Isolation – The worst weapon of office coworkers

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Are you a shy and introvert person? Do you like to remain absorbed in your work at the office, and the day end gives a performance which is better than the average? Then you are already or most likely to become a victim of bullying by your office coworkers very soon. And the worst weapon the office bullies will use upon you is “isolation”.

But before explaining why and how such things can happen in your life, I would like to share the painful experience of my friend, Shaila, who was targeted by bullies at her office. 

My friend is a shy and introvert person. She was good at academic performance and always willing to gain knowledge and experience. Shaila was appointed as an executive in the marketing department of a highly reputed firm in Kolkata. She was happy. She thought she would be able to use her expertise by giving a good performance and make a career out of it. She worked dedicatedly and was able to outperform a few of her coworkers. The result was obvious. They started bullying her. 

The bullies started avoiding any verbal interaction with her. They isolated her from their discussions, official gatherings, and so on. They behaved in a humiliating way, used slangs, laughed in front and at the back of her, taunted and teased her for every word she spoke to them. All those were girls, 8-10 years younger to her. Shaila was not only senior to them by age but also by experience. And yet they behaved with her in the most disrespectful way they could. 

My friend felt very sad and insulted. Though shy and introvert, my friend is a progressive and flexible minded person who loves helping young coworkers at the workplace. But when she tried to speak about her experience to others, it only worsened the situation. The other coworkers started disbelieving her, and soon she started losing her reputation.

Things started worsening more when she found out that most of her coworkers had begun to go against her. They avoided talking to her. They made fun of her in front of everybody. Though she worked with them dedicatedly, yet she felt like a jailed creature, isolated and humiliated by them. Soon her team leader also started taunting her in front of others, saying she was mentally ill. Unable to bear this humiliation any longer, my friend put down her resignation just as her career graph started to gain momentum. My friend not only left her job but also went to recluse, unable to bear the shock of reputation and job loss. 

When Shaila came to me and shared her painful experiences, I immediately took her to a psychologist for counseling. Fortunately, she was able to recover from the shock.

But why did the office coworkers bully her? 

To understand why the office coworkers bullied my friend in that manner, you need to understand the peculiar mindset of these people. 

Not all people around you are bullies. People with a particular state of mind become bullies when they feel threatened by good performers because it increases their feelings of failure and shame. Psychologists say that mentally healthy people appreciate and enjoy working and learning from those who excel in their work. But bullies cannot stand to see others excel. They want only themselves to shine in every aspect and every sphere of life. 

You will find that people who suffer from superiority complex often become bullies. People with such a state of mind loves to be the eye candy of all around them. They love to be courted and admired all the time. And if anyhow they fail to perform, the very fear of losing the authority compels them to take a defensive mode in the form of bullying the victim.

In the case of Shaila, the bully was from an affluent business family. She considered herself to be modern, smart, and desirable to everyone in society. She came to work like any ordinary employee in that company but showed authoritative behavior towards others. Unfortunately, she couldn’t accept the authority of Shaila, who was placed at a higher position than her. 

Shaila was getting praised in front of her for good performances, which she couldn’t bear. Situations worsened when the higher management started pointing out mistakes in her works. 

How do these bullies play their games? 

The bully usually begins with a campaign of nitpicking, criticism, and personal insults against the targeted victim. This is usually done behind closed doors and in subtle ways. This makes it harder for ignorant coworkers to believe the abuse is real, as reported by the victim.

In the case of my friend, the bully grew jealous and unleashed her weapon of “manipulation” to turn the other coworkers against Shaila. My friend clearly understood that she was being bullied, yet she could not prove it as it was hard to gather evidence against the bully. She felt helpless. 

The bully also uses the “sudden attack tactic” to befool or irritate the victim, causing the later to react in self-defense or out of deep mental anguish emotionally. At that moment, people around the victim are often found to be supporters of the bully. They cried ‘foul’ and reported it as overreaction or lousy behavior or mental illness on the part of the victim. These are well planned by the bully.

The most painful part is that the coworkers now start believing the bully and do not try to understand that the victim is displaying symptoms of an emotional injury, carried out by the bully, rather than mental illness as often alleged by the latter. Coworkers then unwittingly participate in the bullying. The few coworkers, who may know the truth, usually won’t stick up for the victim, to avoid becoming a target themselves. Slowly, the victim is being “isolated” and shunned of from the team.

The tactic of “isolation”

 As quoted by the American author Robert Greene in his book, ‘The Art of Seduction‘, “Few are drawn to the person, whom others avoid or neglect; people gather around those who have already attracted interest.”

In early days isolation was used as a primary tactic to punish any person who has committed a crime or to torture a targeted victim in society. The person was banished from society and was forced to live alone in jungles or far away from the human settlement. Slowly, these isolated persons become unwanted to the community.

Humans are social creatures, and so all through history, people have tended to assume that those who are loners or shunned by others are also unwanted or defected somehow. Bullies consciously know this. So they stop at nothing to turn everyone, including your friends, office coworkers, bosses, teachers, even relatives against you. They have the power to manipulate them to make you feel unwanted by everybody and isolated from everything. 

Hence, Sukarno, the famous Indonesian politician, once said:

The worst cruelty that can be inflicted on a human being is- Isolation

Because it is the most emotionally painful experience a mentally healthy person can endure. 

How does isolating affect the victim? 

Isolation adversely affects a person’s mental state so much that the victim starts behaving in a manner unacceptable to society. And in a corporate world, it is taken as somewhat shameful to behave like that and so gets expelled by the authority.

The more the person tries to protest against the situation, the more isolated the person becomes. If the victim denies any false charge against him/her, others think the person is lying. Whatever the victim does to prove his/her points of view goes against that person. Wrong handling of the situation aggravates the tension between the affected employee and the other office coworkers who misunderstand the victim and consider the person as a troublemaker. 

Shaila was verbally abused and made to sit her last days of the office at a corner away from the other coworkers and her team members. Imagine the pain being instigated to her by all those who misunderstood her and never showed a single moment of sympathy. Every day she cried, sitting quietly at the corner of her desk while completing her tasks before leaving for the day. 

Prolonged bullying by coworkers can result in the victim taking recluse from society forever. Don’t let this ever happen to you or any of your friends or relative. 

Featured Image Credits: Wikipedia Commons

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Readers' Reviews (8 replies)

  1. Good analysis. However, I think bullying has a very close relationship with the insecurity faced by the employees in any workplace. If a new junior employee is better skilled than the senior ones then the later fear of losing their job. And in that case the senior employees get together to devise plans to drive out the targeted victim. If the victim is of a quite nature they find it easier to bully him/her.

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  2. Good analysis. I think bullying has a very close relationship with the sense of insecurity faced by the employees in any workplace. If a new junior employee is better skilled than the senior ones then the later fear of losing their job. And in that case the senior employees get together to devise plans to drive out the targeted victim. If the victim is of a quite nature they find it easier to bully him/her.

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