"13.7 million adults reported being bullied at work. Bullies are typically bosses. In fact, 72 percent of bullies outrank their 'targets.'"
"By definition, workplace bullying is the repeated, health-harming mistreatment of an employee in the form of verbal abuse or behaviors that are threatening, intimidating or humiliating. Bullies at work practice psychological violence. They yell, insult, throw tantrums, steal credit, spread rumors, withhold crucial information and/or socially isolate their targets by excluding them. The body language of bullies includes staring, glaring or totally ignoring the target when he/she speaks. Bullies often engage in aggressive finger pointing, invade personal space and use touch as a measure of control (a bone-crushing handshake) or a means to patronize (a pat on the head)."
I've been bullied, and it's horrible.
Reluctant to give in, I dedicated myself to improving the situation in whatever way I could.
Seeking advice, I turned to my husband, a teacher who has spent years trying to make schools a better place. No one, in my opinion, has better advice than him.
I turned to my best friends — all three professionals with successful careers and each with their own challenges behind or ahead of them.
I read everything I could find on how to make this now toxic work environment a better place for me and applied what I could when I could.
I prayed — a lot. Constantly looking for a sign: "Is there anything I can do to change the situation, or is it beyond repair? Basically, should I stay or should I go?"
Nothing seemed to help, but I couldn't just walk away. Walking away meant starting from scratch. Much like a hair stylist, I rely on repeat business, and it usually comes from the same people, with the addition of new ones, on a regular basis. After working in the same city since 1999, I had acquired quite a large clientele. My days were full and I was compensated well for what I did. Walking away meant cutting our income almost in half until I rebuilt my clientele. Financially, we would take a big hit, and I wasn't sure that we would fully recover.
However, it was taking its toll by impacting my health and home life. Going to work while pretending everything was normal became more difficult with each passing day. Others knew what was going on. One co-worker would whisper words of encouragement, knowing full well what it felt like. She had been targeted before, but that was then and this was now. It was my turn.
My husband and I began to plan for the inevitable. We cut expenses and started putting everything into savings. We looked at ways of supplementing our income and made a list. I even researched other professions, sort of the "What do I want to do when I grow up?" scenario.
Then, one day, it all changed. I guess you could call this my sign or 'aha' moment.
I awoke with a very clear picture of my life. It looked much like a road with me in the middle of it. The portion behind me was long and beautiful with tremendous love and happiness. The road in front of me was much smaller and nondescript — unwritten.
How this came to me, I have no idea. Maybe the loss of my brother had caught up with me. He was a large piece of my life and I still feel his presence, sometimes more than others. I will never forget his words of wisdom about being happy in life and how it was short. Unfortunately, he learned this first hand.
Maybe I was just tired of trying or finally listened to my husband, family and friends urging me to move on and that it wasn't worth staying in such a stressful situation.
There was nothing more I could do. It was no longer productive, healthy or safe. It was time to leave.
Fast forward to current day: I took time off to be with my elderly mother during a health crisis. I've grown closer to my siblings and friends, knowing that our time together is precious and shouldn't be squandered. I accepted an offer at a place where they treat each other with respect and kindness. My husband and I are taking more time for each other in simple, little ways that say "I love and respect you."
With all of this being said, I know how lucky I am. The numbers regarding bullying in the workplace are staggering, and not everyone can just walk away.
According to the Healthy Workplace Bill, "... current discrimination and harassment laws rarely address bullying concerns. Bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal discrimination, but is still legal in the U.S. People deserve more protection against arbitrary cruelty that has nothing to do with work."
Slowly, things are changing, and there will be strict laws to protect workers against bullying.
For now, if you feel you are being bullied or targeted, seek professional guidance on what to do next.
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