Every week I would work with around six clients regarding workplace bullying issues. I have personally experienced workplace bullying and certainly understand the degree of despair, sense of hopelessness and helplessness generated by the bad behaviour of a co-worker. I can remember arriving at work and becoming so distressed as I stood at the entrance way to the office block in which I was working, that I was unable to enter the building. I cried uncontrollably, I was confused and bewildered by this outpouring of emotions. As a male I believed I could handle what was happening to me and that I could fight back and defeat the bully. I believed that those in a community service organisation would understand what was happening to me and would support me. I have never been so wrong.
I have used the past ten years trying to understand the impact Workplace Bullying has on people and finding ways to combat the bully. What I am about to explain to you is a process which I have used with many clients over the past year with outstanding success. When I have the opportunity to discuss this with targets of bullies they will often report how empowered they feel and they note a significant decrease in their anxiety. The steps are simple in a way and it surprises me that others haven't thought of using this technique.
Ask yourself why does the bully have the power to influence how you feel about yourself, life in general and to affect your mental wellbeing?
Most people give this power to others. People in and off themselves do not have power over us, the power they have comes from what we believe about them. If we believe they can interfere with what we think and feel about ourself then they will have enormous power over us. But this power is power we attribute to them not power they have. We believe they may be able to sack us, prevent us from promotion or prohibit us from taking holidays or receiving professional development. We believe that when they gossip about us that they are able to influence others opinions of us.
Write what POWER you believe the bully has over your life.
Consider if that power is justified. Is it helpful for you hold these beliefs?
Now ask how important do you want this person to be in your life?
Would you invite this person to your birthday party?
Most people would say that if they could they would choose not to have this person in their life at all. That they are not important to them and if they could would prefer not to have anything to do with them.
Once we accept that it is what we believe about the power this person has we are then able to change our belief system and view the bully as powerless and lacking influence on our preferred view of who we are and how we want to interact with our world.
Bullies often are feeling powerless, humiliated, lonely, isolated, rejected, fearful, and believe that they will feel better if they can make you feel similar emotions.
It is your choice as to whether you wish to play their game. What is to follow is the game changer and a way by which you can change the rules.
Most of us believe that we need to justify what we do because it will help others to understand our motives and give them a clearer view of who we are. We do this by habit because we also believe it is a polite thing to do. We use an enormous amount of energy justifying our behaviour to people who don't give a damn. SO STOP IT NOW.
The most powerful word in assertion is the word "NO" without justification. Learn to just so "NO". Don't waste your time and energy on people who don't care about you and who are not going to change their view of you no matter how much time you spend explaining yourself.
This change in behaviour will change the rules and leave the bully confused because they will not know how to respond to you. Be aware though that they may became angry and confused, but this is their problem not yours.
This is the most exciting aspect of the three pronged response to bullies.
Remember you are now not justifying anything to them. But now you are going to just ask them open ended questions.
The questions are generic questions which can be used under all circumstances. The reason for asking questions is that the energy the bully is using by attacking you is often absorbed by you and integrated into you by your belief system of the power the bully has. This is now your opportunity to change the flow of energy back to the bully. It is important to make them think about what they are doing rather than attacking you.
I will give you some questions you can ask. These are so simple and have to integrated into your normal response when you are feeling attacked.
I am curious as to what you meant by what you just said?
I am wondering if you could clarify what you just said?
When you say ......... I am wondering if you know how that makes me feel?
The goal here is to have them justify what they say or do.
Write a list of questions which would best fit with the bully in your life and commit them to memory. Test the questions on people you know. Remember, there is nothing offensive or disrespectful by asking questions.
Above all have fun with this. Watch how the bully responds. They will become defensive when they realise you are changing the rules. They may even step up the bullying but as they do they well expose themselves as a bully. The best place to ask questions if you have the courage is in meetings so that others can observe the bullies response. Never enter into a debate with the bully if they begin to attack you. Maintain the focus on the questions. If they fail to answer a question just ask the questions again.
This strategy often results in the bully leaving you alone. One they realise that they no longer have the power to control you they will move onto someone else, unfortunately.
If this works for you become the educator of these techniques with you co-workers. Together you will change the workplace and the bully will either change their behaviour or they will leave.
Once you have tried this drop me a line and let me know how you have gone. If you want further help contact me through this blog or call me on the number below.
Have fun and be safe.
Accredited Mental Health Social Worker
International Counselling Service
Ph 0414 883 153