The Professional Playground: Bullying in the Workplace

The Professional Playground: Bullying in the Workplace

buly-200x214I used to think that bullying was something only kids did. Kids with low self-esteem and insecurity issues. And as they got older, people stopped their immature games and got on with life. I never met any high school queen bees like in the movies and never heard of any sorority queens wreaking havoc at SMU. So despite the known frat hazing rituals, bullying was always a very foreign term to me. It wasn’t until recently that I would become a victim of bullying myself.

At my last job, I was bullied by my boss. This was a very confusing time for me because of the current stigma about work in today’s culture. We are told to work hard, stay late, always try to prove our worth, and to never argue with upper management. At least, that’s what I was taught. These were the very thoughts that kept me in a negative environment for far too long. It started out as small things like leaving me out of team conversations and getting a smaller work load than my peers. It then escalated to verbal tear-downs, non-constructive criticism, and an overall fear mentality that caused me severe anxiety and a sense of helplessness. I was criticized for my laugh, my personality, my appearance, and my clothes. One day I was too withdrawn and the next I was too chatty. I remember getting called in and asked why I was so withdrawn. After replying that I was on anti-anxiety medication and that the side effects could be to blame, I was told that that wasn’t a good excuse. I was under a microscope. Every tiny error in my work was scrutinized while my achievements were rarely mentioned or praised. I was called out in front of my peers and publicly shamed. I was kept in fear for my job with the constant reminder that if I didn’t change, I would be fired. All the while I recited Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ”. So I worked with a smile on my face while sneaking trips to the bathroom to cry in the stall. I would pray asking God why he wanted me at this company. He had made it so obvious that it was the right choice and yet I was miserable. I prayed that if he wanted me to leave to make the choice obvious. And after 9 months, the Lord was faithful and provided a way out.

After leaving that company, I still didn’t consider myself a victim of bullying. I didn’t realize it until an ex-coworker told me that my old team believed I was targeted and over-scrutinized on purpose and for no reason at all. They were not surprised that I decided to leave. For the first time in my life, bullying was real. It wasn’t some celebrity PSA. It wasn’t a sad story I read in the news. It was real and happened outside of elementary school and off the playground. It was by an adult. I don’t know why I was targeted and treated in such a way. I don’t know why God put me at that company. But I do know that I have infinitely more empathy for others who have been bullied. It is an emotionally and physically exhausting and damaging situation. Bullying exists and can happen at any age and by anyone. It is more common than you think, especially in the workplace.

Looking back, I wish I would have been more bold and spoken to HR about my experiences. I was even too afraid to be honest in my exit interview out of fear of what would happen if my comments got back to my boss. I also remember thinking that I was too sensitive and that what I was experiencing was typical for corporate America. It’s not. A hostile work environment is not o.k. in any circumstance or in any industry. You are not powerless and there are many resources available to help.

Below are some resources on bullying in the workplace, for further reading:

Workplace Bullying

Identifying and Coping with Workplace Bullies

Trials: God’s Teaching Tool

Trials: God’s Teaching Tool

We’ve all been through trials, though they look different to everyone. A trial could be a bad day at work, parent’s divorce, battling depression, or a a midlife crisis. One person’s trial is no different than another’s and all can be pretty tough to deal with. I’ve had a pretty rough time these past few months and through the pain, confusion, and despair, God has amazingly shown me the benefits of going through tough times:

  1. Compassion for Others
    I have always considered myself an empathetic person, but no matter how empathetic you are, it is still hard to relate to something someone is going through if you’ve never been there. For example, I have never lost someone super close to me so the grief that accompanies the loss of a loved one is foreign to me. Suffering through a trial creates relatable experiences and opens our minds and hearts to others’ loss.
    “…That there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:25-26“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” – Romans 12:15
  2. The Realization that we need Christ
    Even if your trials are not brought about by a sin you committed or something you have personal done, they have a way of humbling us. I have never felt so unredeemingly broken as I do when going through a trial. I have felt lost, confused, a sinner, not enough and too much all at the same time. And Jesus lovingly reminds me that it’s ok. He doesn’t need me to be anything else than what I am. I don’t need to do anything. Just wait on Him as He moves.
    “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:35-39
  3. Patience is a virtue
    I always think I am the most patient person ever until I have to wait on a trial or ‘season’ in my life to pass. WHAT IS TAKING SO LONG?  I always wants to be ‘fixed’ now. Learn whatever God is teaching me NOW. But alas, God has his own timing. And me being impatient often makes the trials even more agonizing. I’m still learning to trust God and his way of doing things. Because if I’ve learned one thing in my life, its that I have the worse timing.“Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! “- Psalm 27:14

    “For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”Habakkuk 2:3

    “We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

     

  4. The Need for Others
    Growing up I always kept things to myself. I kept all my emotions, worries, and fears locked inside a tiny box deep inside and wouldn’t share them. I have come to find that my reasons for that were two things: The fear of being “too-much” for people and the desire to be completely self-sufficient. And unfortunately, I didn’t have the community I have now back when I was little (or at least I didn’t reach out to one). Over the past year, God has shown me the power that comes from biblical community. There is love, compassion, accountability  and strength in that power. And we need that. God did not create man to be alone. And through community I have learned that I am never “too much” and that God gave me community to share my burdens with me. And most importantly, I can’t depend on myself. I will undoubtedly lead myself down the wrong path if unchecked by loving and faithful community. I need to depend on Christ and on the people he put in my life.“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”Hebrews 10:24-25

    “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” – Galatians 6:2

  5. Hope
    Hope. It sounds easy but it’s actually quite hard. It requires faith. And though Faith is my middle name (true story.) , in the midst of a trial its pretty shaky. It’s hard to believe in something good when everything around you is anything but. But God promises good to us. To those who know and love him. And though we may not feel hopeful or cheery and the idea of considering the trial “as pure joy” is infuriating, it doesn’t matter. God’s truth remains true. Everything will work out for our best.“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28

    “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

    Hebrews 12

So my ‘trial’ isn’t over and some days I feel like giving up, curling into the fetal position, and crying. But I am confident that God’s goodness will prevail over my circumstances. And that gives me the strength and stubbornness to reject Satan’s lies. And though James 2:3-4 can make me so mad sometimes, I am starting to see how you can truly consider your trials as pure joy. And I am excited to see the end result.