Workplace bullying

Neil Moon shares his experiences of being bullied at work and the effects it has had on his life

As with most people the arrival of the “new year” brings in a time of deep reflection and self analysis.  This is the perfect time to really sit down and decide what changes you need to make to lead a more fulfilling life.  Some of us might set the obvious goals of quitting smoking, losing weight or changing careers.  All of these goals are admirable and take a lot of willpower. However, what happens when you have to make changes because you are being bullied at work.  

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Going through this type stress will certainly make decisions much more difficult to make.  The mixed emotions of feeling angry, frustrated and determined to not let them win all inhibits the ability to make decisions that is crucial to your physical and mental health. After you get through this minefield you then have the worry of paying bills, looking after family responsibilities and your ability to find another job. This all leads you feeling desperate, alone and with nowhere to turn.  Knowing first hand how this feels has prompted me to write this blog sharing my experiences.

Lack of policies in the workplace on bullying 

Recently, I released the video “Work Under Pressure” this video is my personal story highlighting the effects that bullying and stress in the workplace can have on you.  It was released to challenge the current cultural taboo of not addressing unacceptable behaviours in the workplace.   Many companies have anti bullying policies but fail to implement them into practice.  Employers seem to pay lip service to these policies but never actually adhere to the guidelines that they have actually written.  This can have devastating effects on an employees well being.  My life has changed dramatically because of the fact that these policies were not adhered too. The stress that I had to endure because of this bullying actually led me to attempt to take my own life.  This action has led to a whole series of events that could have been avoided if I was aware of how devastating this behaviour could be and acted sooner to protect my own health. 

The effects of workplace bullying on my emotional health

The initial part of my recovery was spent as an inpatient in a mental hospital in Oxford.  I had to spend eight weeks undergoing extensive treatments from a consultant psychiatrist and mental health nursing team on a secure unit.  I was given a cocktail of medications to try and lift my mood and realign my brain chemistry.  This was an awfully traumatic time as the medication affected my ability to think coherently. I felt lost as I was no longer in the safe place I used to call home. I was isolated from my family and scared.   My ability to perform simple tasks that required the use of my brain was no longer available to me.  The only way I can describe is it like pulling a muscle in your leg.  You can not use that muscle until it heals from the strain.  My brain was strained and could not be used to its previous capabilities. After this initial eight week period, I was responding well enough to go home.  I was excited I had missed my kids and my normal family routine. 

The support I accessed 

Upon arriving home I realised things were not as I expected.  The normal life I had led prior to hospitalisation had changed.  I no longer could take the noise of four kids and had to spend a great deal of time isolated from then.  This put pressure on the whole family. I also had to start the next area of my recovery.  I was now being treated as a day patient in a crisis unit.  I would be picked up at 8:00 am by patient transport to attend the day centre.  While there I was required to courses on CBT, Dealing with Depression, Art Therapy and Managing Anxiety.  This day centre is very similar to a halfway house, a place of transition between the ward and home life.  It gave me a chance to try and make sense of my new situation and help me cope with how my life had now changed.  However, I was still a long way off returning to work or feeling normal.  I spent a great deal of time asleep and trying to cope with the feeling of worthlessness.  My life was still in turmoil, I was still being visited weekly by a community psychiatric nurse to ensure I was making adequate process.  It was during this period I also lost my job.  My employer was able to use the fact that I could not drive any longer as an excuse to argue I was not suitable for my existing role.  This came as a big blow as I now had the added pressure of finding alternate employment while I was in a state of crisis.  My CPN saw how distressed this was making me and recommended that I go to a therapeutic gardening program as a means of trying to rebuild my now almost non existent self esteem.  I spent the next five years going to programs like this trying to recover enough to re-establish myself in the workplace.

How it affected my family life

I can not finish this article without writing about the area that was affected the most by bullying, my family life. Both before and after my time spent in the hospital I was a nightmare to live with.  I was irritable, short tempered and not very pleasant to be around.  I took all my frustrations out on the people I loved the most.  My kids bore the brunt of my bad moods and irritability.  My oldest daughter also had the trauma of finding me when I tried to end my life.  This scars her to this very day.  Our relationship has been damaged so severely we struggle to talk at times. This to me is the worse thing that has come out of all of this. My oldest daughter was the apple of my eye and our relationship always rock solid until going through experience. Unfortunately, the stress of going through this all of this also took its toll on my marriage and eventually became a factor in the divorce.

The lasting effects of workplace bullying

I am sharing my story because I feel it is important to let people know the long term effects that bullying can have on your life.  If I knew the long term damage that this would have caused to my life I would without a question of doubt quit my job and found another one.  No amount of money would have been worth the emotional turmoil that this has caused me. The damage I did to the relationship with my daughter is absolutely horrendous.  My job as a father was to protect and provide for my family.  By concentrating too much on providing for them I did not realise that long term I was actually not protecting them. 

What I would have done differently

The first thing I would have done was to keep a journal of all the harassment that I endured. By doing this I would have had a record of all the events and could have established a pattern to the behaviours. This is very important if you need to go to a tribunal.

Secondly instead of just reporting it to management I would have taken my complaint to Human Resources.  As a construction worker I was removed from this facility and did not think to go down this avenue.

Thirdly, if human resources did not resolve the matter I would contact ACAS or a union representative.  A third party agency like this may be able might be able to resolve the issue by mediation.

Finally if this did not work I would quit my job and taken my case to an employment tribunal. Being unemployed would have been a more attractive option than having to spend years rebuilding my health. 

I hope that by sharing my story that people can see the serious implications that bullying can have on you physical, mental and families well being. As you make decisions about what course of action you might take please consider my story and realise no job is worth putting yourself or family through what I had to endure. 

Written by Neil Moon 

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