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What I Learned Most From Being Bullied at Work

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When many of us consider the word “bully,” we often assume it concerns children. We see it in the context of a classroom in the school. We see a kid picking on another. We see a child pushing around another child. But bullying does not only happen in the classroom. You can be bullied as an adult. You can be bullied in your place of work.

It’s not easy to write about this. It feels vulnerable. Honestly, it also feels embarrassing. But when I saw bullying was the writing prompt for this month, I knew I could relate. I felt the need to write to express, release and possibly help another.

Being bullied is when others put you down. They make jokes and laugh at you in your presence. I have had some instances where this has happened. When I was in a job where I had to develop the skills needed for it, I often felt bullied at work.

I remember an instance at a meeting when my supervisor used me as an example. She said if someone were to ask me a question, I would not know the response. It was degrading for me to hear that. But she didn’t see it like that. She even went further to state, “OK, isn’t it true? Let me ask you this….” I would smile and laugh it off, but it was painful.

When others put down your intelligence, it’s a form of bullying and it deeply affects your morale. It affects your ability to want to put in your best effort because a part of you feels others do not see you as good enough.

Bullying can come in the form of others making jest of your efforts. Picking up photography skills is not easy for me. At my job, it would be a form of a joke to others when I picked up the camera. I remember taking pictures at a colleague’s farewell party. When I would bring out the camera, I’d hear snickers. Some would use their phone to capture the same shot I was attempting. This made me feel as though my efforts were wasted. The result of this was that I would not want to try harder. I would immediately want to leave the room.

Bullying can come in the form of threats to your job. When asking a colleague about creating SOPs for my role, another colleague would chime in and state that it’s needed for my “replacement.” Statements such as these are very hurtful. They put you down and make you feel as though you don’t belong.

If you too are being bullied in the workplace, here are some tips that can help you make it through:

Distance yourself from the bully. 

Being bullied at work is not easy. It can break you little by little. I had to distance myself from the individual who was constantly putting me down. There was one particular colleague who would always criticize and make jest of me. The more I distanced myself from that colleague, the more I protected my emotional well-being.

You can choose to take action.

When you feel as though you are constantly being bullied by a specific person, you can take action. You can speak to the HR department to address the issue. I spoke to an HR professional in this case to address the particular situation.

Don’t let negative words define you.

When others put you down and do not value you, it can feel like a heavy blow. You can start to see yourself as less than. But you can’t let negative words define you. You have to affirm the good things you see in yourself. You have to praise yourself for your efforts, even though others do not validate you. You have to be your own cheerleader.

Make yourself happy. 

When you’re bullied, it can make you sad. You have to take measures to put yourself in a good mood. You can do this by implementing what brings you joy.

I would find joy and solace in music. I would also find these things in speaking to coworkers that I had a good time with, as well as considering what my goals and passions were outside of work.

The measures you take are up to you. If you find you are emotionally depleted because of bullying at work, you might need to remove yourself from that environment immediately.

To any other adult out there who may be experiencing bullying at work, I understand you. I hope that by reading this, you are provided with support. I also hope you become well-informed with tips on what to do about it.

Originally published: October 23, 2019
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