Saturday, 19 March 2016

Are you feeling ashamed you were targeted? Solutions

Bullying. Do you feel ashamed they got you?


Being bullied is only the beginning of the hell that is work-place bullying. You find yourself on the reverse side of what was once your norm. What I mean by that is that judgements and prejudices about others, come into conflict with your own beliefs about bullying prior to finding yourself in the exact situation you were judgemental and prejudiced about.

Is it possible that before you were bullied you viewed those who were targeted as likely to have heaped the situation on themselves, or viewed them as whingers, whiners, non-performers. Worse still you may be forced to admit that in not being bullied you might have regarded yourself as superior to those that are. Perhaps you may have thought you worked better than the bullied one, or that they are different and you are part of the in-crowd. They are outside and you belong.

You might have steered clear of so called trouble makers or believed the workplace 'rumour mill.'


The classic comparison is that of domestic violence. People are perhaps more educated than they were, but how many people have secretly felt smug and gossiped about a victim of domestic violence wondering why she or he has stayed in the situation, thinking them weak and pitiful. But we are now  far more knowledgeable about domestic abuse, we know that the truth is far more complex. But it has taken education and substantial social re-thinking to come to this position. By the time the victim of domestic violence has been dominated and controlled, they are in no fit state to leave. The power and dominance of the perpetrator has literally rendered them incapacitated, or they may see no reasonable way out. There are surely comparisons with the workplace bullied who are so demoralised they cannot challenge their bully or move from their workplace, their confidence destroyed. (See Deluth's power and control wheel)

Is it possible that the experience of work-place bullying is akin to domestic violence? The control is extracted by the bully who uses the bulwark of the work-place to cloak their actions and worse still, in some instance the workplace actually assists the perpetrator.

No wonder then that now you have shifted from observer or bystander, to a target, you are suddenly at odds with your own internal belief system and in a rictus of inaction.

How could you be bullied? How could this happen to you. You do not fit the victim dynamic (or the dynamic you believe in) and yet here you are? Just like the victim of domestic violence you feel powerless or feel that there is no way out that would not result in financial ruin or social embarrassment.


We believe that there is very little research material looking at the role of societal norms and beliefs regarding work-place bullying and the effect of shame and embarrassment in the bullied. It seems astonishing that so little time appears to have been spent on so large a problem, 10 million people worldwide are bullied at work. So much so that effective organisations such as the Workplace Bullying Institute are one of the only such institutes in the United States appearing to do empirical research into the issue.

If a child is bullied it is easy to understand and to sympathise with. The playground bully is a old as Flashman in Tom Brown's school days. Yet as soon as it is an adult, our views and judgements start to change. We become less sympathetic. Why are we at The Third Way so sure of this? Well, for one thing victim blaming is real. Some are apt, quite wrongly to believe that those who are targeted at work may be unpopular, performing poorly or just not part of the culture. In some cases their is smug satisfaction that they are not bullied or bystanders turn a blind eye or ignore it hoping that it and the bully will just fade into the background of the working day. Perhaps it is just human survival instinct, who knows.

But once we are bullied, once we are the target, we may turn such unsympathetic thoughts to ourselves, ias we try to maintain outmoded belief systems. One may become in conflict with oneself and ones former belief of what being a victim means. So much so that many victims of bullying do not even know or acknowledge that they are being bullied. They are literally unable to acknowledge being bullied for fear of admitting that they, through NO FAULT OF THEIR OWN, became a target.   Blame continues, holding the experience up to a critical and judgemental eye, to ones own harsh internal judgement.

Why do we say this? Because recognising that we are all judgemental and critical is the first step in releasing ourselves from guilt and shame.

We can take steps toward being kinder to ourselves. To look upon ourselves as we would if we were Tom Brown being cooked on the fire by Flashman. If that were so, if we observed ourselves as we would a child, we would feel compassion, acceptance and genuine care and sorrow for such treatment. This is a key that could release us from judgement and hence from shame. I was once told to "take the critic off my shoulder." It might have been one of the best things ever said to me, so I share it here.

Perhaps through these thoughts, we might allow ourselves to begin to recover and re-gain some control over the despair. This is not to say we cannot grieve, we must grieve for our changed circumstancrs.

When we understand that shame and embarrassment may be driven by our own inner critic, we can step back and view ourselves with compassion. In so doing we may indeed grow from the experience and be more kind to ourselves and others.

In taking the step toward compassion for ourselves we grow in our love for who we are. We recognise that not only do we not deserve to be bullied but that it is not our fault. This revelation is surely the road to recognising that we do not have to accept the status quo. Whether we choose to challenge the bully, fight the system or walk away, respecting our inner value, enables us to take back control.

We are great believers in counselling and we know that many people feel very nervous of the idea of counselling, perhaps fearing releasing long held emotions and beliefs. We can only speak from experience in saying that the talking therapies may offer constructive tools for recovery. You may wish to google Carl Rogers person-centered approach, which at its most basic is a tool to gain self love and self acceptance when we are feeling deeply troubled and critical of ourselves. There are  several books on it. It is essential to find an accredited counsellor and one that suits you. Do not stick with a counsellor who is not working for you out of obligation, you owe it to yourself to have the best you can afford.

In conclusion, shame and embarrassment may block us from healing from the trauma of being bullied and from adapting our views. IT WAS NOT YOUR FAULT, YOU DID NOT FAIL. In seeing our plight through the eyes of a child or through the eyes of others we can allow ourselves to have unconditional positive regard and empathy for our plight. From this we can grow and heal and make decisions that are correct for our well-being.

We can begin to make plans as to how we will tackle the bullying and how we will empower ourselves by perhaps joining forums, talking to others, perhaps starting a support group or paying for professional advice, seeking union or other advice, that we deserve or retraining ourselves or finding new ways of finding fulfilling employment.

We are not experts and this blog is just our opinion and loving offer of understanding. If you are seized with shame and embarrassment over work-place bullying and if you are finding it hard to cope you should consider speaking to a professional medical practitioner or other professional..

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