Q) I work as a HR in a group of companies and as per my nature I mingle with people very soon and become personal with most of the team mates but still like keeping my personal and professional life separate and so when it comes to work I am very firm in my decisions towards them. Recently I have been mistreated by people I am very close to also got to know that they speak ill about me at my back which leaves me shattered and disgusted to come to the place I love being and now the situation is that I don’t want to step into it…. I am emotionally broken but have to continue my job…………..Please help.
A) I hope you realize that the situation at your office is nothing short of harassment. Workplace harassment can be termed as any unwanted comment or behavior that may be perceived as offensive or threatening, the effect of which can severely affect your work motivation/satisfaction and your well-being in general. It is unfortunate that work place harassment is a reality in almost all work places and most times it is gender specific. Women are the usual targets and it is disheartening to find other women often party to the harassment or playing silent observers.
In your case, the behavior (mistreatment and loose talk) of your colleagues has escalated to the extent that it has left you feeling disgusted and de-motivated to come to the office, hence affecting your productivity and efficiency. It is also taking a toll on your mental wellbeing and physical health. It almost feels like you have no option but to drag yourself to work each day despite knowing the ordeal that awaits you ! Working as a HR you may choose to report this matter to the higher authorities. I would have thought this route to be the most suitable form of action, however since you have not mentioned any such action I am assuming that so far you have chosen to stay silent and bear it. Suffering in silence will only encourage the unwanted behavior and make the aggressors more bold. There may be personal reasons for you to not wish to approach this matter in an official manner (by reporting the unwanted behavior) however, in future you might feel the necessity of some action to curb the harassment.
Though one has no control over other’s behavior or thought process, we have the right to defend ourselves from any kind of physical or mental attack. Letting people get away will only make you more susceptible to such attacks in future. Therefore, if you want to continue working in the same workplace, surrounded by the same people, then you have to take matters in your own hands and setup clear expectations and boundaries.
-You may begin by expressing your displeasure at the colleague’s action while the unwanted behavior is taking place and make sure that the message is delivered through clear choice of words and body language. Specially when there are a group of individuals present during this occurrence. A clear challenge allows for the unwanted behavior and overall interaction to be properly perceived and registered in people’s minds. This would clearly send the message that you will not tolerate any impropriety. Most importantly, your colleagues will realize that you have a voice and you know how to exercise it at the right time. In most cases this acts as a serious deterrent and reduces the unwarranted behavior.
-You may choose to directly confront the people who engage in criticism behind your back by challenging them and showing the evidence of the mistreatment. Please be informed that before you wish to directly challenge them, collect enough proof in your favor. Your case is as strong as the legitimacy and validity of your evidence. In most of the cases, a simple challenge is enough to deal with the matter, however, you may have to keep reinforcing the idea of no non-sense by addressing it while it happens and not later. Usually when such matters are handled with proper seriousness, it can deter any future attempts at denigrating someones name and character.
-You run the risk of being perceived as a soft target the moment you appear to be weak, emotional or indecisive. Learn to stay firm in your decisions. Your stress and disgust is a sign that you feel out of control which implies that you have allowed others the power over you. Take the rein back in your hands.
-Also, try to reflect over your own behavior, body language and interactions in the office, to explore why this may have started in the first place. It will get easier for you to address the situation once you know the reason behind it. Sometimes, it’s just our own insecurities that lead us to believing the worse or our own subconscious behavior from where the problem starts. I feel that you may be dealing with your own fear of embarrassment. Fear is the biggest predicament to empowerment. Therefore, to feel in control you must first to let go of your fear.
Sadly, workplace harassment exists and the only way to deal with it is to challenge it. I hope you are able to find the strength within yourself to deal with this matter head on. I wish you luck.