I know that I’m not the only one who has dealt with a work bully, but after sharing my story about becoming the woman and the leader I wanted to be in this post, I’ve had so many people reach out to me, saying that they also identify with this situation. Say what??? So, I want to continue this conversation and chat about what happened to me, how I dealt with it, and the way I used it as motivation to start a business.
The work bully treated me and the rest of the women in my workplace with extreme disrespect and even emotional abuse. She loved to put me down and humiliate me in front of peers during meetings, lock me in her office and go down a list of all the things she felt were wrong with me, micromanage every little detail of projects that I worked on, and make fun of me to my face (and behind my back). Once, she screamed in my face to stop asking questions about a task she wanted me to do.“Don’t think, just execute!!” she roared. I will never forget the time we were in a work meeting and she was flipping out about a coworker, screaming that the woman “doesn’t know what she’s doing and must be someone with SPECIAL NEEDS.” Um, I used to teach special needs students, and this bothered me on an entirely new level.
For a while, I chalked her behavior up to the “culture” of the organization, and assumed it was just how things were. After taking a leadership course in my MBA program in 2014, though, I realized that this behavior was NOT typical. The sick part is that I thought all of this was normal, simply because I didn’t know any better. After I realized that it wasn’t acceptable to be treated like this, or to witness others being treated like this, my fight or flight instinct kicked in. I started to figure out a plan B.
For a year and a half before I finally left my job, I had to deal with this work bully. It wasn’t easy and there were times that I felt defeated, but having made it out alive, I wanted to share some insights and tips for anyone else who is going through this.
- You have the power to be who you want to be. Just because someone tells you that you are X, Y and Z doesn’t mean that it is true. You have the power to DELETE that negativity from your mind. Don’t let anyone creep into your thoughts and tell you who you are.
- Bite your tongue. Yes, it might feel good to go off on a bully and tell them how you really feel, but it’s important to control your emotions in the moment if you are dealing with someone who is mentally/emotionally unstable. Anger will just add more fuel to the fire and make things worse. It’s better to be the bigger person in the moment at least and keep your thoughts to yourself. During one time when this work bully locked me in her office for an hour, I was literally biting my tongue while meditating.
- On that note: meditate. I got very into meditation during this period of my life because I didn’t want the bully to see me weak or crying. I would start meditating during meetings when she was attacking others. I’d meditate when she was going down her list of all the things that were wrong with me. I’d lock myself in the “private room” and meditate for 20 minutes if she was getting to me. Focusing on the breath and clearing your mind of all thoughts is life changing in this type of situation.
- Use your moments of darkness to guide you to a brighter future. Always remember that you are in full control of your own future; you can take your situation and use it as motivation to create change. My experiences with the work bully motivated me to create a safe space for women to connect, and my negative experiences fueled my passion and my mission that has become Style Collective. Essentially, I am trying to change how women treat each other, one person at a time. If you have a shitty day, Style Collective should be that place you go to find brightness, motivation, or inspiration to create a future that is full of happiness and purpose.
My experiences with this bully shaped who I am today; without going through all of this, I don’t think that I would have started a blog, realized the need for a community/business, and worked to create Style Collective. Talking about my challenges is therapeutic and healing for me; I am no longer bitter or upset about this work bully, but I want to share my story in a constructive way.
You are not a victim and you are not limited by the labels that others place on you. You do not need to stay where you are; you can escape and be happy again.
I launched Style Collective with no confidence, no experience, and really, no idea what I was doing. But that’s the beauty of it all: you learn as you go. You don’t need to wait for the “perfect time” to do anything; just do it. You are in control of your destiny, not the bully. You can be who you want and achieve what you want to achieve.