Millions of people hate going to work. That’s because they’re bullied. Their workplace resembles a battlefield, with landmines strewn about.
Right now, workplace bullying seems to have reached unprecedented levels. It may be that more people are talking about it. In recent years, a number of new books have explored the topic of emotional aggression in the office.
Some experts believe the economy is a factor. Workers who could easily find new employment, when the market was different, decide to tough it out.
Right now, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, about one-third of all Americans claim to have been bullied on the job.
However, there’s also been a documented rise in narcissism. (Abusers generally suffer from this or a similar antisocial personality disorder.
Workplace Bullying How To Deal With It
(This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase something, I receive a referral fee, at no extra cost to you.)
Organic Palace Queen is a natural health site. Some of my visitors are seeking ways to stay healthy. Other readers are sick. They suffer from widespread body pain, oftentimes coupled with chronic fatigue.
Typically, stress was a triggering factor. One huge source of stress is workplace bullying. So this is a topic that belongs on this site. Actually, I make sure to periodically post about narcissistic abuse. (Workplace bullies generally suffer from this or a related personality disorder.)
I feel this topic is so important that I created an entire section on this site called Narcissism and Your Health.
Workplace Bullying and PTSD
Narcissistic abuse can lead to post traumatic stress syndrome. War veterans aren’t the only ones who can develop PSTD.
Employees who spend eight hours a day in a hostile environment may also suffer from psychological problems, including bouts of depression and inability to function well. There’s also growing evidence that chronic low-level stress (such as workplace bullying) can make you sick.
Adult bullies can be ruthless. They employ a variety of psychological warfare tactics. These include making targets doubt their own sanity.
How To Cope With Bullying In the Workplace
Have you ever heard of “gaslighting.” It’s an extreme form of mental abuse. Believe it or not, gaslighting has been documented among office workers.
Gaslighting is a favorite tactic of abusers. They try to convince you that your perception is wrong.
The term “gaslighting” was taken from a 1940’s movie. It starred Ingrid Bergman, as the wife. Her deranged husband tried to drive her crazy.
He lied about changing things around the house. All to convince she was imagining things. The title of the movie is because he dimmed the gas lights in their house, while denying he was doing so.
Gas lighting is a very insidious form of abuse. It can cause serious ramifications in the person it is directed toward.
Workplace Bullying and Gaslighting
Gaslighting can take many forms. For instance, a bully boss may berate someone, in front of others. His or her enablers, or partners in crime, will then deny this happened. Instead, they’ll accuse the target of being “too sensitive.”
Or an employee may have distinctly heard a project was due by a certain date. But someone else denies this, and insists the due date was later.
If you’d like to read more on narcissistic abuse, here’s another article I wrote on Dealing With Toxic Situations Created by Malignant Narcissists.
Workplace Bullying and Coping
Patricia Spindel, EdD, in her book, Psychological Warfare at Work: How Harassers and Bullies Injure Individuals and Organizations, lays out the mechanics behind this form of emotional terrorism.
Her book sheds light into the dark corners of workplace dynamics, when a tyrant seizes control.
She describes the fear a tormented employee might feel upon entering their workplace. They carefully peer around corners, hoping to avoid the bully. Also, people they considered friends do a disappearing act. (This is typical. Other employees usually go into self preservation mode, fearing for their own job security.)
Workplace Bullying How To Handle
Dr. Spindel makes it clear these situations can lead to “psychological injury.” She stresses that the bully is bent on destruction. He wants his target to suffer some sort of loss, either social or professional. (Often, it’s a combination of both.)
Lack of support, she notes, makes this particularly difficult. Unless you’re talking to someone who’s lived through something similar, you’re apt to be met with disbelief.
Workplace Bullies and How To Deal With Them
Dr. Spindel points out that self defense is often useless because bullies are so clever. Any display of emotion could be wrongly perceived, making others more likely to put stock in the bully’s version of the story.
She has a deep understanding of the various “stealth” tactics that may be used. One main weapon is backbiting. The bully conducts a “propaganda campaign.” She vividly describes how bullies sow discord. This is done especially if the perpetrator’s goal is to drive the target out of a job.
Workplace Bullying And Harrassment
Other forms of harassment include stepping up the level of micromanagement. This makes an embattled worker becomes increasingly uncomfortable.
Dr. Spindel is perfectly clear this is a form of “torture” that no one should have to endure.
She also provides information on the characteristics of a bully, and who is likely to incur their punishment. Toward the end of her book, Dr. Spindel lays out concrete steps to take once such a dynamic arises, as well as information on how to arrive at a possible solution.
Psychological Warfare at Work also includes a sample code of employee conduct. If you’re fighting for your job, and your sanity, this is a good book to read.
Why Workplace Bullies Prevail
Corporate culture is set up so bullies get away with it. In the United States, there are no federal laws against mistreating a coworker, as there are in Europe. Efforts to establish such legislation, on a statewide basis, so far, have failed.
One study conducted by the University of Buffalo School of Management found that bullies enjoy a favored status. In general, they receive glowing reviews. They also enjoy great career success.
Workplace bullies often have smooth and charming personalities. This helps them rocket to the top of an organization.
Unfortunately, once they reach upper management, they find other like-minded individuals who came to their positions in much the same manner. (By undermining others as they climb the corporate ladder.)
How To Survive Workplace Bullying
Workplace bullies are serial abusers. They choose one target to destroy before selecting another. You can be their “friend” one minute. Then, you’re the enemy. When this happens, their overriding goal is to drive you out of work.
Fighting them typically isn’t worth your time or effort. Even if you’re geared up for battle, it’s not going to be a fair fight. Corporate predators employ a variety of underhanded techniques. They’re also inveterate plotters, who, somehow, know how to stay three steps ahead of you.
That’s why, your best recourse is to formulate an exit plan. Your goal is to leave the company with a glowing letter of recommendation (best-case scenario) and your head held high.
Many Workplace Bullies are Narcissists
Many adult bullies are narcissists. Their behavior is antisocial. It may even fit the clinical definition of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). (This can only be diagnosed by a professional.) But a lay person can definitely spot the red flags, which alert them they’re dealing with a difficult person. You don’t need a degree in psychology to realize that a coworker is a tyrant.
The office bully may or may not have NPD. However, all you have to know is that he or she is making your life miserable.
An adult who bullies is not a well adjusted human being. He or she quite likely suffers from NPD, or a similar condition. Once the bullying gains momentum, and no one steps in to stop it, the situation has spun out of control.
Signs of Narcissistic Personality Disorder in the Workplace
I am not a trained mental health professional. So I’m not qualified to diagnose anyone.
My experience with narcissistic personality disorder came about through first-hand experience. But I’ve lived it, so I’m qualified to write about it, from my perspective. Here are some warning signs of a potentially toxic personality:
- Inflated Sense of Entitlement – Office bullies want things done right now. It’s their way or the highway. They may become enraged if everyone around them doesn’t march in lock-step with their orders.
- Grandiose Behavior – One of the signs of NPD is carrying yourself with a dramatic flair, and insisting on being the center of attention. Such a person might arrive late for meetings. Then, she enters the room in a disruptive manner. Narcissists are typically also non-stop talkers.
- Gossip and Maligning – People with malignant personalities talk about others behind their backs. You can rest assured they do the same thing to you.
- Stealing Others Ideas – You can expect an office bully to pilfer your ideas. She’ll then pass them off as her own. Morally disordered people feel entitled to everything. So there’s no respect for anyone else’s intellectual property.
- Compulsive Lying – Extreme narcissists are self serving. They’ll resort to lying and deception if it helps them further their agenda.
Workplace Bullying Survival Strategies
Once workplace bullying becomes entrenched, the atmosphere turns ugly. This generally means the situation has progressed to the point of no return. Unfortunately, in America, workplace abuse is not sanctioned. So perpetrators tend to be rewarded.
Morally disordered individuals operate in darkness. So, by the time you notice anything is wrong, she’s has laid the groundwork for a public battle.
Chances are she’s already damaged your reputation. Generally speaking, management is reluctant to discharge bullies, despite the fact they’re very costly to keep and cause considerable worker turnover.
Don’t expect support. Most coworkers are more invested in preserving their own jobs than they are in defending a targeted colleague. This leaves you without resources.
Workplace Bullying Human Resource Management
Fighting a workplace bully is usually a losing battle. This has been well documented. Lodging a complaint with Human Resources rarely accomplishes anything, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.
If your workplace has become a battleground, be proactive. Update your resume in order to land a new job, where your talents are more appreciated.
In time, life will get back to normal. You may even realize this present situation has resulted in blessings. You may move into a better job. Or a better opportunity may arise.
How To Move On From Workplace Bullying
I’ve lived through narcissistic abuse. I’ve come out the other side. I’m here to tell you that life can return to normal again. Actually, life can be better than it was, especially if you educate yourself about how narcissists operate. This information can potentially spare you from another bad encounter.
One mistake we often make is trusting an abuser. (Unfortunately, we don’t realize they’re not to be trusted until after the fact.) Hopefully, learning the signs of narcissism can protect us going forward.
How To Forgive a Workplace Bully
Believe it or not, I’ve gotten to the point where I see my experience with abuse as a blessing. It’s strengthened me. I’m now in a position to write about it. I hope my story can help others. One message I want to spread is forgiveness. No matter what has happened, this is the only thing that will set us free. Forgiveness is difficult. I know, because I’ve had to do it. I turned my experience into a book called How To Forgive a Malicious Person.