Shooting Off Your Mouth? Be Careful Which Direction You’re Facing

Job searching is for many an exercise in frustration. First of all many see the whole job search as a tedious way to spend their days; applying for jobs, getting few positive results for a lot of effort, going to interviews where they will be judged and usually rejected, then doing it again day after day, and all the while supposed to be smiling and upbeat.

I personally don’t agree with this characterization of the process, but many see things this way. So it’s not hard to understand why people whom otherwise would be positive souls sometimes become embittered, difficult to be around, and often spew out their thoughts with venom and anger. If you ever find yourself on the receiving end of this, how can you help but take their words personally?

The inherent danger however for the person themselves is this: the very people who may be in a position to help aid the job seeker may themselves be turned off from wishing to do so, and the result is the job seeker becomes more isolated, more frustrated and ultimately spends additional time going it alone. Employers will find you unattractive.

Being around someone who is launching verbal tirades, sees the world as black and white, right and wrong and who suddenly has become an expert in all areas and doesn’t miss an opportunity to give you their indisputable opinion on everything isn’t fun. Yes, these kind of people have much to apologize for in terms of their behaviour; behaviour which is inexcusable. However, it serves the rest of us well to forgive what we can recognizing that some people have passed their point of endurance and are floundering and coping the only way they are capable of. Having a jaded view on life and work may already have cost them much in terms of jobs and opportunities, so if you or I can help them in some way to grab hold of some positive relationship(s) in their lives, that says much about us.

But let me turn to you the frustrated and jaded job seeker. Maybe I’ll get an earful in writing at the conclusion of this piece. Maybe I’ll also get a word or two of support for telling you what you need to hear but are missing. We shall see.

First of all, I acknowledge that you are going through a tremendously frustrating job search. I can’t pretend to know first-hand what your individual circumstances are, but it’s not hard to guess. You could be in a situation where you have many years of experience, you’re aging and that’s becoming a factor, your health may be a concern for employers, your skills and qualifications while impressive are becoming out-dated; after all you haven’t done the work itself for quite a while since you’ve been out of work.

On top of this, you’re pretty sure you know how to look for work. All the hours you’ve put into job searching however are yielding few if any positive results at all, and nobody enjoys putting out a lot of effort and getting nothing in return except rejection. You really do feel like screaming and telling people how it is, and because so many people you know who claim to be experts happen to have good paying jobs, they can’t possibly know as much as you do about being unemployed. I get that.

But listen. That small chip on your shoulder that has grown into a boulder isn’t making you very attractive. You’ve either lost or are close to losing the support and help of the very people you need to help you get back into the workforce. Don’t fool yourself, you DO need help. It’s getting harder for people to separate your behaviour from you yourself, and your behaviour needs attention.

If you’re a walking time-bomb, just about to go off at the slightest odd look or misinterpreted comment someone makes, you need more help than you know, and that’s a huge problem. Talking frankly and openly with a professional Mental Health Counsellor is maybe long overdue. You might not think it’s you that has a problem, but it is unfortunately. This is the right person to vent with, express your honest feelings, unburden yourself to and pour it all out on. Bottling it up until you explode isn’t working and it’s not likely to.

There are three professional people you should be tapping into; your Doctor, a Mental Health Counsellor, and an Employment Counsellor or Advisor. The doctor will look at your physical health, the next your mental health, and the last your employability. This group as part of your support team may not only help you get your working life back on track, they may just save your life and personal relationships period.

People around you will only tolerate and forgive a certain amount of your anger. Hopefully you sincerely want to regain that positive old self you used to be and can be once again. Those around you want that too.

I’m not judging you or your situation. I’m telling you what others who are too close to you perhaps want to tell you but are afraid to. Maybe you should read this a few times before saying anything to anyone and let it sink in.

Here’s hoping you get the help you need and the eventual employment you want so bad.

Okay, let me have it.

Do You Look For Excuses Or Solutions?

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we have two courses of options, and just for the briefest of moments, we might actually be tempted to take the easiest of the two; the one that we could justify for inaction or minimal effort. That might be normal perhaps. It’s what happens after those few seconds of reflection that define us by our actions that follow.

By way of example, you could find yourself at work tasked to put out an email to all your colleagues at the end of the day so that when they arrive in the morning, they have direction and will adhere to whatever Management wished them to do. However you only remember this while you are turning the key in your ignition, warming up the car for the drive home. Do you shut off the car, go inside, turn on the computer and send the email? Or instead of taking the ten minutes to do this, do you drive on home planning on telling the boss in the morning that you forgot all about it and had been on the way home when you remembered?

If you go home, you could justify things to yourself and maybe even get the boss to concur with you. However, if you go back and complete the task, you add reliability and dependability to your reputation. You get things done and can be entrusted with this and additional responsibilities in the future.

Now the interesting thing that you should be aware of is that one incident on its own doesn’t mean much. I have found however in my dealings with people, that one type of behaviour tends to be repeated. When a behaviour gets repeated it forms a pattern, and this pattern of behaviour brands a person; both to themselves and to others. Sure some people act one way at work and one way in their personal life, but it is more common that people gravitate to act the way they have acted in the past.

Ever heard of that phrase, “If you want something done, ask someone who is busy”? Surely it would be better to ask someone who is available and not doing anything than ask someone who is busy to do something important. That however is not the case much of the time. People who are busy are, ‘doers’. They are used to working hard, following through, and it is their reputation for succeeding that makes them someone in demand.

Think about your own workplace for a moment. Do you notice people as you think about things who are involved in many different areas outside of their job requirements? Often people who serve on a committee will be on more than one, and those who just come in and go home get passed by when it comes to depending on someone to take on additional responsibility.

Now you might have good reasons or valid explanations, or even poor excuses for why you don’t or can’t get involved. You might also be the type however that finds solutions to problems and challenges and opts to do so. When that little voice whispers in your ear and tempts you to withdraw, put something off or beg out altogether, how quickly do you give in to this temptation?

At my workplace we’ve got an employee who does the minimum when it looks like work, but if the situation is a social one, this person is the first to raise a hand and get involved. The result is they are perceived as a fair-weather employee, but when extra effort is required, they can’t be depended upon to step up and help. What makes this all the more difficult to understand is when they put forward an excuse such as having to catch up on all their emails while they were away, and yet they are observed to be socializing with others and basking in the attention they are getting while they talk about their vacation.

Now this is a good lesson for you and I, for this kind of behaviour each time it is observed, either adds to or changes a little other people’s perception of us. How do you want to be perceived in your workplace? What’s important to you? And perhaps, what could be important to you not so much right now at this point in your career, but down the road? When that opportunity for a promotion or an assignment you really want comes up, your past behaviour may dictate whether you get serious consideration or not for the increased responsibilities that come with the new work.

Here’s the thing about excuses: If you keep asking others to give you the benefit of the doubt, they may come to doubt your benefit. Companies and business exist because someone with a vision started them up. They want people on board who hold like viewpoints, are committed to the success, the vision, the goals of the organization. If you put in a minimal effort; just enough to do your job but no more, you might not have that job if someone else can demonstrate they are prepared to do more, are more committed, more enthusiastic and are closer to what the person who started things up is like.

Do what is required of you. Be accountable first and foremost to yourself. Work with enthusiasm. It pays off.

Applying For Work? Here’s How

I see people each and every day applying for work. Many of those people sit in front of a computer scanning job postings and when they see a job they are interested in, fire off an email and attach a resume and then repeat this process. If this sounds like you, you’re making it hard on yourself and the odds of success are low.

As much as it might be redundant for those who have excellent job search skills, I think it’s never a bad idea to re-visit some job application basics. After all, to do so will either give you completely new information or confirm what you already knew and raise your confidence.

1. Take an inventory of your skills, interests and qualifications. Most people want a job they’d be both happy and qualified to do. Starting with this crucial step can help you better locate work that would be a best fit. Not only will you be happy in the work, you’ll be good at, stay with it, and that job could transform into a career.

2. Define your geographic search. How far will you travel to work or are you free to re-locate to another community for the right job? Getting an interview or job offer for a job you are unwilling to travel to is wasting both the employers time and yours. Know you’re mobility boundaries.

3. Identify potential job titles and companies. If you only search for specific job titles you’ll miss opportunities. A simple example is only searching for Waitress positions and missing all the jobs identified as Servers or Hostesses.

4. Job Search. Yep, step 4 not step 1. Look on the internet but also watch for job fairs, Help Wanted signs, newspaper ads and articles. Set up some job alerts from companies you are keen to work for.

5. Get the word out. Tell people you are looking and tell them what for. Give them a profile of yourself including your certificates and training, volunteer and work experience, and what you are ideally looking for. Check in with people from time to time so you are remembered and not forgotten.

6. Social Media; set it up and clean it up. Get yourself an online presence that will do you credit if an employer visited your profile(s). Would you be embarrassed or proud to have your Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. page checked out?

7. It’s about them not you. In your applications make it clear what value you’ll add to a company, not primarily what you want. If you solve a problem, fulfill a need or add a new dimension to an organization, you become more attractive.

8. Research. You’re looking for information on the company including how long they’ve been around, what services or goods they provide, their reputation, opportunities you could address, who works there you might know, how the position came about, salary ranges, hours and terms of employment, location and company culture.

9. Be professional. Avoid keyboarding errors, grammar and spelling mistakes, run on sentences, incomplete sentences – all of which are suggestive of your education, competency, professionalism, intelligence, attention to detail and commitment to your own success.

10. Follow up. Don’t just apply for a job and hope for a result. Dig for contact information and use your networking results to get a name. Call unless clearly advised not to do so. Ask for an interview; you’d be surprised how many people who want an interview actually go out of their way NOT to ask for one!

11. Be mindful of application requirements. Quote posting numbers when it says to, get it there before the deadline, make sure you send it in the desired method (fax, email, in-person, on-line). Visit the website and check for details like mandatory font style and size.

12. First impressions count. Right from the first point of contact, be it a phone call, job application, face-to-face meeting or cover letter, your reputation is being examined and judged by company representatives. Don’t wait for the formal interview to make the right impression.

13. Be courteous and respectful. Whether it’s the Receptionist, Janitor, Doorman, or the person pushing a mail distribution cart, be polite and use your good manners. Good or bad, word could get back to the person who holds the decision-making role with respect to your future with the company.

14. Work on your self-presentation. Your smile should be genuine, your handshake volunteered, your eye contact direct, your clothes appropriate and clean, your hair clean and tidy, your breath pleasant, your hands and shoes clean. If sitting, lean slightly forward to show interest, and avoid spinning the chair or distracting gestures.

15. Show enthusiasm. Employers are excited about their own companies and they work hard to make them as successful as they can. In an ideal world, they’d hire people who feel just as committed to success as they do. Your words and body language should give the impression that you care, that this is something you really want; that your success will be their success and vice-versa.

16. You need quality and quantity. It’s no good to apply to 50 jobs in a week if you aren’t personalizing those applications. And a single job application per month won’t likely lead to many positive results either. Make each application a sincere good effort, but you do need to get several out there.

Okay now there is no set number of steps in applying for work. Bottom line is I hope you see that looking for work is so much more than sitting in front of a computer.

Your Job Application Says More Than You’d Think

Over the course of any given month, I’m scheduled to supervise a drop-in Resource Centre where people can come in and have use of a computer hooked up to the internet, photocopiers, fax machines, telephones and even get free paper and envelopes. While they take advantage of all the above, only seldom do they take advantage of the Employment Counsellor with years of experience there to help them.

Now if I went into a brake shop and there on the wall were a number of brake pads, grinders, rotors and a car hoist, I might be able to tinker away and eventually leave with something that may or may not stop my car on the road. However, if there was a licenced professional brake installer standing there just waiting to help me for the asking, wouldn’t I be much better off asking for his or her expertise? I’d like to improve my chances of stopping.

Unfortunately, many people think they can put together a job application. They usually see the cover letter as a lot of effort and don’t do one at all, or if they do, it broadcasts all kinds of things about the person who wrote it that the person is oblivious to and wouldn’t want known. And the resume? Sorry folks but resumes are usually poorly composed without some second opinion.

So take yesterday. I’m watching a guy photocopy a number of documents which, in my experience tends to be a resume. Just as he was finishing this, I engaged him in conversation. I asked him if he was doing a resume and he was. Then I asked him if his job search was going well or if he was pretty frustrated and got the answer I expected; frustrating. Next I took a chance and told him he was going about the job application process the way that worked way back in 1995.

You see anytime someone is making multiple copies of their resume, I know it’s not specifically targeted to a specific job and this same resume is going to be sent out to different employers. It will never match up the best for any job, because it’s going about things backwards. The first step isn’t to make a resume and then find a job, it’s to find a job and then make a resume. “A” resume, as in singular.

Now as it turns out, he was pretty cautious about me looking over his resume. Most people I speak with out of the blue who don’t know me in the Resource Centre open up immediately and accept my invitation to look over their resume or cover letter and give them some advice. Others like this fellow are more guarded and I change my approach with them.

Here’s something I find pretty basic yet I see more often than I’d like. At the top of the resume I almost always see the person’s name. There is nothing else on the first line, just the name. That makes sense to me. You wouldn’t for example put, “Name:” to the left of your name because it’s obvious right? So then why is it some people will put the word, “Email:” and the beside it put their email address? Isn’t that obvious too? If someone can’t figure out what your email address is just by looking at it, then putting the word, “Email” just before it probably won’t help either. And the same goes with the phone number. Just put the number without announcing it’s a phone number. The employer is smart enough to run a business and can probably identify a phone number without you pointing it out.

In the case of the person I was speaking with, he sheepishly grinned a bit when I pointed this out, and a connection was starting. I could see the first glimmer of his trust forming. What he was really doing was visibly showing me that he recognized he had something to learn from me. Now he asked me for more.

And let’s be honest here. Resume Experts and Job Coaches don’t know everything about everything. If the person leaning against the wall watching me install my brakes came over and pointed out something I didn’t catch at first, I’d certainly ask them for pointers too. But even in the job searching industry, no one person knows everything, least of all me. Things change and so does the job application process.

He asked me if I could guarantee I could get him a job with a resume and I said that I couldn’t. For a moment he almost reverted to his original protectiveness, but he didn’t retreat all the way. I pointed out that the objective here wasn’t to get a job at all, it was to get an interview. The resume was really just one tool needed to get an interview that would be the next step in landing a job. The better the resume the more the odds swing in his favour.

This column is way too short to tell you how to make an exceptional resume. And this post isn’t an advertisement to drum up business for myself. The point is this: Get your brakes installed by a professional, or do it yourself only after having been instructed by a professional. Likewise, get your job application (cover letter and resume, social media profile etc.) looked over by a professional in the Job Coaching/Employment business. Then you’ll be skilled enough to do it on your own with a good chance of success.

So Was It A Poor Or Good Use Of Staff Time?

Lest you think I don’t know the answer to the question above, I do; the time was well spend and I’d do it again exactly the same way.

So here was the situation yesterday at work. It was day 1 using a new computer system. There were additional staff in the workplace to help everyone adjust to the new technology, and there were some fun things going on to keep the mood positive when problems arose.

Of course from a clients point of view, the world doesn’t stop just because Social Service’s Staff have something new at their workplace. So the schedule called for myself and one of my colleagues to run workshop on interview skills. As it turns out, only two people turned up for the workshop; a workshop that typically would run from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Now I’ve run this workshop many times, but the colleague of whom I speak has never done so. Given an opportunity to share how he’d like to proceed before we knew our numbers for the day, he opted to have me run the workshop and observe more than truly co-facilitate. With only two people attending, he first asked if we shouldn’t just take one each and work 1:1 with them. Then when I nixed that idea, he wondered if he shouldn’t skip it altogether and do something else for the day. After all, there’s only two people and I can comfortably handle a full class of up to 25 in that workshop should those numbers appear.

If you look at this day in isolation he’s correct. The salary of two staff working with two clients is a poor trade-off. However, factor in that this fellow has never ran the workshop before, doesn’t know the material covered etc. and it’s a different equation. So I ran the regular workshop and had the consent of both participants to do so. After all, in my opinion, aren’t the two who showed up entitled to our very best?

You see the way I look at things, I had two objectives for the day and three ‘students’. Objective one was to give each of the two participants all the help I could to better their interview skills through instruction and practice. But my second objective was to teach my colleague how to run the workshop; what’s covered, what’s handed out, what multi-media do I use etc. and experience it so he can then run it independently in the future and still cover the core content.

I was quite pleased with how the day played out. My colleague and teammate injected his own experiences and ideas throughout the day from time to time. And when it did come time to do a mock interview, it was his idea to have each of them interviewed by each of us one on one and then switch and do it again.

What I found most pleasing and satisfying is that when the workshop concluded, one of the two participants said, “Well I’ve got to tell you I’m impressed; quite impressed really.” And he was genuine. I think he got more out of that day than he ever expected. The other participant realized she needed to work on her stories; the examples she would draw upon during an interview to prove her stated skills and experience.

Now you’ve got to realize that voluntarily showing up for a day getting help with interview skills is not something a lot of people would do. As many people don’t enjoy interviews in the first place, why would they come by choice? So with only two people, I admire them even more because during the day, it’s not like they have anywhere in which to hide amongst a room full of people. Every time I’d ask for input, there would only be two of them to answer. Some other people would have walked out right off the bat if they were one of only two people there. But these two stayed and instead of leaving at 2:30 p.m., they stayed an additional 20 minutes because they wanted to and asked for more.

And here’s another thing I liked about the two of them. Given the option of an hour lunch or a half hour lunch, guess what they chose? 30 minutes. So while my colleague opted to take his full hour lunch, the two of them and myself reconvened after half an hour and resumed the session, with him joining us later. And that worked out well, because both him and them got what they needed over that period.

From a mentoring perspective, I really hope that my colleague got everything out of the day he needs to run this workshop competently and independently. He’s got experiences and skills accumulated from his past employment and volunteer background. He’s welcome as is every member of our team, to add to and delete some content in the workshop as long as the overall integrity and goals of the workshop are covered. The benefit is that he now knows what I personally do in the workshop. He’ll take what will work for him and add things that he’d like to incorporate to truly make the workshop his own. That’s expected.

Was it a good use of time to have us both there? I think so and so too does our mutual supervisor. He just became more valuable and the overall team stronger.

Something New In The Workplace

In every single workplace, from time to time something new arrives. Sometimes its the arrival of a new employee, a newly renovated working area, a change in furniture, or in the case of Social Services technology in Ontario, an entirely new computer database and online system.

Now with change, as with many things in life, you’ll have those who embrace it, loathe it, love it and even a few who don’t seem to care one way or the other. Good advice 99% of the time is to embrace it because it’s coming whether you like it or not, and the day it arrives you have to deal with it. For me personally, that day is today.

I love change in general. Change prompts me to adjust, work with conscious awareness of the present, learn something new, use skills that sometimes go unused for periods where little changes, and it keeps things interesting instead of stagnant.

The most interesting thing about this technology change is that it’s a complete overhaul, not just an upgrade to a newer version of a past program. On the surface of things, I have my reservations about it in some respects; it appears cumbersome, it isn’t intuitive to use, there are many steps to take to complete processes that in the current model are well understood and simpler. But it’s here and I’m thrilled.

This one is different though. In the new year our clients will be able for the first time to sit anywhere they have internet access and log in to view their file. They won’t be able to see all of it of course, but they will be able to see if cheques have been released, if something is holding up their assistance; even enter some new relevant information such as an address change or change in their family size, employment status or rental amount. First we learn it, then we teach them how to do all these things.

Of course there is the usual nervous excitement that comes with change. Questions about how quickly I’ll pick it up and be able to use it comfortably are on everyone’s mind including mine. Some people across the province have been so intimidated by this new system, they’ve actually resigned from their jobs and taken early retirement rather than learn a new system.

Now while I’ve got my reservations, I’m also 100% in as I should be. After all, if I give it my best effort and grasp it I benefit. If I give it 100% and I don’t get it as quickly as I’d like, I can always be honest with myself and say I gave it my best. And if I self-sabotage and fight it tooth and nail and grumble about it to anyone who will listen that isn’t all that productive because it’s still going to come this morning. All I’d have accomplished with that attitude is be the guy the good people avoid. I don’t want that.

There will be bumps and problems. It may crash today as everyone gets on it across the province at the same time. It may run slow, and some people who thought they would be able to get on and get to work may in fact not be able to log on for some reason at all. That’s anyone’s guess. I’m not saying I’m predicting problems, but if you anticipate that problems may happen that have to be worked out, it makes them easier to accept when they do happen. Of course it could just run beautifully too, and that would be most welcome!

In our office we’ve got a team of people ready to help. This implementation team is doing what they can to make the transition fun. Today they’ll provide us with lunch, we can wear jeans today, and upon arrival we’ll all get ‘treat bags’ with swag and the promise of chocolate throughout the day if we want it. They have also identified themselves with blue t-shirts so they’ll be easy to spot and to get help from.

We have also notified all our clients of this transition to a new system. Some won’t care of course, and that’s not being mean, it’s just being factual. New computer system or not, they just want good customer service and want their questions answered and their money for food, rent and transportation. Can’t blame them at all. Hopefully we get their support and patience as we transition, but we can’t demand it.

Seeing change as an opportunity is healthy. On the other hand, change does have it’s downside for some. On Friday of this week one of my team members is moving on to another job in another division. She’s very good at what she does and has a great attitude. She’s also fun and nice to work with because she and I share some similar philosophies of service and care. I’ll miss her.

But change is opportunity. Someone will replace her and that’s a change to embrace because it’s a new person to throw into the mix and will affect the chemistry of the team. Might be great, might not be, but why not think positively given the alternative is to be pessimistic? New to the job, experienced, male or female, who knows. We all want to find out and will in time.

Change is just that; change. It is neither good nor bad itself. It’s how we perceive and act on it that matters.

Harassment In The Workplace

Harassment in the Workplace. You might find yourself aligned with one of three points of view on the matter just reading those words; it stirs up an emotional response perhaps because you’ve been a victim, it’s overblown (likely because you may yourself have engaged in harassing behaviour), or you’re not sure how big a problem it truly is because you’ve not encountered it in the workplaces you’ve been at.

In its simplest definition, harassment in the workplace is unwanted and unwelcome behaviours that are intentionally designed to upset and disturb someone. These behaviours can be of the bullying or sexual kind. In either case, there is an exertion of power and influence of at least one person over another or others(s).

For some people who have themselves never experienced first-hand harassment, it’s difficult to grasp how one person finds themselves a victim of harassment when it would appear the most obvious solution is to nip things in the bud at the first unwelcome behaviour. What is even more hard for these people to understand is when a victim comes forth and they are viewed by most people as intelligent, strong, confident people. How could they become a victim?

From what I’ve learned, many perpetrators of harassment start off with a victim in mind, targeting them for some time as a future victim, and it’s methodical. They can manoeuver their victim into a situation where the victim is confused wondering if in fact they are even reading a situation right or being overly sensitive, such as an apparent accidental brush of one body part against them as they pass. “Did that just happen? Maybe I’m just over-reacting?” And this has the potential then to escalate dramatically when a person is reluctant to come forth and make a formal complaint of sexual harassment because it’s not in one’s nature to make such allegations and create a fuss.

Unfortunately, not reporting this behaviour often has the effect of further disempowering the victim. They may become edgy at work, anxious, fearful, see a rise in absenteeism, withdrawing from regular routines, avoiding some responsibilities, and all of this can be misread by co-workers as the victim having a drop in performance on the job.

Some victims of bullying behaviour may find themselves constantly in a state of stress, knowing they themselves should report the behaviour but incapable of doing so out of fear, reprisals and additional abuse to be endured.

It’s a fine line for some isn’t it? Is the boss or supervisor who has high expectations and drives their team to excel and push themselves to deliver more bullying and harassing or just getting people out of their personal comfort zones and helping their employees reach their true potential?

Does your workplace have a policy on dealing with and reporting harassment in the workplace? If it does, is it posted for everyone to see and are their well-known steps to take to put an end to it? Are these steps and the issue raised at least annually in an office-wide or team meetings format so it never gets taken for granted? If your workplace doesn’t have such a policy, why not?

Employers would do well to have such policies in place if for no other reason than to maximize their profit-making and production targets. Workers who are distracted by the fear of physical, mental or sexual harassment cannot function at their best. They may actually pose a danger to themselves or to their co-workers – even the general public if they are distracted on the job always looking furtively around themselves for their harasser. Someone on a vehicle assembly line might be endangering a future consumer if they can’t focus on installing some part securely. Not only could someone die from an avoidable ‘accident’, the victim of harassment might find their own quality of work being questioned.

So why don’t victims just report abuse? Well some do of course. But of those who don’t, they often cite embarrassment, pride, not wanting to further humiliate themselves, being perceived as the trouble-maker and so they may just put up with unwelcome behaviour. Unfortunately, this has the result of stimulating the need for power in the abuser. They’ve got you right where they want you and you both know it. This manipulation of another is abhorrent and should be always discouraged in healthy workplaces.

So what can you do to protect yourself? For starters be self-aware. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t immediately dismiss your senses as over-reacting. Sure you might have misread a situation and it would be just as wrong to scream sexual harassment if someone really did accidentally back up into you as they loaded the photocopier with paper in the bottom drawer. Was it a one-off thing and they immediately apologized? Or on the other hand, was it something more? Even having a conversation with your boss off the record and saying you might have some concerns about potential harassment is a good first step. You might want to see a Counsellor through your workplace and talk things out.

Blatant harassment like veiled or open threats should be reported. You might find you’re not the only victim. Often a bully or harasser has exhibited this behaviour on others. If management never hears about it, how can they act on it to stop it?

Your health and safety in the workplace are important. You’ve got every right to work free of harassment whatever form it takes.