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.

WoMan vs. the Universe

Sometimes things don’t go quite as you plan.

As you all know – my husband’s birthday was Friday (in case you missed it, see Birthday tribute) and typically we do pretty nice sized birthdays. One year was a trip to Dallas to see the Cowboys play in their season opener – my hubs is a huge Cowboys fan (Go Ravens!). Another year was a weekend trip to the Big Apple. The most surprising year – for me anyway – was a house party – complete with a DJ, bartender, and a custom made Dallas Cowboys cake compliments of The Kitchen Empress. (This also turned out to be my surprise engagement party!)

I say all of this to say – I don’t slouch when it comes to birthdays and this year was no different.

Here was the plan:

  1.  Mom was going to take the baby to see my grandmother who lives down South and my oldest was to stay with my sister. (My middle child stays with his Mom in another state.)
  2. I booked a room at the Gaylord hotel.
  3. I reserved dinner at the Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse at the MGM Casino.
  4. On the morning of his birthday, I planned to cook him one of his favorites for breakfast.
  5. Last but not least, we would then head over to Spa World for a day of massages before checking into our hotel.

I told him to pack a bag and anticipate greatness!!! Mama had a plan!

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Ok so maybe “greatness” was reaching. The day started at 6 am to the wake-up call from our 9-month-old baby girl. This was our first birthday with our daughter so already, I hadn’t quite factored this into the plan. Whoops!

Mom came over to the house the night before to pick up the baby and get on the road but ended up staying the night. My oldest decided that he wanted to go but had a bit of an issue with leaving that night – he had a friend stay over and leaving without him was a non-starter.

Now with 6 people, instead of the original two for breakfast, we had to pray that this food multiplied like Jesus’s 5 loaves of bread and 2 pieces of fish. We had sweet potato waffles (Hubs loves anything with sweet potatoes) with eggs, bacon, sausage, and scrapple with a little orange juice on the side. Low and behold – breakfast was a success! It reminded me of growing up when my family from NC would come up and we would fix breakfast for 15. Le sigh – I digress.

We finished breakfast around 10:00 am and lollygagged for another two hours before it was time for folks to start the journey to grandma’s house.  Mom then decided, at that very moment – bless her entire soul, to ask my sister if she wanted to go down, who of course said “yes” but didn’t get off until around 3 pm.  So long story short, Mom and family left for my sister’s house around 3ish and Hubs and I followed suit commencing the birthday extravaganza bonanza – five hours behind schedule!

No sweat. Being the project manager, that I am, I decreased scope and struck Spa World from the day’s agenda and headed straight to the Potomac Mills Outlet. Now let me explain, we loveeeee the Outlets. It’s our happy place and my hubs especially love Potomac Mills. However, traffic had other plans so we activated our contingency plan and headed to Tangier at the National Harbor.

Finally, back on track and focused on the celebration – I went ahead and told him to pick out a head to toe outfit for this evening, make sure that it was suitable for a five star and versatile enough for us to cut a rug after we feasted and gambled the night away. However, the Universe had other plans. Less than an hour into our shopping excursion, Tangier experienced a power outage and had to close the doors to all of their stores. Meanwhile – I’m like, you have GOT to be kidding me! (not to be confused with Game of Thrones ha ha ha -I’m a nerd)

With no outfit for dinner, we decided on a casual Ethiopian restaurant located in Old Town Alexandria but first, we needed to check into our hotel.

Let me just start this off by saying that The Gaylord is absolutely beautiful with some amazing views of the Potomac River. Okay, that’s done. We must’ve brushed up on the wrong side of the lady who checked us in because she had the worst bedside manner and a plain ole’ ugly attitude.  Apparently, since we checked in at 6:00 instead 3:00, the hotel ran out of King sized beds and stuck us with a double complete with a view of the top of buildings, three trees and a couple of houses. When we asked was there anything that we could do to get a better room with a King she said – nope. When my husband asked if anyone canceled their reservation – she said nope. When we asked to cancel our room, she said ok but you will still be charged.

Now don’t get me wrong – it is what it is. They were busy, we were late and we didn’t request a king but her lack of empathy pissed me off! It’s like – lady, act like you care! I could’ve saved a couple of hundred and stayed home. Anyway, we went to our room dropped our bags off and headed out to dinner but couldn’t get out of the parking lot because we didn’t know that we needed to add parking to our room! :: face palm::

Once we pay the $12, NOW we are able to head to dinner!

Can you life saver!??  Hawi’s Ethiopian Restaurant was everything and more! I highly recommend it and the owner was such a pleasant soul to encounter. He really made the experience and truly saved the day!

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Coming off the high from dinner, we were feeling a bit optimistic, so we decided to head over to Macy’s for an outfit. We thought we would save a couple of bucks and pick up some spirits to pre-game to in our double bed hotel room before we had some serious Casino action.

Ha ha ha ha ha! The Universe again told us to sit down and quit being cute. So because my sister and our oldest son went with my Mom, we paid our “couch son” (our sons best friend) to walk our dog – once that night and once the next morning. Well – he never showed up to walk the dog, so to end our night, we made the 45-minute track back to our house to a lab mix who thought we were never coming back to get him!

Let’s recap, shall we?
Breakfast – Successful in a “the more the merrier kind of way!”
Spa World – Postponed
Outlets – Traffic canceled one plan and a power outage destroyed the other
Hotel – Double beds, no view, and horrible customer service.
Dinner – canceled original plan but plan B was extraordinary
Casino – never made it

After we laughed about how this was like an episode of Seinfeld, we sat at our dining room table (didn’t go back to the hotel) and realized that Operation: Hubs Birthday 2017 was an epic fail. And to think – this man wanted to go back and try his hand at craps -I told him to quit before we end up broke, busted and disgusted! 🙂

We’ll get it right the next time.

Universe – 1, Shannel – 0

XOXO