Workplace bullying: How to survive, move forward and heal
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Amanda Perl MSc Psychotherapist Counsellor MBPsS BACP (Accred) CBT Practitioner
7th November, 20170 Comments
Companies as entities, purely profit-driven and lacking in ethics, can behave like bullies. It's as if the whole world has been blinded by the impression an organisation promotes: Fair treatment of staff, fulfilling quotas for equality and diversity, discrimination and inclusion, whilst in reality they promote a culture of fear and blame, literally “killing off” their staff in the process. Ambitions are hidden under a smokescreen of the charities for which they raise money, or if they have legal means, their charitable status is used to hide their real profit-making agenda. For example, equality and diversity "champion" Labour's ambassador for women at work, Dr Glenda Stone, killed off 27 secretaries in two years. Her reign of terror only ended when, upon being sacked, a brave male employee took her to Court.
Recently demonised, our bank worker peers were named in the Libor rate rigging scandal. What isn't clear under the smokescreen is that directors of these banks instilled the competitive idea in the minds of their traders, so making as much money as possible was the only way to “win”. Anyone who refused to "comply" with these unwritten implicit rules risked instant removal - facing the sack. Taking no responsibility, the banks accused, framed and blamed the traders as greedy, selfish and irresponsible, setting up their loyal employees to feel ashamed by their elicited shadow emotions such as greed, jealousy and insecurity. And more sinisterly, deserving of punishment. Ask yourselves this: Can blame even be laid at the doors of the banks themselves? Why are we "banker bashing"? What about the role of the elected Government? Entities such as the FSA are drafted in as the official authority to “prove” the traders’ wrongdoing. Other employees are coerced into testifying against their colleagues. The media's cloudy discourse spun a moral panic and the general public encouraged to hate the traders. Through this process of “triangulation”, the category of trader switched from ordinary fellow "human" worker into a dangerous "animal" which must be slain. Numerous investigations, tribunals and court cases have pushed such workers to the brink. Their only crime was to be well-paid and obedient employees, seeking to reap the standard rewards as promised from the banking world. Punishment has proved severe. A prison sentence the norm. A stretch in time is just that. However, damage to the psyche, with or without psychological help, can last a lifetime.
If you have been subject to any kind of bullying by a company or boss, rumours regarding your competency, capability, or sanity will have been widely spread. Publicly humiliated, your character almost entirely assassinated, you will have been left feeling broken. Increasingly you may have found yourself relying on the support and approval of the abusive boss or company. Never more so when they threatened to remove the promotion for which you worked so hard. Or you decide to step down in subjugation and self-sacrifice. “It's best for the company” you hear yourself lie whilst wanting to stay under the blankets and curl up and die. You may have reached the stage where there was nothing you wouldn’t do to keep or regain their once seemingly high opinion of you. In the same manner, the person brought in to take over your job role you realise existed only to cause you escalating grief. Or the team member you nurtured and cared for as if a sibling or child, has been turned into another war weapon of mass destruction. Mostly you will have simply felt confused.
A narcissistic boss or company lies to cover up their mistakes. However, they also deliberately lie to make you look bad. As if in a relationship with an abusive lover, a boss or company sets out to destroy you, whilst pretending to care for you. When the truth finally dawns, the inexpressible rage you feel will at times be physically, mentally and unbearably exhausting. Dragging yourself into work, with a feeling of dread and impending doom, you find yourself walking on eggshells to avoid being shouted at, criticized, humiliated and shamed. A common tactic is to ambush you with meetings, dig dirt from previous months or years highlighting your very natural human flaws and errors. As a result you may now suffer from a range of psycho-complex disorders, which may manifest into physical illnesses such as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or, if you weren’t previously challenged with, albeit more manageable, any type of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Other symptoms include nervous twitches, acute anxiety manifesting in stomach and digestive related ailments, sudden anger, a constant desire to apologise, tearfulness, depression, anxiety, paranoia, suicidal ideation, relationship issues, drug and alcohol addiction alongside a desperate need to control your own environment.
For individuals, the type of person who is at risk from a bullying boss is one who has an admirable work ethic. Loyal, conscientious, capable, organised and ethical. Vulnerable, anxious, eager to please and perhaps seeking resolution of unresolved family issues through their working environment. You may have codependent traits or something markedly different about you in terms of, say, disability, sexuality, minority religion or culture. Perhaps you just have never felt like you quite fitted, or suffered bullying from your peers during your early years, or, endearingly innocent, have been brought up to believe the whole world is beautiful. Perhaps this is you?
Are you the one who once was developed and progressed at work, instead now you are being unfairly promoted over, made redundant, performance managed out and as a result suffering silently or otherwise from a stress breakdown as they use the established rules and policies against you? Sometimes even the ones you introduced? If so, heartbroken, you feel so betrayed, so sad and so depressed that it physically hurts you inside. Convinced that you alone were either the only one who understood the boss, or could do that job "properly", you were easily pulled and pushed into submission, leaving you addicted to a toxic style of management. Incapable of enjoying relationships based on equality and mutual respect, if a bullying company or boss, doesn't manage to gain full power over you, they move you on, rather than sorting out typical working relationship norming-storming-forming issues. Sometimes you are drawn into conflict http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/understanding-personality-disorders-triangulation when invited to side against a colleague who they say is in your way. Oh how little do you realise that you will be next. Time you never had endlessly sacrificed to the company will never be enough. Or worse, having taken as much advantage of you that they can, without blowing their cover, such bosses coerce you into leaving; appearing faultless whilst trashing your character as soon as you find yourself another job.
Narcissistic colleagues or bosses are ones who takes credit for your work or have sexual relations with the staff. The boss who blames you for their poor presentation or the one who's business failure is all your fault, the manager who overlooks you for promotion or the one who sets you tasks you will fail. Employing their relatives and friends while sacking any of your own is a common tactic. The type of boss or colleague who pretends to have only your best interests at heart, while secretly stamping on you to self-serve their own. http://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/understanding-personality-disorders-symptoms-and-treatment
So how do you move forward and heal? Learning assertiveness skills, entering into therapy in order to have your experience witnessed, validated and affirmed, acceptance and approval of yourself in order to build your inner strength will not only protect you from further psychic attack, it is the key to healing. From there, you will regain your footing. Clarity, strength, resilience and strategic tools will rebuild your dignity. Your feet will touch back down and you will find yourself firmly on solid ground. If you are left suffering with addiction, a 12-step programme may be ideal alongside therapy. Good luck on your journey.
“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented” Elie Wiesel
About the author
I am a BACP accredited counsellor and existential psychotherapist, a CBT practitioner, member of the British Psychological Society and course lead stage 4 BACP accredited counselling diploma. My private practice reflects the belief that each of us is unique with potential for growth and development and can move forward in our own way.
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