This is a follow up post to my recent post about the costs of workplace bullying, more specifically the relationship between workplace bullying, depression and heart disease. Our thoughts influence our realities, change your thoughts and you will find your self engaging in different behaviors which influence different outcomes. However, sometimes our emotions stemming from irrational thoughts regarding our expectations not being met, can be so strong that the process of changing our thoughts can seem a daunting task.
In this post, I will introduce to you the reader to three primary strategies for creating emotional distance and bringing yourself to a place of calm in order to explore other options.
Keeping in mind that during times of extreme stress, people have difficulty maintaining calm in order to recognize and respond effectively to difficult situations, the first measure would be how to maintain calm during times of extreme stress.
The first strategy to learn is mediation, studies such as this one have shown meditation to be effective in coping with and overcoming emotional stress and pain. Another study demonstrated through mri scans that people who meditate have higher cortical gyrification ( a folding of the cerebral cortex believed to be associated with faster information processing). The key part of meditation which makes it effective in dealing with emotional stress is the process of developing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the process of developing more consciousness towards your interpretations of events and your feelings without overreacting. In short, you train your mind towards being calm during periods of discomfort. Rather than embrace the mindset that you should always be comfortable, you transition into the mindset that episodes of discomfort are a learning experience. You should begin practicing meditation, once every day, beginning with five minutes and the goal to building yourself to sixty plus minutes a day. In this post, I discuss the specifics of this strategy.
#2 Doing Nothing
This strategy is a follow up to the meditation strategy. In this post I discuss a real life scenario where I have used the “doing nothing” strategy to my benefits, when I found myself on the receiving end of work place bullying.
The “doing nothing” strategy follows the cognitive behavioral principle of A+B =C. This means that an activating event plus a behavioral response equals a natural and logical consequence. So in response to passive aggressive bullying tactics, doing nothing is your best initial response as bullying tactics depend on the over reaction of the target in sustaining the bullying long term, until the desired goal is accomplished.
Doing nothing does not mean that you play the role of the passive scapegoat. Doing nothing means that you don’t respond to bullying with retaliating tactics of your own. It only makes the situation more unbearable and difficult for you. All bullying starts off with passive teasers, in which the perpetrator is gauging your triggers for overreaction. What works for me, is to pick my battles and do nothing until the instigators have crossed a line which warrants a measured, respectful and assertive response.
Think off it as self defense. If you were on the street, it would not be wise to respond to nasty glares and insults from a stranger, but in the event that stranger were to place hands on you, you should be prepared to protect yourself. It is also important to note that when I have initiated the “doing nothing” response, it took a lot of work. I documented my observations and when it came to my work I made certain that I was as thorough as I could have been, which it difficult for myself to get scapegoat-ed.
#3 Set Firm Boundaries
Not only have I been the recipient of work place bullying, but I have also witnessed other people experience work place bullying in real time. The biggest mistake most people on the receiving end of bullying make is to kiss up to their aggressors. This maladaptive tactic only speeds up the worsening of the process.
You see bullying is irrational behavior most people initiate out of perceived bias against the target. This means that the person on the receiving end, has done nothing to deserve such harassment. So pandering to the bully only enables the bullying. When I work with kids who are getting bullied, the first assignment I give to them is to stop associating with those who treat them badly. Time after time, children who have followed through with this tactic report that the bullying stopped. Why? Because they stopped placing themselves in situations where they made it easy for the bullies to harass them. This means that kids who were on a mission to bully the client, had to work a lot harder by going out of their way to seek out their target to bully.
In the workplace environment, you make it harder for your harassers to bully you by setting up and maintaining firm boundaries. If you need any help with them, simply look to your company’s standard of operating procedures. Then make sure you follow everything by the book, and hold anyone who works with you to standard in following the same rules. If a supervisor were to insist that you bend the rules for a favor, you request that they follow company protocol in getting the rule changed and then you document the interaction between you and the supervisor.
#Bonus: Find Your Tribe.
Business is about relationships, so if you are worried that employing these strategies wouldn’t make you any friends at work, you are probably right. Instead these strategies are designed to create enough emotional breathing room for you to access your working brain and explore other options. Such as a work cultural environment where you can thrive.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and life coach.