Surviving a Workplace Bully

Protecting your peace while figuring out your next steps

What is workplace bullying?

The Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as the

“…repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, interferes with the ability to get work done and/or is verbally abusive.”

There are many different perspectives on how to deal with a workplace bully. There are coping mechanisms, exit strategies and step by step guides on how to diffuse the situation. But outside of all of the guidance, what if you’re unable to leave? What if God has you planted in that spot for a reason and a season? What if in your heart, he’s whispering to you to “be still”? What then? How do you cope with a workplace bully? How do you protect yourself? How do you hop, skip and jump through a literal minefield?

Well firstly, it isn’t easy. It’s hard. Very hard. It can be debilitating. You can feel like you’re going insane. When I worked in a toxic environment with a workplace bully, I tried to leave. I applied and interviewed for roles. I networked. I reported them. I prayed some more. I went back to school, interviewed for more roles and prayed even harder. For two roles that I interviewed for, I was a final candidate and funding for the role was swept for both…in the same year. Lol. Looking back during the times when I tried to leave, I noticed a pattern, my God NEVER left me. When I felt like I couldn’t deal with the toxicity another moment, another day, another second, he relieved my anxiety, he healed my pain, he removed the pressure even for that moment which allowed me to press on.

At the end of the day, your goal should be to leave the environment. Your health and wellness is more important than a paycheck. In the interim as you assess your options, I would like to provide to you a few things to think about that will help protect your sanity and strengthen your resolve to move through this season.

1. Limit interaction– Wherever possible, I would limit my interaction with the bully. I would assess my responses to see if it’s necessary to engage. Out of habit, or fearing assumed incompetence, you may feel like you need to say something in their presence but if you don’t then don’t. By no means should you dim your light or feign ignorance; just don’t invite conversation. If speaking, keep it brief, being very deliberate with your words and non verbal cues.

2. Learn my Bully – This step directly contradicts me wanting to limit my interaction with my bully, however, when forced to interact, I took advantage of the situation. I would observe their behaviors, how they projected themselves, how they interacted with others. I would study them to gauge reactions to things said or not said. I would document their preferences, pick up on their social cues, and notice how they interact with others. My goal was to educate myself to be able to better plan for interactions with them.

3. Document, Document, & Report – I was very hesitant on adding this step because speaking up under the wrong conditions could provoke retaliation from your bully. It all depends on the type and size of the company, the reach of your bully’s influence, and how egregious the behavior is that they’re displaying. However, I strongly encourage documenting each encounter to have for your records to create a paper trail for your case. Before moving on from this point, I want to leave you with this bit of information, Human Resources (HR) works to protect the interests of the organization so keep that in mind.

3. Stay guarded– I would stay guarded at all times during my limited interactions with my bully. Regardless of the event, whether it be in the office or at a happy hour, I would always ensure that my words and actions were deliberate, clear, concise and grounded in positive intent. When I felt pressured or caught off guard, I would excuse myself from the interaction and regroup.

4. Stay prayed up – I prayed before every meeting and I thanked God after every interaction. I spoke feverishly to my God, sometimes taking advantage of the meditation rooms provided by my organization. I had a prayer partner at work, someone who knew my situation, could be trusted to maintain discretion, and knew what to specifically pray for on my behalf. I asked for protection and guidance from God, touching on my desire to be free from this bully but understanding that there is a lesson and a reason for this assignment.

5. STAY ready so you won’t have to GET ready – God will move you on his time but you still have a part to play. Take ownership of your career development. Invest in a new skill set. Meet new people with like interests. Go back to school. Get involved with a non profit to hone in on your skills you’re unable to flex in your work environment. Working on another development lane not only helps you to mature your skills but it’ll also help you to expel the toxicity of your workplace.

During my season of dealing with a workplace bully, I gained the most invaluable experience that helped me mature in my vocation. New doors opened that I couldn’t dream of that helped increase my exposure, credibility and knowledge. Even through this storm, God provided me with the people, resources and space to continue to progress and I know that he will do the same for you.

You Can’t Say That!

Bringing Faith Into the Workplace

I once told someone that I couldn’t bring God into the workplace and the most amazing thing happened, she asked me “Why not?”. At the time, I shrugged and made up some lame answer because I truly didn’t have a sufficient response. What I hadn’t realized was that her decision to ask me “why not?” changed my life.

That’s the power of speaking your truth or being curious enough to understand others – you challenge assumptions or help others challenge their own. You also get a chance to learn so much more about yourself and for me, that moment was a “moment that mattered”. I started living the belief that you couldn’t hit pause on your faith because you or others are uncomfortable with it. Faith doesn’t come with an “on” or “off” switch.

As I matured and deepened my relationship with God, I began to understand the ultimate impact of being questioned on that “faith”ful day. You can’t wake up, give praise, and then forget about God until you get home from work. The workplace is a breeding ground for loving relationships as well as toxic ones and we need God’s help in navigating the terrain. He deserves our praise and continued faith throughout the day, not just when we clock out.

It’s funny because especially at work, you’re surrounded by people who are projecting the person that they want people to see. We all do it. Regardless of our work environment, we contain, dim and in some cases completely change who we are to protect the real “us”, the person we are when we are around people we trust. In the workplace, we are surrounded by impostors who struggle every moment with who they are vs. who they project. That’s why for me, staying grounded and rooted in my faith is so important for maintaining my mental, emotional, and physical well being.

I can’t leave god out of my story

I’ve learned and lived this the hard way – so when I decided to give blogging another shot, I was at a crossroads. I knew I wanted to share in the areas of career development, workplace dynamics and individual empowerment, yet I didn’t want to turn off an audience who wasn’t a believer in a higher power. I wanted to be inclusive and allow for my words to pertain to anyone who needed guidance, or at the very least access to my experience. I wanted to appeal to the masses and modify my story to be “one size fits all”. *chuckle* I was repeating my same mistake; I was actively in the present day excluding God from my story.

Smh.. crazy how that happens. The only difference is that this time, I heard his whisper and I shifted.

I can’t leave God out of my writing because my successes and failures are His doing. I did my part but only through His guidance, as His vessel for His work.

You don’t have to be a believer of God to read my blogs and learn from my experiences. We come from all walks of life, with all different faiths and a multitude of different perspectives. I know what works for me and I want to share what works with me with others. On my journey, God is the creator and I’m just the vessel, the character, the actor. I made the choice to accept God as my Lord and Savior in all things – home,work, life, driving, breathing, living, meditating, forgiving, loving and I pray that what I have to say brings guidance and “ah ha” moments to you all.

Thank you to the person for speaking up and questioning my ignorance. You were on assignment and I appreciate you.

Still figuring it out? You are NOT alone.

I must’ve asked the same question several different times during the course of this week, “What are your plans after you get your degree?” Many people didn’t have an answer. Some fumbled with their response. Others provided canned statements around wanting to pursue a terminal degree. A couple of them gave me an answer that didn’t justify the need to get the degree but whatever. I guess the one thing that we all had in common was that no one, not even me, ever really gave an answer as to what their plans were for the degree that they worked so hard for, whether it be a Master’s or a Ph.D. I was bewildered. Here I thought that I was the only one in the room that didn’t have my life figured out and come to find out, I’m one of many.

I believe that we as people have a hard time saying, “I don’t know what my plans are.” or “I haven’t quite figured that out yet.” Meanwhile, we’re all feeling it in some way, shape, or form. We don’t do well with being vulnerable, with letting people know that we don’t have it all together which ultimately leads to everyone thinking that they must have it all figured out. Which is sad. Sometimes it’s OK to say, I liked the topic, I felt a connection with the subject but I’m not sure what I am going to do with the information just yet. Or even better, I need the letters or the degree to prove credibility within the field. How much of a relief would that be, eh?

I think the purpose of this post is to say that the people that are walking around, doing “things” with their lives- the ones who you believe have it all figured out – the majority of them don’t. They are out here brainstorming with their life, throwing ideas on the wall to see if it sticks, trying new things and identifying what they like, meeting new people and conversing about whatever comes to mind. I had a full fledged discussion with a group of I/O Psychologists about Vegas and how one lived in Louisiana and have never visited New Orleans – we don’t have it all figured out.

The only difference between you and them is that they are doing. That’s it. I’m currently in Alabama on a trip that might be a waste of time and that’s OK. I had a guy ask me if anything that I’d learned on this trip would be useful to me in the future. I told him that what I’ve come to find is that I can use any and everything that I learn. Maybe not in the near future but possibly in the distant. Even if it’s only to stir up a commonality between me and another person, even if it’s just to make that connection, to be able to relate, to speak with experience – it’ll be something that I use.

I sat with a group of ladies who were talking about submitting to symposiums and writing their thesis. One wanted to write on diversity in leadership and the selection process, the other on bias around online degrees and you know what? It was beautiful. I was sitting amongst potential game changers in the field of IO Psychology and here they were – “figuring it out”. Lol. No one had a concrete plan of action, where pivots were accounted for and purposeful decisions were made. That’s not how it worked. We had a direction and possibly a mode of transportation but the route, the pit stops had not been thoroughly mapped out.

People are still figuring it out. Don’t think you’re behind the curve or that you can’t do what you want to do because life happened. Life is going to happen. If I’ve learned nothing else, I’ve learned that life is… life is hard and confusing. It’s tempting and troubling. It’s angry and upsetting but it’s also beautiful and sympathetic and forgiving and compassionate and hopeful. Life gives you chance after chance to do, to be.

Take advantage of it and figure it out!

XOXO

Finding your North Star: What are your guiding principles?

The North Star is the brightest star in the Ursa Minor constellation and is commonly referred to as the “Pole Star”. Without GPS, travelers would locate the North Star and use it to guide them to their destination.  This is why we call guiding principles, the North Star. When you have nothing else, it is what will guide you and assist you with completing your goals. When all else fails, you can defer to your guiding principles to help you make decisions in your life.

As a follow up to my blog, Establishing a Baseline for Yourself, I wanted to provide insight into how to create goals that will excite and guide you into the next phase of your life. However, as I was writing, I quickly realized that in order to complete any goal, regardless of how great it is, you would first need to understand your reasons for wanting to complete that goal.

So how did I define my North Star? 
Years ago, I felt like I was in a fight of my life. I was going through a nasty custody battle for my son and during that time, there were people placed in my life that I felt had no boundaries as to how far they would go to hurt me or my son. I knew that for me personally, I feared the wrath of God and established spiritual boundaries that provided limits on how far I would act on my hurt, pain and even vengeance. Over time, those boundaries became more and more rigid. There were things that I would not do and there were things that I would not say in an effort to hurt or cause pain to someone else. I would learn to recognize when people were treating me wrong and force myself to elevate above them – that became my North Star. My North Star is to have enough discipline to rise above those who seek to oppress me or bring negativity in my life.

With this defined, I was able to move forward with establishing goals that were exciting and aligned to my North Star, my guiding principles.

So how do you define your North Star?

Think of a time that you would prefer not to repeat. A time, that sits with you, that was life altering – where YOU had the power to do something and didn’t. It’s a feeling that stirs in the pit of your stomach or the center of your torso; it reminds you that you should’ve done something differently. You didn’t like the person that you were at that time. It pissed you off. It upset you. It embarrassed you.  That moment in your life was life altering and shifted the way that you thought about things, the way that you thought about yourself. That moment defines your North Star.

  • Maybe you saw someone in the street struggling and you didn’t stop to ask them if they needed help. The feeling stayed with you.
  • Maybe you lost your temper over something minimal and you felt like a jerk about it.
  • Maybe you let someone get under your skin and you were embarrassed by the way that you reacted.

These moments define your North Star. It’s the promises that you made to yourself that would prevent or at the very least decrease the likelihood of you ever feeling whatever way you hated feeling ever again.

Taking the examples above, write your North Star in a declarative format:

  • I will do my best to make time to help those who may need an extra hand or those who are unable to help themselves.
  • I will identify what irritates me and understand why it irritates me.
  • I will not allow others to control me. I will not allow others to disturb my peace.

Keep in mind, that you may have several guiding principles and that is ok. Your guiding principles may change over time and that is ok, too.  Write them down and keep them at the forefront of your mind. Your North Star serves as a compass as you try to define and work towards your goals. It is what recalibrates you if you veer off track; it serves as your conscience and it should resonate with you to the point where you respect it above all else.