🔹 Unseen Shadows: Addressing Unperceived Workplace Bullying 🔹
✨ Workplace bullying is a pervasive issue that often goes unnoticed, causing significant harm to individuals and organisations alike. In my latest article, I delve into the unperceived nature of workplace bullying and offer strategies for addressing it with tact and empathy.
✨ Join me on a journey to uncover the invisible bully that lurks within our workplaces. Drawing from my own experience as a senior executive, I shed light on the subtle tactics used to undermine, dismiss, and belittle, ultimately eroding confidence and stifling professional growth.
✨ But it doesn’t end there. I provide actionable insights and steps to confront bullying behaviour, foster a culture of respect and inclusivity, and seek external support when needed. Together, we can create healthier, more supportive work environments.
Read the full article to gain valuable strategies and insights
Let’s stand up against workplace bullying and foster workplaces where respect, support, and inclusivity thrive.
There’s a saying that I’ve often pondered: “A fish doesn’t know it’s in water.” It wasn’t until, looking back, I realised I was the recipient of unperceived workplace bullying and that I truly understood its meaning. Today, I want to talk about my experience, not as a tale of despair, but as a ray of hope for those navigating similar waters. My aim is to spark a transformation, turning our workplaces into places of respect, support, and inclusivity.
This is not an easy subject and I think that the WOKE culture may turn a lot of people off discussing the subject as bleating and imagination. But if a person feels bullied then they are being, and they need support. This support can come in lots of different ways and from different places, but sometimes, the way to deal with it is not by shouting but by subtly pushing back, quietly and persistently standing your ground, particularly if you’re in a job you love, rather than stamping your feet.
The Invisible Bully: Unmasking Unperceived Bullying
Workplace bullying can manifest in many forms: overt aggression, derogatory comments, or damaging rumours. However, unperceived bullying is a more insidious beast. It’s the consistent undermining, the veiled criticism, the lingering bias. It’s the kind of bullying that chips away at your confidence and sanity, often dismissed as ‘tough love’ or ‘industry standards.’
As a senior executive, When I found the events sector, by accident, like many of us, I realised that I had found an industry that I loved and that, unlike many others in other industries, my dreams had come true. However, I realised over time that this joy was soon overshadowed by an undercurrent of discomfort. My interactions with senior teams were sometimes an exclusive ‘old boys club,’ and this left me questioning my capabilities and worth.
They would dismiss my ideas in meetings, subtly belittle my achievements, and often joke about my activities as too leftfield and would constantly come to my office and “offer” advice. Their actions were never overtly aggressive, and often cloaked in “I was thinking about you and thought this may be helpful” but their cumulative effect was eroding my confidence and made me scared to speak up in meetings and brainstorming sessions. I felt I could only get to an answer by asking for help, rather than trusting my gut instinct and that the only reason I could think of as the reason, was they didn’t understand what I was doing, so they were either dismissive or just refused requests, or wanted to bend me in a way that they understood.
The issue was that I was certainly not “normal” in the events sector. Many will agree with me on this, I have a reputation for speaking up and calling things out, a creative and forward thinking. However, I am quick to praise and will give anything a go (well almost!). Someone said to me last year, that everyone was warned about me when they joined a central department and to not get things wrong. I questioned this as I have infinite amounts of patience with people and love to see people develop. They told me that I called things out when things were done wrong and some people didn’t like this, but everyone knew I could get things done, there was a plan and normally it was achieved. They told me that this was a far better position to be in than not knowing when things were wrong as you just keep repeating them!
No place of work is perfect and we all have to find ways to deal with small comments, which are often said with no malice intended, but that affect different people in different ways. As leaders, we need to be aware of them.
However, now’s the time to give some advice on what I should have done.
A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Confronting Bullying
Realising you’re a victim of bullying is the first, and often the hardest, step. It’s akin to recognising that the water you thought was your safe haven is, in fact, teeming with sharks. But remember, you’re not at fault. You’re not weak, and you’re certainly not alone. Unfortunately, workplace bullying is more prevalent than we’d like to believe.
The second step is to document your experiences. Eventually, I kept a detailed record of every instance where I felt bullied. This helped me identify patterns, validate my feelings, and provided crucial evidence if I decided to address the issue formally (which I didn’t).
Talking to trusted friends and mentors outside the organisation was also immensely helpful. They provided me with an external perspective, reaffirming that what I was experiencing was indeed bullying. Their support bolstered my resolve to get a coping mechanism for the situation.
Charting a New Course: Handling Bullying with Tact and Empathy
Addressing bullying, especially at higher levels, requires a tactful, strategic approach. You need to start by subtly pushing back against bullying behaviour. In meetings, when ideas are dismissed, you can calmly ask for specific feedback, subtly drawing attention to a dismissive attitude without escalating the situation.
Simultaneously, you can work on promoting a culture of respect and equality within your team. Emphasise the importance of diverse ideas, highlight the achievements of colleagues, and encourage open, constructive feedback. This will create a stark contrast with the ‘old boys club’ mentality and gradually, others will begin to notice the difference.
Finally, If you really can’t deal with it and it continues, you can go armed with evidence and the support of some colleagues, and approach the HR department. You need to present your case calmly, professionally, and backed by documented incidents. The process will be daunting, but sometimes necessary.
Often there is the case of reprisals, but in one incident, where I witnessed this type of bullying in an open meeting about someone else, I approached HR in an off-the-record way and the response was, that this behaviour had been reported before and was being dealt with. I had a great HR team and no one was ever the wiser that I had the conversation, and I could see things beginning to change with the person involved.
A Call to Action: Building a Better Tomorrow Together
Change begins with us. By fostering an environment of empathy, respect, and inclusivity, we can make our workplaces safer. I understand that everyone’s experience is unique and there’s no universal solution. However, by sharing our experiences and supporting one another, we can build a collective voice capable of inciting change, full of support and solutions.
This is my story, but I want to hear yours. Have you experienced unperceived bullying in your workplace? How did you tackle it? By sharing, you might provide a lifeline for someone else experiencing similar struggles.
In finishing, I want to assure you that you’re not alone in this. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to speak up. And it’s certainly okay to challenge the status quo if it means creating a healthier, more supportive workplace for everyone. We are a community, and together, we can make a difference.
Thank you for reading, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts, experiences, and ideas for cultivating healthier workplaces.