Finding a new job after your bullying experience

Finding a new job after a bullying experience is a challenging task. The health impacts, both physical and mental, from bullying can be devastating. Even mild forms of bullying undermine a person’s confidence in him- or herself, and his or her trust in others. On the other hand, finding a new place to work can be rewarding, help rebuild one’s confidence, and bring a person closer to his or her goal of health and security. It may seem a daunting task, but you can find a job that doesn’t involve workplace bullying. We’ll show you how.

Use the guidance below as an aid while looking for work. Because individual experiences can vary, make sure you adapt the advice to your particular situation. You may wish to skip certain steps, or perform them in a different order than listed here. Our advice is just that, advice; you may wish to get personalized guidance from your counselor, therapist, religious advisor or any other person with whom you have a secure relationship. Our own personal coach, Jessi Brown, is available for consultation.

Work on your health first

If you haven’t already taken the time to evaluate your personal health, make sure you do so before you start looking for another job. Stay on top of your health on an ongoing basis. If you’re currently between jobs, use the time to focus on you. Your health is worth more than your job, and your physical and psychological needs deserve regular care, not only when there’s a problem. Use our Three-Step Action Plan as a guideline. Our book and DVD for targets give explicit details on how to manage health issues that arise from bullying.

When you’re healthy and confident, it’ll show to a prospective employer. It’s important to have a positive outlook on your bullying experience when interviewing for a job or once you’ve started in a new position. Relating the details of your prior bullying in an emotional way will hurt your chances of finding new work and can set you up for more bullying.

See what your former employer is saying about you

When you’re still in a job and are looking for new work, it’s probably best not to use your current employer as a reference. However, if you’ve already left, and you choose to list your former employer on your resume, be aware that your former employer might still cause you problems. Bullying supervisors sometimes continue the campaign of personal harassment by badmouthing their current or former targets when contacted for a job reference.

We recommend listing people you trust as references. If your immediate supervisor doesn’t fit that description, you might consider a colleague or supervisor at your same level. If there are no other choices, request a referral from someone higher up who can speak to your work performance. Also consider asking customers with whom you have a good relationship to give a recommendation, since they know the quality of your work.

A good way to determine what your former employer is saying about you is to use the services of a job reference-checking firm. We recommend the company Allison & Taylor. Jeff Shane, Vice President of Allison & Taylor, Inc., explains their services:

A professional reference check is conducted by a third party on behalf of a client wishing to determine what a former employer will say about them to a prospective new employer. It typically focuses on such questions related to the client’s performance, eligibility for re-hire, strengths and weaknesses, etc.

Allison & Taylor, Inc. has conducted thousands of such reference checks in its 28-year history and advises that approximately half of them reveal some form of negativity from the reference person being interviewed. In such instances, the client has recourse – with the assistance of an attorney – to discourage the negative reference from ever offering such commentary again.

According to reports we’ve heard from people who’ve used them, they’re prompt and provide good service.

Be selective when choosing the job

If you’re currently unemployed or are desperate to leave the job you currently have, you may feel compelled to accept whatever new job you’re offered. However, it’s important you be cautious about the next job you take. It wouldn’t do you any good to end up in another job that puts you back into a bullying situation.

Be sure to “interview” your prospective employer, just as they interview you. Ask direct questions about the position, such as why the position is open and how long the previous employee was there. Find out if the organization has policies to ensure a "respectful workplace," and how they enforced. The way the questions are answered are as important as the answers themselves, as they reflect the attitude of the entire company. See the blog post Avoid Repeating Workplaces with Bullies for more details.

Staying healthy in your new job

Once you land a new job, congratulations! Enjoy your new work, and again remember to take care of yourself! Remaining healthy on the job is as important as doing the job well; not only for you but also for your colleagues, your company and your loved ones. Take steps to minimize your exposure to abuse by limiting your personal disclosure. Don’t share details of your personal life with coworkers until they open up first, then do so sparingly. Set personal boundaries with other people, and between your work and personal lives. Our book The Bully At Work and DVD Help for Bullied Targets from WBI offer great advice on how to bully-proof yourself and maintain healthy workplace relationships.


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