How many times have you been used as a scapegoat for someone else’s mistakes at work? I can vividly remember one colleague who blamed me for his errors. I felt bullied and manipulated, and I cried often. Needless to say, I dreaded going into the office.
Because I was quite young at the time, I didn’t have the skills and confidence that I have today to deal with these issues. In fact, I didn’t even fully understand I was being bullied. Eventually this person made me so unhappy I had to leave.
What I've since learned is this: When you lack self esteem and confidence, and when your work environment is only making this worse, it can impact negatively on your health, wellbeing, and even your relationships.
Here are 5 tips to help you navigate tricky workplace issues:
1. The Bully
Bullying is very common in the workplace and often people are too afraid to confront it. No one should ever have to tolerate this! Bullies generally put down others to make themselves feel better, and to disguise their deep inner powerlessness. Perhaps they feel threatened by you, or they fear their job is in jeopardy. There could be a number of explanations, but the most important thing is to not rise to it or give them any reason to justify their behavior towards you.
One of the many things I learned while working in the power-heavy corporate environment was to avoid getting into conflict whenever possible; If someone is being antagonistic or behaving in a way that causes you distress, politely ignore their behavior or try to respond in a way that does not fuel any opportunity for them to reciprocate. (For example, if someone's trying to get your attention, you could say that you have to take an urgent phone call or that you have a deadline to meet.) Once you've mastered coming from your place of power by avoiding confrontation and being polite, the bully should start to lose interest in you.
If you are being bullied, it's vital that you confide in someone, either your manager or someone you trust. If the bully is your manager (that happened to me too) you have every right to confide in another manager you trust or consult HR. Ensure you have some written documentation of what happened, as it will help you explain the situation clearly, particularly if you're feeling upset.
2. The Competitive Colleague
If a colleague is constantly trying to compete with you, focus on your outcome. What is it that you want to achieve and how will you feel once you get there? Avoid taking notice of what others are doing (unless it helps you positively set goals and benchmarks) but keep your work goals on the move and be comfortable at the thought of your own success, as you define "success."
Everyone has different ways of feeling motivated at work and for some, this is being in competition with other people. This is fine as long as there is fun attached to it, but if you feel it’s distracting, don’t take umbrage, focus on what is right for you. Let them get on with it!
3. The Backstabber
If you are constantly being blamed for other people’s errors, make sure you can prove them wrong. I remember on many occasions digging into my emails for proof so I could clear my name and take the matter further if I needed to. Start to keep a diary and record everything you can, so that if it gets serious, you have a good case to stand up to them.
In any work environment (and in life, too), people respect people more for taking responsibility for their mistakes. Take responsibility for your decisions, your actions and your mistakes. People are more willing to forgive when you hold your hands up and say, “Yes that was me, sorry about that, this is what I should’ve done...."
4. You (Indecision)
Make more decisions for yourself! This may mean having a different opinion than a colleague. If anyone objects to your disagreeing, that person is clearly rooting for a power struggle. These are a pointless waste of energy and should be avoided at any opportunity. They never get anyone anywhere and you come away feeling worse off than you did before having not compromised or solved the issue. Discussions should be based around respecting each other’s opinion and reaching a decision that is for the benefit of the greater good, rather than letting emotions rule the day.
5. You (A Lack Of Self-Esteem)
The best thing you can do to boost your own self esteem is to practice loving who you are. Stop with the negative self talk and re-frame those nasty criticisms that run through your mind on a daily basis. Would you let someone else speak to you the way you speak to yourself? If you are constantly beating yourself up with negative self talk, you'll never feel an inner sense of happiness. You'll always be looking externally for things to make you feel better. Start working from within and you’ll eventually see the world from a very different perspective.