In previous articles, I’ve discussed antisocial personalities and bullying within a work environment – visit my newsletter homepage ‘Motivational Moments’ if you missed them.
In this post, I want to share some advice on what to do if you’re suffering abuse, bullying, or intimidation of any kind in a work-based setting. This information is also useful to share with anyone whom you know is struggling with this issue.
I’ll also share some of my personal experiences of narcissistic bullying, which I’ve never shared publicly before, in the hope that telling some of my story may help others.
1. Write EVERYTHING down
Keep diary notes, including what happened, dates, times, names, witnesses, and how it made you feel. Make your notes as detailed as possible. If you want to take things further at some point, evidence is crucial. Also, it’s difficult to remember details weeks or months down the line, so keep a note of EVERYTHING.
In addition, create an evidence file including emails, copies of texts, or anything else that you think is pertinent.
2. Tell someone
Speak to another manager, someone in HR or a union representative – a person whom you trust. I realise this can be extremely difficult. You may think you won’t get believed or that your job will be in jeopardy.
I didn’t speak up when I got bullied, and it’s my biggest regret. My bullying went on for almost two years, but at the time, I didn’t think anyone would believe me, not to mention the fact that I was scared of losing my job. Adding to the mix was the fact I was an HR professional, and then (I’m not sure if it’s true now), there was an unspoken rule not to ‘make waves’ as ‘that stuff has a habit of following you’.
Looking back, there’s a good chance that nothing would have been done about my abuser(s), but burying my head in the sand and hoping it would stop further fuelled the bad behaviour and severely affected my physical and mental well-being.
Now, I believe it’s better to stand up for yourself and deal with things quickly. I teach my clients to do the same. In such circumstances, you may not get the result you’d hoped, but at least you won’t be living in limbo waiting for the proverbial hammer to drop. Taking control of what you can in situations such as these is critical to your well-being.
3. Speak to ACAS
ACAS is a free government-run service. If you have trouble at work, you can call them free of charge for advice and guidance on various topics. They are great at giving impartial advice. However, you must tell them the truth and miss nothing out.
They can only help you if you’re honest with them – often, people will withhold one thing they are embarrassed about that completely changes the advice that the advisor would have given had they known about it.
4. Raise a grievance
Every employee has the right to raise a grievance. There are strict legal guidelines around the process. However, you will need evidence – facts, dates, witnesses, etc.
Your company will likely have their own grievance procedure, which you are entitled to a copy of. If they don’t, or even if you want some more information on the legal aspects of grievances, visit the ACAS website here.
5. Leave (sooner rather than later)
If you’ve gone through the grievance process and don’t get a satisfactory outcome, or you have exhausted other options, it’s time to leave. Sometimes, you just have to know when to quit and cut your losses.
If you’re dealing with a boss or colleague with an antisocial personality disorder, their behaviour will NEVER change; undoubtedly, it will only get worse (narcissists cannot change). Leaving will likely be THE best thing you could ever do for your physical and mental health.
For anyone who hasn’t gone through the traumatic experience of bullying, they may not like that I urge people to leave. Their advice might be, ‘Stay! Stick it out! Why should you leave? Don’t let them win’. However, psychologically and physically damage caused by staying too long can last for many years, and absolutely no job is worth that.
6. Set boundaries
If you don’t want to leave, then it’s crucial to set strong boundaries:
Emotional boundaries to protect your emotional well-being:
- I’m not comfortable talking about my appearance
- I prefer not to talk about my relationships
- I’d rather we didn’t talk poorly about others
Time Boundaries to protect the use and misuse of your time:
- I can come, but I can’t stay long.
- I’m going to do ‘this’ first, and then I’ll join you.
- Come and meet me here.
Mental Boundaries to protect your thoughts and value system:
- You have the right to your opinion; I have the right to mine
- You don’t have to agree with me, but please speak to me in a respectful way
- I don’t like it when you ….
Physical Boundaries to protect your personal space:
- Please don’t sit so close to me.
- Please don’t touch me.
- I’d prefer it if we met over Zoom.
It’s never too late to set new boundaries. However, it is vital to remember that when we do (particularly where we haven’t set them previously) the people who have the most to lose will be the most upset. Abusers will not like it, but you must stick to them religiously and be consistent.
I’ve experienced first-hand what happens when you stay in a toxic environment for too long, hoping it will get better. You lose yourself. You lose you; your spark, your happiness, your personal relationships, your self-esteem AND your confidence.
No job and no person are worth that. NONE!
My biggest regrets are that I didn’t set boundaries, I didn’t tell anyone, and I didn’t leave sooner.
Luckily, my experience was many years ago now, and I’m happy to say that I have recovered; but it will always be there as a constant reminder to take care of myself first.
It hasn’t always been easy to overcome such a traumatic experience. However, one thing I know for sure is that I wouldn’t be doing the job I love so much had I not gone through that ordeal.
To make sense of what happened to me and to turn a truly horrendous experience into a positive, I’ve had to do a complete reframe. I now use the knowledge I’ve gained through more than a decade of study and research into antisocial personality disorders to help and support others going through the same or similar situations.
Furthermore, I’ve had the privilege of helping thousands of people to live happier and healthier lives through my coaching and training – something I once could only have dreamt of.
The moral – good things can come out of bad situations, but that requires facing hard truths, reframing, educating yourself, getting support and controlling what’s in your control.
To be frank, I have deliberated long and hard as to whether I should share my story. However, one of my values is authenticity. My life has not been a bed of roses by any means, and if I can help just one person by telling what happened to me, it is worth it.
If there are any topics that you’d like me to cover in upcoming articles, I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me a firstname.lastname@example.org.