One of the most debilitating effects of workplace bullying is how it may prompt a target to use bullying as a primary filter through which so many other work and life experiences are screened, interpreted, and understood.
On occasion, I see it on this blog. I will post an article on some aspect of work that does not explicitly mention bullying or even imply anything about it, and a reader will post a comment to the blog or to my Facebook page that relates it to bullying behaviors.
I do not offer this observation as a criticism. Rather, it is unfortunate evidence of how deeply this form of mistreatment can impact its targets.
Dealing with the experience and aftermath of work abuse can become an obsession. As I’ve written before, targets may excessively ruminate about their experiences. The slightest situational trigger may cause them to evaluate information or a social interaction through the lens of bullying. From a clinical standpoint, this may relate to a fight-or-flight response and various post-traumatic reactions.
True, understanding the dynamics of workplace bullying can actually be an insightful tool for comprehending the workplace in general. Several years ago, Ståle Einarsen, University of Bergen psychology professor and a leading authority on workplace bullying, gave a conference keynote address in which he said, in effect, that rather than using our knowledge of employment relations to help us understand workplace bullying, perhaps we should use our knowledge of workplace bullying to help us understand employment relations.
However, when that filter becomes embedded in one’s emotional being, the results can significantly undermine that person’s quality of life. Here is where we greatly need the modalities of therapy, counseling, and coaching to help people get to better places in their lives.
Helping workplace bullying targets get beyond rumination (2015)
When dealing with abusive work environments, the terrible “ifs” may accumulate (2015)
Workplace bullying: The challenges of moving from recognition to renewal (2014)
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