You can kill a person only once, but when you humiliate him, you kill him many times over. – The Talmud
In their book, Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, the authors say that “Mobbing is an emotional assault. It begins when an individual becomes the target of disrespectful and harmful behavior. Through innuendo, rumors, and public discrediting, a hostile environment is created in which one individual gathers others to willingly, or unwillingly, participate in continuous malevolent actions to force a person out of the workplace.”
This book addresses workplace bullying in detail, making the case for how it affects the individual, from forcing them out of their position to causing them so much stress that they are no longer able to work at all.
In a previous article, I described workplace bullying, or mobbing, and talked about its effects on the mobbee (the person being bullied). Mobbing has been around for a long time, but the affect it has on the person being mobbed has only been recognized in the last 20 years or so as causing post-traumatic stress. It is not unusual for people in these highly stressful environments to suffer heart attacks, strokes, or even develop cancer. Some people have committed suicide as a result of the emotional onslaught.
When people are under attack emotionally, it is difficult for them to be productive. As a consequence, it adds to the perception that they cannot do their job.
Losing control of emotions only backfires on the person who has been or is being mobbed. “At the very time you have been made to feel completely worthless and loathed and utterly crazy, you must muster the poise, confidence, and control to respond to repeated accusations of misconduct, find a new job, and perhaps even pursue a lawsuit” (Mobbed!, by Janice Harper, PhD).
What to Do as a Victim of Workplace Bullying
If you are a victim of workplace bullying, there are some things that you can do to protect yourself emotionally:
- Find yourself a good therapist. It’s important that you find someone you can talk this over with and get some perspective. Your family is probably overwhelmed and worried, and find it difficult to give you the kind of support you need. A therapist can support and help guide you through this terribly difficult time and recognize that you are probably suffering from PTSD. A therapist trained in working with people suffering from PTSD can help.
- As Janice Harper says in her book, the first thing to do is control your thinking. You’re probably thinking, “If I could do that, I’d be fine.” It’s definitely easier to say than to do. However, by interrupting those negative thoughts each time they occur, if repeated often enough, will eventually interrupt the repetitive thinking. By using words like, “no,” and “stop,” you are disrupting that cycle.
- Distract yourself. It’s not easy when you are being mobbed, but becoming involved in something else will help to distract you. If you are involved in sports or activities with others, don’t stop participating. If you have a family, immerse yourself in their activities. Changing your normal routine will also help to distract you. For example, if you always watch TV when you get home, turn it off (but only if watching TV isn’t a distraction for you already).
- Take care of yourself physically. Exercise and eating healthy foods are essential to keep you at your best mentally. Try to avoid those things that will be harmful to you, even though they feel like an escape from your present situation.
- DBT (Dialectical Behavioral Therapy) teaches individuals to pay attention to their emotions and to recognize the thoughts that are leading them in directions they don’t want to go. Learning to identify the emotion and thinking about how you want to feel instead is a first step toward changing them. If you are feeling angry, think about what you’d like to feel instead, and then take one step toward changing the emotion. For example, if you want to feel peaceful, is there a movie or TV show that can help you feel more relaxed?
- If you take medication, be sure that you consult with your doctor about the correct dosages. Some meds have side effects that go unrecognized and that cause depression, anxiety, or rage. The doctor should be able to taper you off those and onto something more appropriate. There are some anti-anxiety meds that may help, but always discuss the drugs and their side effects with your doctor.
- In her book, Mobbed!, Harper suggests role play. Playing another character, from the way he/she dresses and walks to the way they address others (think Oprah) and the confidence they exhibit, can help you find the ability to face those who are attacking you. When you see another person who makes you angry, try imagining them as a cartoon character, or doing something ridiculous. Then everytime you see them, think of their character name and the thing that character is known to do. For example, seeing someone as Elmer Fudd and imagining their ridiculous voice and gestures can take the sting out of seeing them.
- Don’t see yourself as a victim. Victims are helpless and unable to defend themselves. Although you are a victim of the abuse, try to see what you did that may have caused some of this to happen to you. Be aware of your own actions and reactions to others. Remember, they are looking for ways to justify their behavior toward you. Your reactions will either fuel or diffuse a situation. “Do not embrace the identity of victim; embrace your identity as victor by becoming stronger, calmer, and wiser.”
Bullying is an epidemic threatening everyone. With the advent of the internet, bullying has become worse than ever. Workplace bullying can cause people to lose their jobs, their confidence, and even their lives. The above suggestions can help. If you find yourself in this situation, please call. I’m here to help.
N Davenport, R.D. Schwartz, G. P. Elliott. Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace.
Harper, Janice, PhD. Mobbed!
“Water and stone,” courtesy of Jojo Nicdao, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Harbor,” courtesy of Dennis Jarvis, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Calm,” courtesy of Peter Stabolepszy, Flickr Creative Commons 2.0, CC0 License; “Storm,” courtesy of texaus1, Flickr Creative Commons, CC0 License
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