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WORKPLACE BULLYING

RESPECT • CIVILITY • ACCOUNTABILITY

Being Ignored as a Bullying Tactic

Think of a time when you were ignored. Think of how you felt. Hurt, sad, puzzled, stressed… Did you think, “What’s wrong with me?” or “How come I was left out?” Or how about when you were brave enough to reach out and ask ‘why is this happening?’, and were met with a polished answer from the person that left you with more self doubt and no answers?

Now think about being ignored, left out and pushed aside…day after day…after day…after day…This repeated ignoring is one of the worst types of bullying known.

Social or interpersonal rejection occurs when an individual is deliberately excluded from an interpersonal or peer relationship. A person can be rejected by an individual or by an entire group of people (mobbing). Furthermore, rejection can be either overt, with acts of aggressive bullying; or passive such as ignoring a person, shunning or shaming.

Being Ignored as a Bullying Tactic: Being overlooked can feel distressing; we’ve all felt this from time to time. Being perpetually ignored feels rotten. To the degree a person is important to you, or to the degree you have expectations of that person that are not met, the more pain and rejection you will likely experience.

Being perpetually ignored is a bullying tactic and it involves what might appear as slight brush offs to the target in order for the bully to gain the upper hand. Remember, when these ‘slight brush offs’ happen over and over again, they evolve from slight to deliberately drastic from their continual impact of isolating the target. Examples are:

  • Not making eye contact with you in a meeting, but making eye contact with everyone else;
  • Walking into a social situation and reaching to shake another’s hand but brushing by you; not giving you the same level of interaction;
  • Engaging with others in conversation, asking them questions, perhaps joking around, then being tight lipped, formal and professionally polite for appearances sake, but by no means displaying the connect-ability they have toward others, toward you.
  • Leaving you out of email loops, formal information sharing and informal information sharing.

Have you ever been the last person to find out about the holiday schedule or have you ever been going about your work happily and you see a flock of co-workers discussing something in an unofficial capacity, but you were not asked your opinion; you were not invited in the first place?

But Wait, There’s More: How the Bully Further Isolates a Target:Skilled charming bullies will quickly double up their social interaction and attention they pull away from you and deposit it into others in order to gain favor with others…against you. Has this ever happened to you:

  • You have friends at work and you see the bully talking to these friends; joking around, really connecting and you are not invited.
  • The bully starts to create social situations, even talking casually at work, but always with you absent.
  • The bully shares ideas, jokes, social time with everyone else but you. There is an event; everyone is invited except for you. Everyone else thinks you couldn’t make it, but you know differently.
  • The bully starts to spread false innuendos about you to this group, further isolating you.
  • People that don’t even know you, start to believe what is being said. Ever heard of ‘group think’?
  • These new people start talking about you to others based on what they’ve heard and think to be true.

Why is This So Painful? Rejection is emotionally painful because of the social nature of human beings and our basic need to be accepted in groups. Abraham Maslow and other theorists have suggested that the need for love and belongingness is a fundamental human motivation. According to Maslow, all humans, need to be able to give and receive affection to be psychologically healthy.

Psychologists believe that simple contact or social interaction with others is not enough to fulfill this need. Instead, people have a strong motivational drive to form and maintain caring and respectful interpersonal relationships. People need both stable relationships and satisfying interactions with people in those relationships. If either of these two ingredients are missing, when they could easily be present or they are present for others then most people will begin to feel lonely and unhappy. Thus, rejection is a significant threat. In fact, the majority of human anxieties appear to reflect concerns over social exclusion.

The experience of rejection can lead to a number of adverse psychological consequences such as loneliness, low self-esteem, aggression, and depression. It can also lead to feelings of insecurity and a heightened sensitivity to future rejection.

So How Can You Cope?
 Many people will advise you to ‘get over it’ or ‘move on’. Most of the time, people say this because it makes them feel better to say it! What about you? Your feelings are real; the bullying is real. It can be very difficult to ‘just get over’ being ignored, isolated and abandoned from expected social interactions.

But your big question might be ‘but why me’? Excellent question. It is not fair to be perpetually ignored.

So, here are my top 5 suggestions for coping with being perpetually ignored:

  • First of all, practice acceptance of the reality, not necessarily the behavior. The more resistant you are, the more pain and anger you will feel. If you accept the fact that you are being ignored no matter how good of a person you are, it will make it easier. Even if you don’t agree with it, acceptance is the first step.
  • Put a time limit on the time you devote to trying to figure out ‘why this is happening to you’ and then have something else you can focus on; this really works!
  • Know you are not alone. This can help one feel connected to the 1000’s of others who have suffered as well and to know that you are not being isolated because of anything you did…it has more to do with the bully. Every negative feeling the bully has about others is really a reflection of the negative feelings they have about themselves. What drives bullying? A need for control over another, rooted in envy. This is about the bully, not you.
  • Seek out a community or group that you can feel love, acceptance, kindness, generosity, tenderness and support. You might wonder if such a group exists. Try http://emotionsanonymous.org. We are all in recovery as human beings!
  • Stay plugged in and protected. Keep learning so you are empowered. If you haven’t walked through the Bully Free at Work exercises and self-tests yet, be sure to do this soon! What gets measured gets treasured; you are a treasure; don’t forget!

I’ll leave you with this: some things we will not understand. Some things we will be unable to change. One thing we can change, protect and empower is ourselves. Keep protected. The truth will rise to the top and keep shining.

 

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214 responses to “Being Ignored as a Bullying Tactic”

  1. ANNETTE says:

    The first time I was treated like dirt at a job was by my boss’s daughters. This was my first job straight out of school and over the twenty plus years I spent at this job I accomplished a lot. Unfortunately I had to deal with both my boss’s daughters when they were older and were hired to work at the club, making my life a misery. They were both fond of stirring it up with coworkers and club members. They became friends with many of our members and a few of the people we worked with. They had to resort to lying about me but it got the job done, I was left out of many events and ignored. Eventually I felt sick to my stomach every day I had to walk into work. Eventually I moved to our head office and only saw them occasionally but the damage was done. My boss moved to another country but we still worked together for another ten years or so.

    By the time I was doing graphics work on my own, I also had a part time job working for a mother daughter team. Unfortunately they didn’t get along and brought me into their fights. Every day I had to walk a tightrope because each woman complained about the other and wanted my opinion and take their side. Every day was chaos in their lives and if something went wrong at work I was blamed. I started making detailed notes so when something went wrong I could prove that it wasn’t my fault. Somehow both women were able to ignore this and leave me with the blame. After three years I was fired for something I didn’t do. I loved this job and was very upset about being fired for not finding a parcel for a customer that he picked up the day before when I was off. I had to go to the Labor Board to get money owing to me, which is when I decided to find out why I allowed these women to bully me for so long. In the end I wrote a book about my experience.

    While I was writing the book I had a part time job repairing watches. The woman who hired me and I got along famously. Then the company decided to promote her and I got a new boss. She treated me like crap from day one. Asking me to come in on my day off with short notice, watching me like a hawk, finding fault in every move I made, not leaving me alone for a second when this was a one person shop. Making me ‘practice’ what I had been doing for months, asking me to come in on my day off to practice on old watches. I did all of it without complaint. One day I came into work to find she had rearranged the entire store and I couldn’t find tools and items I needed for days. After that I came in one day and she made sure I didn’t do any work, other than dusting and cleaning. She didn’t let me deal with customers at all. This was a one person job, my first boss and I only spent about half an hour together each day, the new boss stated to hang around my entire shift not letting me deal with customers. On my last day, a Saturday she interrupted a customer who knew me to answer a question directed at me. After he left I decided to ask her what was going on, with intention of my quitting. I then saw my former boss arrive, she barely glanced at me, the two women whispered together and I knew I’d be fired. I was asked to come into a storage room and my new boss handed me a letter that basically said the store was making changes. I didn’t let her finish her spiel about how great an employee I had been, etc., left the room, grabbed my purse and went home. I contacted head office weeks later and was finally paid what was owing to me months later.

    Eventually I had a job interview at the same mall with a woman I could tell hated me on sight. I went through the interview anyway but knew it was a waste of time. I kept an eye on the store after that and found that none of their employees lasted more than a few weeks. They constantly had ads up for this position. I went for another job interview with this company when I noticed that there was now a man in charge and no sign of the nasty woman. He hired me on the spot and was awesome to work with the two weeks he trained me. Then one day the woman who didn’t hire me came back to work. We ran into each other at shift change and her face said it all. I told a friend that she would make sure I would be fired. A month later that is exactly what happened. This was also a one person position so we didn’t work together just saw each other at shift change but she couldn’t stand the thought of me working there. Unfortunately for her I am in that mall several times a week and run into her getting coffee, at the bank, walking down the hall, buying food, me coming in the door while she’s on her way out the door. She looks pretty uncomfortable each time our eyes meet. A couple of days after I was fired I left a letter for this woman, basically telling her what I thought of her, which is something I recommend doing. People who mess with your livelihood for whatever reasons should be called on it. Never saw the man who hired me again, although he was a partner in the company and was the one to fire me. He told me the that I had been a great employee, always on time, had no problem staying late, people liked me, etc. but they had ‘heard some things’ which he wouldn’t elaborate on, even head office wouldn’t let me know what had gone wrong, they couldn’t of cours – the fact that a co worker wanted me gone. I told both of them what I thought the reason was.

    Finding work is hard enough these days, having to deal with all this extra stuff just makes life a lot harder.

  2. G says:

    I have just 2 months in my job. I was hired in a very caothic time for the organization and my boss keeps blaming me for every mistake since I’ve got in. She is not the best leading and giving clear orders and activities. She gave me “feedback” totally unprofessional, destructive, not recognicing a single thing I’ve done right, trying to make me accept the guilt for everything. When I told her I needed more direction she told me that with my expertise should I know how to do things and that I was adviced that I should learn quickly. I know she tried to fire me, but she couln’t because she doesn’t have any evidence. HR didn’t gave me any solution just advice, how to deal with her (nothing relevant). I know also she gave me that horrible feedback because she wanted me to quit, so I decided to stay, at least until I recieve the final evaluation, because I need my salary. But now she is ignoring me, talking bad about me with others, and not giving me any work, she gives everything to someone junior than me. I feel miserable every day, I’m trying to deal with the situation just trying to survive until I find something else.

  3. Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade says:

    First of all, you write exceptionally well and seem like a very good person who is trying their best. Your sharing reminds me that no matter “how good” or “how effective” we are or try to be, this does not change the dynamic with the bully. The bully wants control and some will break major moral rules – even manipulating one’s work so they appear less effective. A higher authority is the only way in which this behaviour can change. And most higher authorities do not know what to do. So we need to look for their “interest” of the situation, their “acknowledgement” of the situation (or are they seeking to minimize, dismiss, and even ignore the situation because they are either tired, do not know what to do or do not want to put forward the effort?) and are the committed to “solving” the situation (even if they do not know what to do). You seem like you have a very good handle on this situation. I am also compassionate toward your sharing of “beautiful woman must have it all” – you are right, that is not the case and yet being beautiful can promote envy in women and that is not the beautiful woman’s fault in any way. May you be protected as you continue to serve. Thank you for taking the time to reach out.

  4. Karalea says:

    Good article. I work as a contract nurse so this happens to me often. I am competent at what I do. I am friendly and I pretty much like everyone until I am given a reason by the person not to. I am outgoing and being around others, whether it is my patients or co-workers makes me happy. I probably seem too happy or friendly. I don’t know. I am tired of analyzing it because I have been a target for this more often than I care to admit. I am an attractive woman and I know that because I have frequently received compliments from women about my appearance. I don’t care much about this anymore because honestly being attractive has not served any real purpose for me except to cause me to end up in painful relationships and to receive jealous judgments from other women that seem to think that I “have had it all” in my life. They could not possibly know how much I have struggled and how little I have had both monetarily and emotionally in the way of love from any man, woman, friends, father. Things with mom are a work in progress. I am estranged from my sisters who are also both nurses. I do have a sweet, loving jewel of a daughter, which I believe was the reason God put me here. Other than my daughter, I have never really known true love from a man. Other women see a woman that is attractive and just assume that that the woman has has had it all in life. They make judgments and are determined to try to make your work life a living hell since you have been so lucky to “have it all”. I was emotionally abused as a child by my father. This left me with profound feelings of insecurity which has taken a lifetime to heal from. Honestly, I am coming to the realization that one never really heals from this, however, I live with lots of hope and I try not to dwell on this despite the fact that the aftermath continues to slap me on the ass on an almost regular basis. I appear self confident because of my outward physical and emotional appearance of being happy which only exists because I am happy when I go to work to have a purpose that is more important than myself and a meaning that has the possibility of affecting the lives of others in a positive way. I cannot deny that I am good at what I do. No one would ever know the hell I have been through in my life. Because I was bullied as a kid by my peers and my father, I used to think that there was just something weird about me. If you catch me on an off day, I will admit that those old feelings come rushing back. That is when I take the time to research my problem and I find articles such as yours that put me back into perspective. I am now dealing with another person that is ignoring me and it is so obvious that she is intentionally keeping me from ,learning the things that I need to know in order to become knowledgeable and successful in my new contract which I have been at now for about a month. She actually thanks me for my help when I leave which many would consider to be a nice thing to do, however, I know, unfortunately, from brutal experience that this is just one tactic that she us using to make me feel as though I am not really part of the team. She wants me to believe that I am just a welcome stand-in for desperate times only. This woman, you can tell, is someone that has made her job her whole life. Despite the fact that she complains about how hard she works and sends the message that she is overworked, she, I believe, is threatened by new people that enter her domain. I think she enjoys playing the role of martyr and is likely the reason that the facility is so short staffed. Because she has shown such dedication over the years, I think management really has very little understanding that she is likely the problem instead of the solution. She, with all her dedication and years of seniority has created quite a nice little niche of security and comfort for herself, which I believe she will do everything in her power to protect. She will not allow anyone to become as valued to the facility as she currently believes that she is. It is so crazy, because I feel, from my experience that she is their greatest liability and is the reason why traveling nurses are necessary for them to begin with. I already anticipate being called into the office of various managers to address complaints and problems that no doubt are the result of her sabotaging me. Tonight, in fact, I believe that she removed Insulin and other supplies from one of my patients to make me appear to be unorganized and scattered. I remember filling these supplies. She was the only other person that had access to these supplies.. I totally agree with you that the problem is the bully. No doubt about that, however, these type of bullies have gained the trust and faith of their co-workers through many years of experience, which, often, especially with women amounts to deep friendships and understandings about the person that has nothing to do with the job itself; eg: she had some very difficult times in her life that she has shared with her co-workers.. Her fiance left her years ago and she has been alone since. The only thing that she has is her work. Tight relationships form at work and often co-workers, knowing all the dynamics of a co-worker will, no matter what, stand up for the bully because so much history is shared. There are so many issues and dynamics related to these type of situations that I feel that there is only one way to deal with such issues. That is to nip it in the bud by addressing behaviors head on with human resources or management. I think that as soon as a bullied employee senses that something is off, clear documentation of the issues needs to happen and intervention needs to take place at that time. I believe that this is what is good for the organization and for the bullied employee who needs to be empowered and given the opportunity to do the job they were hired to do. A person should not have to be made to feel as though they need to strategize their way through this mess or have to question their professionalism or abilities to do a job that they know that they are more than competent to do. This is victimization and re-victimization on so many levels. Management and HR needs to do their job and step in as soon as an employee complaint is made or there is even a suspicion of bullying behavior from an employee . Everyone needs to be able to make a living in a work environment. After-all most of us work so we can feed the faces of our children and ourselves. It is about survival, and, if we are lucky, some degree of job satisfaction..

  5. Linda Mahaney says:

    I have worked my same job for 26 years. We just got a new boss and she is 30 years old. She is always making me feel useless. She storms by me and ignores me but gets along wonderfully with other workers. I am doing my work well and going the extra mile to help others. I feel like I am an evil person and my depression is at an all time high.

  6. Bully Free at Work: Valerie Cade says:

    Oh wow, yes, you’ve called it – they are trying to control you in order to get what they want – for you to listen and participate in their gossip. My best advice is to fully recognize this for what it is – controlling behaviour – and that you also have the right to decide what you want to do. When people pull back like you have done without explanation (not that you owe one), others tend to wonder why and then try to make up their reason why as they do not have any reason that makes sense to them. Why wouldn’t you want to hang out with them and gossip – it’s such good bonding! And the invited you in and now you have chosen to leave. They (may) see this as rejection and their gossip is self preservation. You (could) consider telling them one on one if if it feels better or both together why you left – you don’t have to criticize them for their gossip, you could share that you are trying to relax at breaks and talking about work is a little heavy for you – and that you appreciated them inviting you for lunch. That could help to narrow the gap of their possible feelings of rejection. You do not have to feel like you owe them a massive explanation, but a short touch base (might) help if you are up for it. Remember, this says a lot more about them than you. All the best in your new job!

  7. Victim.. says:

    Reading this article makes me feel better because there are people like me but i feel much more sad cause there are people like me, suffering..not knowing what to do. I have come to a point where every single minute is a stressful minute, day, week and months and I’ve only been bullied for 2 months.

    It all started when I just entered to a new company, fresh from graduate university 3 months ago. During the first moment i entered the company, everyone was really nice to me especially these 3 female coworkers who would always invite me to lunch together and always talk together. The only thing was, they like to gossip, every chance they could, about everyone. It was pretty exhausting but I had to be connected with them so I just listened along and try to fit in.
    The following month, my other coworker who was the same age as me and we were always hanging out started to joining them and thats when the bully start. I was left out in gossip, lunch, dinner, annual company meeting but one of them told everyone in the office that it’s a shame that I didnt want to join them to eat lunch together (wtf seriously psycho), emailed to everyone except me, company vacation, any question I ask they would tell me to just google?? ,glares, one of the gang scolded me infront of everyone, didnt enter my overtime work until midnight in the server for everyone to see, eventhough i worked 42 hours straight until I was sent to the emergency room because of exhaustion and hallucination,
    and yesterday was the last day of one of my coworker that i wasnt close with and he told me he was a victim of bullying too in the office…thats why he quit…..and he was bullied by other set of coworkers, so now there a two gangs of bullies in my office to make things worse right?..yeah…. bizzare..he told he was left out in lunch, dinner, nobody talked to him, the boss glared at him, nobody wanted to give him any task..just cause he was incompetent and slow abit and he has a hearing difficulty in which he wheres a hearing aid to help him hear but he was eager to learn who unfortunately nobody wanted to teach and got ignored…. i was so dumfounded to hear his story cause he never showed any signs of stress of depression, he always smiled at me and we sometimes jokes around. Turns out i was the only person talking to him in the office and he told me to be carefull and if i just can’t stand it anymore please just quit cause he understand how it feels…he said it was “mentally mental up to the point staring blankly down to ground for the whole day was the only way of coping”..
    now im thinking of quitting cause i am so effected by the bullying that i cant concentrate on my work and my performance is going down, making it another point for them to bully me… help..i should go to a counselling right? cause i cant afford to lose this job…

  8. Isabel says:

    I do feel that they are trying to get rid of me so this new girl, who started in reception 2 months ago gets my job so they can all hang out together. She spends more time in our office then doing her job. Every morning i think – what will i get accused of today. What will go wrong today?

  9. Isabel says:

    I started my recent job 10 months ago and loved it. Two other females started a week after me and I became very good friends with one of them. The other we found to be very lazy and not doing her work but after a few months we all worked well as a team. About 5 months ago a new one started and from day one I felt unsure about her. Within about 3 months I started to notice a change in everyone’s attitude towards me. I also noticed how she didn’t email me things and then Made a point that she had sent it to me 2 weeks prior, why wasn’t it actioned. This has continued and things have now progressed in which I am being excluded from conversations, I get ignored and alienated, consistently blamed for things and when I leave in the afternoon, I have to say goodbye three times before I ever get a reply. If I try to join the conversation, they simply ignore me and keep talking. I’ve started looking for a new job but feel so hopeless that these lazy cows get to stay. What frustrates me more is that they abuse my bosses trust by taking long lunches, starting late on a regular basis and long coffee breaks so in 8 hrs of work they probably work 5 and in the 6 hrs if work I work the full 6, mist days work back bc again they hold back in giving me work until im just about to go home and say they need it done ASAP. They even tell my boss off, which he apologies to them so often. Its a joke

  10. Hurt says:

    Enough!! 6 months ago my team started ignoring me, no hellos, no goodbyes, no nothing.
    The manager was making a comment about lack of desks and I offered to move. At our Christmas party I was ignored by someone I thought of as a good friend. Ruined the night. Now we have a team lunch coming up and even though I’m in the team I’m not invited. Makes you feel like &$#!.

  11. Sean says:

    I have witnessed and experienced bullying/mobbing behaviours in multiple workplace settings. I have watched again and again as the target is vilified through so-called investigative inquiry. The target is dragged through the mud for expediency and the appearance of resolution – to be made the problem.

    I have been told that I invite my own mal-treatment. I have been denied workplace processes available to others to resolve workplace issues.

    The current workplace issues are related to my intelligence, knowledge and, training for the position to which I am qualified. I have been told that I am too intelligent and that I should be doing something else. I have been in staff meetings [Human Service Work] where an individual blurted out that s/he does not want to know anything.

    I have been ridiculed, bullied and otherwise harassed for doing my job and even, for doing it well.

    It always starts the same way – the staff start to swirl, the doors start to shut, the stories spin, supervisors are muzzled, the freeze is on, the glares, the stares, the secretive movements and then the explosion… Another one bites the dust, and another one’s gone, another one bites the dust…

    The latest victim is now at home trying to pickup the pieces of his/her life… Wondering… what the…

    As I conduct another psychosocial assessment and contemplate the idea that work is a prosocial activity I ask myself; Really?

  12. Rosetta says:

    Uh boy. It is the day before a holiday and got left out of lunch by co-workers. I’m pretty solitary at work, but always make an effort to attend group lunches if asked. No doubt it’s a slight. It’s not as though I feel I’m disliked, but not including me must have some payoff or someone would make the effort to extend the invite. I’m old enough to not be devastated by this; but I still wish things were otherwise. Social norms are important; you don’t have to really care when you greet someone and ask how they are and you don’t really have to care if someone comes to lunch you ask them anyway, because it keeps the workplace boat level.

  13. Encelade says:

    I started this new job about 2.5 years ago. At the beginning everybody was friendly except that one girl obviously envious of my level of education and success in my career. But I didn’t care, it was just her so I avoided her, that’s all. Things started to go south when another female coworker tried to hook me up with a male coworker, friend of hers. He was much younger than me, with no education and no career in sight. While some “mature” women enjoy being “sugar mamas”, I am not into that at all. So I politely refused. The girl that was not nice to me since day 1 took advantage of the situation and started telling mean things about me. And since then, most of my coworkers ignore me and are mean to me, so she’s got what she wanted. I am looking for other jobs right now and I hope to leave soon.

  14. Pam says:

    An ex-boss sent out accusations about me to my family, friends, community as well as surrounding communities. Now I am being bullied/ignored by everyone and it does crush your integrity, ego and self esteem. My accuser told me that I would never be able to find a job around here as was going to destroy me. My consulation is that karma will come into play sometime in his life.

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Valerie Cade, CSP is a Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker and Author of "Bully Free at Work: What You Can Do To Stop Workplace Bullying Now!" which has been distributed in over 100 countries worldwide. For presentations and consulting on workplace bullying prevention and respectful workplace implementation, go to http://www.BullyFreeAtWork.com

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