Keep a notebook with you all the time. You will never be caught out. Let the bully see that not only do you record all conversations/meetings, you record any requests he/she makes of you. Repeat the request and “check” that is what the bully asked.
- Keep your own list of “jobs to do”. Tick and date them when completed. The bully will always want to know what is being done and when, so they can feel in control. There is little you can do about that, but, you can keep your own record, by ticking and dating each item on completion, you will begin to regain lost confidence as you will actually see what you are accomplishing/achieving and you know exactly which point you are at, and what is still to do.
- Prioritize your own time; your time is precious too. By being in control and prioritizing your time you will begin to feel in control, You will set your own goals within your own boundaries, Value yourself and others will too.
- Always be polite, if necessary use the same phrases. It goes without saying that it is incredibly difficult to be exceptionally polite to those who are bullies, Especially when you are hurting inside, and they probably don’t deserve it but, the bully will not expect you to be polite, it may knock them a little of balance. This shows you are not stooping to their level, and you are being quite “adult “ about the situation.
- Know your own boundaries, be aware of your own abilities. Be fully aware of, not only your job description but to whom you are responsible and who is responsible to you. Know where to draw the line, so, you cannot be accused of over stepping the line or be accused of trying to take over the bullies’ job and you do not take on responsibilities which are not yours to take (or to put another way, you are not being paid to take)
meetings with the bully
If you meet with the bully on a daily, weekly basis take an agenda of own with you. Make contact with the bully before the meeting and ask whether there are any issues that you need to work on, source information so that you are able to go to the meeting prepared.
Inform the bully that you also have issues to raise, which you need help/support/ guidance with; ask the bully at what point you should raise them. Make a record of what he/she says.
most importantly: try to keep to the agenda
The bully will without doubt try to steer away from the agenda or even add things on, which until that point you had no idea of. Do not allow your self to discuss items which where not on that agenda, If will be difficult, but say “those items are not on the agenda I have not come prepared to discuss them, can we carry them forward to the next meeting.”
If necessary repeat the sentence, Don’t get into dialogue. Conversations over the Telephone Where ever possible record all conversations had with the bully, even over the telephone If the bully has caught you in the middle of something.
Politely explain, “I am just with somebody at the moment. When can I ring you back?”, get the telephone number, and ask what is the best time for them. Give your self enough time to finish what you are doing and possibly pick up the information you are likely to be asked (remember the “to do list”), don’t be unreasonable and above all, don’t forget to ring back.
If the bully ignores your request to phone back, try saying, “I am sorry, but I cannot comment on what you are saying," and repeat again that you are with somebody. If the bully becomes rude or even abusive you must stay calm and say, “I do not feel what you are saying is fair / right, and I don’t believe it is right that you speak to me in that way. if you continue I will put down the phone.”
You do not have to take abusive phone calls. Stay calm, stay in control and repeat the same sentence. You might well be very busy, but your health is more important, you must record. Other situations Often the bully will simply ring for no other reason (it seems) than to tell you to complete a task or ask if you have completed a task (remember your priority checklist, the one that keeps you in control) if you feel you are been bullied/unfairly treated do the following.
Tell the bully:
- “One minute whilst I just write down exactly what you are saying, so I don’t forget / am able to follow exactly what it is you want."
- Repeat what you have recorded to her/him, and ask “is that what you are saying / asking. If they say yes, then ask for a time they want that information / task completing, if they say, no - that is not what I [the bully] said, then ask them to repeat it, after all you want to get it right and do the job you have been short listed and interviewed and chosen to do.
- If he / she tells you to do something (probably on top of an already long list) ask him / her to prioritize the list he has already given you.
- For example, ask him, “Do you want me to complete this before that?” And then record.
- Ask him / her when he wants the information / task completed by; inform him that another task may be put back.
- If you overload a computer it will invariably break down. Your brain is more complex than any computer. Do not overload it. It should be handled with care and respect.
- If / when the bully comes back to you and makes a comment about your lack of ability to prioritize, simply say that you feel the goal posts are being changed constantly and you feel that you are meeting yourself coming backwards, As your line manager, what does he / she suggest you do?
giving back something that doesn’t belong to you
An excellent book I once read and will certainly give out details of, when I have permission from the publisher to quote, was about a man who took on board other peoples’ problems.
Imagine each problem as a dangly monkey that hung around his neck. Each time he took on board a problem it became another monkey hanging around his neck until he had sorted out the problem.
The only trouble was at the point at which he was able to begin to sort not only his own monkeys, but also those he took or was given from other people he was literally weighed down so much so that he could no longer work.
He rested a while, and thought about things, made a conscious decision to pass all these monkeys back and simply hold on to his own - the ones that actually belonged to him. He sorted them out and one by one they disappeared.
take ownership of your own problems + not anybody else's
The bully will try to off load his problems (monkeys) and hand them to you (and assume you will not only take the problem but deal with it also) don’t. You already have a priority list longer than the time you have available, simply give the problem them back.
Use phrases like:
- What are you going to do about that?
- That must make you feel terrible!
- I’m sure you would be able to do that.
- I’m glad that I am not responsible for [the issue]!
By being very polite, thinking about what you want to say before you say it, speaking slowly gives you thinking time when the bully interrupts you, which they will. Say / do one of two things: -
- Repeat the statement you have just said, but often this may be seen as arrogance, or
- Wait until the bully has finished and go back to the point at which you were interrupted, say, “Please let me finish!” Then continue, and then ask what it was the bully wanted to say.
There is never a win-win situation with the bully, the bully wants to win and wants you to lose at every opportunity. You must be polite even to the point of asking them how they are today.
The bully is behaving this way with you because he / she sees you as a threat, it is without doubt you very good at your job, well respected by peers, by service users etc.
Listen to positive and/or constructive feedback;
Thank them that you appreciate being told.
Everybody has an underlying need to feel wanted and valued. You are not different.
some useful do’s + don’ts
- Do use appropriate channels and policies already in place at work, examples: harassment at work policies, health & safety policies.
- Why? They are there to be used, and are a formal channel of communication.
- Do formally tell union reps, health & safety officers, staff care officers that you are registering your complaint in other sections.
- Why? Because the more you officially register your complaint the more chance it has of being recognized. And if it is not recognized, at least you will have some comeback and a record of asking them.
- Do keep all written documentation, photocopies of correspondence from the bully. Try to keep them at home in a safe place.
- Why? You need to collect evidence
- Don’t wait until it too late to collect this evidence.
- Why? Because if you do you will probably find certain documents are missing, this only heightens the crushing/suffocating feeling you are already experiencing and suffering
- Don’t give the actual copies of any evidence you collect away, you photocopy it, then hand it to the sections at the appropriate time.
- Why? Items conveniently and regularly go astray.
- Do have a cut off point from work, for example relate something positive to finishing work, as soon as I had finished work, my wrist watch came off in the car, as soon as I was home then I would shower, a sort of washing the day / shift / bully away. Also I stopped drinking coffee at work (a drink I particularly enjoy) I began to look forward to a good cup of coffee at home.
- Why? Simply because you are not being paid to think / worry about work out of the hours you are contracted to work. A type of mind set if you like. Try to develop a strategy of self-preservation. Remember: value yourself, you are good at what you do. (Which is probably why the bully has targeted you)
- Don’t raise issues on a one to one with the bully about new developments / forward thinking.
- Why? The bully will either rubbish the idea or take it. Don’t confront the bully directly, either alone or more so in front of others.
- Why? Because the bully will see this as a red rag to a bull, and your definitely not the bull The bully works on “one-upmanship”.
- If you decided confronted him / her directly you would not want to sleep at night. He / she would try hard to think of his / her next move.
- Don’t feel guilty about sharing how you feel with the appropriate people; staff care officers, health & safety representatives, unions. Make sure they record and take action / advice. It is their job to protect employees/members, (Health & Safety at Work Act 1974).
- Why? What would you do if you fell at work and broke a leg, although it is easier to see the physical damage that should not lessen the “mental health” damage, which is tougher to see?
Collect all evidence: you must register the way you are being treated with appropriate superiors
Bullying affects people very differently; you may have felt/suffered some of what is below or quite different feeling.
- Not able to think clearly;
- Not able to make a decision;
- Not wanting to leave the house as it is a safe environment;
- Can't remember people - you can see them but can’t give them a name;
- Your stomach turns over, drowning from inner emotion whenever you pass within a mile of where you work;
- No taste, no appetite;
- Beginning to think people are looking at you strangely, even family, although you really know they're not - logic tinged with fear, in turmoil;
- Suffering panic attacks simply at the thought of something possibly going wrong - the “what if" syndrome;
- Stuttering when talking about work and the situation;
- Inability to use to use the person's name - the name still fills you with dread;
- Unable to string a simple sentence together;
- Unable to remember words;
- No memory - memory blackouts (I began to think I was suffering some very early onset dementia);
- Not able to read the words of a sentence, they have no meaning or all simply run together, with no spaces.
- Waking several times during the night, feeling as though you could run full marathon, you have so much adrenaline to use up.
ex-student sues for $750,000 over bullying
By Ellen Connolly
A young man who was bullied at school seven years ago is suing the Department of Education for up to $750,000, claiming the years of physical and verbal abuse forced him to drop out.
In the first case of its kind in Australia, Mitchell Hearn, now 20, alleges the bullying has had a profound impact on his life, affecting his employment opportunities and causing physical and psychological injuries.
Mr Hearn told the District Court yesterday that the department was negligent because the school failed to take adequate steps to stop the bullying, the teachers did not discipline the five students involved and the school's policy against bullying was never implemented.
Mr Hearn was aged 14 and in year 8 at Merrylands High School when the bullying began, the court was told. For the next 18 months he was subjected to daily physical and verbal abuse at the hands of five boys.
By the end of first term in 1997 the victimisation became too much and Mr Hearn moved to Holroyd High.
Apart from the soft-tissue injury from the frequent physical assaults, Mr Hearn also suffered depression and anxiety, he alleged.
He dropped out at the end of year 10, failing to achieve his goal of completing the Higher School Certificate.
"Our case is he was forced out of Merrylands High School and had to transfer to Holroyd by reason of the bullying he was subjected to for about 1 years," counsel for Mr Hearn, Greg Scragg, told the court. "The school had a welfare and discipline policy and the school failed to implement its own policy in relation to the students who were bullying my client."
Jill Yates, solicitor for Mr Hearn, said it was the first case of its kind in Australia and it had taken a lot of courage for her client to take this action. "It's an unusual case," she said. "It's relevant to a lot of people."
The case was adjourned until October 23.
Copyright 2002 Ellen Connolly
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