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Unhappy looking woman looking over her shoulder at a man who is speaking harshly to her

Bullying At Work, and What I Learned

What is Bullying?

Safe Work Australia defines bullying as:

“repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed to a worker or group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety”.

Bullying can include such behaviours as:

  • Abusive or offensive language or comments;
  • aggressive and intimidating behaviour;
  • belittling or humiliating comments;
  • practical jokes or initiation; and
  • unjustified criticism or complaints.

Reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way is not bullying.

My experiencE of Being Bullied At Work

I was bullied at work in the mid 2000’s. I didn’t recognise it as such until afterwards, when a friend put the name “bullying” to what I was describing.

The person doing the bullying was my then supervisor. Let’s call her Veronica for the purposes of this article.

Veronica worked part time, and had Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. She would often give me a large piece of work to do, some time on Monday, and ask me to have it completed before 5pm Monday.

This often put me under extraordinary pressure, as the work was more than could reasonably be completed in the short time available. But I comforted myself with the thought that perhaps Veronica was requesting this so that she could look at the work whilst she was at home.

However, I found out that Veronica very rarely took my work home, and it usually would sit on her desk until she got back on Thursday. So, the deadlines were arbitrary and unnecessary.

Once I did receive the work back, there were often many criticisms, and I would usually have to completely rewrite it. Veronica would often tell me that I had not followed her instructions. She would say that she had asked me to do X, but my clear recollection was that she had asked me to do Y, which was quite different.

I could seem to do nothing right. I found this quite distressing, as I am someone who pays careful attention to verbal instructions, and will ask questions to clarify anything I don’t understand.

I eventually refused to take verbal instructions from Veronica, and would only accept instructions in writing, so I had written proof of what she had asked me to do. This made things a little better. However, Veronica then sometimes would replace my name on work with hers, without my knowledge, and then take credit for the work at meetings. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when Veronica referred to me one day as her “worker bee”, which made me feel completely worthless.

My distress and anxiety increased over the months, until it got so bad that I would get chest pains whenever I heard Veronica enter the office first thing in the morning. The first time this happened, I thought I was having a heart attack! Thankfully though, it turned out to be stress related heartburn, for which I had to take medication for many months.

How I Handled It

I took a course on emotional intelligence, mainly to get out of the office for the day. The facilitator, Barbara Miller, was an organisational psychologist and a life coach, and so I asked her to take me on as a client to help me cope with what was going on at work.

Over a number of months, I worked with Barbara on rebuilding my shattered self-esteem, and implementing techniques for coping with stress. I learned that my value as a person wasn’t dependent on what others thought of me, but what I thought of myself. I started reciting positive affirmations to myself about my ability and my value during the bus journey to and from work each day. Finally, I began to really believe again that I was a person of value, who had something worthy to contribute.

After 3 months of coaching, I had the strength to do what I knew I had to do. I knocked on Veronica’s door, marched into her office, and told her that “her management style was making me ill”. I said that I would not work with her anymore, and that whilst I looked for another job, I would like to be transferred to another section and work with a different supervisor. Thankfully, she agreed.

I am so grateful to Barbara, and for the work we did together. It saved my sanity, and gave me the strength to get another job, where I worked happily for a number of years. It also taught me about the importance of drawing upon my own beliefs as the main source of my self-esteem, rather than relying entirely on others to make me feel good, or bad, about myself.

What You Can Do If You Are Being Bullied At Work

If you don’t want to do what I did and change jobs, you have a number of options.

Safe work Australia has a good page on bullying here. This page suggests:

  • Examining your workplace’s bullying policy and reporting procedure;
  • Asking the bully to stop their bullying behaviour;
  • Seeking advice from another person such as a supervisor, human resources officer or workplace health and safety representative (links to these are provided on the Safe work Australia Page);
  • Contacting your State Work Health and Safety Authority;
  • Contacting the Fair Work Commission; or
  • Contacting the Australian Human Rights Commission.

I would add to this list, contacting your union if you are a member.

Most importantly, please remember that you are not alone. Seek support where ever you can, from family, friends, colleagues or even a coach as I did. Please also, look after yourself.

Editors NoteThis post was first published on 3 June 2016, and has since been edited to update and expand upon the information in the original post.

I’ve discovered the secret to success – connection and communication

Have you ever wondered why some people seem to lead a charmed life? Success in everything they do seems to come to them with little or no effort. It’s almost as if everything they touch turns to gold, and their communication with others is effortless.

I’ve certainly wondered why this happens to some people and not to others, especially me. However, I think I’ve just discovered the secret to their success. It’s the way they connect with others in their communication.

In his book “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”, John C Maxwell says that people who seem to live a charmed life are usually those who have learned to connect with others. He goes on to say:

“When you connect with others, you position yourself to make the most of your skills and talents. When you don’t connect, you have a lot to overcome just to get to average, a neutral starting position.”

When I read this, I stopped to think about some of the successful people in my life – my cousin, who gets any job she applies for in any country; my school friend who, with no tertiary education, has never been without a well-paying job; and my business colleague who is so successful in her business that she can afford to live her life between 2 countries, despite only being in her 20’s. I thought about these people, and realised that the one thing they have in common is their extraordinary ability to connect with others.

John C Maxwell says that one way to connect with others is to make everything about them. Thinking back to the people I mentioned above, they all do this. They genuinely care for people, and always make the conversation about the person they’re talking to rather than about themselves. When I’m with any of them I always feel specially cared for, and that I’m the centre of their attention.

I’ve always felt that I’ve had to struggle for my successes in life. I rarely got promoted during my Government career, particularly when I was competing against people with equal qualifications. Also, I’m not someone who has ever been good at making, and keeping, friends.

I’ve come to realise that this is because I’m not particularly good at connecting with people. I can certainly talk, but I’m ashamed to say that I’m usually the topic of the conversation, or the conversation is about something that interests me. This has probably stemmed from being an only child, and having a disability. as a child, I’ was usually the centre of everyone else’s attention, and I don’t think I’ve ever really grown out of taking this for granted.

Recently, I attended a book launch and decided, as an experiment, to make every conversation I had focus entirely on the person I was talking to. I decided not to volunteer any information about myself unless I was asked, and to make a particular effort to find out as much as I could about each person I met. It was quite hard work, but ended up being a lot of fun! I met a number of really interesting people, and really enjoyed finding out all about them. This is something I’m definitely going to do a lot more of in my communication with others in the future. My aim is to become like the 3 people mentioned earlier in this post, and become a great connector.

Has anyone ever really connected with you? how did that make you feel? Please let me know in the comments section, or if you prefer, contact me directly.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to accomplish your life’s dream alone

Personal Development for Career Professionals

In my last few posts, I’ve been covering the questions you need to ask about your dream to see if it is worth following. My question for this post is, have you included the people you need to realise your dream?

“It marks a big step in your development when you come to realise that other people can help you do a better job than you can do alone” – Andrew Carnegie

“A dream is a compelling vision you see in your heart that’s too big to accomplish without the help of others” – Chris Hodges.

I think that, one of the hardest things for some people to do is ask for help in achieving their dreams. It’s certainly the case with me.

When I started my first business, I was surrounded by a wonderful community of people who were very ready and willing to help me. But I rarely called on them, and only asked for help when I was really stuck. For some reason, I felt that I had to build my business all by myself.

When I started my current business, there were a number of things that I had to do which I found difficult, including dealing with the visual side of social media, and building a website. Being totally blind, pictures pose quite a challenge for me. I’d waste hours trying to get a picture the right size for a particular purpose, such as for use in a twitter or Facebook header, and then find out that I’d posted it sideways or upside-down!

I decided I needed some coaching on this with a good friend and mentor. She helped me realise that there was no shame in asking for help, particularly in an area in which I didn’t have the skill required for the task. After some discussion, I realised that many people, both blind and sighted, call upon others to help them do things that they may not have the skill or the time to do themselves. My friend pointed out that I had no trouble having a cleaner clean my house, as I’m not good at it, and it takes me a long time. So what was the difference in asking someone to help me with the visual side of my website, or resize pictures for posting on twitter?

This invaluable coaching session has now saved me much wasted time, which is much better used on doing things that I am good at in my business. I still occasionally fall into the trap of wanting to do picture-related things by myself, as the problem solving part of my brain kicks in and says “surely, there must be a way”. However, I’m only wasting minutes now, instead of hours, before I realise that I need to ask for help.

I am blessed to have wonderful friends and mentors who are willing to help me in achieving my dream, and am so grateful that I was open to learning the lesson of asking for help. Who do you need to include in realising your dream? Please let me know in the comments section, or if you prefer, please contact me directly.

I will be running a mastermind on “Put Your Dream To the Test” at the end of August. Participants will have the chance to exchange thoughts and ideas, learn from each other’s experiences, and put their dreams to the test.

If you are interested in participating in this mastermind, or would like more information, please contact me. Places are limited, and will be filled on a first come, first serve basis, so please act now to avoid disappointment.

Can You See Your Dream Clearly?

Moving from Corporate to Business

In recent posts, I’ve been covering questions that you can aske to see whether a dream is worth pursuing. This post will cover the clarity question i.e. do you see your dream clearly?

Mike Hyatt, the president and CEO of Thomas Nelson, Inc., once said:

“What you need is a vision that is so big that it is compelling, not only to others, but to you. If it’s not compelling, you won’t have the motivation to stay the course, and you won’t be able to recruit others to help you. … If you have a clear vision, you will eventually attract the right strategy. If you don’t have a clear vision, no strategy will save you.”

When I first joined the John Maxwell team, I didn’t have a clear vision. It was very broad. I knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives through coaching, training and speaking, but that was all I knew.

It wasn’t until some time later that I got a clear vision of what I wanted to do. I was thinking back to when I was going through the redundancy process, and how lost i felt. I didn’t know what to do first, or who to turn to for advice. I also felt unwanted and devalued.

As I was thinking about this, I realised what I wanted to do. I wanted to help people who were going through a similar situation to the one I had gone through. I also wanted to help people who had decided that they wanted to change their job, but weren’t sure what to do next.

As my thoughts became clear, I got this feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was a mixture of excitement and expectation, and I wanted to run out and tell someone that I knew what I wanted to do!

While I didn’t immediately have a complete start to finish strategy, I knew what I had to start with. I had to find the people who I wanted to help, and let them know what I could do for them.

Every time I took a new step towards my dream, the next step would become clear to me. I also found that I was able to more clearly articulate what I wanted to do to my friends, family and colleagues, who gave me a much more positive response than when I told them that I “wanted to make a difference”.

Can you see your dream clearly? Please let me know in the comments section, or if you prefer, please contact me directly.

I will be running a mastermind on “Put Your Dream To the Test” at the end of August. Participants will have the chance to exchange thoughts and ideas, learn from each other’s experiences, and put their dreams to the test.

If you are interested in participating in this mastermind, or would like more information, please contact me. Places are limited, and will be filled on a first come, first serve basis, so please act now to avoid disappointment.