Workplace Bullying is Real but it doesn’t have to be

Leadership Styles: There are so many new ways to lead. Social entrepreneurship shows us a way to give back while still making money. has broken away from the traditional way of corporate America’s hierarchy by celebrating creativity and adopting a more team friendly or holacracy approach.

Leaders are Human: A common misconception is that leaders are perfect and have all the answers. The person at the top of a company is just a person growing and evolving like the rest of us. I suspect however they have a stomach for coexisting and perhaps even thriving in the face of adversity.

Leading with Resistance: The most difficult obstacle with leadership to me is leading while feeling the resistance of your peers. Being a visionary can be lonely. I’m using a strong word “visionary”, but isn’t that what we strive to be? Opposition is important, but is it opposition with the intention of improving or personal attacks against the person?

Most of us want to make a positive impact on the world in our lifetime. I think about Mark Zuckerberg’s open letter to his baby. It’s beautiful. He has a vision of excellence for the world that’s bigger than the resistance people have against him. If you look at the comment section of his letter he has mostly support from like-minded people in the beginning before the peanut gallery added their opinions.

When I was young what I wanted to be was successful- but for reasons you probably aren’t expecting to hear. I wanted to be regarded by my peers as someone they could respect, admire, and even like as a person. I was bullied frequently and worked hard in school because I kept thinking one day I am going to be an adult. And when I’m an adult I will be with people who act with civility and compassion.

Unfortunately as a newly minted HR professional I stand corrected. Even as a job coach I hear my clients in so much emotional pain regarding the mind games and tricks their co-workers are partaking in. I understand the art of war. I understand sometimes people are into getting what they want and pushing their agenda the only way they know how.

Celebrating Value Add: But perhaps there is another way. Perhaps we should continue celebrating our “Best Places to Work” and read the reasons why those companies were voted for in. Did those companies encourage wellness, spend money on team building, and set up their employees for success? Did those companies take action when a human rights violation was reported? Instead of the art of war at work, we can have a peace brigade celebrating each others’ victories, using the other person’s strengths, and keeping in perspective that making someone feel valued is so much more important than stepping on them in the moment.

I recently had a friend pass away. Her death was a suicide and I can’t help but think if her co-workers treated her with some respect instead of gossiping about her, she would have been set up for success. As I continue to grieve her another friend explained to me that we can never be too kind. No matter how stressful our daily responsibilities can get I would like to believe we are humans who want to feel competent and liked. Instead of complaining and wondering why the incompetent person on your team got hired and is ruining your life, why not teach them? Figure out their strengths and use that to your advantage.

New Skills: When we are focusing on our own professional development we have to do the same exercise. When we struggle with a new skill it is essential to remember we are supposed to be really bad in the beginning. You will get get better at it. You will master it, don’t give up. Write things down and trust that you are improving!

Remember the moments you were successful in the past and use those same skills to be successful now. My first career path was fundraising in the non-profit sector. I had to think about what made me successful during the job search and when I was in college. The answer was through informational interviewing and securing mentors. So I did the same as a fundraiser. I asked for advice and built a really strong group of advisers who brainstormed with me and who worked with me for a common purpose.

When I needed volunteers I noticed a lot of people were quitting because they were doing something they felt they didn’t know how to do. So I started creating customized volunteer opportunities. I started by asking the person what skills have they mastered in their current job, and what skills were they looking to gain for their next job. We then created a volunteer job description which was a mix of what they knew and what they wanted to know. This allowed them to gain quick victories on what they already knew and a really safe space with me to try new skills like video editing or going door to door and asking for auction items.

Everything is temporary: Workplace bullying is often like a fever. If you stick around long enough behavior will change. Bridges can be built with willing parties and corrective action should be taken to those who don’t know how to behave. Resources like the book/training Crucial Conversations taught me how to have strategic conversations with peers in a high stakes situation. Having mentors in my life also helps me discuss my concerns and roadblocks with people I trust so I can keep moving.

I hope you find the right resources, training, and environment that will help you earn the living you dream of earning.

I hope you find compassionate, kind, and authentic people to work with throughout your career, because I sincerely cannot be the only one who is looking.



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