Workplace bullying can be devastating, contributing to significant stress. And unfortunately, it's not new in the workplace--60.3 million American workers say it affects them, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. And even worse, the majority of that bullying (61 percent) comes from poor bosses who often do nothing to help or who engage in sham investigations.
But Randy Ginsburg, author of Adversity to Advantage: How to Overcome Bullying & Find Entrepreneurial Success, says that leaders can take their experience of being bullied and turn it into a positive.
Elon Musk, for example, focused on computers and business as an escape from bullying in school in South Africa. That eventually led him to start the Internet company that merged with Paypal. And when OpenGate Capital founder and CEO Andrew Nikou was physically bullied, too, he accepted encouragement about intelligence from his father, studied harder and started a baseball card business to gain confidence.
Nearly half of bullied people turn it around.
This experience isn't as isolated as you might think, either. In a study by psychologist Dr. Ellen deLara of 900 adults aged 18 to 65 who had experienced adolescent bullying, almost half said the bullying ended up having a positive effect. More specifically, the bullying helped them grow
- Resilience/Independence--14 percent
- Empathy--11 percent
- Moral development--11 percent
- Goal attainment--7 percent
How to overcome your own experience of being bullied.
Ginsburg says that training yourself to be optimistic and resilient is the most important thing for using bullying to your advantage. Consider the source of your harassment and tell yourself mantras like "That person doesn't know me" to remind yourself to ignore what they're saying or doing.
It's also important to find people who can support you, including counselors and therapists. Others often are being treated poorly just like you, and they might be seeking somebody to talk to about it, too. But remember that "popular" doesn't necessarily mean happy, and focus on the quality of your relationships, not the quantity.
"Two rock-solid, judgment-free bonds where emotions can be shared freely are a lot more valuable than 20 surface level relationships," he asserts.
And Ginsburg stresses that you can overcome the trauma of bullying even when support is low, provided you find a way to express what you think and feel. Working toward something meaningful can show you that you have purpose and has been shown to be an effective way to cope with and overcome bullying.
Ginsburg also has developed the INVENT framework, which is designed to guide people to success through not only bullying, but other forms of adversity, as well.
I--Establish Your Identity. Who are you? What do you stand for? What do you want to be known for? Keep in mind, this is constantly evolving.
N--Develop Your Nerve. Pain and hardship are inevitable on the pathway to success. Use it as a way to develop tough skin and resilience.
V--Visualize Your Goals. Behind every accomplished entrepreneur is a concrete vision. Train your mind to "see the image" of whatever ambitious goal you may have and set consistent benchmarks to track your progress.
E--Engage with Others. Business is a team sport. Learn to interact with all types of people and build your emotional intelligence. Behind every great company is a great leader.
N--Embrace the Now. The internet offers a goldmine of potential for monetizing your business and your brand. Use it, don't let it use you.
T--Take the Third Door (build up confidence to take risks). Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. It requires unconventional confidence, sacrifice, and an ability to find peace within uncertainty. Are you willing to do what other's wont?
Finally, as a leader, view emotional intelligence as a necessity that's just as critical as intuition and technical skills. You can be the one who prevents others from going through unfair treatment.
"Invest the time to get to know your team, what they stand for and how they operate," Ginsburg advises. "Now so more than ever, kindness and respect go a long way."