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Workplace Bullying

How do people deal with it in an industry where reporting it can mean the end of one’s career?

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Hey @JohnnyP613,

Thank you so much for reaching out. This is a tough situation that would definitely require some strategy so you could build some safety net for yourself and rally some allies by your side. I don’t know the specifics of your situation so I hope what follows will not sound too off-topic (is so, please let me know and share as much as you need some more information - this place is safe).

I have myself been in a workplace before that was pretty unhealthy management-wise. It took me an actual burn out and being away from that place to realize how much what was happening was wrong. Conflicts between other workers were completely dismissed instead of mediate, one employee was openly cheating on their working hours and performance but were constantly covered for some reason, not mentioning the blatant sexism from our hierarchy when another coworker and myself have tried to report all the dysfunctions there (my colleague was asked if she was on her periods to be so “emotional”, lolol).

All of this to say, it may feel very isolating and lonely to be in this situation, but unfortunately it is more common than we think. In too many places people use their power wrongly to the point of destroying others mental health and well-being. Work can already be hard, it’s not meant to be a place where we feel at war or like walking on eggshells. The fact that you are aware of the wrongs happening IS already a huge step. We can spend a long time accepting a situation that shouldn’t be just because we feel stuck and left without any other choice. Sucking it up should never be an option, especially if this is about bullying. I hear the outcomes could be very damaging, but your well-being has to be a priority, even if it scary to speak your truth.

If the bully is another co-worker and you trust your hierarchy (or human resources manager, if you have one there), then I would encourage you to report what happened to them. If you do so: be specific. Explain when and what happened. It’s the kind of report - written or verbal - that is not funny to make, but if some people above in your hierarchy have to be made aware of it, then it is okay to do so.

If the bully is someone above you, then that is surely more complex and can feel as if you had no backup at all. I don’t know where you live, but in your situation I would try to get in touch with a union and/or starting to do some research online to find potential non-profits that aim to support workers who are bullied and harassed in the workplace.

A few thoughts to add though:

  • If the bullying is about something that is actively harming you, if it falls into harassment, abuse or even assault, then you really need to report this immediately to the police. If that is scary for you, again getting in touch with a union or free service could be of a great help, both practically and emotionally.
  • If you feel very alone with this, I would encourage you to talk about the situation to your relatives/people you trust. You can of course always share here as well. We’re here to listen and support you through all of this. Staying alone and isolating ourselves in these situations is the worse that could happen, so please know you are not alone.
  • Eventually, if the bullying is a pattern that you have witnessed/seen happening with other colleagues, then it would be good to approach them as well and test the waters – see if they’d be comfortable talking about what happened for them, how they feel/think about it. Eventually, this could lead to a group action, which is always better than doing it alone as you would be more supported.
  • If you feel like you need emotional support as well for what is happening, then I’d strongly encourage you to seek psychotherapy with a professional. Just having a space that is completely away from your work and in which you can safely share absolutely everything that is on your heart and mind, can be very good in helping you build strength and assert YOUR value.
  • If you need a break to think about all of this, it’s okay to ask for a medical leave to your doctor. Depending on how it works where you live of course. Again, doctors now are way more aware of toxic workplaces, burnout and unhealthy management as they tend to see more and more patients developing illnesses because of it. It’s an entire culture that needs to be broken down. But right here, right now, it’s okay to prioritize your needs. If you feel exhausted, on edge, at the end of your rope, then please make sure to take a break, a vacation or a medical leave. It would not make you a failure or make you fail your workplace. If there is bullying and you the situation is not addressed, then they are failing you.

Hold Fast, friend. You’ve done the right thing by reaching out. Let’s make this the first step towards more help and support, okay? If you need to share what is your country of residence in order to get some help to find some more local places of support/services that are outside of your workplace, then feel free to share it here. Together we’re stronger.

Through it all, you are worthy and you are loved. Nothing that they have done and/or said to you is true or deserved. You have value and you deserve to be respected. No amount of work and no workplace position will ever justify behaviors that aim to harm someone. :hrtlegolove:

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