This is NOT Normal!: Workplace Bullying and Trauma

Confession –

I used to hate going into work every day. I absolutely dreaded it!

It felt like I was going into battle every time I’d walk off of the elevator in the morning, sit down at my desk and log into my computer. As a result, regardless of my successes and despite how may times my measurable accomplishments surpassed my counterparts’, I began to question myself.

Did I choose the right career path for myself?

Am I really good at what I do?

I thought, maybe I needed to work harder. This is how it is and I needed to accept it like everyone else seemed to do. I put more into my work and put on the brave face as often as I could.

This was not an effective long term solution.

It led to burnout and me spending my spare time planning my exit. After seeing more than 50% of our staff leave in less than a year, I quickly realized that this wasn’t normal and wanted out!

Remaining in an environment like this results in a form of PTSD known as workplace trauma. Sometimes this is caused by a tragedy that happens at work like those who worked near the Twin Towers during 9/11. For me and many others, it was bullying and sabotage.

Workplace bullying affects 96% of our workforce and 62% of employees admit to having experience with workplace sabotage.

Sadly these practices are nothing new. Traumatized managers, swimming in denial, continue these toxic traditions creating a cycle of trauma widely accepted as “part of the job.” It is not a part of the job.

If you’re reading this and can relate, let me be crystal clear:

There is NOTHING normal about being publicly degraded, alienated or ostracized. There is nothing normal about your hard work and contributions being minimized or someone else getting the credit for them.

There is nothing normal about passive aggressiveness, sabotage or intimidation. There is nothing normal about any form of workplace bullying.

If you can admit that you’ve been a victim of this, there is help.

First, make a habit of documenting everything. Remember to identify the 5 W’s in your write-ups (Who? What? When? Where? And Why?). Save and print any supporting emails, instant messages, etc. This will be helpful in any disciplinary conversations, legal disputes or challenges collecting unemployment insurance.

Second, acknowledge to yourself that you are not horrible. Hold fast to your confidence. Stop looking for external validation. It’s clear you’re not going to get it there.

Each day reflect on the good you did, the value you added and pat yourself on the back. You are amazing and it’s about time you told yourself that!

Third, make a list of every project, measurable accomplishment and impactful idea you had. This will be helpful with updating your resume. If you came up with an idea and it was rejected and/or stolen, write it down anyway! It could prove useful one day.

Never give up!

Fourth, go back and check your current employee paperwork. Usually, when new hires join an organization they sign restrictive paperwork (i.e. non-competes, non-disclosures, etc.) that may hinder their ability to work for certain companies. It will be helpful to know, prior to entertaining new opportunities, if you’re under any of these restrictions.

Fifth, connect with people outside of your manager’s circle of influence. Build your network by attending events and reconnecting with old friends and colleagues. You don’t need to wait until a job is posted to apply for it. Get in on the ground floor by connecting with recruiters, managers and other influencers away from work.

A bad job, manager or organization isn’t the end of your career. Stay positive and push forward.

If you’re an employer and believe that this is “just business,” this kind of behavior is traumatic for employees and inflicting trauma on your people is NEVER good business.

Continuing these practices ultimately lead to a declining employer culture and brand (meaning that no one will want to work for you), bad press, millions in turnover costs, expensive lawsuits, and serious reductions in productivity, innovation and revenue.

It’s simple. Be mindful of your ego. Treat your people fairly. Let respect for all guide your business practices and be brave enough to challenge toxic behavior wherever you see it.

Let’s rebuild the workplace together.

Thank you for reading my post. My name is Pamela Shand and I want the best for you in your career. It is my hope that you find everything you read here helpful in advancing your career. If you did, feel free to follow my blog for future articles. I regularly write on resume building, interview success and various ways to unravel common and not-so-common career snags.

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