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Career Q&A - How do I deal with workplace bullying?

My work place is so toxic! My colleagues play political games, pushing work and responsibilities around. Snide remarks and rude comments are a daily affair. As a junior level employee, what can I do to stay sane and protect myself?~ Deavan, Compliance Professional

Sensing, understanding and managing the dynamics of work culture and environment of your job is important to help us be productive and effective in our work. It is an integral process to help us feel accepted at our workplaces and makes working alot more enjoyable.

However, not all work cultures and environments are positive and edifying. As far as the saying goes - "the workplace is a jungle and we are all animals in it" and there is some truth to that when we see how colleagues use all forms of tricks and manoeuvres to outdo each other to rise in the company or to simply save their own skin. Things get worse when you are the innocent party getting caught in the "crossfire" and when attacks become personal.

At AVODAH People Solutions, we often hear such struggles and frustration from our clients, leading many to contemplate changing their jobs to find something better. While a job change is one way to manage, what else can you do? We put out some tips here to help you consider in your situation.

Stay apolitical

In a political environment, it is hard not to take sides. Your boss could be egging you on to join in slamming another colleague or another team or you could have a personal grudge against another colleague who had offended you. However, stay apolitical as much as possible. Being apolitical does not mean removing yourself from such conversations. It means staying neutral, not contributing your opinions in the midst of such conversations taking place.

Be mindful of your own wellness

Learn to let go of daily negative events and externalise them as much as you can. Doing so allows you to protect your own mental and emotional wellness. Develop your own healthy ways of coping eg. going for a walk to take your mind off things, confiding in a trusted friend for a listening ear or doing high intensity workouts for the endorphin boost. If you are already personally badly affected by what's happening at work eg. struggling with sleep, having anxious thoughts, constantly worrying, feel bad about yourself, you may want to speak to a professional counsellor to process your emotions and thoughts. Singapore Anglican Community Services is one organisation that provides such professional services.

Look for allies

In the daily battles at work, observe for fellow colleagues who are struggling "in the jungle" just like you. Engage them in conversations outside of work and you may find a new colleague who shares the same interests and same disdain for office politics. Finding someone like-minded at your workplace could change the way you see the workplace and allows you to create your own social network at the workplace.

Raise the alarm

If things escalate and you get caught in the crossfire of nasty office exchanges along with personal attacks, it is time to raise the alarm. Start from your supervisors and move up the chain of command until you find someone that you think can be of help to you. Review your workplace's Anti Harassment Policy if there is one. Speak to your Human Resources representative for advice. If nothing can be done from within, there are workplace harassment guidelines and support services available from the Ministry of Manpower.

Be objective in considering a job change

At AVODAH People Solutions, we see many individuals thinking about job changes because of such workplace issues. We help them see and review their situation objectively and to discover if there are more reasons and motivations to support a job transition. Doing this will help individuals create a more informed decision as well as consider the practicalities of making a change. Rushing off to make a job change is definitely something not recommended.

At AVODAH People Solutions, we provide career guidance services to people who are considering career changes, making a job change or currently in a transition to find a job. Share your career situation with us so that we can support you.


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