During economic ice ages or recessions, when times get hard, hardness tends to run rampant.  Most people are justifiably afraid they’ll lose their jobs and the lives they planned.  Will they get laid off or downsized through no fault of their own?  What will happen to their savings, insurance, college and retirement funds?  Will they be able to keep their homes or even eat next month?

How do people react in the face of their recession-stimulated fears?  What type of bullying, harassment and abuse will increase at work?  How can we decrease negative self-talk that increases stress and destroys self-esteem and self-confidence?

Harassment by Leaders and Managers

Managers and leaders squeeze more from themselves and staff in order to reduce costs and stay afloat.  But some managers and leaders will abuse employees and subordinates just because they know they can.  Many people will tolerate bullying and abuse because they’re afraid they’ll lose their jobs if they don’t give in.  But don’t give in to bullying, harassment or obnoxious treatment.  You are still protected from those abuses.  Don’t be pugnacious in return, but do insist on politeness and decent treatment.  Know the law, get allies and advisors, and document on your home computer.

Bullying by Coworkers
Expect a huge increase in stealth bullying by coworkers and managerial peers.  Many will think that their survival requires them to get rid of you.  Some will become masters of backstabbing, criticism, sarcasm, snide put-downs, blaming, spreading rumors and gossip, smear tactics, taking credit from you, and forming cliques.  They’ll smile when they do it.  Keep your opinions to yourself and watch out for people who produce nothing, suck up and cover their backs.  Form your own clique of productive people you trust.  Also, ally with someone productive who has great people skills and a sense of what’s happening throughout the whole office.

Negative Self Talk
The worst problem will be a dramatic increase in this type of “self-bullying.”  Your inner voices will make dire predictions of the future, tell you that you’re helpless in the grip of huge forces beyond your control and predict that, no matter how hard you try, you’ll inevitable fail.  Your supercritical inner voices will try to stress, depress and discourage you, and make you give up.  Your inner voices, full of self-questioning and self-doubt, can erode your self-esteem and self-confidence, destroy your hope and immobilize you.

Self-bullying is the most destructive form of bullying because it saps your will to overcome your circumstances.  Self-bullying can rob you of your determination, courage, strength and skill.  With those voices shouting or whispering in your ear, it’s impossible to gather yourself and make consistent, focused effort.  If you let fear and self-bullying destroy your strength and will, you won’t have the right stuff, you won’t do the right thing and the economic tide will pull you under.

You know which people spoke to you in those voices.  You know who really didn’t like or respect or appreciate you.  And which people thought they’d motivate you better by beating you down.  In either case, whether they ridicule your efforts or are simply certain of the bleak future they predict, their old style is no good for you now.  You need encouraging self-coaching now, not self-bullying.

In addition to finding a great coach or therapist to guide you in the inner work necessary to convert those voices into effective coaches, there’s a lot you can do to help yourself.

Turn off the parts of the outer world that feed fear, despair and depression.  Turn off the television and radio; don’t read newspapers or magazines; stop checking the snippets of fear on your smart phone.  Don’t waste your life being discouraged by endless analysis of what’s wrong and the latest expert’s predictions of impending and long lasting doom.  Walk away politely from people who wallow in fear and panic.  You don’t need those moment-to-moment, panic-making obsessions to know what you need to do to stay strong and do your best.

Look around.  Who doesn’t waste their time worrying about the economy, but instead, handles things in as little time and with as little wasted energy as possible?  Who has an inner light that gives them joy even when they don’t have all the comfort and toys they want?  Ask them how they look at the world.

Make new friends and acquaintances who stimulate your strength, courage and joy.  Find other great people to stand with.  In one swift and mighty sweep, end the self-doubt, the need to analyze and question, the self-bullying and brainwashing.  You have great sources of inner strength and power, if you would but let yourself feel them.  You have the guts and grit to thrive in this little ice age.  Your ancestors did and you have their strong genes.

Don’t give in to self-bullying or harassment or abuse by other people.  Overcome your fears.  Be a courageous leader, wherever you are in your company.

Emerson was right when he said, “What lies behind us and lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.”

Ben Leichtling, Ph.D. is author of the books and CDs “How to Stop Bullies in Their Tracks,” “Parenting Bully-Proof Kids” and “Eliminate the High cost of Low Attitudes.” He is available for coaching, consulting and speaking.  To find practical, real-world tactics to stop bullies and bullying at home, school, work and in relationships, see his web site (http://www.BulliesBeGone.com ) and blog (http://www.BulliesBeGoneBlog.com ).    Or Twitter him @BulliesBeGone.

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