bullying workplace employment employee stress anxiety work

I was accustomed to recognising stress and anxiety. I supported members of staff through difficult and stressful periods and had dealt with the occasional bullying accusation as I wouldn’t allow such destructive behaviour to continue if and when it occurred.

The problem with bullying is you don’t always realise you are being bullied. As a child I had been teased and taunted relentlessly for wearing glasses and being ‘podgy’ – I was known as the ‘fat kid with glasses’. As you get older bullying often takes on a somewhat more sinister edge.

I felt that I had a good relationship with a colleague who joined the team and we were working well together. I can’t put my finger on when it changed but I came to realise that over the course of time, I would find myself in meetings, agreeing a course of action with them after which, I would carry out my part of ‘the plan’ only to be criticised as suddenly they ‘weren’t able to remember that we had agreed such a course of action’. This happened time and time again and I found myself checking, double checking and triple checking everything, particularly when I was putting anything in writing.

I ultimately found myself being belittled, patronised and shouted out by this passive aggressive individual. I felt totally and utterly diminished and that’s when my problems with stress and anxiety started to rear their head.

Then they made an enormous mistake which could have resulted in court action – when they were called to task, they immediately slapped in a grievance. This individual had ‘wreaked havoc’ and got away with it, pulling the wool over the eyes of my employers and I felt that my dedication meant nothing anymore; I was absolutely crushed, saddened and depressed.

The physical systems I had started to experience a few months before started to escalate. There were times when I’d get to the car park and find that I was shaking and had to wait sometime before I could get out of the car. When I walked into the building I started to become breathless, my limbs felt paralysed and I felt terrified of the day ahead. My employers, whom I thought, respected me then started to bully me as well. I received the most appalling email which triggered an enormous panic attack resulting in the doctor signing me off. Her words to me were ‘you need to step away from that toxic environment for a while otherwise you will have a breakdown’.

As the bullying continued from a distance, my mental health deteriorated to the point of a breakdown. My confidence was shattered. Never in my life had I experienced mental health issues and I found myself on a cocktail of prescribed drugs ‘topped up’ by counselling. I absolutely didn’t recognise myself.

When it became apparent that the individual had pulled the wool over everyone’s eyes, the damage for me was already done. The organisation tried to ‘back-peddle’ as they realised what a mistake they had made. The workplace had turned so unhealthy and toxic I resigned with the intention of taking them to court.

I then watched a once thriving and dynamic organisation die. The majority of staff went on long term sick and resigned, income was lost, patron support was withdrawn and Ithe new regime was ‘totally toxic’ as they acted like a wrecking ball. It was a huge bereavement after so many years with the loss of relationships and a working way of life that had been fulfilling.

Bullying in the workplace only results in a toxic workplace culture – this has been borne out in the demise of many businesses. If the workplace culture is poor, staff absence and turnover will be high causing huge disruption and costs to any business.

Once I had regained my strength, I decided I had to use my negative experience in a positive way to help others. I set up my business last year to mentor business leaders to look after the mental health and wellbeing of staff which helps to nurture a healthy workplace culture. I’ve developed a people management training programme (OPUS) which will turn managers into effective people managers who recognise that looking after staff, including their mental health, will result in a healthy workplace culture. It will also reduce business costs due to staff retention and low absence.

And, to my surprise, I am using my knowledge in a lecturing capacity, teaching HR Managers a CIPD qualification!

I have come a long way in quite a short space of time but it’s not been easy and I still ‘have my moments’; the scars are still there but they are healing and the positive work I’m doing is really helping me to leave such a devastating experience behind.

Lisa Seagroatt

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1 thought on “Bullying”

  1. Brian (Leiyu) Yang

    I enjoyed reading your blog & sympathise with what you experienced. So many times, an Organisation can become toxic because of one or two individuals; and unfortunately they can also start to influence the culture.

    You’ve come through it, are now in a stronger place than ever. Well done for that & Best of luck with your business endeavours.

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