Thoughts lead to emotions, and emotions can spiral out of control, leaving you feeling helpless, depressed, and anxious. That’s one of the lessons from a 5-week class I’m taking called “Secrets to a Satisfied Life,” a course about taking control of your life path and inner peace.
Last night, the teacher introduced a “challenging beliefs worksheet” used in cognitive behavioral therapy for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a disorder common with veterans and workplace bullying targets (bullying can cause shock to a positive, trusting worldview).
The idea with the worksheet is to change a pattern of problematic thinking and reframe it. Do you have evidence? Are you confusing the possible with the likely? Are you jumping to conclusions? Are you oversimplifying a problem? (This coping technique by no means excuses workplace bullying. It is simply a way to help you unteach yourself the bully’s toxic lessons.)
Walking through reframing a thought pattern
For example, you might believe you’re incompetent because your boss treats you like you are. Following the worksheet:
A. She may have belittled you at a meeting or given you unreasonable expectations.
B. Your stuck point may be that you’re not good enough.
C. You might feel hurt, angry, or resentful.
D. You challenge the thought. You may realize that you’re accepting an untruth.
E. You might decide that your boss puffs up her feathers and belittles and acts pompous when she’s threatened by your competence. Your worry about your own self-worth missed that importance piece of the puzzle.
F. When she belittles you next time, you can say to yourself “this belittling is just her insecurity talking. It has nothing to do with me, but I’ll take it as a back-handed compliment.”
G. Now you realize you are good enough — better than good enough, actually.
H. You feel much better.
Try these steps next time you’re bullied or you find yourself in negative self-talk or overwhelmed with negative emotions. See if it will help you separate yourself from your bully’s toxic worldview and understand it has nothing to do with you.
Worksheet source: https://cpt.musc.edu/resource_info/challenging_beliefs.pdf
You feel frustration, fear, shame, isolation, little motivation, anxiety, depression, and devalued from managers at the top of your organization tolerating, and maybe even encouraging, workplace bullying. You’re up against an entire culture that accepts and even promotes unhealthy behaviors.
Unfortunately, most advocates tell us that after they asserted their needs and reported bullying behavior to higher-ups, their unions, or Human Resources, management ignored the problem – or made it worse.
But you deserve better. You deserve a healthy workplace where you feel strong and well. No matter your experience, education, skill, personality, or contribution to an organization, you should have basic rights. You deserve to feel like:
- You’re on a winning team, a forward-moving group with smart and healthy managers who appreciate your strengths and promote a healthy working environment with clear expectations and direction.
- You belong. You’re an important part of the winning team.
- You’re part of a greater purpose and play a meaningful role in the reason your organizations exists.
So here’s a cheat sheet of common toxic behaviors you may encounter at work – and how you deserve to be treated instead.
You’re overworked, and your hard work isn’t recognized or rewarded.
- You work hard, but you get more and more loaded on. It feels like you’re getting punished for being a great worker. To boot, you’re not getting a promotion, a higher salary, or a better title. You don’t even receive much positive feedback.
- Your boss expects you to work during paid time off without notice or gives you more work right before a vacation. Your boss doesn’t have your back when you take sick, personal, or vacation time. He leaves you with two weeks worth of work when you get back.
What you deserve instead: To feel valued. You should have a right to feel like your contributions have worth and importance through a reasonable workload, a promotion, raise, or better title, frequent appreciation, and respect for your time off.
You don’t trust your boss.
- Your boss doesn’t follow through on his promises. You’ve lost trust and respect for him. You feel like he doesn’t care. Your coworkers follow in his footsteps. Not a winning team.
- Your boss kisses up and kicks down. He puts his own self-promotion through brown-nosing, manipulation, backstabbing, and narcissism above your team. You’re left feeling blamed, disciplined, laid off, or even terminated.
What you deserve instead: To feel trusting and supported. You should have a right to trust your boss when he makes a promise and count on his support of your team.
Your boss doesn’t treat you fairly.
- Your boss doesn’t hire or promote the right people. You feel resentment and are demotivated because you’ve worked hard, but the boss rewards someone who hasn’t worked as hard as you have. So you don’t believe your boss really wants to build a winning team.
- Your boss ignores you or plays favorites. Your boss leaves you out of emails, meetings, conversations, or social functions.
- Your boss gives you vague directions and often expects you to read his mind. So you get into a lose-lose situation: you either risk looking incompetent by asking too many questions at the beginning of a project or spend too much time trying to guess your boss’ expectations and then fail.
What you deserve instead: To feel fairly treated. You should have a right to fair rewards, similar standards for your colleagues, and clear directions.
Your boss doesn’t try to build you as a worker and person.
- Your boss doesn’t care about your successes or care when you’re dealing with an overwhelming personal life. You tell him about time you need off to deal with a family emergency, but he lacks empathy for you.
- Your boss doesn’t care about challenging you or getting you out of your comfort zone. He only cares about what you’re producing and how much.
- Your boss crosses boundaries. He acts too friendly and follows you on social media only to get dirt on you or to see if you’re unhappy or looking for a new job.
- Your boss fails to acknowledge your passions, give you opportunities, give you more training and skills, and consider your feedback.
- Your boss nitpicks and fault finds, finding anything trivial (even if you just spent hours on quality work) so you can second-guess your skills and value.
- Your boss uses subtle teasing to demean you and makes it so subtle that you’ll seem foolish explaining that it’s part of his pattern of abuse.
What you deserve instead: To succeed and feel respected, accomplished, and empowered. You deserve growth, praise, and constructive feedback – not just criticism. You should have a right to:
- Have a separate, healthy life outside of work
- Information and resources necessary to do your job well so you can feel productive, challenged, and free to grow
- Power and control over your work for confidence and strength
- Dignity, with your human needs and individual strengths and weaknesses honored
- Feel heard and receive appropriate responses when you voice concerns.
If you feel beaten down at work, don’t settle. Rather than go up against an entire organizational culture and deal with the stress and toll on your mental and physical health, spend time finding managers and a culture that already promote well-being. You deserve it. And nothing less.