As a career coach I have heard several stories of individuals being bullied in the workplace and I have guided them with empathy.
But just recently I suffered this myself in a social media context when I was on an Electrician Facebook Group and it made me feel terrible realising what it’s like to be at the receiving end of a bully or a set of bullies. And let me say, this is my story and I realise there will be those with stories a lot more painful than this. It was terrible enough for me to feel negative about things, with a bitter taste in my mouth all through the afternoon, evening and night. Terrible enough for me to catch myself at the start of a downward spiral - one I have rarely experienced before. One I was able to catch early and that being the next day, when I spoke to my 18-year-old daughter as I was driving her to school. I asked her - have you faced social media trolling yourself – partly because I feared if I felt this crappy about what had happened to me, and I’d heard so much about social media related trolling for school kids through the media – how safe was she?
She said “no” which I was relieved to hear, and then she asked me why I mentioned that.
When I explained it, she asked to see the page and as I saw her read the page trail; I saw tears in her eyes as she asked – I cannot believe grown up people actually do this? And by this she meant saying things like – fxxx off, put your suggestion in your dxxx and pxxx off, everyone hates you, get off you xxxxxxxx, and so on. You get the picture.
A bit of background to this would be appropriate. As many of the 4,000 or so of you who receive my free newsletter through www.WattElectricalNews.com would know, or those who’ve attended my talk on “How to recession proof yourself as a professional” through Engineers Australia in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane would know, or through the career coaching I have done for the past several years and through that spoken one-on-one to those in the industry to guide people within their career, or those who read my regular blogs around career strategies or those who have received my book “Work Trap Dilemma” at no cost – I care about the industry and what the human element has come to, in what are tough, tough times for several within the work force.
Its within that context where I have come up with a new business model for the electrician industry, wherein those who have less work can sub-contract themselves through this platform to other employers without the need for a labour hire agency. And those who have staff needs, accessing staff through other employers without the need for a labour hire agency. Allowing for the free flow of resources to where work exists, eliminating the need for redundancies given that employers could contract out staff for short term hires directly from one employer to another.
With this in mind, I joined this electrician Facebook Group. It’s a group with 23,000+ followers and I made two posts. One around whether those who are doing hands on work prefer working with their hands or prefer managing people as part of a career journey – which I had lots and lots of great feedback on. And another post which explained how it was tough for those in the oil & gas, mining, manufacturing and power industries and how some people were finding it tough and others were finding it being the best time ever, and how this dichotomy was causing grief to several in the industry. I then explained how there was now a platform through which those who were finding it tough could find work through this channel.
It started with one or two individuals asking me if I was an electrician and egging the discussion on. Now, I’m not. But that does not preclude me providing a solution for the industry. And the administrators of this Group sensed that when they allowed me into the group knowing my background, with one of them having attended one of my career talks in Brisbane, with another administrator knowing me from my WattElectricalNews posts over the past 7 years. From there, about 6-7 individuals kept this up over around 50-60 posts abusing me repeatedly with language I’ve suggested above – just worse. Initially I tried to respond back in a mature way, providing information about how this new platform was good for the industry and how this eliminated the labour hire agencies. And this they latched on to - saying I was a labour hire agency myself. No amount of saying - go to the web site and check it out for yourself, helped. I used humor initially to respond back to them as I thought they were “just taking the piss”. But then it started to get personal. The administrators stood by and did nothing. I got several people from the group personally approaching me with words of comfort, but no one within that public arena stepped in.
And isn’t that what happens in schools where a child is being kicked around or being abused through social media and everyone hangs back in fear of them being at the receiving end of that barrage? Or the Principal perhaps ignoring this saying “its just two kids fighting who will sort it out themselves?” And the only time when someone takes notice is when the person abused tries to self-harm and then it becomes serious. I tell you, when I was going through that barrage I could empathise with those getting such negative thoughts.
Or in the workplace, where a person is bullied and the manager does nothing saying “I don’t want to interfere in this petty behaviour”. And then a story surfaces of a person self-harming themselves out of desperation?
Do we need to step in only when this happens?
What is the moral responsibility of those who stand and observe this behaviour?
In my case, if there was an issue with what I was posting, it was up to the administrators to approach me and say that – and they didn’t. So, what I was doing was in their view – fine. Yet a few individuals highjacked the whole agenda. Similar to what happens in a bullying situation.
What worked for me in getting myself out of this horrible situation was to talk this through with my family, so my wife and my grown-up kids. So, find someone who you trust and speak to them. Speak to someone who can listen well. Someone who shows empathy. Talking about it with my family and then documenting this as a blog has been cathartic.
I’d recommend talking about it because firstly it makes you realise - you are not alone. Secondly; I reported their posts to Facebook and the Facebook Administrators officially. You may find an official channel yourself and this could be the HR person within your company, your union representative, or a statutory body in your industry.
Here are some good resources I have found which may help those who have been or are being bullied:
- What bullying is (because what you are experiencing, you may not even realise is bullying) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullying
- What does it look like, how does it make you feel, how common it is, why people bully, what you can do https://au.reachout.com/articles/what-is-bullying
- Workplace bullying & what it looks like, how it can affect your work, what to do if you are being bullied in the work place, getting help, the legal side, the union involvement https://www.humanrights.gov.au/workplace-bullying-violence-harassment-and-bullying-fact-sheet
This is my story. Has my experience been an isolated one?
Get support now
If the situation is urgent and you’re concerned you, or someone else, is in immediate danger do not leave the person alone, unless you are concerned for your own safety.Call the person’s doctor, a mental health crisis service or dial 000 and say that the person’s life is at risk. If the person agrees, you could go together to the local hospital emergency department for assessment. Other services include:
Lifeline 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467
beyondblue Support Service 1300 22 4636
Mates in Construction on 1300 642 111
Kids Helpline 1800 551 800