Working with a bully (Get out of there now!)

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Bullying in the workplace is wrong and must be reported. We all know this. But what if the bully is your boss?

Half of all Australian employees will experience workplace bullying during their career, a study by the University of Wollongong found. There is a strong link between bullying and mental health.

Victoria’s anti-bullying legislation, known as Brodie’s Law, commenced in June 2011 and made serious bullying a crime punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

Brodie’s Law was introduced after the tragic suicide of a young woman, Brodie Panlock, who was subjected to relentless bullying in her workplace.

Experience taught me that the first thing you could do, if facing this kind of situation, is to get out of your job as soon as possible. It’s not worth it. It will be hard to report your own boss, in a small company when there’s no one to talk to. Start looking for another job today.

In the meantime, there are certain things you can do to help your own wellbeing.

First, is to take care of yourself. You need to be strong while you hang in there until you can definitely get out. If you’re feeling stressed or have anxiety symptoms, go to a quiet place on your own (even the toilet) and practice deep breathing for a few minutes. This will automatically calm your mind. You can also go out for a quick walk and get some fresh air. Put some headphones on and listen to your favourite tunes. Music has a powerful effect on our mood. Talk to a good friend or family member about this.

What worked for me is to face the bully. Never show them that you’re afraid or feel intimidated by them. Even if you’re having heart palpitations when you speak to them. Even if you have to run to hide in the toilet and cry out of stress after facing them. Don’t get emotional. Be rational and confident at all times. You are stronger than them because you control what happens in your life. And you deserve better than having to put up with these individuals.

We don’t know what happened to them in the past. They must have experienced bullying themselves or they must have had a horrible childhood or trauma. This doesn’t justify their behaviour, but it’s always good to have compassion for others.

It’s hard to deal with bullies because you live with uncertainty. You don’t know what’s going to happen the next minute. If they come to work in a bad mood -most of the time- they take it upon their employees. The bullies I encountered in different workplaces were mostly very smart people. Manipulative, self-centred, delusional and mean. With little respect for others. Sometimes they will go from being a horrible monster shouting to someone to the most charming person cheering and congratulating someone at work. Extreme moods.

The challenge I encountered when I decided to face the bully is that generates a lot of anxiety. I’m a quiet and calm person that doesn’t like confrontation. So these situations put me way out of my comfort zone. I had insomnia, heart palpitations, headaches etc but I felt that it was the right thing for me to do. And after I faced them, the victory was mine.

Your main objective is to get out, remember this everyday. You’ll be out of this miserable job very soon. But in the meantime, it’s good to learn how to deal with these people, because you might find them again in life -believe me, they are everywhere.

A good strategy is to laugh (when they’re not watching you). I grab my headphones and listen to Bullshit by Dune Rats and I can’t help to think about my boss.

This will pass too. You can overcome a difficult situation and the experience will make you stronger. There are bigger, better plans waiting for you round the corner. Next month, next week, tomorrow. You will move on and keep this as an anecdote to tell your friends on a full moon night, enjoying a beer or two.

Some useful information about bullying

Take A Stand Against Bullying

Reach Out – Bullying factsheet

Taking care of your mental health in the workplace. A guide for employees

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