Business Podcast Series Ep.19 – How to Deal with Bullies in the Workplace and Not Become One Yourself

How to Deal with Bullies in the Workplace and Not Become One Yourself

In this episode, Ankush speaks with social entrepreneur, business coach and consultant Jacquie Forde. Some of what they discuss include:

– Learn how to see situations more impersonally

– Looking at bullying from the perspective of both the employees and the managers

– A case study of a client Jacquie worked with who felt bullied by his boss

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To contact Jacquie and find out more about her work, you can reach her at

Full Transcript

[00:00:01.24] Ankush: Welcome to the business series podcast. My name is Ankush Jain, and I’m a state of mind coach, working with businesses and individuals. On each episode of this series, I’ll be speaking to a coach or trainer on a different topic relevant to your career or personal development, enjoy. Welcome back to another episode of the business series podcast. Today I’m joined by Jacquie Forde who is a social entrepreneur, business coach and consultant. And we’re going to be talking about how to deal with bullies in the workplace and not become one yourself. Welcome Jacquie.

[00:00:42.19] Jacquie: Hi Ankush, thank you for asking me to do this podcast, it’s a really interesting topic and I’m delighted to be here.

[00:00:51.17] Ankush: Well, thank you for joining us. And as always I love to just dive straight into the topic and this might sound really obvious, but what do we mean by bullying?

[00:01:04.20] Jacquie: Well, what I see in my practice Ankush, by bullying I mean people are suffering from stress, overwhelm, and anxiety and are scared to go to their work, because they feel that they’re being unfairly treated or they don’t like another person at work, or they feel as through their own work as under some kind of examination by maybe a superior at work. And if you feel they’re being treated unfairly but they don’t know what to do about it.

[00:01:37.27] Ankush: So you’re talking about the person experiencing bullying over there. But what about the person doing the bullying? What about that behaviour is it something about that behaviour that constitutes bullying?

[00:01:50.27] Jacquie: Absolutely, I Ankush you know hopefully what we will look into this a bit more deeply in the podcast, when someone is bullying another human being. It normally means that they’re not in a very good state of mind and end up in a lower state of mind. They can’t see things very clearly and they’re actually just trying to hurt another human being without realising the impact of it to try to feel better themselves.

[00:02:19.09] Ankush: Now in our title, the second part of the title is ‘not become one yourself.’ So have you found that people who have been bullied in the workplace often become bullies themselves?

[00:02:32.18] Jacquie: Absolutely Ankush you know it can become a learned behaviour in organisations, where you know new recruits and managers see their direct line management behaving in a certain way and they think that’s normal. They think that is the way they’re meant to be. So, they actually don’t see as bullying. They just think that’s part of the company culture.

[00:02:55.25] Ankush: And what’s the cost to this. I mean why we should care? Why should organisations care about this?

[00:03:00.22] Jacquie: Organisations should care Ankush because, it leads to employees taking time off work because they’re stressed or they’re overwhelmed or they’re anxious. It means that employees do not do their work as well as they possibly could because they’re not in a fit emotional state to do it. So it has an impact to the bottom line.

[00:03:21.05] Ankush: So how do we deal with this? I guess on two levels, so, on one level if someone’s listening to this and they feel they are being bullied how they handle it? And then on the level of an organisation if I’m a leader listening to this. How do I ensure that both I’m not bullying and ensure that there’s not a culture of bullying occurring in my organisation?

[00:03:48.24] Jacquie: Okay I think I’m going to go with the leader first of all here Ankush and I’m going to suggest that often organisations they talk about well-being, and when they talk about well-being they look towards the band aid kind of solution, so they’re looking at things like well-being days where they look at massage and reiki but they’re not actually looking at the deeper cause of emotional unwell-being, you know people not being well. And when we teach leaders and we teach individuals and organisations how to understand, how their human operating system works, how their minds actually work. Then what we’re able to do Ankush is to understand that in any given moment in time employees are doing the best they possibly can given what’s actually happening to them in their life Ankush. So, I’m not just talking about my work life I’m talking about that bigger picture and it’s the same with a manager as well and a leader. When people understand how they’re creating their own moment to moment experience of life and how their state of mind can fluctuate throughout the day, they start to become clearer about whether it’s a good time to have a discussion with someone or it’s not, whether they should send an email or whether they shouldn’t. Should they hand hand in their resignation or shouldn’t they. When people understand if they’re doing something motivated by a fearful emotion or whether they’re motivated from that clearer perspective, then it becomes easier to make decisions in business and in life. When someone is being bullied Ankush, normally what happens to them is they don’t have access to that kind of intuition and wisdom about what to do and when to do it, because they’re so fearful of doing the wrong thing or being attacked or being intimidated again by the person that’s managing them or maybe even just a colleague who works alongside them. I think the first thing that is good for people who Ankush they don’t actually know, they’re being bullied they just know that they have an incredible amount of fearful thinking about what’s actually happening in their work and in their workplace. So the remedy is the same whether you’re a leader or you’re someone who’s being bullied Ankush, understanding the importance of the state of mind in business is absolutely crucial, because within that it gives people strength understanding how their minds work, understanding how another human being’s mind works and it teaches us whether to take things personally or to take them impersonally in any kind of discussion with a peer or with someone who is a colleague.

[00:06:56.21] Ankush: So, are you saying that you know you could be working for someone who you know you’re trying to do your best, and let’s say they are undermining you, they’re shouting, they are displaying various behaviours, which don’t seem appropriate and you’re saying by understanding the role of the state of mind you can learn to take that very impersonally?

[00:07:23.17] Jacquie: You can take it impersonally Ankush so that you can gather your resources together to do whatever it is that you’re meant to do about that situation. I’m not saying ignore it under any means whatsoever. If you are being bullied and you feel threatened at work then there are process is to go and speak with someone in your organisation hopefully. What I’m suggesting is that when you’re able to see clearly what’s happening without the emotion that often becomes attached to being bullied then you’re able to move forward, to speak to each other, to speak to another person at work, to get a different perspective on it, rather than keeping this fear inside of you, but also understanding how you’re creating your experience of whatever is happening to your Ankush, because often people misunderstand the circumstances that they have found themselves in and the replay over and over again what has happened to them and the kind of coaching that both you and I do is we point people to the source of that experience and how we can only ever create our own emotional experience of anything from inside of us it’s never to do with the other person. If someone is bullying us Ankush, say for example somebody sends you an email and you read that e-mail and you don’t like the tone of whatever it is happening. We go inside our own minds and then we start to make up stories about what that email means what that person is going to do to then. We often end up time travelling and in our heads where we enter the future and imagine ourselves losing our jobs or not being able to pay our mortgage. But really all that’s happened Ankush is in that moment you’ve received an email that you don’t particularly the tone of it and it’s making you feel insecure.

[00:09:32.28] Ankush: So practically, how does someone get greater clarity around a situation? Because when someone’s feeling bullied, it can be like you said a very emotional time they can end up overthinking a lot, it can really get up into their heads and they may be listening to this thinking well Jacquie that all sounds great. I would love to have more clarity right now about this situation. I don’t. So what do I do about that?

[00:10:02.09] Jacquie: What you do Ankush is you find yourself somewhere that you can gather your thoughts together somewhere in your organisation or within your own mind where you can start to get some kind of perspective. Understand that it’s normal to feel the way that you’re feeling but then start to look a bit deeper. Start to look at where is that experience coming from? Are you replaying that thought in your mind over and over and over again? Are you making yourself feel sick and become worried? What you teach Ankush is just like you, it’s an understanding of the mind that shows us that every human being, no matter who you are in the world whether you are a leader, a CEO or a toilet cleaner that we all experience our life moment to moment from the inside out. And, what I mean by that Ankush is that every human being takes a thought, and we start to add our awareness to it. And when we begin to add out awareness to it, it becomes something alive. And often when people are being bullied Ankush, those thoughts they start to add all sorts of other stories onto those thoughts and become more and more aware of them. And a lot of people I work with maybe have been bullied before. Maybe they’ve had an experience before that triggers something within them. And it brings back and floods back all these memories that they’ve had from the past. So, they immediately go into a state of mind that is like the state of mind they had years and years and years ago when this happened before it or last week when it happened before. And what I’m suggesting is that when you understand that you’re having this experience because your brain is incredibly clever at bringing up these memories to try to help you to understand what’s in front of you know. But it’s just a memory, most of it isn’t actually happening right now, and the trick is to see that all the thoughts that passed through our mind they’re actually transient. They move. And when you can see that, you start to be able to understand that this horrible feeling that you’re sitting in right know will disappear if you don’t dwell on it and you just let it do what it’s going to do, but you take from it the lessons that you need to take if there is action that has to happen, if there’s someone you need to speak to, if you need to go to see your doctor, if you need time off work, it’s important to listen to what you’ve been of shown and what you’re meant to do, instead of always pushing through these things being bullied at work often makes you really tired and, really emotional and when we’re in that state we just don’t make good decisions. And many of the people that I work with Ankush, when they recognise that their state of mind becomes a lot lowered when they’re tired and emotional and the best thing we can do is to look after themselves about better so whether that means taking time off work and maybe that means taking a holiday, maybe that means just going to speak to someone about this. Because often people feel as though they’re going off their head because the bullying is so subtle. Psychologically so subtle, they feel as though we’re going off her head and we question ourselves about is this really happening. So having someone give you a different perspective on it whether it is HR, a colleague or a friend is really helpful. But the thing not to do is to dwell on whatever it is you’re dwelling on in the moment.

[00:13:52.24] Ankush: That’s really helpful. And I’m reminded of a time when quite a lot earlier on in my career, I was working for somebody and I found the approach very different to other managers I’d worked for in the same organisation. And I did go and speak to someone and said is this just me, in HR and they said oh no, they were quite shocked and surprised and turned out that the manager had an issue with the scheme through which I was employed at the company with. And so you know that’s, I can relate to that, and how helpful it was to me. Do you have a case study from the work you’ve done Jacquie, where you know you’ve either worked with someone who has felt bullied or worked with a leader who’s trying to change the culture of their team or their organisation where you’ve helped them get a better understanding of how the mind works and how we are creating our experience of the world through our thinking which has then led to a change a transformation?

[00:15:04.02] Jacquie: Yeah Ankush and thank you for sharing that story. That was that was really cool, and it does it just supports what we’re talking about here. There’s one particular story that I’d love to share with you, I think because it’s so subtle what was happening and it was between a CEO and a new member of the senior management team in a large pharmaceutical company that I worked with and the CEO had a background Ankush, in editing books that was a previous career that he had before he came to work in this pharmaceutical company and this senior manager was sending emails to the CEO about the changes that he wanted to make in the organisation, which was about culture and it was about staffing levels and it was about projects and he was so excited about beings of new to the job and it was it was obviously something that he was really excited about to be able to come into company and start to shift the culture. And he would send these emails to the CEO and proposals about how he wanted to change things, and every time Ankush he sent an email to the CEO, he would get it back, and there were red lines through there were comments in the comments section all written in red about his grammar about the way that he punctuated his sentences. And, there was absolutely no comment whatsoever in the content of what he was proposing. So, every time without fail Ankush, this 45-year-old man would send these proposals and ideas to his boss, his CEO a man in his 50s and, each time all he got back were derogatory comments about the way that he wrote and the punctuation but nothing to do with the content of what he was proposing and he didn’t feel as though he had the guts Ankush to speak to his boss about this because he thought well this is strange perhaps you know he agrees with what I’m proposing but at every meeting that the two of them were at, the CEO always looked as though he was angry with this particular manager and he started to block him out of coming to certain meetings. So here we’ve got a 45-year-old male who feels as though he’s actually losing his mind because he’s being treated like a 15-year-old who’s about to sit and O-level or some kind of English exam and getting all of his punctuation wrong and he’s getting no feedback whatsoever on the reason why he was employed to do the job which was to bring in culture change and to add to that, his boss was not communicating with him and shutting him out of meetings that were to do with the changes that he was proposing. So he started to become very anxious but he still didn’t feel as though he could go and ask his boss what was in his mind, what was happening. The people who came out from the meetings were saying oh look; this is what we’re looking to do. And it was all the ideas that this guy had shared. But CEO was taking the credit for them. So he came to me, he didn’t feel that he could speak to a manager in HR, he didn’t want to speak to any of his colleagues because he didn’t really know them Ankush. He was getting more and more stressed. He was starting not to look after himself the way that he had done before. So his appearance was starting to change, I mean he’s appearance started to change at work, more people started to look to him and shaming him because of how he looked, he’d put on weight and he just became more and more insecure Ankush, and didn’t have the confidence to actually deal with it. And so he came to me he just said that he was suffering from anxiety. And he wasn’t sure, why he was feeling anxious but it was a situation at work where he felt he was being misunderstood and he was being closed out of what was happening in the organisation when in fact that was the reason he was brought into the organisation and he felt as though he was rubbish at his job because he was getting no feedback whatsoever. And you know he just had a new mortgage on a bigger house and he didn’t want to rock the boat in case he lost his job. So I started to speak to him about what we’re talking about here and about how our minds work and how he was understanding something about himself that was showing him that whatever was going on at work was not right. It didn’t make sense. And it was him that used the word bullying it wasn’t me because he could see how the behaviour of his boss was not inclusive. It was shaming him and his ability to communicate via the written word it was shaming him, because of the way that he had changed physically under stress by putting on weight. And when he realised how he was taking these experiences and he was watching them over and over again in his own mind and kind of adding all sorts of special effects to that by the stories he was creating and thinking that he was going to lose his job everybody hated that you know that his boss didn’t like him and nobody wanted anything to do with him and he was he was terrible at writing and he should never have got that job anyway because he obviously wasn’t good enough. When he started to see that the behaviour of his boss was inappropriate and that all he was doing was reacting to that behaviour through how he was creating his experience and the moment he then started to see that he could respond Ankush instead of react. And by that I mean he was able to see where his state of mind was at any given moment in time so when he was in front of his boss the CEO, he started to understand whether he was fearful thinking or whether he was relaxed and he started to see that fearful thinking was only ever generated by him. He was taking a thought, he was shining a light on it and he was making a big drama of it. So he started to feel calmer and calmer in front of his boss to the point that he actually confronted. And, confronted is the wrong word because he was calm enough Ankush to ask for a meeting with his boss to speak to him about what was going on. The interesting thing about the meeting that they both had was that the CEO was completely unaware that his behaviour and checking the punctuation and grammar would have such an impact on his employee and that was just a habit he got into when he was doing copy-writing. He thought his employee was too busy to come into the meetings with the senior managers because he always looked busy and he always looked as though perhaps he didn’t want to engage with the CEO. So here you’ve got two men, both making up stories about one another in the moment and the work organisation. And those stories kept them apart and they were all made up Ankush.

[00:23:14.00] Ankush: So what happened after that? Did things improve for this guy at work or?

[00:23:19.10] Jacquie: Yeah. No things that improve Ankush because he then began to understand how his mind worked and how his state of mind changed throughout the day too and how his boss’s state of mind changed throughout the day too. So he wasn’t fearful about what was going on. He told his boss he didn’t particularly like the fact that he would get his emails back with red lines through it, he was far more interested in his boss commenting on the content of what he was proposing and his boss apologised to him because he didn’t realise what he was doing either. He didn’t realise he was making this guy feel so insecure.

[00:23:53.05] Ankush: So it sounds like a complete 180-degree turnaround, which came about through communication when the person feeling bullied was able to kind of get into a clearer head.

[00:24:06.13] Jacquie: Absolutely Ankush. But that’s not unusual. That happens all the time but it can also happen as well when one person feels misunderstood and the other person uses that state of being anxious about being misunderstood to bully them, to make it worse because they could get some sort of kick out of it.

[00:24:28.11] Ankush: I want to make sure we keep to our time and we’re basically at the end of our time now. Jacquie so my final question really is what are the key takeaways you want our listeners to leave this episode with?

[00:24:44.09] Jacquie: I think the key takeaway Ankush, I want people to have is that innately, you know mental health has a huge stigma too it unfortunately still. And when people feel they’re being bullied in the workplace they can feel as though they’re starting to have mental health problems. You’re not broken. Nobody needs to fix you all that you need to do is to understand with a clear mind what is actually happening to you in your organisation and in your own mind, with that clarity you are able to then respond to it and not react to it to make sure if you feel you don’t really understand what’s going on, go and speak to someone in your organisation or speak to a friend – get clarity on it. Because often bullying in the workplace is very subtle. Take time for yourself, look after yourself. Often when we’re bullied we tend to speed up inside, which means that we don’t make good choices to do with our health or our well-being. My advice to you would be if you feel you’re becoming sped up in your mind at work, that is an invitation for you to slow things down and look after yourself better. So, go and speak to someone, understand how you are creating your experience of life moment to moment by checking out this understanding that you know that we are kind of talking about here either on Ankush’s site or my own, and also know that you’re going to be okay.

[00:26:10.12] Ankush: Fantastic. And if people want to find out more and check out what you’re up to Jacquie how can they do that?

[00:26:18.29] Jacquie: They can check me on my website Ankush which I’m sure you’ll add to the podcast notes or they can contact me on Facebook or my email.

[00:26:26.21] Ankush: Excellent and could you tell us the website link?

[00:26:32.06] Jacquie: Sure, the website link is:

[00:26:41.21] Ankush: Thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure having you and I think that’s a really important topic. I’m glad we’ve covered it today and I will be back next time with another guest on another topic relevant to business. Thank you. Thanks for listening to the business series podcast. If you want to hear more you can click on the Subscribe button below. You can share this with someone else who can get benefit or you can like it and encourage others to listen. Also, it would be great if you left a comment below, as I love hearing from listeners and I want to keep creating great content for you. Thanks for listening.

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