Growing up, it always seemed like one of the perks of being an adult was the lack of bullies. Bullying stops after high school graduation, doesn't it?
Unfortunately, as it turns out, that isn't always the case. A few bullies sneak through life without giving up their bullying ways. Often, these meanies resurface at work.
Maybe they're unhappy with their own lives, or perhaps there are other personal issues at play. Whatever the cause, being on the receiving end of bullying is never fun.
I've met a number of people who have experienced workplace bullying, and I've noticed that being bullied is something we feel shameful about. We don't talk about it openly because we feel bad it's happening to us. A person who is bullied often assumes they are the only person dealing with it. As a result, we keep our thoughts locked up and allow them to eat away at us.
But bullying is real, and it's widespread. According to a 2017 study released by the Workplace Bullying Institute, 19 percent of Americans are bullied at work and another 19 percent witness such bullying. Bullying affects 60 million Americans.
If you've been bullied, you may wonder what is wrong with you. We often assume bullying is a reflection of our own worth or lack thereof. We wonder if maybe we've chosen the wrong career path. Maybe we're completely unqualified. Maybe the bully has figured out the truth about us.
This internalization of workplace bullying is a toxic experience. It's stressful. It takes away our power. It undermines our confidence and our performance. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 40 percent of people who are bullied suffer adverse health effects as a result.
If you are on the receiving end of bullying, you should know that you're not alone and that bullying is not a reflection of you or your abilities. Aggressive behavior of any kind, whether it's name-calling, backstabbing, or undermining, is never okay at work. Period.
If you have found yourself on the receiving end of a bully, work to build your personal team of advocates. Find people you trust who will be supportive as you find a way out of the situation. Document your experience so you can reflect back on what's happening over time. Look for opportunities to reach out to folks within your organization, such as your manager, coworkers, or the human resources department. You may also want to consider looking for a job at a new company.
When dealing with a bully, the solution is not simply to survive the day. Your endgame is to thrive. You deserve to be treated with respect. Sticking up for yourself is critical to your future success. Don't let a bully's efforts go on until you are physically and emotionally run down. Work to end this cycle of unhealthy behavior today.
A version of this article originally appeared in the Memphis Daily News.
Angela Copeland is a career coach and CEO at her firm, Copeland Coaching.