By Janice Gilligan White (Guest Blogger)
While reflecting on my own personal role in my workplace mobbing experience, I discovered five ways you can unknowingly sabotage your career.
My own personal experience showed me just how vulnerable, unprepared and unprotected I was and I believe you are too.
Like me, you may be unaware of the systems your organization has in place that will inevitably lead you to sabotage your career.
In addition, there are innate biases you have that hinder your ability to see workplace bullying as the career-sabotaging monster that it is. Here are the five ways you sabotage your career:
You, just like I did, probably believe that you’re less at risk than others of experiencing a negative event such as workplace bullying.
We have a sense that we’re immune to bullying and convince ourselves that we’re different from those who have experienced it.
Surely our companies and the people we work with are different from those who wreak such havoc? We place workplace bullying on the: “It couldn’t happen to me” list.
This is an innate human tendency that helps us feel safe in the world. It’s also known as the optimism bias and is a predictable and well-researched aspect of the human condition.
When applied to the workplace, feeling optimistic helps us buy-in, engage, and succeed. If we remained aware that at any time and without recourse, someone could viciously strip us of our finances, benefits, and health (even after years of dedicated service), it would certainly reduce our ability to thrive in the workplace.
Most dangerously, we’re filled with absolute confidence that we can overcome whatever it is that’s taking place; making it nearly impossible to accept the reality of the situation we’re in.
As a result, we sabotage our careers because we don’t recognize the abuse early enough to save ourselves from the traumatic outcomes that are sure to follow.
Just like I did, you probably believe that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people. This is also a predictable and well-researched human tendency called “The Just World Hypothesis.”
This tendency ensures you believe that “good” employees will experience their honest, hard work paying off professionally. You expect a long and successful career if you just follow all the rules.
But what happens when something BAD happens to someone GOOD at work?
Our desire to believe that justice ultimately prevails is rattled and we find ourselves wanting to make sense of the situation.
Instead of seeing workplace aggression as strictly the result of the abuser’s agenda, we find ourselves thinking: “Surely there must be something the target did to deserve it (victim blaming).”
When we misdirect the blame, we contribute to the cycle of abuse by justifying the actions of the bully all the while failing to set up a support system for the targeted employee.
When we think of the word bully, we have a preconceived idea of both the victim and the bully, which is often related to what it looks like on the playground. It’s hard to imagine that such actions take place in a professional environment filled with…adults.
But we would be foolish to think bullying is just for children.
Understanding how bullying works in the workplace is critical. While it can look the same as on the playground, oftentimes the bullies penetrating our work environment are too smart to be so obvious.
Bullying managers use their power to spread rumors and drum up false accusations. They sabotage work, isolate the target, and hand out low performance reviews.
When we fail to label this behavior as bullying, we foolishly accept it as typical “Corporate World,” deeming it acceptable.
Targets of workplace bullying are also contrary to what we normally think of as a bully victim. Statistically, those targeted in the workplace are shown to be the most experienced, capable, caring, creative, and well-liked employees according to research by Gary Namie.
Failure to expand our definition to include workplace bullying, sabotages our chance to validate it and deem it worthy of the same social outrage shown to those who cause harm on the playground.
Silence is a powerful tool for the abuser. Combined with fear, it allows aggression to stay in the shadows, unexposed. The abuser also uses silence to isolate targets, denying them the essential human need to belong; to matter.
Speaking up becomes difficult for the target as well as bystanders because silence gives us hope the aggression will subside. Staying silent guarantees others in the proximity of the abuse will be spared a similar fate.
But silence can also be a powerful tool to combat workplace bullying if done so correctly. Silence can give the appearance of strength and resilience. It can give a sense of being in control (even if the employee feels none of these things in the midst of abuse).
Strategically stepping back gives the target time to seek council, properly document and plan their next course of action.
When you use silence to your advantage, you can avoid speaking up in a way that will sabotage your career. Instead, you’ll be working towards a successful outcome.
Many times, the abuser’s goal is to have the targeted employee leave the workplace. The bully makes the environment so hostile that the employee is often left with very little choice but to flee.
If you’re the target, your goal is simply to hold on to all you’ve worked for. You unsuccessfully try to appease the bully and may push yourself to a level of exhaustion to prove your worth.
Loss of sleep and even stopping eating is common. Your body is in full flight or fight mode and you probably don’t recognize the damage to your health. You’re then faced with the soul-crushing reality that if you want to survive you may in fact have to leave.
Research has shown that up to 77% of bullied targets end up losing their job. By educating yourself on what your odds actually are, you can better play the cards you’re dealt during the event.
You may not realize that over 30 million Americans as well as half of all Australians have experienced workplace bullying. That probably includes you. With these numbers, you no longer have the luxury of ignorance; you’re on track to sabotage your career.
Workplace bullying is NOT illegal. Neither HR nor the company is there to protect YOU. Your past work record and current reputation are not enough to save you from losing everything you’ve worked for.
By recognizing your innate belief systems, expanding your definition of bullying, understanding how to successfully use the power of silence and calculating your risks, you can set up your career for success instead of sabotage.
To find out what happened to me, you can read about my experience of workplace mobbing in the aviation industry here.
Maybe you’re not quite where Janice is at in your journey and you need some extra help. If so, download my Workplace Evidence Gathering Kit to help you make an effective complaint to HR: