Bullying in the workplace can lead to physical, mental, social and financial stress for the target. How does one pick up the pieces and move forward after a bullying event? Targets of bullying behavior are not “victims,” because they can change their situation with education and resources that promote healing and wellness. This does not mean they have easy choices. Many targets find themselves self-blaming when in reality they did nothing to provoke the inappropriate behavior and abuse. This self-blame can often trap targets, preventing them from taking steps to end the psychological violence. It can spiral into self-destruction as the target’s self-confidence destroys itself. When self-confidence is lost, the target starts to believe the bully’s lies and becomes more vulnerable to the situation and the bully. 9 The first steps in responding to bullying are awareness and avoidance of self-blame. Once the self-blame ends, targets can focus on healing. Common resources to help regain confidence and have faith in the journey ahead include supports such as family, close friends and colleagues; professional therapists and counselors; legal attorneys specializing in employment law; and organizations such as BEHAVE Wellness (Bully Elimination, Health, Advocacy, Violence Education).9
Workplace employee wellness and human resources departments may not always be beneficial places of support for bullied nurses. An oppressive work culture will extend past the barriers of a nursing floor or unit. Concerns about reporting systems, privacy and equitable treatment are valid, especially if the bully is in management. In some cases, wellness programs sponsored by employers can increase job performance while decreasing compassion fatigue and stress.8,13 Although the authors own a wellness program, programming corporate happiness for employees is far from a complete fix for bullying issues.
The demand for pharmacists, nurses, and other providers is cyclical, and bullying has ebbed and flowed through the decades. Hospitals able to retain and recruit employees are conducive to high autonomy and employee leadership. In its absence, some institutions have turned to wellness models that penalize and simply pass healthcare costs to the employee rather than helping with bullying or any other problems affecting the health of nurses. Although wellness programs are better known for granting rewards for healthy behaviors, as they evolve amidst cost-cutting measures, the end result can be corporate bullying and lower morale.14,15
A bullying target’s path to recovery and wellness is highly individualized. Happiness is an internal feeling, and to find happiness, it must first be defined. According to Amit Sood, MD, MSc, FACP, chairman of Mayo Clinic’s Mind-Body Medicine Initiative, the key to happiness is a healthier way of thinking with our brains. Gratitude practices can bring a sense of contentment, place things in perspective, and create inner happiness. Sood developed the SMART Program, which addresses emotional resilience in the form of “interpretations.” Each day of the week, targets interpret what gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning, forgiveness, celebration and reflection/prayer mean to them.16
Other wellness activities may include journaling, meditation, yoga, exercise, volunteer activities, eating healthy and personal hobbies. Above all, when confronted with workplace bullying, health and well-being need to come first. Maintaining wellness is of paramount importance. Targets should ask themselves what they like to do to unwind and relax. What are they grateful for? How do they show compassion to themselves and others? The answers to these questions will help keep nurses grounded by providing a sense of happiness and comfort when coping with this tragedy.