Thursday, February 14, 2013

Part 3: Anger Solutions Approach to Workplace Bullying

View Julie Christiansen's profile on LinkedInIn the previous post I focused on honing on your desired outcomes to help you devise appropriate responses to bullying or harassment at work. I also promised to deal with the question: "What is the best/worst thing that can happen if I do/say...?"

Now here's the rub. Think about some of the days you have gone through recently. You've probably had some good days and some bad days. In reality everyday has a little bit of good and a little bit of bad in it. The typical human response is to focus on the bad that happened throughout the day, even if 90% of the day was good. It is way more fun (most of the time) to gripe about the bad stuff that happened because it garners you sympathy, empathy, and moral support. Talking about the good stuff just isn't as rewarding (I hope you can hear the sarcasm in this statement).

Truth be told, we humans do tend to look at the darker side of life - this pessimistic outlook is reinforced in the media - the news is 90% bad and 10% good at best. Bad news sells. Period. However, if we want to be able to effectively use Anger Solutions to our advantage, we need to maintain a balance between possible positive and negative outcomes.

For example, when I was working in one particularly toxic workplace, I had become very sick and at one point I had to be off for 6 weeks to recover from major surgery. Shortly after returning to work (only a few months later), the very thing that led to my surgery had returned, and my health was beginning to decline again. On top of that I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and had to begin taking medication to manage it. And I hadn't even had my 40th birthday at the time!

Everytime I went to work I felt sick. I was weepy, and emotional, and had difficulty concentrating. My anxiety was through the roof, and I was terrified of losing my job. I had become fully focused on "What is the WORST thing that could happen if I defend myself, or stand up for myself, or challenge my boss for her behaviour?" Then one morning I realized that if I lost my job, it wouldn't be the end of the world. I extended the question to sound like this... "What is the worst thing that can happen if I get fired from this job?" The answer sounded something like this... "Well, I won't have a steady paycheque, but it will give me an opportunity to build my business."

Then, I asked the truly powerful question: "What is the best thing that could happen if I get fired?" O.M.G. The answer was incredibly empowering! "I won't have to feel sick or anxious in the mornings, because I won't have to work there. I will be in a better position to explore my options, and I can find another job or expand the business so that I can work in it full time. I would file for wrongful dismissal and get a severance package so that I wouldn't be struggling financially while searching for work. I won't have to put up with the constant badgering and put downs that I get from my boss on an almost daily basis. I can kiss office politics goodbye..." and the list went on and on.

That very day, I walked into my boss's office when I was summoned and she proceeded to launch into her daily rant of how useless I was. I interrupted her and asked point blank, "Are you going to fire me?" That stopped her cold. I continued, "Because if you're going to fire me, I'd like to know in advance so I can get my resume ready." She began to stammer, and finally said, "Well, there's nothing in it for me if I fire you." Strange response, but I took it to mean NO. I replied, "Ok, then if you don't mind, I'd like to get back to work." When I left her office I felt like a new person. I had found a way to resurrect my voice. Although she did not fire me (in fact, she was fired), I went ahead and prepared my resume. I also began exploring my options for a quick exit, and decided in the end to pursue my dream of running my business full time while working part time for a base income. That was 8 years ago, and I don't ever regret leaving. I owe my change of mindset to those two very simple questions:

"What's the worst thing that can happen if I ..." AND
"What's the BEST thing that can happen if I ..."?

Moving forward, as you work through the process of Thinking, Saying, and Asking, remember that you must thoroughly exhaust ALL the questions in the Thinking component before moving forward. Once you think things through clearly, what you have to say and/or ask becomes much clearer.

I hope you have found this helpful. I know that sometimes it helps to have another perspective - a supportive, empathetic sounding board to help process your experience. Call me if you need someone to talk to: 1-866-754-6169 toll free, or contact me via my website:

In my next post, I'll review the TSA Model in its totality. Until then, stay solution focused!