Workplace Bullying and Mental Health Jobs Don’t Mix
One would think that in mental health jobs, workplace bullying would not be an issue. It may not be to the extent that it is in some other industries but it still exists. In fact, I have a personal friend who was forced to quit a job in a local rehab just this past week due to reverse discrimination and “bullying”. She indicated that walking out of that toxic environment, one that is supposed to be therapeutic by the way, was an incredible weight off her shoulders. So, this does happen.
What is Workplace Bullying
Defined as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:
- Verbal Abuse
- Offensive conduct which is threatening, humiliating or intimidating
- Work interference, such as sabotage, which prevents work from being done or being done on time
This is a bigger problem than many realize, affecting 37% of adult Americans. At severe levels, it can trigger a whole bunch of stress-related complications, such as hypertension, depression, anxiety and PTSD. It’s no picnic for the employer and company owners either. It’s been found that it’s generally the least skilled and least productive employees who target and bully the best and the brightest workers. Other times it is a gross abuse of power and authority.
Dealing With Workplace Bullying
- The first step in dealing with most problems is recognizing that there is problem. Don’t ignore the fact that you are being bullied. It’s tempting to want to try to be the “bigger person” but as this continues day in and day out, it’s going to wear you down and you will eventually need to confront it anyway – or leave.
- Tell the bully to stop. This sounds simple enough but so many people just won’t do this. This doesn’t mean you need to start a fight or get confrontational with anyone. What it means is that you can set boundaries by holding up a hand and saying, “Please stop and let me work” or “Please stop talking”.
- Record it. Not necessarily on video, that’s probably not legal. However, you’ll want to start keeping a log, either on paper or on your computer of each incident date, time and what happened. Write down what you said, if anything, and what was said to you. Having this documentation, whether it is ever used or not, is very empowering and may just be something that you place in front of your bully at some point.
- Find Witnesses. If this is occurring with frequency, it’s probably not all happening in private. If you can have co-workers document what is happening and when, that would be helpful. If the bullying is on a regular schedule, ie- every morning at 9:00am, line up some witnesses to be in the area.
- Report it. Set up a meeting with your supervisor or personnel representative to discuss what is happening. Take your documentation with you and speak to what is happening as calming and rationally as possible. If your supervisor is the one that is bullying you, you’ll need to move up the chain of command for this. Don’t talk about course of action or retribution. Stick with the facts.
- Afterward. Depending on the outcome of your report, you’ll need to decide what is right for you. You may want to seek some outside counseling if this was a prolonged and traumatic experience or simply take a little to yourself. You may also need to look at different employment opportunities if this isn’t resolved or if you simply don’t feel comfortable there anymore.
We all think that workplace bullying and mental health jobs don’t mix. It certainly shouldn’t but things do happen and hopefully these tips can give you some direction on how to deal with it.