I was bullied and picked on as a kid, and there were things I wish I had understood then that might have led me to spend fewer days broken and miserable by it, though I also see that was part of my journey now.
#1 – “Other people’s opinions of you are none of your business.” (This quote has been attributed to so many different people, or I’d give you the source.) UNLESS, your reputation supports your livelihood OR you want to grow and develop into a better person. It’s a great time for self-reflection, but don’t obsess. Here’s where it would be helpful to know – are the negative things based on opinion/bias, or were they related to something you did/said?
#2 – “Hurt people hurt people.” (same for this quote) Sometimes the people who need the most compassion are the ones who show the least. This person may have felt hurt, either by you or another, and subconsciously think that they will feel better if they inflict hurt upon someone else, as if that makes the world a more fair place. In this case, though I know how hard and scary it might be, confront them with compassion.
By nature, we tend to want to make ourselves look good/right, and sometimes that means making other people look bad/wrong. If it might have been you who hurt them, sincerely ask them what you did, how they feel, listen, take accountability, apologize, and promise that you’ll never do it again. Let them be right; take the hit of being wrong. You’ll feel/look better in the end and you will have grown, learned and developed from it – all of which helps you be a better human, friend, collaborator, etc.
If you don’t think it was you, ask them, “Did you ever feel like the world was unfair?” Get them talking and listen. This type of conversation can be completely transformative for both/all parties.
#3 – “Misery loves company.” (Who knows where this originated. Some theorize the ancient Greeks.) Just watch the below video. While bullies fit into the above category, the power struggle has a bit of a different dynamic, because they will be more relentless to make you feel bad. I don’t know if you’re a boy/man or girl/woman, but girl bullying is more psychological than physical. Being excluded and being the subject of gossip is often the M.O. Just don’t get caught up in doing it back. The best revenge is being happy in spite of their efforts – make sure they see you having fun. Have more than one group of friends. Though I’m still friends with my core group of friends, I also still (20+ years later) keep in touch with other groups of friends, too.
#4 – “A troll is a troll is a troll.” (Me) People see these trolls for what they are – bored and miserable. They fit into #2, too. Guy Kawasaki recommends, if the comment/complaint is even worth a response for the sake of maintaining integrity in your point/message, give him/her your best, witty, intelligent response and drop the mic. You can also follow Sarah Silverman’s example:
I’ve learned many ways of coping with this, and here are two good ones:
Think of 3 reasons that this person might have done this. It will help you develop a sense of compassion and understanding, which is the bridge from misery to peace. It can help you decide if you need to take further action or not.
Another is to just forgive – recognize that we’re all dealing with our own stuff, and how we see other people is a reflection of how we see ourselves. The better we are at letting go of these hurts, the less they weigh us down, the higher we can soar. I just shared a mini-hypnotherapy season on this:
Of course, if someone is ruining your reputation and that reputation is something you need for your livelihood, you need to decide if restoring your reputation would require a rebuttal or a reconciliation.
After hitting a slump in placements as a recruiter, my boss had me working under a mentor who was killing it in placements. After 2-3 months my mentor confirmed to my boss that I was doing everything that I was supposed to be doing, which raised questions about the feedback he was receiving from a couple of account managers with whom I was paired regarding a lack of quality candidates. My boss invited me to, right then and there, ask the two account managers into a meeting with me, him, another VP to whom I reported, and my mentor. I was delighted to clear the air.
This was done in a formal, professional, non-confrontational manner. It was an opportunity for me to ask for feedback that would actually help me perform better and be a better contributor. That’s how I approached it. The outcome was completely in my favor.
He let me take the lead. I asked them to provide specific examples – job orders assigned to me for which they received not enough or no qualified candidates. One of those account managers took accountability for not properly qualifying job requirements and not getting quality feedback on candidates submitted. The other could only provide general feedback – no specifics.
My boss concluded that it was a perception issue, not a performance issue. Looking back I realize that my results, or lack thereof, was also a function of my disengagement in the activities. I was taking the steps necessary, but my mindset was not in it. That took years of self-reflection and additional coaching to identify.
Everything worked out as it was meant to, though. A few months after this I started this business. That was 12 years ago. I’m glad I moved on, but also very glad to have left with my reputation in tact, as my co-workers and former boss continue to refer clients and opportunities to me.
If you feel you are being unfairly assessed, initiate a similar type of meeting in the spirit of self-betterment. You may learn something about how to be more successful there, or you may learn that you just aren’t in the right culture to thrive. Do something with what you learn, either way.
My boss was working with a coach who I am sure influenced his approach to resolving this, and he made this coach available to anyone on the team as well. I know I benefited from that coach. She helped me reach a place where I can say with confidence I gave it all I had, identify some blind spots, and plan my exit after realizing that my best in that role in that company was far from what I could give in this capacity (career coach/professional branding consultant.) I do for others what she did for me. I recommend getting one.
Adele 21 Rumor Has It She, she ain’t real, She ain’t gonna be able to love you like I will, She is a stranger, You and I have history, Or don’t you remember? Sure, she’s got it all, But, baby, is that really what you want?
clear your name > perceptions > performance issues > reputation > reputation management > rumor mill > rumors at work > workplace bullying
Karen Huller, author of Laser-sharp Career Focus: Pinpoint your Purpose and Passion in 30 Days (bit.ly/GetFocusIn30), is founder of Epic Careering, a corporate consulting and career management firm specializing in executive branding and conscious culture, as well as JoMo Rising, LLC, a workflow gamification company that turns work into productive play.
While the bulk of her 20 years of professional experience has been within the recruiting and employment industry, her publications, presentations, and coaching also draw from experience in personal development, performance, broadcasting, marketing, and sales.
Karen was one of the first LinkedIn trainers and is known widely for her ability to identify and develop new trends in hiring and careering. She is a Certified Professional Résumé Writer and Certified Career Transition Consultant and Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist with a Bachelor of Art in Communication Studies and Theater from Ursinus College and a minor in Creative Writing. Her blog was recognized as a top 100 career blog worldwide by Feedspot.
She was an Adjunct Professor of Career Management and Professional Development at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business, will be an Associate Professor in Cabrini University’s Communications Department in 2019, and is also an Instructor for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy where her students won the 2018 national competition and were named America’s Next Top Young Entrepreneurs.