Bullying is both awful in the moment and damaging in the long-term. Reflecting on the impact of bullying in her career, our anonymous correspondent calls on the profession to build accountable, safe workplace cultures that challenge and stop unacceptable behaviour. This short piece is the start of an important conversation.
[TW: bullying, SI]
There is a lot of focus on what power looks like within professional environments and workplaces currently – and on the impact of power on how we behave, what we are allowed to do and where our limits are. This topic of conversation has brought me to reflect on my own experience and my own career journey – as a female architect in a male-dominated career, industry and practice, working in the context of power imbalance and within a leadership culture of aggression, blame and zero accountability.
I consider myself to be lucky – I have a highly successful career – and yet I am still troubled by doubts created through experiences in the early part of my career. I am aware of the irony of this statement, but you can become very good at hiding the damage caused by continuous and systemic bullying.
During this time in my early career, my state of mind collapsed and I turned to working longer and longer hours in a desperate and damaging cycle, attempting to fix myself. Externally it may have looked like success; at night I considered my options, including taking my life.
Fear became a daily emotion. It was debilitating and eventually led to behaviours of self-preservation, of avoidance. I minimised my impact and, in doing so, I damaged my value.
Those who knew me well watched while I continued to internally question my worth. Over time it got harder to feel legitimate, to feel I was heard and to believe I could contribute.
Now, for those who are asking, did I speak out? Did I let the leaders know what was happening? Yes! Over multiple years I identified and called out this behaviour. This is where power and leadership comes into effect. At first I was surprised that nothing was done in response, but I eventually accepted that nothing would happen. No accountability was considered and in no way was this behaviour condemned.
My story is not unique. What makes me want to write these words is that, despite wider dialogue, this behaviour seems to continue.
Bullying may have shape-shifted, but it maintains a hold on mainstream leadership in the profession. Until we build safer workplace cultures that actively tackle this behaviour, we will continue to diminish our talent and hobble our future leaders.
If this post raises concerns for you, we recommend the Heads Up resources on bullying. This includes information for employees, including people experiencing bullying, and for employers and managers to help take action against bullying in your workplace.
Parlour is working on developing resources to help eradicate bullying within the profession. For more about bullying in the workplace, refer to the Understanding Bullying & Harassment article, published as part of the Stepping Up series.