The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast

42 Unveiling the Trauma of Workplace Bullying with Linda Crockett

December 04, 2023 Dr Nia D Thomas Episode 42
The Knowing Self Knowing Others Podcast
42 Unveiling the Trauma of Workplace Bullying with Linda Crockett
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Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we are joined by Linda Crockett, the founder of the Canadian Institute of Workplace Bullying Resources.  Her journey to success was not without challenges. After experiencing workplace bullying, Linda, with her extensive background in social work, found herself confused and very unwell. Determined to understand what was happening to her, Linda did her own research and discovered workplace bullying. This revelation sparked a desire within her to not only recover but to dedicate her career to helping others who may be going through similar experiences. Linda pursued a master's degree in clinical social work and established her business with a holistic and trauma-informed approach to addressing workplace bullying. Over the past 12 years, Linda has gained recognition and awards for her work in raising awareness internationally and providing valuable resources. Linda remains committed to advocating for those affected by workplace bullying, ensuring that everyone receives the support and services they need.

We explore the importance of self-awareness in addressing workplace bullying, the impact of bullying at different levels of organisations, and the potential for individuals to change their behaviors. Join us as we delve into the complexities of workplace bullying and the role of self-awareness in creating healthier work environments.

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Nia Thomas [00:00:04]:

Hello, and welcome to the Knowing Self, Knowing Others podcast,

Nia Thomas [00:00:20]:

Listeners, I'm delighted to be joined by Linda Crockett today. And Linda is the founder of the Canadian Institute of Workplace Bullying Resources and comes at it from a round of being a social worker, but now Linda is focused on the trauma informed element of workplace bullying and provide services around those elements. Linda, it's wonderful to have you here. Please do introduce yourself.

Linda [00:00:49]:

Well, thank you for having me, Mia. I much appreciate getting this message out anywhere, anytime for everybody. So thank you for having me.

Nia Thomas [00:00:57]:

Definitely. Definitely. Tell us a bit about your background and the work that you do in your institute.

Linda [00:01:04]:

Sure. I started this company about 12 years ago. Prior to that 3 years prior to that, I went through workplace bullying. And And at that point in my career, I had 22 years working in social work. So I had all kinds of experience and training and, even supervised People who would investigate abuse, assess abuse, identify it, walk people through mental health processes, medical, criminal justice, you name it. But, yeah, when I went through this, I had absolutely no idea what was happening to me. Nobody ever talked about workplace bullying or trained us or gave us a language about it. I just knew that something was making me sick. And it was a familiar sick because I'd had it before, but I just didn't understand what this was. And I am a turn a tenacious, stubborn Scot, so I stayed in there and I kept working harder and harder and Trying to prove myself thinking that maybe they just didn't see how good of an employee I was, and maybe I could fix it if I worked harder. But it got worse. It just got worse. The the better I got, the worse it got, and then I got sicker. So I ended up on sick leave, I ended up doing some research and discovered it was workplace bullying. Of course, went through quite a bit of confusion and disbelief and And shame and disappointment and anger, the whole gamut of emotions that you go through. But I decided I was gonna do my recovery, and I was gonna But the rest of my career was gonna be devoted to this because I had all this training and experience, and I missed it. I didn't get it. And I I almost Lost my life because of it. What about those people that don't have my education? What about those people that don't know the systems the way I know it? What about people who don't speak English as a first language? If I'm not gonna make it almost didn't make it, how are they? And I also thought about my children and my grandchildren. It's bad enough that kids are getting bullied at school. I don't want them growing up and getting bullied in the work and going through what I did because it was absolutely torture and hell. So I got my master's degree in this area, clinical, social work, so I could provide treatment, but I also wanted to expand. I started this business with a very holistic trauma informed perspective. My honest belief is that you can't Solve workplace bullying without looking at leadership, looking at the the people that are getting harmed, the witnesses that are struggling, And even those who are causing the problems, we we need to have services for everyone. So I've done it for 12 years. I won a few awards for this resource. I've built awareness, internationally, and I've got a few more years left to me. I'm I'm not gonna shut up for a while yet.

Nia Thomas [00:03:45]:

Linda, that that's really amazing, and it's such an important area of work. And it's something that I've thought about in terms of when when I'm thinking about self aware leadership and self awareness, I so often come back To well, what is the point of self awareness? What am I trying to convey in podcasting and blogging and talking about it? And for me, essentially, it's about making sure that we make workplaces as as good as they can be for our people, Which means getting rid of bullying, getting rid of harassment. And as you say, can we ever totally get rid of it? But Maybe it's about minimizing it as best we can.

Linda [00:04:27]:

Well, I have been teaching on this topic for 12 years and I constantly that self insight, self awareness, self monitoring is going to be the answer to removing Workplace bullying from our society. And I say that because whether you're a leader or an injured worker or a bystander or the person that's causing harm, If you are self monitoring, put your head to your finger on your own pulse watching how you're reacting, how you're Responding, your your nonverbals, your body language. What is impacting you? What what is triggering you? What where are you feeling confident? And where are you feeling incompetent? Where are you feeling insecure? If we were monitoring that, we would we would be able to ask for our needs to be met, understand why someone is is pushing our buttons. We would identify those buttons, And we would we would want to heal those buttons so that before any bully found those buttons, we they wouldn't get under our skin. Yeah. So we were self monitoring. We would understand so much more about what what our needs are, what our boundaries are, have boundaries in the 1st place, have a good work life balance and be able to identify where is it that I'm lacking? Where do I need some training in? Where do I need to strengthen myself? Because confident, Competent people do not bully.

Nia Thomas [00:05:56]:

So, Linda, from your perspective of what you are aware of and and you are skilled in understanding harassment and bullying, How would you define self awareness, and and what does it mean for you?

Linda [00:06:11]:

Self awareness is absolutely critical no matter what position you hold in the workplace. So for speaking from a leadership perspective, self awareness, self monitoring For a leader, it's critical as to whether you're effective as a leader. How do you know if if people are walking on eggs around you? How do you know if people are are feeling fearful of you. I do have bullies that are sent to me that had absolutely no idea for the last year that people were afraid of them and afraid to come to work and suffering anxiety and insomnia because of them. So they didn't even see the cues in their own office, in their own work environment. So you have to be able to be self aware to understand not only how others are responding to you, but also how you're responding to them. Are they making you angry? Are they making you uncomfortable? Do they make you feel insecure? Are you reacting with actions of oppression because you feel insecure about them. Are they threatening your position of leadership? Confident, competent leaders won't be bullying. They'll be holding you up and trying to make you just as good as they are or if better, they want you to be successful. But insecure leaders who feel that you might be a threat to them, they're gonna come up with all kinds of tactics to kind of diminish you or minimize what you're the the good stuff that you're doing. So you wanna have your finger on your own pulse as a leader as to where are you doing good and where are you hacking. Are you a person who is afraid of conflict? Well, in a leadership position, you better deal with that because you're held to a higher level of accountability. If you're an employee who's being targeted, you're gonna be if you're self aware, you're gonna catch what's happening to you much quicker. You're not gonna wait months or years until you're so sick, you crash, and you end up reaching out for help out of desperation. You're gonna catch it much easier because you're gonna notice anxiety. You're gonna notice the insomnia is impacting you. You're gonna notice the knot in your gut. Something's wrong. You're gonna trust that gut. So notice what's making you feel good at work and what's making you feel bad at work and do something about it. If you're a witness to bullying. You're also gonna see those signs quicker as well because you're gonna notice things are impacting you too. And same for the, what we will call, the despondent or the bully or harasser, if they were actually self monitoring, they wouldn't be disconnected from that moral gauge that they have. They would be saying, I can't treat people this way. But, unfortunately, they've gotten away with it for so long. They've disconnected from that moral gauge, and they're not checking and you know, checks and balances. They're not noticing how they're impacting people.

Nia Thomas [00:08:47]:

So when you have individuals that come to you who have been bullies in the workplace and their organization is sending them to have a conversation with you. How do they respond when they are made aware of the, well, Significantly negative impact that they are having on other people. Are both some people dismissive? Do you have some people who say, Oh my goodness. Help me fix this situation.

Linda [00:09:14]:

Yep. It's not a one, it's all very unique. Right? It's complex. So it depends on a few things. Number 1, Was the investigation adequate? Did we have a trauma informed investigator who understands the complexities and nuances of this kind of workplace abuse? Because I will see some very poor, poor investigations that actually don't have much evidence or don't understand these nuances, And they will either falsely accuse somebody of both of being a bully or a harasser or they will correctly accuse it, But there isn't a whole lot of information for me. So it depends on that, first of all. What is the evidence? And when it is substantiated and they're sent to me, I will look at the evidence. I will look at the the investigation report. I I will look at the company's policies and procedures. And then as a trauma informed therapist, I will work with that person. Now most true blue bullies will come to me with hours of, excuses, minimizing justifications, blaming everybody else, But we will get past that eventually because the evidence is black and white. They you know, they've been caught. They've got recordings. We've got photographs. We've got snapshots of their screenshots on the computer. If that's the hard cold evidence I've got, that's very effective. But if it's a wishy washy investigation, It's a wishy washy process. No matter what, if anybody's accused, falsely or not, they come in with, you know, Very upset. Some are very angry. Some are ashamed. Some of them do want to know, And those are the types that I would say are not true blue bullies. They want to know. And when I look at the material and I see a very poor investigation, there's been times when people have been falsely accused, and I will advocate on their behalf and request a second investigation. Unfortunately, in Canada, anyway, that's not something that is regulated by a professional association. So we can get those willy nilly, investigations. They're not trauma informed, And the employee can't appeal it, so then we have to help them through that process, that devastation of being maliciously accused, Substantiated by a poor investigation, and then they have to suffer the consequences when they're innocent. So it's very complex. What are your thoughts on

Nia Thomas [00:11:39]:

the relationship between self awareness and leader effectiveness?

Linda [00:11:43]:

Legal effectiveness, is is gonna be based on self insight and self awareness. And I I highly promote Leading with emotional intelligence that all leaders should have their feet in the cement of emotional intelligence And then draw on many other leadership styles because you have different employees with different personalities and different needs. But your feet should be really strong in emotional intelligence. And why is that? Because that is going to be helping you to understand Where are your strengths? How are people reacting to you? Where are your insecurities? How do you deal with your insecurities? How are you reacting? What's your body language? Where are you feeling intimidated by particular employees? Where are you feeling insecure around them? How are you reacting? You're self monitoring. You're catching yourself. You're self regulated. You're understanding, you know, why some people make you mad, why people make you uncomfortable, And you're dealing with it. So I I ask this question all the time in my courses. What is your leadership style? And most leaders don't have a clue. They just look at me like deer in the headlights. How do you know if people are afraid

Nia Thomas [00:12:56]:

of you? Like I said before, I have some people who come in, as accused bullies, and the investigation have substantiated. And they tell me they never saw any signs. Well, why not? You mentioned individuals who may have insecurities or But there may be something else going on behind this behavior, and you've also mentioned trauma informed practice. Are you connecting these insecurities and behaviors with some trauma in the lives of individuals? Is is it happening frequently, or is it an infrequent occurrence? What are you seeing in practice?

Linda [00:13:37]:

Well, every one of us has a story in our lives. You know? Nobody goes through life without some sort of, bumps and and maybe some crises or some form of trauma at some point in our lives. Right? Every every one of us, whether we're bullies, targets, witnesses, or whatever we are, we've got stories. So not every person that I see who's been accused and substantiated as a bully has trauma. Some of them have addictions. Some of them have A mental health issue that has been either undiagnosed or misdiagnosed or they're not getting their treatment. Some of them are having affairs in the workplace, and they don't wanna get caught, so they're scapegoating other employees. Some of them you know, there's just many reasons why people bully. And if it's the insecurities, One of the problems is that we often put people in leadership positions where they're not equipped to handle that level of accountability. But they want the paycheck. They want the title. It makes them feel good, and they're not about to admit that they don't have the skill set, so they're kinda Holding this imposter syndrome, and in walks the employee who's got some really good skills that they wish they had, now they're feeling threatened by their own employees, and they're gonna have to do some stuff to kinda diminish that employee. So in those cases where it's insecurity, Like I said before, confident, competent leaders don't bully. So if they are, there's something they're feeling threatened by.

Nia Thomas [00:14:59]:

And that is a really good segue into our next question, which is Do you think effective leaders can be found at all levels and why?

Linda [00:15:12]:

As long as we're not talking about psychopaths, sociopaths, and true plumber narcissists. Yes. I believe that, you know, that everyone else that is not in that category, their our behaviors are not hardwired. And if Anyone can learn good skills. Anyone can change bad behaviors. We have neuroplasticity today that tells us that. It's evidence of that that we can change, but we have to be held accountable. The bullies have to be held accountable in order to change some of these bad behaviors. Just like addicts, they have to hit a rock bottom before they will finally admit there's there's a problem and get some help in the workplace. True blue bullies We'll get away with it for years because processes don't work, policies don't exist, or nobody's following them, or people are just too afraid to bring it forward. If we hold them accountable, we're not enabling bad behaviors anymore. There's help available for these people to change those behaviors. No excuses. Narrowplasticity removes those excuses. No matter how old you are, you can change, And you can become a successful powerful leader.

Nia Thomas [00:16:24]:

Do you think leaders at the most strategic level of organizations have greater self awareness than leaders at other levels of organization? And and maybe this is tied into where you see bullying happening within an organization, at at what levels is this happening, and maybe it's across the board.

Linda [00:16:43]:

You know, I don't have any research on that, and I would love to see some. But the in my experience, I can tell you that the larger the organization, the higher the the the more higher level leaders, the more toxicity I'm seeing. Oh, okay. That that exists in the small non for profits as well, so I'd like to see some research on that. I'm not seeing leaders, in in these Top high levels, taking courses in emotional intelligence. Sure. We're talking about it more, but I'm not seeing that yet. I hope so.

Nia Thomas [00:17:18]:

So as part of your courses and your learning, when you are talking to individuals, you've already mentioned that Self awareness is something that you explore. When you are talking to teams of individuals At different levels of organization, are you talking about self awareness, and how are they responding? Because I'm interested. You said earlier that when you talk to people and ask them, what is your leadership style? Most people really don't know how to reply. But when you talk about self awareness, What kind of reply are you getting?

Linda [00:17:54]:

You know, it's a it's a process of when I do my training, it's a process of creating safety and trust and respect in the room. Right? So we just we can't just jump into self insight right there. We have to jump into what is bullying, what is the legislation, What does it look like? What types? What profiles? We have to go through all that. At the end of my training, the the last section is on self insight. It's on self prepare. It's on recovery. It's on what to do about it. What are the solutions? So a very important section is self insight and emotional intelligence. If you're a repeated target, your question is, why me? Why me? That's the $1,000,000 question. So we wanna give you answers to that, And that's part of self insight. It's not about you being weak. It's not about you being unskilled or or inarticulate or incapable of speaking up for yourself. It's not about that at all. It's about other parts of you being a very dedicated, loyal, hardworking, go above and beyond the call of duty worker. So we have to help you understand what what it is about you and but why did they get under your skin? Self insight is gonna help you understand why they eventually trigger you and get it under your skin. Bystanders, there's many, many reasons why bystanders don't Speak up and don't or maybe they join the bully. There's there's many reasons why they will do nothing, and they have to understand what those reasons are. What are their barriers? Because at the end of the day, they have to do the right thing or they're gonna suffer guilt and remorse and shame as well. Back to the complainant or the, respondent, the people that are actually acting out, we have to figure out what is it that's causing you to be mean, to be abrasive, to be incivil, to be causing this, you know, mobbing groups and gossip. What behaviors are being triggered in you? If you're not a psychopath sociopath, then we can figure that out. So that has to be a part of self recovery, self awareness, self building, and Self respect, dignity, integrity, all of the above is covered under self insight.

Nia Thomas [00:19:58]:

That's interesting that you say you come to self awareness towards Towards the end. I think when I've talked to others about if you are doing leadership training, often the conversation starts at the beginning. Well, I can absolutely understand why conversations about bullying and harassment, you almost need to work up to that conversation, and you need to make it Almost the culmination of the conversation?

Linda [00:20:24]:

Yeah. You have to people come to see me because they wanna know what is it, What does it look like? What are the causes? What are the risk factors? What is what is the experience of each each party? And then we get into what's the solution. So then we talk about policies, procedures, legislation. We talk about steps that you can take To protect yourself, and then we get into by this time, people our minds minds and hearts are wide open Okay. Because we're talking from a very human experience here. We're not talking through a corporate lens. We're talking through the a holistic lens where everybody gets heard, And then they're wide open and ready to hear, well, what is it then? What is it about me that I can do? What can I do differently? Right?

Nia Thomas [00:21:07]:

Yep. That makes absolute sense that there's a journey to be traveled to go to self awareness and where Whereas maybe if you're talking about different subjects, you start from self awareness to go somewhere else. But, yeah, that's a that's interesting thinking about that journey being different.

Linda [00:21:24]:

Well, it makes sense when you think that the people that are coming to me are either injured workers, were witnesses that are confused and not know what to do, Or maybe they're angry, bullies and harassers that feel everybody else's default. Therabody's coming to me with a very different emotion and a very different need. Leaders wanna know what to do, how to handle all 3 that I just named for you. Mhmm. They they don't they don't feel very confident in how to handle these Many emotions and high reactive high act activated people, traumatized people. So they're all coming to me with all these different needs in the room. I've got this whole emotional roller coaster happening in front of me, and so there's many needs to be met in my training. So there's Oh, an evolution of for that reason.

Nia Thomas [00:22:14]:

What do you think is an effective way to develop self awareness?

Linda [00:22:18]:

You know, we've got all kinds of tools. I mean, you can go on Google search and go, you know, self, assess my leadership style and get free questionnaires. What style is my conflict management, personality assessment? There are all kinds of free ones on Google, so start there And see if there's some sort of pattern that's coming out of each one of these questionnaires. And I have a questionnaire on my website. Am I a bully? Am I being bullied? Am I an abrasive leader? There's all kinds of stuff you can get, books you can get, courses you can take. There's just so much. And, also, you need to do some checks with people that really know you, not people that are gonna placate you or, You know, say things to make you feel good. You want the truth, so go to the people that will tell you the truth. Ask for some feedback. How do you see me as a leader? Where you know, ask for those those meet check ins with your leaders or leaders check-in with your leaders. Maybe you wanna meet with a therapist once just to to talk about, I have had actually people come to me and say, can you assess me and tell me whether I'm a bully or not? There's some behaviors that I think I might be. I actually have had that happen. Yeah. And it turns out that, you know, there's some some softening that needs to happen. They could take a a course in soft skills, read a book and call it soft skills. But people just need to start looking, you know, and and and writing down thoughts that they're catching themself having. If it's self negative talk, Write that stuff down. What are you feeding your own brain? Are you feeding your brain positive stuff about yourself or negative stuff about yourself? Because, Well, then who's bullying who? Right? So if it's a lot of self negative talk, you need to do some work on that. So you might wanna see a therapist. You might wanna see a coach. You might wanna work on some of these reactions that you're noticing as you're journaling and catching yourself. There's just so many ways.

Nia Thomas [00:24:08]:

I'm really interested in those people who are coming to you to say, I think I'm behaving in a way that's not helpful to other people, and it's not helpful to me. I guess those people are the ones that have real potential for change.

Linda [00:24:22]:

Well, all of them have potential for change, but the ones that come to me and say, hey. I think I might be a bully or, You know, I've even taught classes where 2 people put their hands up and said, I think I might be bullied. Well, I'm just blown away by that. Yeah. Clearly, you're not a true bully. Clearly, you're not. But you have a conscience, and you wanna know, and that that is just so admirable to me. And and, you know, we all have some Work to do until the day we take our last breath so we can always continue to grow. We all have bad days. We all go through crises, So we'll be out of character for for periods of time. We're still responsible and accountable for our behavior. So If I lose a loved one and all of a sudden I'm angry and bitter and resentful because I've lost my loved one, I need to be seeing a grief therapist. I need to be maybe taking of time off work, if I'm going through a physical illness or if I have a mental health issue, we are all responsible and accountable for taking care of ourselves. Mental illness, grief, and loss, crises is no excuse to bully people.

Nia Thomas [00:25:25]:

Yeah. Agree.

Nia Thomas [00:25:29]:

Linda, Before we go, your website has a wealth of resources on there, and I know that it's focused on the Canadian legal system. But your website has so many resources. Please do tell listeners a little bit about these resources in case they wanna go and Find out or they want to help themselves in the workplace, maybe in a different country.

Linda [00:25:50]:

Well, thank you for asking that question because there's so much information my website, it is absolutely free to people. So we have on the record, which is a series of videos of different professionals, male and female, who speak about their experience about being bullied, how they cope with it, and what they're doing now. So right there, you're gonna see the stereotype, stigma removed because you're gonna see these are dynamic, educated people. So go look at on the record. We have Hundreds of research papers listed. We have books that, we recommend. We have articles and blogs. We have definitions. We have legislation all over Canada pointed out there. There's just so much that people can take from it And you we we are starting to list some international contacts as well. So if anybody is looking for somebody in a different country, They can email me at psychological safety first@gmail.com, and the number is spelled out. It's not the number 1. And I can send them somebody within their country because we are starting an international network.

Nia Thomas [00:26:59]:

That's really helpful. Thank you for that. We will make sure that The email address is on the show notes so that, listeners can can tap into that information. Listeners, if you want to go To Linda's website, it's instituteofworkplacebullyingresources.ca. And, of course, you can catch up with Linda on LinkedIn as well. Linda, thank you so much for for joining me. This is such, an important area of work because the impact that incivility, disrespect, harassment, and bullying has on individual in the workplace is significant. And if this podcast episode can help alleviate that just a little bit, We will have done a great deal in our discussion today. So thank you once again for joining me. It's been a really interesting conversation.

Linda [00:27:50]:

Well, thank you for having me, and bless you for for wanting to get this information out there.

Nia Thomas [00:27:59]:

Thank you for joining me, your host, Nia Thomas, and my guest on today's episode. Remember to rate and review this podcast on your favorite podcast player and to join me in 2 weeks' time for the next episode. Looking forward to having you on my learning journey. The Knowing Self Knowing Others podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Podcast Index, Overcast, Amazon Music, Podcast Addict, ProCastro, Castbox, Podchaser, Pocket

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