In our last article we encouraged you to call it when dealing with your bully. This article follows the same premise. Except this time you need to call it when dealing with yourself and then add a much-needed dose of compassion.
THE FIRST STEP TO FREEDOM LIES IN THE LANGUAGE WE USE
Words are powerful tools. We use them so often we forget the effect they have. You can’t have workplace bullying without a ‘victim.’ I’ve always struggled with the passive undertones attached to the word. It’s as though, through pure misfortune, you’re now the recipient of repeated harassment in the workplace.
Victim implies weakness. When we see ourselves as weak we internalise the view there’s something inherently wrong with us, that we did something to deserve this.
Victim implies powerless. In our last article, we identified the key to creating change is to make a choice, to do something. When you’re powerless you lose the opportunity to change the status quo.
YOU’RE NOT A VICTIM, YOU’RE A TARGET
It won’t be easy to hear this but it has to be said. The bully has chosen you and continues to choose actions that attempt to annihilate your character, your confidence and your ability to perform daily duties. You are not weak, nor have you done anything to deserve such treatment but you have been cherry-picked and will continue to be a target until you do something about it.
DON’T GET ANGRY OR EVEN, GET COMPASSIONATE
You have every right to be angry. There’s nothing wrong with anger. As women, many of us are taught from a young age that angry isn’t okay. It is. But it’s not what you need right now. Don’t underestimate the toxicity of a workplace bully. The only option is to counteract this toxicity with compassion. Now we know the bully isn’t going to come to the party so it’s up to you.
According to popular culture, women are genetically designed to be ‘bitchy’ towards each other. I don’t agree. Sure, we can be nasty to each other but the same goes for men (uhm, don’t mention the war). It’s a useful myth that perpetuates the idea we have to compete – for the attention of men and for the limited places at the boardroom table. That aside, our alleged nastiness to other women is nothing compared to the cruel way we treat ourselves.
THE BAR YOU SET FOR YOURSELF
A useful tool for those in stressful workplaces is to set the bar on communication. If someone goes below it then you have the right to call it. But go below the bar you’ve set for yourself and you lose that right. Take the same bar, set at the same level, and apply it to your thoughts. A toxic workplace comes with repercussions but criticising yourself doesn’t help.
IT’S TIME TO DECLUTTER
We need to consider the amount of mental space we gift to our bully. There’s an initial nasty exchange. But then there’s time spent dwelling on the injustice of it all, time spent getting angry and time spent imagining the best comebacks of all time, even though you’ll never get to use them because the moment has well and truly passed. It’s draining.
Call it and the dynamic changes. Call it and our attention turns to the sense of achievement we get from standing up for ourselves. The same principle applies to our own thoughts. Once you’ve set the bar it’s easier to identify thoughts that are helpful and turf out those that aren’t.
IT’S TIME TO INOCULATE
We all like to dream of some place ‘over the rainbow’ but what we really need is a small dose of reality. We call this inoculation. It’s the Girl Guide version of ‘Be Prepared’ for women in the workforce.
There might be fallout when you change how you operate in the workplace. One way to prepare for potential adversity is to envisage how the bully could respond. This helps us prepare our own response, which, in turn, allows us take our power back.
IT MIGHT BE ONE STEP FORWARD AND TWO STEPS BACK BUT IT’S STILL AN ADVENTURE
The further you adventure along the Yellow Brick Road the more obstacles you’ll come across. These will give you a chance to learn new skills. With anything new, you won’t always get it right the first time. People commonly refer to this as failure. But, instead of giving up, you’re now one step closer to identifying a way that will work for you. In the meantime, be kind to yourself.
IT’S A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVE
We humans love to compartmentalise. It makes life easier. Good versus bad. Healthy versus unhealthy. But life isn’t easy and compartments don’t work so well in practice. Here’s why:
It doesn’t take into account perspective. Someone who visits the gym five days a week would have a very different perspective on the word ‘healthy’ when compared to a person who avoids exercise at all costs.
It disregards the existence of a spectrum. I can’t remember being a toddler but I do acknowledge I didn’t always have the ability to walk. It’s something I developed over time. I’m proud to say I’m now quite proficient at the task, evidenced by my lack of falling over. That said if there’s wine involved my proficiency moves towards the inability end of the spectrum.
WHY BULLYING ISN’T GOOD OR BAD.
I wouldn’t say bullying is good. That said, my experiences of bullying, although terrible at the time, have made me who I am today so I couldn’t confidently describe it as all bad either. Frame an experience entirely in the negative and we forget it’s through adversity that we grow. We find we’re tougher than we ever imagined we could be. We develop more empathy for those dealing with their own adversity.
I believe, just like the Tin Man, we have compassion but we need a reminder to be compassionate towards the most important person of all – ourselves. Armed with kindness and the knowledge we’re neither weak nor powerless I believe we’ll gain perspective that’ll guide us through adversity to discover an even better version of ourselves. Perhaps we’ll realise, just like Dorothy, we’re the heroines in our own story.
Copyright © 2014 Pink Collar Workers unless otherwise stated