Being a target of a bully was the last thing I expected in my life, especially at 38 years of age. I was a confident and well-liked person and in my work, I was expected to advance ahead of my peers; that is, until a new boss came to town. Looking back now, the warnings signs were there from our first official meeting, but I had rationalized her behaviour away as “poor leadership” and “incompetence”. I was able to speak up and advocate for myself and still be a team player, so how bad could this be. And in the military, it won’t be for more than 5 years because everyone gets posted at some point.
Long story short, I was wrong. It was harder than I imagined and I found my navigational skills being tested, often. After two years of harassment, I felt alone, isolated, and abandoned by the very system I cherished and worked in. One day I stood in front of the mirror looking at my beaten reflection and asked out loud
“how the hell did this happen to you? You are a strong woman! You have managed situations like this before. What the hell is going on with you?”
I suffered with severe panic attacks, anxiety and I became suspicious of everyone. Sometimes I would tremble and cry uncontrollably just looking at my work uniform hanging in the closet.
As a nurse turned patient, advocating from within the “belly of the beast” caused me further trauma and was emotionally exhausting. Creating an emotionally safe space was met with more barriers than best practices. I mean, who returns a target back to work under their harasser?
It happened more than once. It left me questioning the role of the healthcare system and the ability and responsibilities of organizations.
Recovery is an ongoing process and there is no finish line. I share this because I thought there was. I always maintained I could function, just not under “her”. I moved away, secured a safe work space and flourished. I thought those days were behind me until I was triggered by someone who sounded just ….like …. her.
Despite the immediate panic and anxiety (no slow burn like the first time) I was better equipped to navigate the relationship and have difficult conversations to secure a safe work space, even under the same person!
These outcomes do not come without work. I have spent many hours talking through my problems with professionals, and friends. I have always been committed to an employees right for a safe workspace, and that. has not changed, in fact, it has only deepened my passion.
Today, I help others create and design psychologically safe workspaces with actions steps informed by research and experience. Let me share with you the strategies and tools you can use to build the workplace and relationships you deserve.