Friday, 4 December 2015

Planning mode - how to deal with a developing bad situation

Our 'go to ' plan for making the most of a developing bad situation.

We at Cancer-Bullied at Work believe that workplace and corporate bullying is abuse and that the effects of bullying are trauma.  We are not experts but there is much psychological and medical dicta to this effect.

Make no mistake,  when you are being bullied or have been threatened with discipline or disciplined by a determined bully, the last thing you will have on your mind is PLANNING because you will be in the beginnings of a traumatic and discombobulating event.

But we would suggest you start planning as far in advance as possible when being bullied. First and foremost planning brings a level of control back to your life, when your work life is starting to run out of control.

                             BRING BACK SOME CONTROL INTO YOUR LIFE

When you are being bullied you are in or just about to enter a Tsunami or Earthquake in your life and the important thing is to have an infrastructure and emergency measures in mind. Given my own personal experiences you cannot underestimate the effect of what is happening. You don't think LA doesn't have a plan if there is an Earthquake along the San Andreas Fault do you? You will have little or no stomach for planning after the event. You will be in shock. Best you start now.

I had a quite hard upbringing so being bullied is not entirely new to me. Even so being bullied at work as an adult and one who had just had cancer was very difficult to comprehend. That said, because I had experience, I knew that acting immediately to protect myself was important. If you are unsure if you are being bullied, I strongly recommend you get a good book on it or consult (see our pages or go direct to link) so you can be sure of what is happening.

The most immediate thing on my mind was to get immediate medical advice from my doctor. This was so that they were in a position to maintain careful monitoring of my situation and available to advise me the best way to look after myself. In my case this was a slight increase in my personal medical needs due to my exhaustion issues having had chemo and radiotherapy and monitoring of my increasing stress levels became vital.  Bullying is like any form of abuse, you have no control on how it will be for you. However you can limit that damage by planning to manage what is happening to you. For example my , cholesterol levels rose to 10,  but as I was being monitored I was put on statins quite quickly to reduce the immediate risks. I had other health issues which are too comprehensive to discuss in this blog.

I could not stop the shock levels but I did at least have the number of counselling services already in my phone and I did use counselling when things got completely out of hand at work.

Our emergency kit in our earlier blog is an immediate go to piece of advice, but this post expands on that.

The perceived view these days is not to immediately walk out of your job. This is because proving constructive dismissal is in not as easy as the general public think it is. If you can survive where you are, you may need to think about staying for a while longer, but then again this should not be at the expense of your health (see below).

Evidence Gathering.

If you suspect you are being bullied or targeted you must start gathering evidence immediately, take notes, keep all documents. If the situation is dire ensure you get copies of all relevant emails or correspondence before your company gets to your computer to get rid of them. Could anyone be a witness? Do not forget that most witnesses cry off at the last minute, but you could at least start to make a check-list yourself of who may be likely to assist. Inform your union or trusted advisor who they are. Make no mistake there are plenty of stories of some companies massaging, redacting or re-arranging material in their favour and that may include the reports on grievances etc.

Check with your union or trusted advisor whether there are other cases pending against the same bully. This will enable them to start to build a picture of what is really going on. Union's often have private soundings with senior management which employees are not privy to and sometimes will highlight to senior management where issues are developing.

Ensure that your confidentiality is paramount, only you can decide what your union or trusted advisor does with the information you give them.

Start to make a list of people you trust and people you do not trust with information.

Do not forget that there is now a Freedom of Information Act. I would personally not use it without getting advice from a union or trusted advisor, however, if it gets to litigation or worse it may be that files are still in existence. If you did not get the relevant information the Company may have an obligation to provide you with information that directly affects you. There is also other legislation beyond the scope of this blog that may be of use to you, your advisors or union will be able to assist in this.

Next on the list is finances. If you are being bullied then leaving your job will be on your mind and so  will the possibility that you are going to lose it. I really advise getting to grip with your finances now, if you haven't done so. This may not be easy, especially if you have had cancer, however, like I said in the blog below about unfairness, acceptance that things are going to be rocky for a while is important in motivating you. If you are in debt, now is the time to get debt advice.

CV - Start brushing up your CV. If necessary consider whether to get a professional to look at it.
This is also a good time to ask people to help you with identifying your skill-set. Get your CV up on some industry web-sites if you feel safe to do so,  you never know who is looking around for a new recruit. Do not be motivated to just take any old job to get out. Recognise your worth and allow yourself time to be the best you can.

Re-skilling - may seem counter intuiative, as your energy levels will be low. However, do what you can. If you are still at work use whatever workplace courses and computer courses are available to give you continuing professional development. Not least, your bully will look like a fool when they try to highlight you as incompetent when you have a battery of evidence showing how industrious you are in your work. Having said that, do your re-skilling where the bully cannot sabotage it. In my case, believe it or not, immediately after being bullied I started a counselling course with a view to the possibility of taking up some self employment if the worst came to the worst.

I also cleared out old junk with a view to selling it if needs be.

I also made very careful and judged decisions with money to make my finances the best they could be. As the bullying took months, I made it my business to squirrel away money that would keep me going should I lose my job. In the end I had enough for at least six-months survival if I lost my job. I did not lose my job but the bully was very determined in that objective.

Listing - I spent a lot of time listing alternative careers, ideas notions etc of what I might want to be in the future and what I was seeking in my life. I found 'chunking down' ideas helped me focus on what I wanted for my 'after bully' future. I discovered that for me this was a desire to pay it forward and to move into a more helping role of work (hence starting this blog). In my instance this 'chunking down' enabled me to spend a great deal of time, not thinking about the bully, but about what I wanted out of life. This sort of focus is great for working out what is really important to you. It takes a great deal of time to work out. It took me many months through my cancer treatment and through the bullying to realise that I was finding my actual area of work less than satisfying and that I was seeking change. The bully was a catalyst for really concentrating on myself and my needs.

Managing Anxiety and stress at this time will become of paramount importance. There is an endless list of methods from, Meditation,  Yoga, exercise, diet, and ultimately medical pills to deal with the fall-out of bullying-

Mindfulness and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Emotional Resilience. All are recent methods to manage anxiety. I have not personally tried any mindfulness, CBT or ER to any great depth, however I have worked with an employment coach that used some of the ideas in his employment coaching courses. I am a great advocate of coaches. Mine cost £70 for an all day course with other delegates and was invaluable in looking at 'catastrophising' forms of  thinking. I also met other delegates who provided me with networking opportunities and wider frames of reference.

Mindfulness is about working in the present moment. Obviously when being bullied much valuable time is spent exhausting oneself on the issue. Mindfulness allows the mind to steady and stay present and this is an important aspect of retaining a realistic prospective when the bully is not in sight.

CBT is the method of therapy that helps ith th management of problems by changing behaviour. it is most effective for anxiety. Anxiety is going to be-devil the bullied employee. However, some of the books and course on this area may be helpful in managing some of the excesses of the issue. (obviously if anxiety or stress has become uncontrollable for you it is most essential you seek medical assistance)

Emotional Resilience - It is essentially about the ability to bounce back from adversity. It involves things like looking for the silver lining, seeing dilemmas as a challenge and not a threat, gaining perspective and finding support. It may explain why some people can survive difficult situations whilst others cannot.

I do not suggest that you do or do not use these methods, but researching and finding a method that works for you is actively allowing you to control the situation and also to acknowledge the harm and effects of bullying.

Do not forget friends, pets, exercise, and having fun are ways of discharging stress and although you may not feel like it, simply getting involved may have benefits.

Carding - Just a quick word on this. I have made it my business to keep the cards of practically everyone I have met who has given me one. This is a great habit because you will be amazed how many people you have forgotten who are just one step away of giving you advice and help.

Referees It is quite rare, certainly in the UK, that you will not be able to have a suitable reference from your employer. In fact we understand, but are not experts, that it may be illegal to give a bad reference unless there is just cause. (Can someone let us know?). However, if your only reference is your immediate bully then it may be time to seek out old employers or people of influence who wold be prepared to reference you.

Legals - As stated before, check your legals, do you have insurance on your car or home insurance, are you unionised. Can anyone recommend a good lawyer. Can you get a cheap or free consultation from a lawyer, can you get no win no fee....We are not experts in this area but you may need to think carefully about this. Not least you may want to get an idea of what you could get if you had a case and also whether you need representation at an early stage, for example if you need to write legally to your workplace or need to negotiate a compromise agreement to leave ....The list is endless so have an idea now what access you have to good legal advice.

Networking This is also a good time to kick-start your networking. Whether it be, re-joining industrial professional bodies or just touching base with old acquaintances. This is the time to be actively scoping for new opportunities. You may just find that old job where you are being bullied is not what you need and that you are valued elsewhere. During my period of being bullied I was offered four job alternatives, for various reasons they were not suitable, however it felt good to be valued. This may be a time where you might need to decide whether to cut your losses or stay and fight the issue, whatever you decide, you are building in your ability to control the situation and reducing the bullies impact on your life.

Do not forget Linked In and other networking sites such as twitter are now other additional aids to scoping for and linking with networks and jobs.

Do not forget to allow yourself time to think. Even if you get offered opportunities you can always ask for time to think about it. When you are being bullied it is traumatic and you may make knee-jerk judgements. Talk to trusted individuals about decisions you may wish to make.

As bullying may cause you to go into a traumatic state we cannot emphasis the importance of medical assistance. You may need to discuss with your doctor whether you should get immediate Occupational Health advice as you may need to take time off?


When we have scoured the net for advice on recovery from bullying it is sadly lacking. There is much on how to sue or take action but nothing much on recovery for those of us that were too exhausted to sue or failed in our actions or simply cannot cope as the matters progress or are suffering after the event. We think that sites that deal with recovery from trauma are actually very helpful to the bullied, because the experience of bullying seems to mirror the effects of other types of trauma and may even be post-traumatic stress.

Please, please, please as part of your plan, if you find control slipping away from you or feel you cannot cope speak to you doctor or crisis services such as the Samaritans. Do not suffer in silence help and caring is just a click away. (please see quick links for other sites such as

                                               DO NOT SUFFER IN SILENCE

Preparing for the shock of bullying is the beginning of building a buffer around yourself for the onslaught. Try not to go into denial, but accept that you have been targeted. Acceptance is the beginning of healing.

                                    IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT. IT IS NOT MY FAULT!

We are not professionals in any of these areas but have experienced what you may be experiencing, our comments are not advice and cannot compensate for professional services.


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