• corporate bullying

Personal reflections on corporate bullying

I have been contemplating writing a second short article on LinkedIn for a while, then the difficult decision, do I write about the deep philosophical debates of removing ratings or not from your performance management system. Do I perhaps contemplate the move from employee engagement to employee experience and the complexities that it entails? Or, should I delve into the Future World of Work and how we have to enable our cultures and business to embrace flexibility or remote working post-COVID-19? Well, all worthy causes and topics which could keep us busy for a reasonable amount of time.

Or, do I go a bit more personal and tackle the issue of corporate bullying, because I too have been the victim and on the receiving end of it, not once, but twice. This topic certainly would be a cause worthy of a hashtag. All of a sudden debating the merits of performance ratings doesn’t seem that appealing anymore.

Let me share a few personal truths about these experiences, these are my truths, it might not apply universally.

It really hits you in the stomach and takes your breath away, you sometimes feel like you need to grasp for air. There is no way to avoid this impacting your family life, in my first “abusive relationship” it was one of the lowest points of my personal relationships and took lots of work to get through it – I was in my own world dealing with the pain, doubt and rejection.

You can’t tell others, because you stand the risk of the punches increasing, or even worse, you losing your job. It haunts you day and night, and all the short times in between, it pretty much becomes your life.

And perhaps one of the most difficult, in many cases, certainly in mine, their bosses were aware of it and did nothing. So your anger now starts becoming “brand anger”, it is no longer just about the bully; it is also about the company they represent. We don’t tolerate this behaviour towards our kids, why do we allow it when it is our employees.

And then the saddest of all realities, you start to question yourself and your self-worth. The reality, like with other forms of abuse, it takes time to heal, but it does eventually.

It would be amiss to not also capture some positive life lessons I have learnt in the process, after all, an article like this can’t just end with a negative “there is not hope” feeling. So, from personal experience, these are the lessons I have learnt.

Talk to the people close to you – share your feelings and embrace their support. Talk to a colleague you trust and make sure they are aware of it, but make sure they can be trusted.

And perhaps the most essential life lesson I carry with me every day when you deal with colleagues, and especially in cases where you need to have a tough conversation, always make sure you leave their self-esteem intact.

The last one had become a life motto of sorts for me, and I often repeat these words to others.

So where to from here?

Of course, every person needs to chart a path for themselves. It is also true that every situation of abuse differs from person to person and no single set of advice contains the recipe to the solution, primarily when your livelihood depends on it.

All I can say is that is does get better, and you get over most of it in time. Trust the people close to you and allow them to support you in any way possible. Stay close to your loved ones and embrace their love and support.

Deon de Swardt