5 Ways to Recover from Bullying in the Workplace
February 20, 2020
Last week, I wrote about bullying in the workplace, mostly focusing on dealing with bosses who bully. This week, I want to discuss the aftermath of dealing with a bully boss. Often, the targets of a bully boss get fed up when nothing changes, and they opt to leave. While a new job offers many potential opportunities including a supportive work environment, for those who have been bullied it can take time to recover. A colleague who was the target of a bully in her last place of work explained that it took her about a year to let go of the feelings she would be bullied again. Sherri Gordon - a bully prevention advocate - in her piece entitled, “5 Ways to Heal from Workplace Bullying” says, “workplace bullying often has a lasting impact on your overall mental and physical health.”
Gordon continues to note that recovery may be challenging. She argues that an event in a new job, such as making a mistake, can become a trigger for anxiety. Think about it. If you spent three years getting yelled at when you made a mistake, no matter how large or how small, when you make a mistake in your new position, you can’t help but brace yourself for what you experienced for three years. And it takes time to realize that your new boss does not operate that way. It takes time and effort to re-wire your brain.
While I am not a psychologist, let’s be clear, dealing with the aftermath of a bully boss is a form of Post-traumatic stress disorder. Gordon points out that targets of bullies experience panic attacks, eating disorders, depression, and even thoughts of suicide, in addition to the lesser symptoms which can include sleeplessness, stomach issues, headaches, and general stress conditions.
While time is important to the recovery process, Gordon recommends the following five things to help individuals recover from workplace bullying:
Make Your Health A Priority
Gordon suggests talking to a doctor and to find a counselor to help you sort out your experience. She also notes that bullying has a huge impact on you physically and it is not wise to ignore symptoms that can quickly escalate.
Find Emotional Support and Validation
Finding a support group can be a great option to help you feel less lonely, less isolated, and give you opportunities to feel validated by others, especially those who have experienced something similar.
Educate Yourself About Workplace Bullying
Read everything you can about workplace bullying to help you process what happened to you. Gordon also points out that educating yourself can also help you become an advocate for others.
Change How You View the Experience
Finding purpose in your life is important to letting go of what happened. As Gordon points out, targets of bullies often find themselves with a narrow view of life because the bullying has consumed their life – how could it not. Changing your thinking and finding purpose helps you to redirect your thoughts away from what happened and toward the future.
Find Closure and a New Beginning
Gordon argues, “Do not allow yourself to be preoccupied with what happened to you.” This will inevitably make you project this experience onto your new boss and new colleagues, which you do not want to do. Keep reminding yourself that you are a value and that you have an identity that has nothing to do with bullying. Let yourself be open to the new supportive environment.
Bullying is hard at any age – whether you are eight or thirty-eight – it does not matter. It is tough on one’s physical and mental health. When you have made the decision to leave a workplace with a bully (especially a bully boss), give yourself time to heal and recover from the experience, but also work hard to be open to accepting the new more open and supportive environment. Don’t let the bully from your old workplace creep in and taint your new work experience – you deserve better!
Anne Converse Willkomm
Assistant Clinical Professor
Department Head of Graduate Studies