Recovery from Workplace Bullying
Having worked with scores of people as they tried to recover from bullying at their workplaces, I’ve seen some of them doing well, and some not so well. I noticed that their recovery from workplace bullying was related to the habits they displayed. This article describes those habits, with the aim of showing you what to do less of, and what to do more of, to get yourself out of that hole that bullying puts you in, to make you happier and more successful, and to reduce the long-term damage that workplace bullying causes.
Some of these things are obvious, some are not. Some are easy and some are hard. I hope you’ll find some tips on how to discipline yourself to take a step up the ladder instead of staying still or going down.
It may be that you think you’re unable to do them because you’re trapped by illness, post-traumatic stress disorder or something like it, which makes you behave the way you do, and which makes you unable to behave the way you wish you could. While anxiety related illnesses contribute to these bad habits, the habits can also contribute to the anxiety. It becomes a self-perpetuating situation, and the only person who can break the cycle is you. If you find yourself stuck in a loop, it might be a bit harder to accept and apply these ideas, and you’re going to have to trust me that taking just one point on board, and doing it a tiny bit, is going to contribute to your recovery. No-one is forcing you to do any of these things. It’s up to you to decide what to take and what to leave.
If you have been bullied, ask yourself, do you want to get over it? How much? Does any part of you not want to get over it?
Some of these ideas will challenge you. How easy it is to force yourself to adopt them depends, to a significant extent, on how much you want to get over the bullying. If you would try anything, try some of these ideas. Some people are obviously hurt as a result of being bullied, so much that they cannot see beyond the situation they find themselves in, and they relive the bullying scenario for so long that they eventually damage themselves. For some, it seems more important to hang onto the bullying than move away from it. There are others who were just as hurt, who do get back to normal, or better than normal, who force themselves out of the hole. There is another group of people who consciously altered the course of their lives to use what they had learned from being bullied, to try and make the world a better place.
After a workplace bullying experience that finished in the Court of Appeal in London, people started asking me to help them with their cases. New regulations in 2007 concerning tribunal representatives without legal qualifications meant I had to, and did, set up as a "regulated claims management company". I called my business “Humane Resources”. Over the six year period I handled about 60 cases. Some clients were still employed and wanted help composing a grievance. Some had finished their cases and wanted me to defend them against costs applications, and then there was everything in between. My results were broadly in line with national statistics at the time. I met well over a hundred people and saw how they coped, with some doing well and others not so well. The remainder of this article is a distilled version of their experiences, with guidance about what to attempt and what to avoid.
The experience of being bullied at work in all cases had an initial negative effect. Most of you will know that bullying causes stress and leads to medical and practical difficulties such as losing a job. Tim Field wrote an awful lot about this in his book and this website. This article is concerned with the longer term effect of bullying on targets, and especially the effect of the target’s own actions or inactions, which can help or hinder their return to normality.
I have met people who seemed to be thriving: people who were in the longer term wiser and stronger as a result of their experience. These were typically people who, in spite of facing extreme personal adversity, acted predominantly for the public interest rather than for themselves, and they sought restoration rather than revenge. They displayed exceptional dignity, thoughtfulness and kindness. Some of these people completely moved on from the bullying, while others did something to help the anti-bullying cause in some way, such as through campaigning or writing a book.
I have also met a minority of people whose quality of life had been severely damaged by the bullying experience. Their characters had changed, and their social networks and in some cases family lives had broken down. Those who were determined to fight at any cost, especially where they knew that the fight they had picked was unwinnable, or even when it was over and lost, generally suffered long-term damage.
Somewhere in between these extremes was a group of people who were just "stuck". People who pursued the ends of justice through this country’s systems had their recoveries slowed or cut short. They became more cautious than before, and many had no alternative but to live on with unresolved historical problems.
Although I have met some heroes, this article is not about heroes and cowards, but the personal strategies that different people took in their post-bullying situations, and the effects those strategies had on the individuals. It is about personal well-being.
Ultimately, irrespective of the nature or magnitude of the bullying, your exit from psychological abuse, your recovery or otherwise, comes down to the way you think and the habits you apply.
Most bullied people think about the bullying long after it happened, processing the information over and over, and categorising its practical effects as "negative". We can feel badly done to, wronged, unfairly treated, and we become indignant. We can’t understand why it happened, we want the wrongs putting right, and we know that that may be impossible, so we get frustrated and angry.
While of course the bullying is what somebody else did, with no good reason, to hurt us, these thoughts, the negative feelings, the sense of injustice, the indignation, the frustration and the anger – these are without exception thoughts going on in our minds. We are continuing the bullying in our heads, by reliving the dissonance between what happened, and what should have happened.
First I am going to discuss some of the things that the most damaged people had done or continued to do, some of which made their situation worse or inescapable. Before I do this I have to say that if you are doing one or more of these things, you are not “wrong” and you’re not “bad” and you’re certainly not alone. Most of these actions are a natural, logical response to bullying. In some cases, you have to do these things. There is no point beating yourself up about it – actually, beating yourself up about your situation is something that holds back your recovery. I’m raising these points because if you do them too much or too often or for too long, you risk becoming someone you had never expected to be.
I say this because whenever I find someone with a grievance that has turned sour, putting all their resources into trying to turn things around, I see a person fighting with everything they have to keep a job which has obviously become the worst job they have ever had, or could ever have. Why fight to keep the worst job in town, when you could get a better job without the emotional damage?
If you drop your favourite porcelain vase on the floor and it breaks into a hundred pieces, you don’t glue it back together and expect it to be beautiful again. You get another one.
Similarly, if you’re bullied at work, there comes a point when you have to accept that your dream job is now never going to be the same again. If your job has become so intolerable that you have to try and sort it out with official procedures, it is time to start looking for a new, better job.
What is a “better” job for a target of bullying? More pay? More responsibility? New openings? I think everyone knows that the most important feature is that there’s no bullying!
Hate is a toxic emotion. Hate eats you away inside. Forget what the bullies deserve, and think about what you deserve, about what you need. When someone has tried to destroy your reputation, your income stream, your self-worth, you need positive emotions to build you back up again. You don’t need to generate even more negativity from within yourself. So the opposite of hate is love, but it’s hard to love your bully isn’t it?
But you can feel pity for their crassness; you can feel sympathy for their other victims. You can treat them with fairness. You can remember they are human. None of this diminishes the wrongness of what they did, but it can save you from spoiling yourself. At the very least, try to avoid hateful thoughts.
Your bullying experience might have led you to learn about psychopathy, sociopaths, narcissistic personality disorder and so on. However, if you start obsessing about their mental state, you’re using your resources on the bully, and not on yourself. If you get too hooked on your diagnosis of them, you risk putting it into a grievance and giving them an opportunity to criticise you for it. However sincerely you might believe that your last boss was afflicted with antisocial personality disorder, the fact is, that in the absence of a diagnosis by a forensic psychiatrist, it is not an assertion you can safely make outside your home.
Tim wrote much about the mental disorders of bullies. The value of this information is helping you understand why bullies behave as they do. Use it for that, but at the same time, limit its use to that. Identify their actions and habits, but leave the psychoanalysis to a professional.
When you are innocently targeted, one advantage you still have over the bully is that you occupy the moral high ground. The moment you resort to revenge and retribution, you give up the moral high ground and get down to their level. If you are willing to do to them what they did to you, how are you – or any independent observer – going to differentiate between your actions and the bully’s actions?
Revenge and retribution are the use of unreasonable means to achieve an end that you – but very few others – think is justified. Put another way, it is bullying. Of course, legitimate use of a grievance or an appropriate procedure, to try and resolve a problem fairly, is not revenge or retribution.
One form of revenge is public humiliation. It’s very easy these days to start a blog or a website or to send email circulars, naming and slating the people you believe are responsible for your predicament. You can openly cc an email to someone who ought to be doing something about it, and shame them up in the process. However, if you take this approach then, ultimately, one of the reputations that will get tarnished is yours. You will provoke your bully into taking action against you and this time, thanks to your efforts to shame them, they will make it seem legitimate. If you want to pursue a legal case against your bully, take it through the courts and keep it in the courts, and follow the rules of the courts.
It is understandable when you have just realised what is happening, and it also makes sense if you’re preparing for a hearing or other significant event. In that case, spend as much time as you have to. But as the months and years pass, it is not healthy to spend all your time on the case if the case is over, or if the only reason is that you cannot stop yourself. If you have tried to distract yourself and failed, then it’s something you need to tell your GP about.
Eating, sleeping, being in contact with other people are all essential activities, and eventually you need to fit work and recreation into your day too. You will be well on the way to a full recovery when you spend no time at all thinking about your case.
It’s accepted as okay to point the finger of blame at your bully, for bullying you. It was not your fault. Blaming yourself for the bullying is not only inappropriate, but in doing so, you teach yourself there is something wrong with you. Don’t do it.
Blaming the bully is okay in so far as you rightly absolve yourself of blame. But do it too much or for too long and you sow the seeds of hatred and revenge. Take responsibility for your actions. Make allowances for other people’s actions. If your significant other is distant or does not understand you, do not blame them for the way you feel. They are suffering too. They are reacting to the changes in you.
If you are prone to blame others, over time, the number of people you think are responsible for your situation will increase. You will slowly relinquish your ability to help yourself. You give away control of the way you feel to whoever you blame.
What good does blame do anyway? What matters is the situation you are in right now, and how you’re going to get out of it, and ultimately you are responsible for that. Any time you spend blaming others for your situation is time NOT spent on getting yourself out of it. Try to forget about blame altogether.
Victims of natural disasters have no-one to blame for their predicament. If you had no-one to blame for yours, would that make it easier, or harder for you to accept what you have suffered? If you eliminated the bully from your thoughts, could you focus better on your recovery? Would it make it any harder to get better?
Does your recovery depend on holding the bully to account? Remember that justice cannot be guaranteed, so separate your quests for recovery and justice.
I have heard people say: “My life is on hold until this court case is over” - “I MUST win. I will take it to the supreme court if necessary” - “No, I don’t have legal expenses insurance. I don’t know I will pay the costs if I lose my case.”
How much of your life and assets are you prepared to sacrifice to prove that you were right and they were wrong? What is it worth to you? What is it worth for the public at large?
In my own case, you could not have stopped me going to the court of appeal. It had become a tangible cause that I felt was important enough to fight for, and I was the only person who could do it. I have seen other parties appeal because the judgment in their case was unfair, because there was something fundamentally wrong with the decision. I have also seen parties start appeals simply because they did not like the fact that they had lost.
Whether you think your case is destined to improve the lot of workers in the UK, or if you are taking on your old employer simply to get paid what you believe you are owed, do not proceed until you have thought carefully about the effect it will have on you. Any legal battle is likely to be more stressful, more adversarial and more costly than the matter you’re complaining about. Can you stand to lose? What are the benefits of winning? What effect will the process have on you?
If you decide to proceed – remember that you are not your case. If you lose, you want to still have yourself to fall back on. Do not be like the tiny minority of people who invested all of themselves in their case, and then lost, and lost themselves in the process.
There is a moment of enlightenment for any target of bullying when they finally realise that this is the explanation for their predicament. It almost comes as a relief to have a name for what’s going on. Nobody wants to be a target, and most people do not want to be a victim.
But there is a learned personality trait called “Victim Mentality” where a person tends to think and speak and act as if he is the victim of the negative actions of others, even where there is no clear evidence of such actions.
We are entitled to feel sorry for ourselves, and we wish that others could see things our way. I have worked out that we are free from victim mentality so long as we are honest with ourselves about the nature and extent of what has happened to us.
There is a risk, even among people who are actually bullied, to become “victims”. Victim mentality starts to creep in where stories are embellished. Anyone who thinks that their experience has not been tough enough as it was, who feels the need to dramatize it and exaggerate or add on things, is hoping to generate undeserved pity for themselves. If this starts to show, observers might start to wonder if the person was ever bullied at all.
I have seen a person who seemed to crave being oppressed, deliberately misbehaving so as to prompt retaliation, and then, when it happened, wallowing in self-pity. Anyone who is prone to exaggerating or deliberately prompting adverse treatment against themselves would be advised to talk to their GP about it.
If you want to persuade someone else to understand your point of view, or if you want to predict somebody’s next move, you need to understand their point of view. Believing they are wrong is not enough. You have to try and understand what they believe, and why. What do they want to happen? What do they want to hear?
So, if you are taking your story of bullying to a union, HR manager or tribunal or court, you must make your story appeal to them. What will they be interested in? If you only ever think of your opinion, your version of events and your rights, you will be failed by the people whose needs you have not taken into account.
- Think about the last big ticket item you bought – like a smartphone. The reason you chose that one was that the people who made it thought about what you wanted, and they made their product a collection of features, with a price tag, calculated to appeal to you. And it worked.
With that in mind, how are you going to make your HR manager buy your story, or your next employer buy your services?
One trait that almost all bullied people eventually have in common, is a highly detailed knowledge of events, often which comes together at some epiphany moment when they just start writing it all down. This is a cathartic exercise and it straightens out the facts of their experience. It is useful and enlightening. The problem arises later when the same bullied person is unable to describe a single event without referring to a host of others. This is definitely not a blameworthy condition – it is a common trait for people with hypervigilance. It can be useful, but not in every situation.
It is important to consider how much information another person can take in before they are overloaded or bored. Letters need to make their point on the first page. Statements need to refer to relevant events, and not irrelevant ones. Written descriptions need to be concise and avoid repetition. Written descriptions need to be concise and avoid repetition.
In my experience, where bully targets failed to get their point across in situations where they really needed to, it was usually because they said too many words, and rarely because they said too few.
If you can’t take in all the habits above, but you want the same effect, then bang your head on a brick wall. It gets you nowhere and it hurts. The good news is that the way to stop the pain is simple: Stop banging your head.
Now I want to talk about some of the habits and traits displayed by people who seemed to be coping well, and whose returns toward normality was impressive.
This includes seeking help from appropriate sources, and there are many. But sometimes, they aren’t as helpful as you might have hoped:
- Trade Unions – We all know what they are supposed to do, and some are really good at it, but sometimes they have political reasons not to help the way you want, or at all. 70% my clients were in trade unions that would not help them.
- Human Resources Professionals – They’re supposed to know about employment law, and they have a professional code of conduct which should mean they are interested in making sure you get fair treatment. However, one role that many think they have is to protect their employing organisation from troublemakers. Each grievance is a potential legal case against them, and HR’s instinctive response in many cases I have seen, in simple terms, had them picking up where the bully left off. HR’s actions became the bullied employee’s main problem.
- Citizen’s Advice - Impartial and informed, but might not have resources to get deeply involved. If you’re lucky, they might represent you, but they are better off as a source of advice, as their name suggests.
- Lawyers and Employment Consultants – Some are excellent, some are frightening. They all cost money (unless you have legal expenses insurance), and there is no guarantee of success.
- Doctors, Counsellors, Psychologists, Psychiatrists - Medical professionals deal with illness. Let them do that. They cannot help with your employment or legal disputes. Counsellors are good, like their talking therapies, because they get you to help yourself.
- Family & Friends are essential but you have to remember that they might be just as hurt as you, and even more in the dark than you. So the help they can give may be in the form of sympathy and morale support.
The effectiveness of these different sources of help varies from case to case and you have to take them as you find them. If they are definitely helping, then take advantage. If you have reason to suspect their motives or you sense they are working against you, do not expect, let alone rely on them for, help.
But even if you have a good support network, and especially if you don’t, your emotional and other well-being ultimately needs your efforts to solve your problems.
An easy way to think of this is to picture yourself in a deep hole. The bully put you there. People at the top can pass down a rope, but you have to climb it, or at least tie it around your waist.
The fact that solving your problems requires your effort is not something to be sad about. It is just something you have to believe. When you believe it, you can start helping yourself. Remember that the one person who should have your best interests at heart is you.
Staying in the hole is easy; Getting out is hard. It might be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It demands effort, mental focus and, perhaps the most difficult part is that when you have failed for the hundredth time, you have to be prepared to try again.
Stop worrying about what others might think or expect, and what other people are up to. Stop talking about what you wish would happen, and start making it happen. Every day, do something – however small – that moves you away from the bullying. A tiny bit every day is better than a lot at some indeterminate future moment.
If you are depressed or anxious or behaving in a way that’s worrying you or your family, admit it to yourself and see your GP as a priority. You will not be the first patient they have seen with your condition. They know how it happens and they know ways to help you get over it. Let them guide you to a more healthy state of mind.
If you have not tried this, you will be amazed at how it makes you feel. Whether it is getting a part time job in the voluntary sector, or giving a stranger a smile they didn’t deserve, making free, positive contributions to others’ lives can be fulfilling and uplifting.
Don’t forget your family. Your troubles have been a burden for them. Show them that you care.
Get in touch with other people who have been bullied. Giving away your experience to those who will benefit can be self-affirming. They will help you too.
Earlier I mentioned the need to be “completely free in the present moment”. To be completely free in the present moment, you must drop whatever is keeping you in the past:
Drop the bullying. Accept what it was, accept that you have experienced a loss, and that you are where you are.
When our reputation or job is being killed off as a result of bullying, we think that because it should not happen, it ought to be possible to fix it. We think that we or someone helping us can sort things out and make things as they were before. Some of us go on thinking this way even after we’ve lost our jobs.
Then we think about all those things which, if they had been different, would have prevented it. The “Would have – Could Have – Should Haves.” Cut out these thoughts. Thinking about what could have happened will not change anything. Start thinking about what you’re doing now, and what you’re going to do next.
Be positive, however grim and inappropriate it might feel. One thing to be positive about is that you are now actually free from the abusive relationship. He or she no longer has an actual hold on your life. If you are suffering from nightmares or flashbacks or recurring thoughts of the bully, it is tempting to think that he or she does still have a hold on your life. Remind yourself that you are free from the actual presence of the bully, and you can work through these things. You have to be patient with yourself and believe that it will stop.
Living in the present moment can be an alien concept to people who have been psychologically traumatised. There is a book – the first in a series – which I recommend, called “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle. If you’re stuck in some moment in the past, get a copy, read it, and do the exercises in it.
The last person in the world who deserves your forgiveness is your bully, right?
Don’t worry, you’re not giving into them, and you’re not giving them anything they don’t deserve. What I’m talking about is a way to get you happier and on top of things. One thing that will always hold you down in the hole is resentment and anger. These keep you bitter, and bitterness is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.
Forgiveness IS NOT a way to make the other person change their ways and be nice to you. If you actually said to an archetypal sociopathic bully: “I forgive you” he or she will see it as a weakness in you, to be exploited. So you don’t have to do that. Forgiveness is a way to regain control of your own life.
- With this form of forgiveness, you don’t have to pardon your bully, or be reconciled with them. You don’t have to condone or excuse or minimise or tolerate their behaviour. You can forgive someone in your mind, without contacting them.
- Reflect on what they have done, and how you have reacted, and how your life has been affected. Don’t minimise it. Remember just how painful and unfair it was. Picture their actions just the way you felt them to be.
- Then, with this in mind, actively choose to forgive them. Make a deal with yourself to do that.
When you do, you take charge of the way you feel. You lessen your capacity for feeling resentment. You stop defining your life around what the bully did to you, and you begin to define it around what you choose to think about.
I have already talked about this but it’s so important I’ll mention it again. I’m not suggesting that you should not seek justice, but what I am saying is that you need to recover, irrespective of whether you obtain justice. The quest for justice can be so tough, so adversarial and so unfair that you end up having more to recover from, than just the original bullying.
You think you are fighting for justice. Actually, you’re fighting for money. That is all that the tribunals and courts can award you if they agree with your point of view. And the prospect of winning depends on some factors beyond your control.
No one gives up their effort to earn money because they have bought a lottery ticket. Similarly, just because you have filled out the tribunal claim form does not mean you have won. You have to keep on Living.
So if you are still fighting, remind yourself of these things every day:
- My case is only about money
- My life is not my case, and my case is not my life.
- I am far more important than my case.
- I will live a full and happy life even if I lose my case.
- Here is how I will be happy even if I lose:
- (You have to fill in the blank here…)
You might already have done this, but if you’re still in the bully job, take note: If your job has become worse than worthless, dump it. Stop hanging on to the dream you had when you first applied for it. It will never be the same again. Others are out there and they need your skills. Believe it. They want you and they will pay you and you can make a living in a place that is not toxic.
If you are worried about getting a good reference, do temporary work through an agency. This will put some distance between your last job and your next one.
Should you tell your new employer about the bullying, at the interview?
- Only if they ask.
- Don’t call it bullying, but describe VERY BRIEFLY what happened. Do it in such a way as to avoid openly judging your former employer.
- If you don’t know how to address the matter, get advice from a recruitment specialist.
- The fact is, if a potential employer does not want to employ you because you were picked on by a bully, you don’t want to work there anyway.
Workplace bullying teaches you who your friends are, and who they are not. Stick with the people who stuck with you, and with new people you meet along the way, who you like. Don’t worry about the rest.
What activity would you do if a shortage of money, or whatever difficulty you have - was not an obstacle? - Biking across the country? Painting? Making Music? Sailing? An evening class? Think about what you have always wanted to do. Obviously it has to be realistic in the sense that “flying to the moon” is physically impossible, but you could have “climb Mount Everest”. It does not have to be grandiose – it might be to plant your garden with flowers. You’ll know what it is that you want to do. It has to be something for you, and it mustn’t be directly connected with your bullying experience.
When you have worked out what it is, write down your ambition, and put a date by which you hope to achieve it, and then an earlier date – within the next few weeks – by which you will have actively started working toward that goal. Complete the contract you’re making with yourself with the words “I promise myself to start working towards this goal. Love, Me.” Sign it. Mount it on your fridge door or somewhere you will see it every day.
This activity that you would do if not for the obstacles you can currently see is something you should be aiming to do. If you have not made a “to do” list, make one and set yourself some priorities. Work through the list.
Activities will put you in touch with other people who share your passion. These people will become your friends.
Even if it seems like this activity is a distraction from what you know you “should” be doing, do it often enough and it will become normal. You will realise that this is what you now do, and when people ask, you will say “I am” a photographer or a glider pilot or whatever you have become.
You and I know that you cannot run away from every responsibility, but…
- Don’t do something only because others expect you to do it;
- If your friends drain you, use you or they are unsupportive, or they only get in touch when they want something from you – then you don’t need them, so don’t have them.
- If you cannot avoid them (because it’s a family member for example), then get some professional help and learn how to handle them. Barry Winbolt’s advice on “Difficult People” ” is a good starting point.
About 80% of employment tribunal claims do not make it to a full hearing. The main reason is that they get settled, which means the employer pays the employee a sum of money, and both sign an agreement to treat this payment as the end of the dispute. Just under half the claims I took on ended this way. There are all sorts of reasons to end a claim with a compromise agreement, and the main one, the most clinical reason, is that it is sensible to take the money that’s on offer now, with no risk, than to gamble it all for more money later. A more personal reason to take the compromise agreement is the attractiveness of getting out of the fight. Most of my clients who compromised their claims saw it as a clean break away from a dirty situation.
A man who demonstrated many of the bad habits on this page, and few of the good ones, showed me the real cost of an obstinate refusal to compromise. He was determined to fight his former employer. A few months before his hearing was due, they offered him a very substantial sum of money, a life changing amount, to end his claim. His adviser at the time urged him to accept it, but he refused to take any sum, on principle, saying he wasn’t doing it for the money.He went on to be partly successful at his hearing, and was compensated accordingly, but the former employer then applied for costs, on the basis that the claimant had refused an offer that would have made the three week hearing unnecessary. The tribunal agreed, and the man ended up paying back all his compensation and then much more. Even though he won part of his claim, he lost out on the very thing he was actually fighting for, whether he liked it or not, which was money. Naturally he also lost out on the thing he thought he was fighting for, which was justice. After a failed attempt at an appeal, he was broken, bitter and impervious to any form of assistance.
Compromise does not only apply to legal cases. Don't compromise your dignity or moral principles, but certainly, at least consider giving up any journey toward a dubious goal that has big risks associated with it.
I have already mentioned doing activities you like. I really mean this. If you’re wondering what sort of activity might be right for you, then I suggest choose something creative or vibrant. Doing creative things brings serious psychological benefits.
What creative activity would you like to do? Poet - Musician - Sportsperson - Diplomat - Adventurer – Inventor?
Creativity comes in all shapes. Just thinking of these ideas is an example of the practical, problem-solving creativity we need to engage in every day. There’s no “best” way to be creative. The important thing is to decide which style suits you and to put it to work for you. The point is that creativity shows itself in a wide range of activities. The only mistake you can make when it comes to creativity is to think that you don’t have any.
According to Ebersole & Hess, creative expression may give you:
- Balance and order
- Sense of control over the external world
- Something positive out of a bad experience
- Maintains your sense of integrity
- Resolutions to conflicts
- Clearer thoughts and feelings
- Improved well-being and personal growth
It’s fair to say that choosing and doing some sort of creative activity does not do you any harm. There is no risk to your well-being. On the other hand, the potential and actual benefits of it are really without limit.
Bullying is something unreasonable and uninvited, done to us by someone else. We are not to blame for it. When caught out in this way, when we’re hurt and our boundaries have been damaged, it’s natural and reasonable to become defensive and be negative. But if we stay negative for too long, we harm ourselves. In extreme cases this can lead to:
- Chronic, pervasive, debilitating depression, bitterness, hostility and anger;
- Loss of trust in people and especially authority;
- Lasting damage to family and/or social networks and
- an unsatisfactory employment situation.
By doing our best to avoid extended negativity, and by taking control of our thoughts, we can hope to achieve personal contentment and inner calm, happiness, kindness, trust, courage, and self-reliance. We want a stable family and valuable friendships, and a job that we’re happy to have, and freedom from abuse. We can approach this state if we:
- Admit to ourselves if we’re ill, and get appropriate medical help
- Learn to accept our loss
- Learn to forgive those responsible
- Do more of what we enjoy with people we like
- Make our life independent of any quest for justice
- Live in present moment and be creative.
Remember that these ideas are not a strict prescription to live by. I have compiled them because I had the privilege of becoming close to many people whose lives had been blighted by workplace bullying. None of them had all the bad habits, none of them had all the good habits. Each of us is an individual with our own unique experiences, and what is right for one person may not suit another. What I have learned, though, is that in the main, the things I have listed as “bad habits” are very easy to adopt even though they have a negative impact. Conversely, some of the things I have called “good habits” are counter intuitive, and all are difficult, but they do have a positive effect. The good news is that even if you are committed to an ongoing dispute, there is nothing to stop you building on the good habits you have already got, and heading toward where you really want to be.
(This text is adapted for Bullyonline.org from the 2014 Annual Tim Field Memorial Lecture and is given in good faith and without warranty)