I love doing radio. Today I was Ian Mac’s guest on the Vectis Radio daily phone-in, talking about bouncing back from bad times at work. Our callers, Lyn, Jean and Tony, were all courageous people who had picked themselves up from some emotionally and spiritually damaging experiences. I hope that in telling their stories, they were able to reinforce for our listeners that they are not alone.
Their circumstances were very different, but one thing stood out especially for me: all of them said “Get help”. Two of them had, and one hadn’t. The lady who had struggled on alone through some particularly horrendous bullying is still carrying the scars several years later. Getting help really can support you to get through the experience and take control of your life again far more quickly than going it alone. I know – it took me three years.
Get some help
If you’re struggling through difficult times at work, I’d very much recommend that you find a supporter. Choose someone neutral – a mentor, a coach or someone else uninvolved, whom you trust. By using a supporter, you will have someone who can help you get events into perspective at a time when it is easy to over-react to everything that happens.
Karen, a client and contributor to Recover Your Balance remembers: “I was bullied (I realized later), but was told I was a bully. In the middle of it I felt literally sick (great weight loss programme as I could barely eat!). I have always opposed bullying and felt completely knocked off balance – I had always tried to put people at the centre of my actions. The very strong feelings lasted until I got my coach on board and then I began to be able to see what was happening. The feelings were still strong as I was hit with wave after wave of false accusations about my work quality, etc. It wasn’t until I left the situation that I was able to regain my balance.”
One of my coaching clients had made a major mistake at work many years earlier and had kept his feelings to himself. He was still allowing his error to limit his career choices, believing he could not trust himself. It was only when I asked him what he had achieved in the interim, what he had learned, and whether such a mistake had ever happened again that he realised that his pessimism was out of proportion, and that he had more options than he had allowed himself to consider.
When you are in the middle of painful experiences deep-seated emotions are stirred, and it is often difficult to see what is really going on. Your relationship to power (your own and that of others over you) can become distorted as you draw your energy inwards, or are panicked into pushing against the situation. I can remember being suspicious of everyone and trusting nobody. Like Karen, I often felt sick. You may have feelings of guilt and worthlessness, or a fear that you may not recover and that you may not be employable again.
When you are stressed it is likely that you will go home and dump your negative feelings on the same person every night. As you walk through the door, they may be thinking with a sinking feeling, ‘what’s coming now?’ By choosing to work with a supporter outside your home environment you will prevent that toxic energy polluting your home and your relationship. Your bonds with friends and family will suffer less strain than they would if you were making them your only source of support.
Part of getting your balance back is about achieving some closure with the difficulties you’ve suffered. One of our callers found some relief only when they discovered that all the people who had bullied them were dead. Another found a way through by being clear about their values, and how they were being compromised by staying in a situation that felt wrong.
I was particularly cheered by the caller who didn’t want to waste any more negative energy on the people who had hurt her. She said ‘I can support ten people while I am pouring negativity onto my former employer.’
Choosing to put your energy into positive and affirming things is a sign that you’re back in charge. And you’ll do it quicker when you realise you’re not alone and get some help.