TWO PART ARTICLE;
Bullying Caused Women’s Suicide, Inquiry Told. Published in: The Sidney Morning Herald by Natasha Wallace. and
Suicide When Related to Workplace Bullying. By ABC.
Bullying Caused Women’s Suicide, Inquiry Told.
The Sidney Morning Herald. July 9, 2008.
By Natasha Wallace, July 9th, 2008
CHRISTINE HODDER, 38, was a much-loved woman with a husband and a three-year-old daughter, and had almost completed her Bachelor of Nursing degree when she killed herself in her backyard. Click on, or copy and past, the link below to read complete article.
Suicide, When Related to Workplace Bullying.
Suicide due to workplace bullying including mobbing, is becoming an increasingly popular topic in the war against workplace bullying. One recent study revealed that 15% of successful adult suicides are related to workplace bullying. It can be a real hard blow for targets, and is usually the first sign of real trouble, after the bullying has begun, and the target gets their first unfair reprimands. Often these first reprimands, are the first reprimands ever received in a target’s usually long career. This in its self, can be the last straw, or the deciding factor for a target who is considering suicide, especially for someone who is already on shaky ground emotionally.
Typically these reprimands are given “behind closed doors”, and are often presented in loud, angry voices, with threats of further reprimand or dismissal. Targets are usually stunned by the bully’s first allegations which may be based on half-true incidents, which are exaggerated, twisted versions of the true events. The target typically tries to reason with the bully boss by describing the true events, but fails, because there is no real validity to the allegations, and the bully has no real intention to resolve issues with the target in the first place. The target is often treated very disrespectfully during these “behind closed doors” meetings with their responses being interrupted, minimized, or met with eye rolling, tongue clicking, moans, groans and outright accusations of lying. These behaviors toward the target are “tactics”, meant to, and often succeeding in, provoking the target to anger, tears, or an emergency medical crisis, such as an asthma attack, heart attack, hyperventilation, or emotional collapse.
You should suspect that bullying is rife, if a company has one or two tiny, windowless meeting rooms, minimumly furnished and intentionally made as uncomfortable as possible. These are modern day corporate versions of medieval torture chambers. The difference being, medieval torture chambers were designed as places which enhance the infliction of physical pain. Modern corporate torture chambers, are designed as places which enhance the infliction of emotional pain. Physical abuse is painful, visable to others, and is illegal. Verbal abuse is just as painful as physical abuse, but is not outwardly visable to others and in most cases, does not cross the line to what is considered to be, an arrestable offense.
The room my bully met with me in was so small, you had to move the chairs to open the door. It was windowless, with a tiny round table surrounded by 3, small, minimally padded chairs. The reason for 3 chairs is, one for the target, and two for the bully boss and a supporter of the bully, usually a Human Resource Rep.. Two against one. Even if the bully boss meets alone with the target, the bully boss has the extra chair on her side of the table, to represent the two to one advantage. There was nothing else in the room. There were no refreshments, not even a glass of water or a paper cup in case you should want to get one. When I was provoked to tears. there were no tissues, so the tears streamed down my face and I wiped the snots from my nose on my sleeve.
They were short on compassion and human decency was nonexistant, as they continued the verbal assault packed with one absurd lie after another. Not even the bully boss could possibly believe her own words. All of this continued, seemingly endlessly despite my increasing inability to maintain my composure. I was left unable to respond, literally speechless and defeated. The bully left the room impatiently while the HR rep advised that I take a walk outside “to clear your head” as she said. I couldn’t even form words to respond, as I walked out the door, my eyes to the floor, hoping no one would even know.
“Behind closed doors” meetings is a common tactic of bullies, described both in anti-bullying literature, as well as in dozens of target testimonies that I have read through the years. It’s unbelievably amazing how similar, details of bullying tactics, such as these, in which I am describing a “behind closed doors meeting room”, will be strikingly similar to meeting rooms that other targets, at different companies, even in different countries, will describe. Other details that target testimonies reveal are that these meetings are often called suddenly, during unexpected times, when the target is the most uncomfortable. Examples being, when the target is hungry, just before their lunch break, or when they first arrive, and feel flustered and unprepared. Choosing a time when the target is exhausted, or is trying to cope with other problems, is another tactic.
The bully’s only real motivation is to engage the target in battle, while having the resources to have an advantage, before the target even arrives. Their intention is not only to hurt the target, but to manipulate, control, subjugate and eventually to destroy and eliminate the target from the workplace. Target testimonies repeatedly identify the two year mark, from the day the bully chooses the target, as the critical period in which the bully is ready to eliminate the target. Targets who sense that they’re about to be fired and cannot cope with that eventuality, are vulnerable to suicide.
Targets are often eliminated right out from under one of these meetings, never returning to their desks. This happens when the target is provoked to anger, and marches out from one of these meeting rooms never to return, or is taken out by security, if not by their own volition, after being provoked to anger, then being fired for insubordination. Then there are some who are carried out by an ambulance crew. Targets who survive these behind closed doors meetings often suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This may cause them to be subjected to sudden flashbacks, in which they have repeated vivid memories or dreams about these very traumatic experiences. Some people can’t cope with these memories, or they become fearful of experiencing another meeting. Sometimes people commit suicide over these obsessive, intrusive thoughts.
Most targets try numerous ways to resolve these issues before falling into despair, such as going to the bully’s boss or Human Resources. There are long explanations in the literature about why doing this rarely works. Briefly stated here, these are unlikely sources of help, because it is simply not in their self interest to believe the target, and if they do believe the target, to act on the allegations made against the bully.
Going to coworkers and/or to trusted mentors, family members and friends, are other sources that first, usually fail to fully believe the seriousness of the target’s issues, and then, even if they do, are unable to give useful advise. Well intentioned advice, by those with little or no understanding of the bullying phenomenon, may well result in an escalation of the problem, rather than resolution. Most people in the United States have never even heard of the phenomenon, and have no useful information to share.
Target’s often find it hard to get others to believe the seriousness of the situation as mentioned above, because it is so unbelievable. Authors of anti-bullying literature describe bullies by using the example of “Jekyll and Hyde” known for being a “master of deception”. Bullies feign trust in coworkers by confiding half, twisted stories about the target, and by pointing out the increased stress level the target may be displaying, which are really symptoms of the bully’s emotional abuse. This creates doubt among coworkers about the targets mental health, competence and loyalty, and sets the stage for workplace mobbing, where coworkers unwittingly participate in the abuse. This is described in much more detail in my article on this weblog about workplace mobbing.
Isolation, a bully’s most harmful weapon, and described in more detail in another article by this title on this webblog. adds to the emotional crisis that can lead to suicide. A target is first reprimanded repeatedly by their bully boss who cites incidents that are described completely different from that of the target’s perception of the same events. The incidents the bully cites as issues, are usually of a trivial nature concerning relationships with coworkers, personal insults and put downs. Rarely are there serious work related issues, because most targets of workplace bullies are better than average workers. Then, coworkers begin to shun the target and unwittingly participate in the emotional abuse. Going to the bully’s boss or to Human Resources only escalates the problem. The last straw being when Family, friends and mentors either don’t believe the target, or have no useful information to share, and become tired of hearing the target obsessively repeat issues that can’t be resolved. The target is now very much alone and increasingly vulnerable to suicide.
Some people are more prone than others to commit suicide, if faced with the same measure of stress. This is due to a person’s preexisting intellectual, emotional and psychological health, strengths and weaknesses. These are determined by each person’s individual genetic makeup, as well as the number, types and kinds of both physical and emotional environmental and interpersonal interactions and experiences a person is previously exposed to. This creates wide berth for diversity, in regards to how each individual will cope with any given stressor, making predictability of suicide difficult at best.
Obviously, a person who is already depressed or who has a history of depression or of suicide attempts are at higher risk. Someone who already has poor self esteem, or who is highly dependent on the approval and acceptance of other people, are at high risk. Then there are people who you would not expect to be at risk. This includes very intelligent people who are very capable of high level productivity and performance. They could be very capable of competently managing a large complex department, but when faced with a bullying problem that they can’t understand and resolve, resort to suicide.
Intelligent targets who take their own lives, usually have emotional problems which deceive their intelligence. One emotional problem that could cause targets of workplace bullies to take their own lives, is one that they share with many bullies. That is, having fears of inadequacy and shame which took root in early childhood experiences. Bullies who have this problem, often target employees who are especially good at their jobs, because their feelings of inadequacy and shame, are heightened when they compare themselves to that of the better performing target.
Targets who have fears of inadequacy and shame, actually believe their bully boss’s vague lies about their interpersonal relationships, petty flaws and insults. Their intelligence deceives them into believing that a boss would never be capable of lying about performance issues, because there is no logical reason to do so. Believing the bullies lies, their feelings of inadequacy and shame spiral out of control and they begin to obsessively search for the specific reasons and things that they did, to cause these issues, when they did nothing at all, and there are no real reasons that exist. With the obvious increase in the target’s stress level, coupled with the lies and influence of the bully, behaviors of the work group change. Shunning and mobbing behaviors slowly take hold, which further convinces the target that they must be at fault for these changes. As the target continues searching for reasons that don’t exist. coworkers become increasingly concerned and fearful, causing most people to distance themselves even further from the target. The targets obsession with a problem that doesn’t exist, the inability of their intelligence, the thing that always succeeded in guiding them successfully in the past, doesn’t help them understand their current crisis, and their feelings of inadequacy and shame only convinces them further, that they must be at fault.
Their abandonment by coworkers, and the impatience of family members and friends who no longer know how to help the target, leads to utter loneliness and despair. Convinced they have an interpersonal problem that drives everyone against them, a problem they don’t understand, because it doesn’t exist. Everything they try fails, then their intelligence runs out of ideas, they lose all hope, then suicide is considered.
Another type of emotionally vulnerable target at high risk for suicide, are those who love their jobs to the extent that their job becomes a part of who they are. Their position becomes a part of their identity. This type of attitude is wonderful for the business, the customers, as well as the employee. Most people with this kind of attitude enjoy successful employment with the same company for decades. They are the “go to person” in their company, being highly respected for the knowledge that took decades to attain, and are looked up to by long term employees and newcomers alike. How could someone like this become a target of a workplace bully?
It usually takes something big, like a merger or company take over for someone like this to become the target of a workplace bully. Mergers, and company take-overs are great for fixing what ain’t broke. New managers can suddenly take over who have no history with the existing employees. These new managers can be ruthless while giving directives that already had been decided on, without consideration for the opinion of the talented people, who are their new employees. It is during these kind of chaotic conditions that extremely talented, productive employees, can be let go, without much thought at all. Out with the old, and in with the new, as they say.
It is of little consequence to the talented young managers, who newly take over, that they prematurely ended the most valuable part of who a person is. That’s how deeply dedicated people feel about their jobs. When someone who loves their job, suddenly loses their job, it’s like they lost a part of themselves. People like these, are often late middle age, and held no other jobs in the past 20-30 years. They often have chronic illnesses of middle age such as high blood pressure, diabetes and arthritis. All of these factors lessen the chances that they will settle into another job. More often, without proper support from family, friends and society, people such as these, are unable to find meaningful employment. They grieve the loss of their job and are left feeling deeply embittered and betrayed by the employer who they dedicated the best part of their lives to. If unable to move forward, they may fall into despair and be at high risk for suicide.
We must never underestimate the affects our jobs have on our emotional health. Most full time employees spend more time with bosses and coworkers than with our closest family members. Take care to be kind and cooperative with everyone you interact with at work and be vigilant in recognizing workplace emotional abuse early while it’s still very subtle. Expose problems early, by naming them what they are, “bullying and mobbing” if that is what it is. If you see it, and do nothing, consider yourself part of the problem. Instead, speak out and educate others about the phenomenon. Point it out, name it and end it where ever you see it. Don’t be afraid to stand together against workplace bullies and their mobs. United we can end workplace bullying and mobbing together. ABC
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