12/11/2012 02:13 pm ET Updated Feb 10, 2013

Haunted by "Ghosts of Bosses Past"?


'Tis the season for gatherings and good cheer with friends and colleagues present and past. But do these gatherings provide you with memories of bad experiences with bad bosses, bullies perhaps?

When you have experienced the wrath of a bad manager, particularly a bully, it is easy to get "haunted" by their behaviors. It makes you wonder, how long does these post traumatic waves of painful memories affect your lifestyle and career? Understand bullying for what it is: a displaced display of power that targeted you. Perhaps in extreme cases you may have lost your job, scaled down your lifestyle, and changed careers. But how do you get over being bullied?

According to, "The target of bullying tries harder and harder to avoid saying or doing anything which reminds them of the horror of the bullying." (You can learn more here.)

I ran into a former colleague the other day and felt the virtual and all too familiar wave of anxiety that comes with the experience of being bullied... we both did. Memories, flashbacks of struggling in a workplace where a bully was able to wreak havoc washed over me. The feelings of hopelessness, confusion and loss of self-confidence returned. It was like a frozen state without hope of resolution but I moved on, at least to some degree. According to experts, on some level, this is considered a reaction to post-traumatic stress. It makes us wonder if the demoralizing effects of the bully ever go away.

We were both targets of this bully and it showed. It brought back bad memories of being targets. But can you escape their effects and power over you? How long does it last? Try to cope with the blend of bad and good experiences to move on? Realize that you are not alone.

According to a 2010 Workplace Bullying Institute National Survey, 35 percent of us have been bullied at work. Realizing there is no automatic resolution. I have developed my own practical method to get the "ghosts of bosses past" out of the way:

  • Concentrate on the fact that bullies often do themselves in, poetic justice of sorts. Their bullying tendencies turn inward and in my personal experience, it happened just that way. Does that provide satisfaction? Some, but it is comforting that one particular bully will no longer be able to affect others.
  • Change your focus to change the future. This is important for the healing of all forms of post-traumatic stress and remember, you were the target of a bully's power play, not a lasting victim.
  • Never lose the thought that bullies focus attention on their targets for reasons that were personal to them. Don't carry the bully's shortcomings into the future.
  • If you observe bullying of others; step up. They need your support.
  • Remember, your job is not your life; it supports your livelihood. A bully may affect you but does not define you.
  • Reach out to help others in need. Helping others and performing acts of kindness yield amazing results including increased self-confidence and satisfaction. Make a conscious decision to heal by helping and educating others. I do just that.

Give yourself back the confidence that proper feeding and care and the right perspectives will provide, feeding your self confidence that is. Consciously decide to back-burner these feelings. Perhaps, they won't return. The present and future belong to you, not the bully. It has been said that recognizing your problem starts you on the road of recovery. Unresolved grief and anger about being bullied can follow you to your next career opportunity or at least your next encounter with a former colleague. Recognize it, get assistance if necessary, and rely on your strengths.

From my experience, ranging from investigating cases of bullying to being a personal target, it is clear that unless you take your psyche to a level of resolution, you have let the bully take you over and in that case, he/she wins. It takes concentration, effort, and practice to turn away your focus. Concentrate on your future pursuits and the strengths.

Remember, all of the "ghosts of bosses past" are not bullies. Countless more are the fine individuals who have helped you mold your career along the way. Change your focus from helplessness to confidence. Remember, where you are in your career, it's a blend of both positive and negative experiences. Learn from them all.

The bully does not define you. Your career and experiences have lasted much longer than the intended effects of the bully. Remember, you were a target, not a victim.

Above all, don't let the lasting effects of a bully define you. Need help? The Workplace Bullying Institute is an excellent source.