An enabler is someone who can do something about helping you deal with a toxic bully or group, but they turn a blind eye to your cries for help or proof of the bully’s toxic behavior. Enablers may also have a tendency to do things that may have the effect of rewarding the bully, or punishing the person being bullied. In the workplace, an enabler will likely be your boss or someone in HR who can take steps to keep you from being bullied, but they either put your concerns on the back burner, hoping they will resolve themselves, or they force you into an awkward situation with your bully in hopes that you both will resolve your difference or one of you will quit, allowing the enabler to keep their own hands clean.
My old boss was a classic enabler. Even though I told her, at least once, that I didn’t get along with my most toxic coworker, she very often made me the person responsible for passing messages to him. She would laugh off his combativeness as, “That’s just the way he is. Bless his heart.”
Another enabler stunt is they will go ahead and confront your bully, “on your behalf”, but, instead of being discreet and letting the toxic individual know that “some employees” may have issues with their behavior, they put the victim’s name and accusations, front and center, which allows the bully to deny and even declare that the victim is simply “mistaken” about their being abused. This, of course, sets the victim up for continued abuse by the toxic individual with the added bonus that they appear to be the one causing trouble and not the bully they lodged a complaint against.
Enabling may seem innocent, enough, but it has lasting, negative repercussions. It may leave the enabler with what they believe are clean hands, because they don’t want “the drama”. But, it leaves a toxic environment to fester and the victims of toxic individuals to either wallow, or leave.
I told my boss, once, about how I was being treated by my workplace bully, but nothing ever changed, except, I was, metaphorically, patted on the head and encouraged to let it go. In the meantime, the powers that be were seen to be very friendly with the toxic individual, making it very clear that any further complaints, despite continuing abuse, on many levels, would result in them continuing to bury their head in the, proverbial, sand. Other employees complained, but his antics were regularly swept under the rug.
My only suggestion for dealing with enablers of toxic bullies and groups is to keep your head down and look for another job, as soon as you can, because things will get worse before the enabler ever decides to make things better.
I waited around for more than three years and watched other employees get pushed out because of the toxic bully whom I dealt with. I finally quit when it ultimately occurred to me that things were getting progressively worse and not better; the more they enabled him, the worse he got.
If you are stuck in your job, for the foreseeable future, following the tips, listed below, as, like me, they will help you grin and bear it, until you finally do find another job:
1) Practice the Gray Rock method. Once you discover that your employer is enabling your bully, defending yourself will make you a ready target for continued abuse. So, keep your head down and your mouth closed. Only respond if you have to, keeping your interactions work-related. Don’t sit around for casual or personal conversations.
2) Breathe. Practice the 4-7-8 breathing method. If a toxic individual is pushing your buttons, before lashing out or defending yourself, try taking a deep breath, through your nose, for 4 seconds. Hold it for seven seconds. Then blow it out, slowly, for 8 seconds, through your mouth.
3) Keep your cool. If you feel like you still need to defend yourself against toxic individuals because your employer continues to enable them, approach the attacks with a respectful tongue. Keep it professional/stay on topic. Keep your responses short and to the point. Walk away if you feel you are getting heated.
Don’t forget to check out the links, below, to other topics in this series.
On this site, I will continue sharing my experiences with a toxic workplace and offer advice, based on my own practices, on how to stick it out, if you can’t leave, right away. So watch this space, as I hope to make it a permanent feature.
Feel free to send email to Contact@dizzydezzi.com with questions, comments, concerns or to share your own story or to get advice.