Decide to be Kind – Workplace Bullying
During the morning rush hour, do you bother to give way in the traffic, give a wave to someone who lets you in, or make an effort to give a quick smile to someone as you walk by? If someone smiles at you, do you pause and wonder whether you should smile back? Well wonder no more: of course you should … it is the simple act of being kind, and it’s really that simple.
The universal language for all human beings is love and kindness, and we give this with the hope or expectation that we will receive the same in return.
Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Based on a recent survey about workplace bullying, 80% of the women interviewed revealed that they themselves or someone they know are being sexually harassed, assaulted or bullied at work. That is an alarming number of women who are victims of workplace bullying. In situations like these, do we still want to be kind and hope that we will be treated the same?
Kindness brings us inner peace. Are we struggling to find our inner peace in today’s workplace? Or do we need to earn the right to feel such peace? Is it ok to allow yourself to be mistreated by your boss when you come up with better business proposals or ideas? Do you expect to invest time in playing mind games to get your tasks done? Should you just grin and bear it when you are given a pointless task instead of what you are paid to do? Should you keep quiet if your supervisor reschedules your working hours before consulting you, knowing that such changes would make things difficult for you?
Workplace bullying affects your productivity, your performance and your mental health. It can leave you feeling threatened, intimidated, anxious, exhausted or suffering from sleepless nights. Most likely, it could impact on your trust of and relationship with people around you, including your loved ones. It’s a vicious cycle that stands to repeat itself until you take action to stop it.
There are drastic ways one could choose to handle bullying, such as: ‘an eye for an eye’ mentality, back stabbing and spreading rumours, stalking, sending threatening messages or even using physical violence. But is retaliating really the answer?
Deciding to be kind is another way. Kindness is an attitude of being empathic, understanding and reaching out to alleviate the suffering of others. Who is suffering here – the people who bully others?
Here are some strategies that could help you, if you decide to be kind in the face of bullying:
Face it by stepping forward. Bullying is a cowardly, yet dominating, behaviour. Usually it is masking the bully’s own fears or insecurities by ‘attacking’ someone they feel they have an advantage over. Such behaviour allows the bully to feel in control and less threatened, and it may even boost their self-esteem.
Recently, a friend of mine stood up for her rights, despite knowing workplace bullying is – unfortunately – widely accepted as part of her company’s culture. Her immediate boss took the credit for the business proposal she developed. She decided not to put up with the injustice of someone else taking the glory for her work and she stood up for herself (and her team) during a meeting. Although she was acknowledged, she did not receive an apology.
She led her team well by example. She decided to deliver her message with kindness and she did not speak ill of the boss who had done the wrong thing. Rather, by coming forward, she delivered a clear message of zero tolerance for bullying, whilst also seeking the fair recognition she deserved. The overall effect of this was that she created a more welcoming and harmonious environment to work in.
Heart-to-heart talk. Choose a safe place to do this, such as an open space in the office lobby or a café, where others are around. For your own safety, do not confine yourself to a private room. You could initiate the conversation if you believe there has been some sort of misunderstanding. Be very clear with your intentions right from the start of the invitation, allowing the other person to prepare beforehand for what you would like to discuss. It may be wise to inform another colleague who is not involved in the conversation of your intention, to safeguard your interest, but be careful not to resort to gossiping.
When you meet up with the person, start with a genuine smile. It is the most effective way to break down any invisible barrier that could be in place. Provide some context about the issue you are concerned about and offer suggestions about what you could do to help him or her with the issue at hand, and then allow the other person the space to talk and respond. People like to tell you about themselves and showing your empathy, care and understanding towards them will most likely be your best strategy in reaching a resolution. Focus on solving the issue and be a good listener. It would be best if both parties came to a mutual understanding and could agree upon on a win-win compromise.
Making friends in the office is always much better than making enemies. It is tiring and draining to be at odds with other people. Always start with kind thoughts of helping others, as this might be the best way to solve the tense circumstances you can face.
Writing a message to the person involved. Do not make the situation worse by using aggressive and defensive words. Politely share your concerns over the issue and try to eliminate the conflict. I used to write to my teenage daughter when we were unable to solve a disagreement calmly face to face. That way, I could get it off my chest by relaying my message in a thoughtful and careful way without fuelling the tension.
Nowadays there are many online forums or Facebook groups that you could reach out to. Speak your heart out and get support from those who have been in your position and can relate to what you are going through. You will benefit from feeling supported and understood, and you may also receive some good tips on how to approach your particular situation.
Voice it out to the authorities. Find out whether your company has any policies or procedures in place for handling bullying in the workplace. As an employee, you deserve to be heard and your rights should be respected. Be sure to stand up for the notion that workplace bully is not accepted.
In NSW, you could make a complaint about workplace bullying to the Australian Human Rights Commission by calling 1300 656 419. WorkSafe NSW provides advice and help about these types of issues and they can be contacted on 13 10 50.
You may be thinking that this option doesn’t seem very kind, but when you consider that kindness must be directed to yourself (and other potential victims too) – then indeed it is.
Deciding to be kind is an attitude and it empowers you to live an enriched and purposeful life. The art of displaying kindness is a lifelong commitment you make to yourself and others who work and live around you. Being kind is a choice.
The depth of your kindness will be tested during periods of stress, such as workplace bullying, but as Aesop said: ‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ Let’s make this work, starting with us.
So … be kind to the stranger passing you by offering them a smile, be kind to people who need to learn kindness themselves. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.