Resilient Queens: how to look after yourself if you are experiencing workplace bullying.
Written by Psychologist Bianca Fazzari
Reading time: 6 minutes
Being bullied can have major impacts on your psychological wellbeing, your sense of job satisfaction and your career development. It can feel lonely, unfair, disempowering, belittling, provoke anxiety and frightening. But you don’t have to tolerate a bully’s behaviour, and you certainly shouldn’t let it change the way you feel about yourself.
Bullies are often driven by a need for control or power, their own lack of insight into the impacts of their behaviour on others, their beliefs and attitudes about what interpersonal behaviour is socially acceptable (based on their early life experiences and relationships into adulthood), and/or their own insecurities. So in actual fact, much of their bullying behaviour is not actually about you.
So we urge you not to fall into the trap of believing that you have been targeted because you are “defective” or “flawed” in any way.
It can be really hard to find the courage to speak up, reach out and take action against a bully. We often worry that nobody will believe us, or take us seriously, that it won’t make a difference, or that it will leave a black mark against our name within our organisation and our industry. With increased awareness, legislation and action against workplace (and other) bullying in the last decade, we hope this is not the case in any category or workplace. We hope you will be supported, or at least heard. And if you’re not, we empower you to take your talent elsewhere; to a workplace that invests in and looks after their people and culture.
Aside from seeking organisational support via your Manager or HR team (which we absolutely encourage you to do), here are a list of psychological tools and strategies you can use to keep yourself mentally healthy and believing in the Queen that you are, when someone is trying to knock down your crown.
Identify and challenge unhealthy thoughts and beliefs about yourself that may be triggered by the bully- if you are constantly receiving negative messages from your world and the people in it, your self-talk and the way you feel about yourself can mirror this. You might notice you start doubting your abilities or becoming more self-critical following a stint of bullying. By paying attention to your thoughts, your self-talk and the story you tell yourself about yourself, you will notice whether you have taken on the voice of the bully in your own head. If you find your self-talk is as nasty as that workplace bully, here are some tips for challenging those self-critical thoughts and beliefs…
· Ask yourself what is the evidence that proves and disproves my self-judgements?
· Are my thoughts factual, or just my interpretation?
· How would someone else see this? What opinion would they form based on the facts?
· Am I jumping to negative conclusions?
· Can I really know what others are thinking of me?
· Are there any positive things about myself or this situation that I am ignoring?
· What would I say to a friend if they were thinking this way?
· How helpful is it for me to think about myself in this way?
The goal here is to change the negative patterns of thinking by challenging the irrational and self-critical thoughts, and replace them with more reasonable, realistic and self-compassionate thoughts. With practice, you will become better at noticing that inner bully and consciously choosing to think about yourself in a more realistic and helpful way.
Keep a “positive data log”- sounds weird and scienc-y, right?! It’s as simple as keeping a list of things that you did well (in and out of work) and positive feedback from colleagues/managers/friends/family as a way of collecting information to strengthen healthy beliefs about yourself.
Self compassion- this one is simple...be kind to yourself! We often extend kindness, understanding, acceptance, love and forgiveness toward others, but we forget to do the same for ourselves! A little self-compassion goes a long way, and helps to relieve mental health issues including anxiety and low self esteem. When trying to enact self-compassion, follow these simple rules...refrain from harsh self-criticism, recognise and remember that all of us are imperfect, and our imperfections are perfectly okay, focus on your strengths (the things you do well, that you’re proud of, and that others would commend you for). Ask yourself, what would you say to a friend who was having the same struggles as you are now? And extend the same kindness to yourself. After all, you’re a Yes Queen, you deserve it!
Attend to self care- looking after ourselves is key in living a happy, healthy, balanced life. Show yourself that you are important and as much a priority as anything/anyone else in your life. When our lives are affected by a negative event such as bullying, we tend to forget about looking after ourselves because our focus is taken elsewhere. Maintain a healthy diet, sleep routine and regular exercise regime; do the things you love; pamper yourself; prioritise and practice positive coping strategies that help you feel relaxed and happy; spend time with people who bring you joy.
Be mindful and stay committed to the things that are important and meaningful to you- if your thoughts have become more self critical, it’s important to recognise this and refrain from believing them or acting on them. Instead, be mindful of your thoughts, simply observe them without judging them, label them...you might say “I’m having the thought that I’m no good”. Refrain from fusing with that thought, see it for what it is, simply words in your mind; and create some distance between you and the thought. In that space is the freedom to choose your next action...let it be one that is self-nurturing, aligns you closer to your goals and the things that are important to you. For example, going into work and giving that presentation despite the self doubt, rather than taking a sick day or asking a colleague to cover for you.
Accept you can’t change the bully- it’s important to recognise what you can and can’t influence. You CAN control your own actions and what you choose to do to manage the situation, you CAN choose your emotional and behavioural reactions to the bully, you CAN choose your coping strategies. You CAN’T control the bully’s actions or words; you CAN’T control the organisation’s response to bullying. It’s often helpful to ask yourself “What CAN I DO to better cope with the bullying?” And decide on a course of action that best suits you. Report, don’t report, change jobs, change teams, stay put and change the response to the bullying, etc.
Sometimes during challenging situations, we need extra support and that’s ok. If you need support implementing these strategies, professional help is available from a Psychologist or Counsellor via your organisation’s Employee Assistance Program or via a GP referral.
And remember, you do you Queen!