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Are You Being Bullied at Work? Should you go to HR for Help?

 

HR

 

If you are being bullied in the workplace—should you go to Human Resources (HR) for help? Yes and No.  The HR department may be part of your management when it comes to work hierarchy.  If you have an HR department where you work, it may be an “internal” work requirement to seek an HR expert’s assistance in dealing with discrimination or bullying.  BUT—are they there to support you in your time of need?  I am going to share some information to enlighten you.  I can do that—I am an HR expert who spent 22 years in the career field and I am still advising people as an HR consultant.  Here are three tips on seeking HR’s assistance:

First, if your HR department is part of the management of where you work, you must understand that the HR representative may be required to share the information you shared with them, to the director or top manager in your company.  That manager will want to know if there is dissension in the workplace.  If your agency is in the civilian sector, the cost, time, and energy spent on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) matters or other agencies could destroy or cost the company much embarrassment.  Settlement fees or court costs will likely come out of the company owner’s pocket.  If it’s a government agency, there are still issues of money and time, but “settlement” comes out of the tax payer’s pocket.  An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) case like the one I had for discrimination and later retaliation/bullying, can easily cost over $150k.

Second, an HR expert in your workplace may purposely try to down-play your accusations of discrimination or bullying because they know how serious the matter can become.  They may turn-it-around on you and state comments that make you fear that you may lose your job over your concerns.  Instead of relying on HR to be your subject matter expert (SME), why not learn everything you can about your rights at your workplace.  You can research policies and laws that would apply in your case.  If this is not for you—consider hiring a professional expert to help you with your matter.  If lack of money is an issue, you may qualify for pro bono assistance from an attorney.  Here is a good site to check out: https://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/probono/directory.html

Third, if you file charges against your company or agency, you may face retaliation that can come in many forms.  If your HR expert is aware that you are being harassed or retaliated against because you reported someone in your workforce, they may be told to help support management by keeping you in the “dark” about your rights.  They may even be “involved” in attempts to fire you, discredit you, or defame you.  I filed charges of “nepotism” (Illegal hiring of family or friends by management) to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) in Washington D.C.  I had seen numerous managers hiring their family and friends in the Veteran Affairs.  It’s illegal and happens all the time.  It’s no wonder the Veteran Affairs is cited negatively in the news these days.

One of the many charges I filed was an HR employee hiring their grandchild to work for the Veteran Affairs for a summer program for college students.  No announcement had gone out at this time about summer hiring of temporary employees.   This HR employee knew this was a government prohibited personnel practice, but made a choice to ignore mandatory government laws and policies.  There was no turning to this HR employee for help when attempts were made to fire me with illegal allegations, that later proved to be false.

I want to wrap this up that there are many good HR employees out there and many that care about your circumstances.  You may never know if they truly want to help you if they don’t give you the support you need and deserve.  Sometimes, their hands are tied by the management in your workplace.  When I first began working in the Veteran Affairs in HR, I was told that I worked for management and I had to always put management first in all matters.  Think on that one.  I made some managers angry when I told VA employees their rights about Family Medical Leave Act matters and other personnel matters that they were entitled to by law.  Why?  Because some of the managers wanted to keep their employees in the “dark” about their rights and entitlements.  Very sad.  Those managers were fully utilizing their entitlements and wanting to control their employees through fear and manipulation.  The greatest joy in the world to me is to see someone stand up to workplace bullying and know their rights.

If you find yourself confused, dis-empowered or wanting to know more about your rights, be sure to check out my website at www.DawnMarieWestmoreland.com  You have the right to be treated with respect in your workplace and to know your rights as an employee.

Workplace Bullying Scare Tactics–Three Tips to Empower You

I talked to a former government employee recently who thought she had “stacked evidence” of disciplinary violations against her from her managers. After talking to this employee, it turns out that her management had set up strategies to scare her as a “whistleblower”. Often times, bully managers will make up “false charges” on an employee to scare them, run them away from their job or discredit them.  BullyWhen you are a conscientious “whistleblower”, you can almost expect retaliation because it exposes the wrong-doer.

Most employees are not HR employees and they don’t know the guidelines, laws, and protocols that support a healthy workplace environment or their rights as an employee.  I was smiling on my end of the phone–because everything was handled in a very unprofessional manner from her managers and from an HR perspective–this employee had nothing to worry about in regards to disciplinary action. In fact–she now had my HR advice to support defamation of character on her part and mental/physical harm that has been done to her.  It’s nice to “arm” employees and teach them their “rights” so they can stand up to workplace bullying. This employee will be working with an attorney and was feeling more empowered after our session.

So, how do you know how to transmute “false charges”’ against you if you have been bullied in the workplace or you are receiving retaliation because you are a “whistleblower”?  Here are three tips:

First, if you know how to research your work’s policies, guidelines, manuals, handbooks etc., start studying them to learn more about your rights.  For example, if you work in the Veteran Affairs (VA), you could research the VA’s handbooks and directives by going to http://www.va.gov/vapubs/  or you could research it on the web by looking for information that governs your workplace.

If you work for the Veteran Affairs, you can research disciplinary action for employees.  You may find information such as the VA disciplinary table, it falls under VA Handbook 5021/15 and is called “Employee/Management Relations”.  Why could this table be important to you?  Because it tells you all the disciplinary range of penalties for stated offenses.  This is important, because if you have been charged with something that is not on this table, you have knowledge of possibly being falsely charged with an offense.

If you have been falsely charged with an offense that is on this table, you can cite this table and the nature of offense when you work with an attorney, HR expert or another professional.  You may be able to use this as proof of bullying or retaliation, especially if you have filed charges against your workplace with the Office of Special Counsel (www.osc.gov) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (www.EEOC.gov).

Second, if you don’t have the time or the energy to do your own research on regulations etc., consider hiring a human resources (HR) professional if you are getting nowhere with your own HR department or there is no HR department where you work.  The money you may save by hiring an HR expert could offset the emotional and financial damage of your workplace bullying situation.  You can also hire an attorney and I would recommend it if you feel the need to hire a legal expert.  Often times, the HR expert will cost less money than an attorney.  In addition, they are able to provide an HR technical review of your workplace bullying situation.  The HR expert is able to review and analyze the facts and documentation you have in regards to your situation.  When I hired my attorney to handle my disability discrimination and retaliation cases, I was able to provide him with great documentation, that ultimately allowed me to settle with the VA and refuse to sign a “gag order” to keep quiet about my story and to help others who deal with workplace bullying.

Third, when you deal with cowardly bullies, they may be desperate to defame you, fire you, or ruin your credibility. It does not matter how strong you think you are—everyone has a breaking point and bullies will do their best to find the weak link in your defenses.  It can take a serious toll on your health.  It’s important to find avenues of relaxation that resonate with you.  You need to focus on everything that is good in your life.  When your mind wanders on any negativity, be sure to bring it back to “neutral” or a more positive thought. Our thoughts form our belief system.  You are worthy of claiming your “personal power” and having a healthy work environment.

In 2016, I will be traveling across the U.S. and speaking about workplace bullying and empowerment in the workplace.  If your organization would like to hire me for speaking, be sure to check out:  http://dawnmariewestmoreland.com/speaking

 

 

 

 

The Formula for Recovering From Workplace Bullying

dawns-book-cover

You hear about it and read about it in the media, all the time. Workplace bullying is increasing according to who is keeping statistics. It’s a known fact that the damage to the ‘victim’ is harmful and creates many hardships for the ‘bullied’ and their loved ones. When I became a Veteran Affairs (VA) Whistle-blower, I alleged nepotism (illegal hiring of family and friends) and other prohibited personnel practices. I turned in numerous personnel and was retaliated for my actions. I was put on administrative leave for about 100 days, denied the right to seek medical care as a severely disabled veteran, I landed in the Mental Health ward after two years of horrific bullying, and my paycheck was cut-off when I refused to go back to a hostile work environment. This created a financial hardship and my whole economic portrait was much compromised. The life I knew was changed in a short time.  I also experienced having poor credit to boot because I could not afford my large house that I had worked so hard for and cherished.

Losing my old ‘self” was the greatest thing that has happened to me. Back in those days, I “bought into” the victim role. I felt very unsafe and insecure with myself.  These days, I often pass the road that would take me to my former job location. I smile each time and then I say ‘thank you” to the bullies who tried to break me and destroy my reputation.   For if it was not for my former bullies, I may not be as liberated as I am today.   My bullies were awesome teachers! I had to work on myself to get this far with my ‘liberation’. I have deep gratification for my workplace bullying experience. Sometimes our ‘gifts’ come in ugly wrapping paper. That’s exactly what happed in my case. Let me share three tips of how I claimed my ‘personal power’.

First, you get to decide if you are going to be a ‘victim’ of your workplace bullying. You may never get the results you think you want from workplace bullying, but you may get what you need to be happier. For example, if you end up leaving the job, you may find a more respectful position or even strive to be an entrepreneur. I have never been happier to work for myself and I love my boss! Sometimes it seems scary to leave a job you are comfortable with and have known for years. When you are striving to do your soul’s purpose on this earth, you may get an uncomfortable nudge to move forward and get in alignment with the work you should be doing–the work you love and can’t wait to do because it feels so ‘alive’.

Second, look at your experience as a lesson. What did you learn from it? Did you learn that you need to have more confidence or standup for your rights? Was the job or the position a ‘bad fit’? Perhaps you learned that you need to value yourself more and work in a job that is better suited for you. There are always lessons in each of our experiences. I believe we get to learn some great lessons from our bullies. They can teach us so much about ourselves and what we need to do to have a better life. Yes—they may make you anxious and depressed with their actions, but you can decide to not be a ‘victim’ and take all the appropriate action you need to stand up to them, leave the work place or find a solution that makes you happier.  Maybe you learned that you needed to learn how to get empowered and stop relying on unnecessary anti-anxiety or anti-depressant pills. NOTE: Always follow your doctor’s advice on medical care.

Third, bullying can take a serious toll on your confidence and self-esteem. You have to understand that you must believe in yourself more than others believe in you. No one can breathe confidence in you. There are many modalities out there that will help you find peace, confidence, and help you to find your own intuitive ‘gifts’.   You may find that exercising, receiving energy work, reading self-help books, taking empowerment courses or seeking reputable help from a coach, counselor or clergy member to be highly beneficial in helping you to heal. This will take some time, but it is so worth it! When you conscientiously invest in your own well-being, you will get results. I wrote a blog, “Five Tips Before Hiring a Life Coach” at Five Tips to Hire the Right Life Coach   Invest in yourself and also be gentle on yourself. Sometimes our worst bullies can be ourselves if we ‘beat up’ on ourselves. Another thing—if you are spending money on things that don’t empower you, that can back fire on you.   I know of a lady that spends endless money on clothes, trips and fun things that she enjoys. While there is nothing wrong with this, she complains she has no money to hire a coach/consultant for her own workplace bullying case. Hmmmmmm! Do you think her priorities are good ones or could she re-think her priorities? It’s sad, because she is being bullied for blowing the ‘whistle’ on her workplace, but could really benefit from an HR consultant or a coach that deals with workplace bullying. You always get to decide and make choices in your life. You must decide wisely or it may backfire on you.

If you need some help or advice, I have 22 years of Human Resources experience, a Masters in Management/Human Resources, I am retired from the United States Air Force, and I am regularly featured on the radio or in magazines for tips on overcoming ‘dis-empowerment’ and ‘workplace bullying’. Today, I am an anti-bullying speaker, personal power coach, author (Empowered Whistleblower: A Practical and Spiritual Path to Personal Power”, and an HR consultant.  I ‘settled’ with the Veteran Affairs in March 2014 and without a “gag-order” to keep me quiet and sharing my story to help others.  It bring me great pleasure to help empower people.  You can find out more about me at www.DawnMarieWestmoreland.com

Why Fear is Important in our Lives

Why is it that we dislike being “fearful”? Why do we allow it to hold us “hostage” in our lives? I am not writing about fear of “rational” things like poisonous snakes and matters of safety.   More like, living small because of the “inner bully” in ourselves that wants to keep us small and protected by not living our soul’s calling with great joy. Often times our “inner critic” will try to serve us in ways that are not for our highest good. For example, when I began to train as a Life Coach, I knew that I was going to be doing work that I am passionate about, but I also was nervous about going “BIG” because I am an introvert. OK—an “extroverted” introvert to be more accurate.

Admitting raw and real stories about my past was the hardest thing for me to do, but yet, I do write and talk about them. I share with others about being sexually molested as a child, childhood/adult bullying, an alcoholic marriage, and landing in the Mental Health ward after dealing with two years of horrendous bullying for being a Veteran Affairs “Whistleblower”. As I wrote about these events in my book, there was a part of me that wanted to “hide” under the bed and not share these events with others. Part of me was fearful and it felt scary to be so authentic about these circumstances in my life. While these feelings were distressful and fearful to me, I received the message, “Yes, you can do this and you are going to help a lot of people by telling your story and how you overcame your own dis-empowerment”.

When I worked in the Midatlantic Consolidated Patient Accounting Center (MACPAC), which is a division of the Veteran Affairs in West Asheville, NC, I witnessed a lot of fearful people who were afraid to speak out about the nepotism (illegal hiring of family & friends) and other prohibited personnel actions that were going on in this VA agency. It made me sick to see the fear on these people’s faces and I knew that when I turned in the management of the MACPAC, that I would be paying a high price. I did it anyway. Yes—I was fearful, but in the large picture of that event, I knew that it was important to change the unfair hiring practices and expose the bullying that happened when conscientious “whistleblowers” like myself turn these illegal practices in to government agencies that handle these matters.

I could have done nothing and then everything would remain the same in my former job, within the MACPAC. While feeling scared and knowing so many people would turn against me, I turned in my management to the Office of Special Counsel in Washington D.C. and to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Charlotte, NC. Why was I fearful? Because I turned in over 15 people for prohibited personnel actions and they ganged up on me very quickly. While being fearful, I still held them accountable and “settled” with the Veteran Affairs in March 2014, without a “gag order”.   Often I get asked how I can tell my story when I settled with the Veteran Affairs. I can tell my story because I refused to sign a settlement with the VA that would keep me quiet. The VA attorneys finally agreed to this settlement, two days before the EEOC hearing. Moving through all of my fear made me a “victor” in the end.

We are always going to feel “fear”. It is what we do with it that counts. We can stay stuck or we can move through it. How we deal with “fear” is important.   Do we listen to our “inner critic” that says to play small, stay silent, stay hidden and don’t take chances? Or do we listen to our soul that says to keep moving through our “fears” and to follow our soul’s purpose for being on this earth? We get to choose how we deal with fear. The reason why fear is so important in our life is because we get to “play” bigger in our lives if we move through our fears.   First, fear can inspire us to take positive action.   Fear can push us to take the actions we need in our life and create wonderful opportunities.   Second, we can become “liberated” when we move through our fears and accomplish worthy goals. It can push us out of our comfort zone and created a new life for us if we allow it to happen. Third, fear can build our confidence because when we do something positive that makes us fearful, it can make us stronger and more confident.   So, anytime we are dealing with “fear”, consider what side of fear we want to be on— the “empowered” side or the “victim” side.  For I am not letting the “inner critic” in my head win.   I am heading to the Vancouver area to do a workshop on “Overcoming Fear” with my friend, Wendy McClelland on Sept 26th, 2015.   I am hoping you will want to become more empowered and live the life you are supposed to live on this earth.

If you would like to learn more about “overcoming” your old “stories” and moving through fear, check out my book, “The Empowered Whistleblower: A Practical and Spiritual Path to Personal Power” at http://getbook.at/Dawn   You can also get a complimentary copy of my first chapter at www.TheEmpoweredWhistleblower.comDawn looking to the side with mike

Five Reasons Why I Was Able to Overcome My Miserable Life

Dawn and VirtueWe all experience miserable life experiences from time to time.  We may get a divorce, a spouse lets us down or we absolutely hate our job.  I could go on and on about miserable experiences, however, I would rather share my experience with you about “overcoming”.    When you are able to “own” your old stories, instead of your old stories “owning” you, empowerment and liberation prevails.   It is that simple.  Why live in misery, when you can feel better about your life and your circumstances.  Let’s go ahead and jump in and take action to “overcome” the misery we experience at times.

First, every experience in your life is a growing opportunity for you.  I had an experience a couple of years ago where I felt another person had demeaned me after they asked me what I had been up to lately.  I then shared with this person some of the rougher parts of my week. Their comments back to me were very harsh and cut me to threads at the time.  I actually cried because those comments made me feel so small and unappreciated.  I later realized that I had received a “gift” from this person because the experience reminded me of being a young child and getting a verbal lashing from my grandmother.  My grandmother was very stern and had grown up in an orphanage.  She was a very good person, but gave very tough love to me.  I never realized that I had unresolved issues with my grandmother.  The experience of receiving unkind and cutting words helped me to realize I needed to heal the past with my grandmother.  What an eye-opener and a gift for me!  I made peace with my grandmother, who has been dead for many years.  I no longer get as “triggered” by unkind people.  I fixed that problem.

Two, my life felt out of control and I was barely keeping up with my own self-care.  When you work too much and neglect taking care of yourself—you are going to pay a high price.  Your mental and physical health may begin to decline.    I experienced this myself when I ended up in the VA Mental Health ward for three days.  I neglected myself and wore myself out working too many hours on my two court cases against the Veteran Affairs.  The stress and my own neglect on self-care got me a three day stay in the Mental Health ward.   Not fun and the food really sucked there too!  Today, I schedule in self-care in my daily calendar.   I meditate, pray, get massages, receive energy work from a friend, and fit in the best thing I can afford to do, that helps me when I need it.

Three, we always have choices in our life. Have you ever looked back and realized you may have not made a good choice?  We all do!  For example, I had a consultation on the phone the other day with a female who had “bought in” to the fact that she should follow her parent’s advice for her career path. This was a truly gifted lady who wanted to work more in the “arts” and not work a boring job just for the benefits.   She was suffering from so much guilt and wanted the freedom to be herself and work in jobs that were more to her taste.  As children we may become conditioned by our parents who really love us and want the best for us.  However, when we become adults, we are giving away our “personal power” when we let others control our lives.  Most of us have been guilty of this at one time or another.   I use to give away my “personal power” all the time by trying to fit in with others or by trying to please others too much.   Today, it is much easier for me to “catch” myself before I give away my “personal power”.   I have my own choices to make and I am 100% accountable to myself. I encourage you to look at how you have given away your own “personal power” and make a decision to love and respect yourself more.

Fourth, can you think of someone who takes advantage of you or someone who is always complaining?  Don’t they just suck the energy out of you?  Some people call them Energy Vampires.  As I said earlier, we all get to make choices in our lives.  I found the best way to handle these kind of people is to set boundaries in our lives.  You don’t have to let another person abuse you or make you their sounding board.  Setting healthy boundaries with another person can be as easy as telling a negative person that you would rather not hear them complain about their life all the time. You could ask them to start telling you positive aspects of their life or avoid them as much as possible.  I often do this when I experience constant negative outbursts from people.   I also enjoy reading and recommend “Assertiveness for Earth Angels”, which is a book from Doreen Virtue.   This book describes many different kinds of personalities people have and how to become more assertive with each one.

Five, you must show up for your life.  If you are just riding the roller coaster of life and you are not in control, it is time to be accountable to yourself.  If your spending is out of control, get professional help.  If you can’t stand up for yourself, hire a life coach or hypnotherapist who can help you become more empowered in your life.   The worst thing you can do is think you cannot afford it.   The real truth is you cannot afford not to get help.  The real expense could come in the form of debt that financially drains you or an expensive divorce that drains you financially and emotionally.   You must invest in yourself and your life.  I do—I work with a business coach, who also has a coach and so on and so on…..  You always want to work with someone reputable that is doing better than you are at the time.  This way you are learning and growing. It has really paid off for me in so many ways.   I have made sacrifices to work with a coach so I could achieve the results I wanted, in a much faster manner than if I had done it on my own.   It was well worth it and I encourage you to invest in yourself so you can obtain the results you want in a faster manner.   My life is now happier, more peaceful, and I am excited to be a Life Coach and Hypnotherapist, who gets to help others become empowered.  We all deserve to have happy and have empowered lives.

If you feel kinda “stuck” in your life and need a “break-through”, request a complimentary 20 minute strategy consultation with me at www.DawnMarieWestmoreland.com/contact

Here is one of my testimonials—“Dawn helped me to “break free” of some emotional baggage that was stuck for quite some time. It was quite surprising at first, but a calming sense of grounding and peace followed. Her loving energy made me feel nourished and focused. Wonderful experience. Will have to do it again!”