anxiety

Bullying in the Workplace: Who Bullies Whom?

Over 40% of employees in the workplace have experienced bullying, a persistent pattern of behavior that intimidates, degrades or otherwise undermines the wellbeing of the target. Bullying is four times more prevalent than sexual abuse, and, according to a study at the University of Manitoba, the outcomes for victims of bullying are worse than are those for sexual abuse victims.

So who are the bullies? And who are the targets? It’s easy to envision a quiet, introverted person as the victim of an outgoing, brash person. But it’s not that simple.

According to Arlene Vernon, HRxaminer, targets are often the best and the brightest: the most technically skilled, empathic, kindest – but unlikely to fight back. Incivility and aggression are often fueled by individual differences, such as introversion and extroversion. That doesn’t necessarily mean that most cases involve extroverts bullying introverts. Actually we don’t know that, as there is little research on this area at this time.  

However, bullying is most often from supervisor to subordinate, where even a fairly confident employee is reluctant to fight back. Given that extroverts are more likely to be promoted to leadership positions in the U.S., there is a chance that the scales are tipped in that direction.

But according to Vernon, bullying doesn’t have to be overt hostility. It can be covert; an introvert leader would be in a position to deny training or promotions, apply different standards, or block leave or time off. It can also be an employee-to-employee situation, as in malicious gossip, making false accusations, and stealing credit.

And what are the outcomes of bullying? Known results include stress, anxiety, depression, anger, aggression, panic attacks, and even suicidal thoughts, all negatively affecting a company’s wellness program. Even onlookers of bullying may be negatively affected.  

But that’s not all. There is increasing evidence that bullying is affecting workplace productivity, perhaps massively. Inability to concentrate or make decisions and absenteeism take their toll on productivity. Royal & Sun Alliance, the largest commercial insurance company in the United Kingdom, has suggested that absenteeism alone due to this kind of distress may cost businesses approximately eight to 10% of a company’s profits.

Then there are the costs of employee turnover, estimated at costing at least one-half of the employee’s salary to replace him or her. An estimated 70% of bullied employees leave, while an estimated 20% of witnesses to bullying also do so.

Rehabilitation of stressed employees, as well as legal costs, all add up.

Finally, a company can find its reputation damaged. People talk to other people. An unhappy employee is probably seeking comfort from friends and family, who then talk to others, and so on.

If a company develops a bad reputation for bullying, it could conceivably affect sales to the public.

So what are the solutions?  

We should follow the example of Scandinavian countries and Canada, which have enacted legislation against workplace aggression, just as there is now against sexual abuse in the U.S., allowing victims to report incidents, go to the union and take legal action.  

Training employees to recognize bullying would help create a climate in which bullying is less invisible.

Most of all, companies should work to create an environment in which individual differences are not just tolerated but celebrated, creating a cooperative and positive environment for all.

Are you aware of workplace bullying?  Have you had an experience you’d care to share?

Sources:  
Arlene Vernon, PHR, HRxaminer, in a talk to the Minnesota Council of Non-profits
David Yamada, Psychology and Work
Janet Fowler, “Financial Effects of Workplace Bullying” on Investopedia   http://bit.ly/1Hwhfky

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Introversion, Gut Feelings, and Trust

Maybe – just maybe – your gut-level feeling that you shouldn’t be doing something is right. But if you’re an introvert, you’ve probably had a lifetime of being told to ignore your feelings, and urged to act just the opposite.

Want to stay home and read? “What’s the matter with you, anyway?” It’s implied that you’re neurotic or even antisocial. Want to leave a party before it ends? “You’re a party-pooper.” Find large groups overwhelming? “Just get out there and have fun (said with incredulity)!” (Even though the event gives you a headache or even nausea.) Enjoying being quiet and listening when in a group? “You’re shy, aren’t you?” a shaming label if ever there was one.

We end up forcing ourselves to do things that aren’t bringing us any pleasure, and somehow berating ourselves for the demoralizing experiences we endure. Then we crawl back into our little cave.

It’s no wonder we have never learned to trust our feelings as guides to what will lead to success and happiness.

There is a caveat here: if you are an introvert, and haven’t had good guidance in developing your introversion in a confident way, your reluctance to participate in a given event may not be the result of intuition (“This isn’t for me”) but the result of anxiety, because you haven’t learned the social skills to cope successfully with such events.

How do you tell the difference between intuition and unwarranted, self-defeating anxiety?

The anxiety over not knowing what to do or say is simply a lack of social skills, common to many introverts who have learned to shrink away from social interaction. The self-consciousness we develop from feeling out of step with society, plus our increasing lack of practice in social skills are a part of what I call “introvert baggage,” not a necessary part of introversion, which merely calls us to manage our energy effectively.

Gaining confident social skills is simply a matter of finding good models, not the bright, energetic center-of-attention model, but the quiet, well-mannered helps-other-people-feel-comfortable model.

You can find these models through observation, reading (try an etiquette book), or coaching.
Simply acquiring social skills doesn’t mean you must get out there and go on a social binge. It does mean that you are able to do so when it’s important to you: to network, support friends, etc.

Why is socializing important? Nobody gets through a successful life alone. We all need a confidantes, support systems, and networks. If we are in business, and most of us working people are in some way or another, we need to be able to connect meaningfully with people who see value in our contributions.

It can be painful, however, and here’s where self-knowledge and your intuition can be an excellent guide.

Business coaches often urge me, and others, to go to every possible networking meeting in order to meet people who somehow, some time, might be able to help make our businesses go forward.

I reflected on this, and it occurred to me that this might be the equivalent of urging Kate Middleton to attend every possible party in England in the hopes that she would someday meet someone who could possibly introduce her to the future King of England. (Cue cynical laughter here.)

How do you know when it’s right to go? First, take some time to sit quietly with your wisdom and get very clear on what you want out of life. Banish the “shoulds” of society. Mentally practice your social skills: greeting people, appreciating them. Stop worrying about how good things are going to happen. Convince yourself that they can, and you are worthy.

Then, take a chance on going out somewhere, such as a meeting or a party, to check whether or not it’s in line with your vision. At the first sign of discomfort, ask yourself if it’s your lack of skill, or if there is really something going on here that is counter to your best interests.

If you’re still a little unclear, you sometimes need to allow a given event a second chance before you are clear as to whether you are responding to your intuition or simply to your “introvert baggage.” But don’t be afraid to draw yourself up proudly and say to yourself, “This simply isn’t for me. I will never be appreciated here for who I truly am.” Thank the host, hostess, or event organizer as you leave.

With enough Introvert Pride (yes, you can develop that), you can even say, as I have sometimes done at a pleasant event at which I’ve had enough, “I’m not leaving because I don’t like your event. I am an introvert, and I have had enough stimulation for one evening. Thank you very much.”

Some time ago, I was due to attend a networking meeting, but felt reluctant to do so. I hadn’t really gotten any meaningful connections at this group; furthermore, I often left feeling vaguely depressed, somehow assuming that there was something wrong with me.

But taking a furlough from life, I concentrated on who I was and what I wanted, no matter how crazy it sounded. Faced with yet another meeting of this group, I told myself bravely that I didn’t have to do that anymore – it was a go-nowhere situation for me. I fought back the voices of previous coaches who scolded me for being too passive.

So I skipped this next meeting, stayed home, and started looking at the internet for groups that might be more aligned with my interests. I found one quickly (my gut said “yes”), attended it the next day, was welcomed, connected immediately with interesting people, and set up a great relationship/partnership with two of the members.

These relationships and partnerships seem to flow into life easily, once you know who you are, and can handle it.

Until you’ve aligned your actions with your gut, you don’t know how really easy and sweet life can be.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Introvert Nervousness – Friend or Foe?

“I’m now able to give a talk in public, but I’m still nervous. I guess I won’t ever get over it.” The speaker was a woman in one of my seminars, and the topic was introversion and public speaking. Her assumption was that because she was an introvert, nervousness was always there, ready to undermine her performance and her confidence, and she would never be free of that awful feeling. 


After she spoke, I reflected that, years ago, I returned to dance after taking a few years off to go to college. At my initial return performance, I was overwhelmed by fear that I would fail miserably and embarrassingly. As my partner and I got into the opening pose just before the curtain went up, I was dismayed to find that his hand, which I was holding, was shaking badly. Just before the curtain rose, he said to me quickly, “Remember, this is energy. Use it!”

 

The performance was brilliant.

 

Good – really good – performers have always known that the little thrill of anxiety they experience before a performance actually enhances what they do; to be completely calm is to become a little dull. That nervousness can produce a number of positive changes, including increased mental clarity, energy, and enthusiasm.

 

Recent research by Crum and Salovey (2013)* disclosed that the belief that stress is debilitating will undermine performance, confidence, and health, too. 

 

So would simply switching that mindset to one that tells you that nervousness will enhance your performance make all the difference in the world? Not necessarily, because first it is important to rehearse your performance thoroughly, so thoroughly that you have a set of well-learned skills on which to fall back; think of it as being on a kind of automatic pilot.

 

Then, as the performance unrolls, you can hear that little voice inside saying, “I think I can. I KNOW I can.”

 

Repeatedly performing the same skills under stress while believing in the performance-enhancing value of stress leads to better performance, increased confidence, and a greater overall sense of well-being.

 

And, by the way, nervousness over public speaking or any other kind of performance is not the exclusive experience of introverts; extroverts can feel it, too. Introverts sometimes fall into the trap of believing what they hear so much from society, that introversion is a kind of defect. 

 

No, pretty much everyone has the same experiences when it comes to something like public speaking. The same rules apply: learn, practice, tell yourself nervousness is an advantage – and grow.

*Crum, A., Salovey, P. & Achor, S. (2013).  Rethinking Stress: The Role of Mindsets in Determining the Stress Response. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Can an introvert have an exciting life and survive?

Yes, many do. Many do not. happy woman

Performers are, surprisingly often, introverts, because performing provides a perfect platform for an introvert. A performance usually involves a structured situation with behavior that is well-rehearsed; furthermore, we can usually perform without those interruptions that force us to freeze or think too quickly, that we encounter in social situations. Many of us even learned that we could pour out our feelings and enthusiasm with a feeling of safety we never found daily life.

 

But it’s those unstructured situations we may be forced into between performances that trip us up, and leave us exhausted, embarrassed, and insecure. Many exciting careers do not involve a structured performance space. Some adventurous lives require introverts to cope with a constantly changing environment where skillful responses are required on the spur of the moment. This was such a challenge for one of my clients that he is now being treated for PTSD as he explores his introversion and its consequences. He now says of his career, “It was an exciting and adventurous life, and I wouldn’t have missed it for anything in the world.” But he sadly realizes that his mental and physical health suffered as a result of his career. His dawning realization that he is an introvert is helping him to reassess his considerable abilities and to recognize that he could have made choices that would have helped him cope more successfully with his career.

 

So the problem is really this: if you have a dream that involves adventure, and, as an introvert, you have a nervous system and mindset that says, “Slow down and be safe,” you may be in what seems to be an eternal conflict situation: either you live an adventure that may also affect your health, long-term, or you sadly put aside a dream, believing you can’t cope with it.

 

It doesn’t have to be that way. You can live that life, and even educate people around you to respect your needs as an introvert.

Here are some coping techniques for introverts who want to accept the challenge.

 

Develop Introvert Pride:

 

You must have pride in your introversion and recognize the special talents you may have. Only in this way will you be authentic and honest with people around you, standing up for yourself and who you are. My client with PTSD now says that even the knowledge that he was an introvert, and that was an acceptable thing to be, would have helped him with his anxiety throughout his exciting but exhausting career.

 

You must learn to say NO:

 

One introvert client, a 45-year-old woman with a small child, had already had a stroke at that young age. She was extremely brilliant, skilled and creative; her co-workers turned to her at every opportunity to bail them out when they got stuck, and she never said “no,” to the extent that she worked many hours overtime trying to get her own projects done.

Her non-assertiveness was in part due to the fact that she had been raised to believe that being an introvert was somehow not OK, and she was trying to prove that she was. She was overwhelmed and exhausted much of the time. Learning to say “no” was a high priority in our work together.

Speak up and set boundaries:


One of the consequences of developing introvert pride is that you become willing to let people see your needs, and you become willing to ask that they honor those needs.

 

Alyssa was part of a work team where members agreed to hold meetings online, with the documents they were scrutinizing available on Google Docs. This was in response to a statement by several members that they didn’t have time to go over e-mail documents in advance of the meeting. Alyssa realized she would be in a situation where she would be asked to make spontaneous responses to ideas she was first being shown at the meeting. She asked to have the documents sent to her in advance, stating that, as an introvert, she wanted that preview to marshal her thoughts. She added that she could provide much greater value in this way.

 

Learn to take Mini-vacations: 

 

George Stephanopoulos, well-known TV host and commentator, attributes his ability to live a life in the spotlight as an introvert to his habit of meditating, taking small meditative breaks during the day to regain his energy.

 

My client with PTSD now knows that he should always arrive 15 minutes early for any appointment or engagement, no matter how delightfully relaxed and social the occasion may be.  He builds these min-vacations into his schedule, giving him time to take that refreshing, quick break.

Narrow down your choices:

 

The introvert’s tendency to acquire and store a lot of information, from reading and just plain observing, can result in an overly-busy brain that suggests many options from which to choose. This can result in great creativity; it can also result in exhausted overwhelm.

 

Peak performers learn to focus and not get entranced by too many opportunities that are not in the current game plan. (This is another chance to say “no”: this time, to your own brain.)

Every time you have another bright idea, ask yourself “Is this in the current game plan?” If the answer is “no,” then you must say “no” to its intrusion.

 

Educate people around you as to what you need:

 

Instead of pretending that everything is OK, tell people you need more time to make decisions, to back off and think a situation through. Assure them you will provide far better responses under these circumstances. Point out instances where your thoughtfulness and reflecting paid off.


Pick your performance platform:


Introvert entrepreneur Barbara Feders, in love with nature, has created a business she calls Beauty of the Wild, in which she takes people to the wilderness on trips they would never contemplate by themselves. There she introduces them to the world she loves, a world in which she shines and can feel secure.

 

Not everyone can create a business to his or her temperament, but even in an environment which you have not structured, you can create your own platform.  Prepare your ideas in advance of a team meeting, ask for five minutes to present them in a coherent fashion, use body language (the uplifted hand that is a “stop” signal) to hold down interruptions until you finish.

It’s your stage: you can own it, furnish it, write the script with confidence  … or you can forever be a bit player in someone else’s life plan.

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Lynette Crane is a Minneapolis-based speaker, writer, and coach. She has more than 30 years’ experience in the field of stress and time management and personal growth. Her latest book is The Confident Introvert, written to help introverts overcome the stress of living in a culture that idealizes extroversion, so that they can thrive, and not just survive.Visit her website at http://www.creativelifechanges.com/ to see more in-depth articles and to view her programs.

Why take a risk?

Personal note

These last two weeks have been filled with many opportunities to meet new  people and to share with them the exciting things I am doing.

As I did so, I reflected upon my past, when I was so shy that the patterns on the wallpaper made more impact on a group than I did.  Now I circulate confidently, smiling, chatting, finding out about other people, making friends, and yes … actually talking about myself.

All of this didn’t happen by accident:  it was part of a calculated plan at self-improvement that I started in 1983, and worked through step-by-step.

Today’s article is about that first step:  recognizing that you may stay in a prison of your own making forever if you don’t act.  I’ll make it easy for you.

Don’t forget:
On May 19, I am proud to be a presenter at the Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation’s FREE heart health screening.  If you are in or near Minneapolis, please join us for this value-laden event, featuring

  • Heart health presentations at 9, 10 and 11 AM
    – Stress management  (THAT”S ME! – at 10 a.m.)
    – Heart-healthy eating
    – Exercise for every body
  • Nordic walking demonstrations
  • Healthy living resources and displays
  • Prizes and more!

Saturday, May 19, 2012
8 AM – 1 PM
Richfield Community Center – Nicollet and Augsburg Rooms
7000 Nicollet Ave. S

Please join us.

Why take a risk?

Some people take risks more readily than other people. And risks can be a little scary, whether they involve making a major career change and/or cross-country move, asking for a promotion or a raise, declaring your affection to someone else when you’re not sure how that person feels, or when it necessitates speaking up to someone whose behavior has been making you unhappy. Risks come in all sizes and shapes.

The first thing to remember is that it is impossible to avoid  risks  –  life is full of them.

First of all, there are Imposed risks:  things that happen to us that we can’t avoid – floods and tornadoes come to mind  –  with the possibility of leaving you feeling helpless and victimized, as do financial disasters, broken relationships, and any situation you can’t control.

That sense of a loss of control is what makes stress so stressful – in fact it is the key factor in determining whether we view an event as stress or as a challenge.

Then there are Chosen risks:  Actions you deliberately take to get something you want or to get away from something you don’t want.  With a chosen risk, there is always the possibility of embarrassment, failure and loss.

Why would anyone choose to take a risk when it may be accompanied by lots of anxiety?

It can result in a rich reward and – think of this, you will never know whether you could have gotten what you wanted if you never try. Even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you want, the long term consequence of that risk-taking act can be positive because you become more resilient and able to deal with imposed risks more easily.

Do you feel safer when you don’t take a risk?  Research indicates that, at the end of their lives, people don’t worry about what they have done.  They worry about what they have not done. As John Greenleaf Whittier said, “For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, “It might have been.”

Here’s a little exercise to get you started:

Think of a risk you would like to take. What is the worst thing that could happen?

This is called the “worst case scenario.”  Why would you want to think of that?

Because it is the bogeyman that is keeping you from even thinking deeply about taking the risk.  Facing it is necessary if you want to move forward.

On a scale of 0 to 100, what is the probability the worst will happen? Take a minute to think about this. You may find, to your surprise,  that the probability isn’t really all that high, but you have been acting as if it is 100%.

If the probability is less than 50% that it will turn out badly, you are in a good position to go ahead.  It is probably a lot less than 50%.

Finally, can you handle the feelings, or are you undermining yourself by saying, “it will be soawful if this doesn’t work out?”  Will it really, or are you being dramatic?

Risk-taking doesn’t have to be scary or dramatic; it’s a skill, and it can be learned and practiced, just like any other skill you might want to acquire in order to enrich your life.

Next week, we will look at how to set up a risk so it is not so risky at all.

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