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Workplace bullying and your mental health

How to deal with a bully who's destroying your confidence at work

How do you cope with a co-worker...

Who's always dominating and bullying you!

Especially when many people have resigned because of this one person. And it seems everyone, even upper management is afraid to do anything about them.

And because of this one co worker, you feel exhausted, stressed and miserable all the time. You can't eat, you are scared of making mistakes and when you do make mistakes It simply crushes you.

One of our readers asked this question.

"Hey Adewale,

I have a co-worker I must work with who dominates and bullies me. 

It is causing me much distress. He has power and has had several other colleagues fired because of his behaviour. I need the job, and It is making me sick.

Upper management is fully aware and is not prepared or equipped to do anything.

This guy is a specialist who has skills not easily replaced and has worked for the company for many years already. Others before me in my position have left because of this guy or have been fired because of conflict with him or due to poor work performance because this guy undermines you.

Any suggestions?"

To answer this question, I’ll be sharing 3 highly effective tips for coping better when someone's making life hard for you at work.

The third tip is crucial because it highlights the main reason why  many bullies have been successful at getting other people fired or getting them to resign. 

So read on to learn how to avoid this trap.

But before I answer the question I've got a question for you.

How Do You Survive Problems You Have No Direct Control Over?

Those problems that defeat you all the time.

Do you ignore the problem or do you just keep going with the hope that the problem will somehow go away or resolve itself?

True, in some cases this might work. 

In most cases though, the problem just gets worse, affecting your life and making you vulnerable.

This is a trap we all fall for . I know I have certainly fallen for it too.

The sad irony though, is that there is often a better way to cope with those problems you have no control over.

Yes, even those problems that seem totally impossible to manage.

In most cases, you just have to take the time to stop and do some research.

This way we can find better ways of copping that will enable you to become more robust with these types of problems.

So with that in mind, let’s return to our subject of being bullied at work by someone who clearly has power over you.

Here the first tip.

Tip 1: Multiple Layers of Protection are Your Best Friend: Here's How To Build Them.

Tip number one is to make sure you have many layers of protection.  

Don’t just rely on one layer.

If you rely on only one layer and that layer  fails to work, the stress caused by the bully will naturally break you down.

What do I mean by this?

Here's an example.

In order to manage their bully, some people will develop allies in their organisation. Allies who share the same disheartened feelings about the ways they've been treated by the bully.

And this is the only thing they do.

Now this is a great thing to do because it can offer you a lot of support. You know you're not alone in this struggle.

Relying on other people in this way can also stop you doubting yourself as the one in the wrong. Which happens a lot when dealing with bullies who emotionally manipulate you.

But, as can often be the case since no one wants to put their job at risk by standing up to the bully. If this is the only layer of protection you have, you can suddenly find your self facing the wrath of the bully on your own.

So building layers of protection around yourself is an act of wisdom. The more layers the better.

But there is a crucial caveat. 

Building up too many layers of protection can actually work against you. It is important to keep things balanced.

Too many Layers of protection can cause you to develop problems with avoidance and procrastination. At the extreme end, this can lead to fear of leaving your home. 

This is a common root cause for problems like agoraphobia, social anxiety and panic disorder.

And to help you avoid this...

The next two tips cover two essential layers of protection that ensure you are not doing yourself more harm as you try to protect yourself from your bully.

Tip No 2: Exhausting Mindset Games With Your Bully Are Your Worst Enemy. 

In the bid to deal with their bully, some people decide to go head to head with the bully. Or try to keep the bully calm by making him/her feel like they 're the boss.

However, if you go head to head with the bully, you may find that since they are better practised at the art of bullying.

They have been doing this for years, so there's more chance they’ll win-

And if you do win in an ugly battle with the bully, there is a strong chance you might damage your own reputation. And then people start to look at you like you're the bad one- It is strange how this happens.

But, if your management tactic is to keep the peace by making the bully feel more powerful and respected. There is a chance you will find that this can work for some time. 

However, more often than not, you'll be left feeling bitter, resentful and exhausted.

But what’s even worse is that...

You see, that same bully you are placing on a pedestal. He or she will have no problem placing your neck on the line to save their own face if the need arises.

So what can we do instead? This brings me to Tip no 2.

Tip no 2 Is to make sure you don’t enter into the exhausting mindset games with your bullies. In the way I described above.

Instead, it’s healthier to try to be yourself. Whilst at the same time, keeping a record of everything that’s happening between you and the bully.

What do I mean by this?

I tend to advise people to, keep most of their interaction with their bully, through email.

This helps to create an easily accessible paper trail. So that when the bully challenges you, you can show that they contributed to the same things they are challenging. 

This is also good evidence to show upper management of the bully’s nasty patterns.

You see, most bullies tend to thrive off "not been found out." So if you keep most conversations with them face to face, they use this to gain power over you. And they would lie or deny anything in order to save face.

I can't begin to tell you how much this one tactic alone has saved me from people who tried to blame me for things they asked me to do themselves.

Now moving on to the third and final tip I want to share with you today.

This is the most important thing you need to do to cope when faced with a bully at work. It’s the thing that will prevent you from being fired and stop you from feeling forced to resign.

What’s this tip? 

Tip no 3. Avoid "Living In Defensive Mode" Treat It Like It's The Plague

What does this mean?

You see, whenever an uncontrollable never-ending devastating situation bombards us, we can fall for the trap of living in "defensive mode".

Especially if that situations threatens our source of livelihood,

Whilst being in defensive mode is a healthy thing. And certain situations do require that we go into this mode. Living in defensive mode means that you are constantly living like the threat you are experiencing is going to "murder you right now."

As a result of this, you'll naturally find you can't stop thinking about the threatening situation.

It consumes most of the discussions you have with people close to you.

It becomes the last thing you think about before going to bed at night. And the first thing that wakes you up in the morning.

The problem with living in defensive mode is that it drives you to the point of exhaustion. So your performance at home and work becomes sabotaged.

You'll find that everything takes three to ten times longer to do.

Then you find yourself making mistakes that the bully can capitalize on. You give the bully amunition to point fingers at you as the one who doesn't know what they are doing.

The bully then uses this as a weapon to get you dismissed, fired or frustrate you out of your job.

Now, the biggest difficulty to overcoming this defensive mode problem is yourself-esteem. If you tend to doubt yourself, or if your sense of self-worth is low around work related things...

Your low self worth will stop you from doing the necessary things to keep yourself sane.  To the point that the pressure that makes sick in the stomach.


How to stop living in "Defensive Mode"

Now, learning to deal with defensive mode is way too complex to give a suggestion that will work for you in just a few words. 

However, I will be giving some links to a few articles to get you started in a second.

But, if you are interested to take this further. We do run a one to one emotional resilience program that can help you learn skills for developing better self-esteem. And learn skills to reduce your need to keep living in defensive mode when placed under these sorts of pressures. To find out more about our emotional resilience program, just go to

I find that when people are able to function well under the pressure that a bully creates, the bully eventually puts himself in a difficult situation that he can't explain away.

In my experience, one lady who tried to bully me actually had to leave her job because it got too uncomfortable for her, and I was as happy as rain.

So here are three links to articles that can help you get started at learning to boost up your self esteem so you function better under the pressure of your bully.

  1. The first article highlights why it hiding your emotional or physical pain may be turning you into a doormat and offers an uplifting tip on how you can prevent this from sabotaging the good things in your life.

    You can find this article at

  2. The second article offers a tip on what to do if you have no peace due to constantly being harsh on yourself. This is important because being hard on yourself only serves to break down your self esteem even more.

    You can find this article at

  3. The third article focuses on a skill that can help you stop over analysing everything: This is a massive energy sapper which serves to make people feel worse about themselves over time.

    You can find this article at

In Summary

When faced with difficult situations in our lives, especially situations we have no control over. It’s advisable not to fall for the trap of "keeping on going" because we think there is nothing we can do about it.

Yes, whilst, in some cases, we might not be able to do anything to address the problem directly, In all cases, we can still learn strategies that can help us cope better or survive those situations better.

As is in this case of being bullied at work. I have highlighted three things that can help you cope better like.

  1. Developing, more than one protective layers.

  2. Avoiding mindset games and remaining true to remain your true self whilst keeping a record of all your interactions with your bully, preferably by email.

  3. Learning how to break away from constantly living in “Defensive Mode,” since this is what allows the bully to ultimately win or get one over you.

I then left you some links to articles that can help get you started in doing this.

Now remember, if you would like some further help in learning how to cope better emotionally because of being bullied or due to any other sorts of life pressures visit to see what we have to offer, and I am sure you’d be pleased.

That’s all from me today, But before you go...

I promised to give you three helpful tips for coping better when being bullied at work and I just did. Now, if you know someone who has struggling with this problem as well, why not send a them a link to this article  so that they can benefit too.

Written by Adewale Ademuyiwa