• I hate Anan, let’s get her fired.
  • Leave that to me.

The second IM was sealed with a mischievous devil emoji.

I accidentally read this Hangouts conversation between two of my coworkers. I thought we were friends and got along well. I helped them a great deal with their tasks and email correspondence, and I always advocated for them.

From that day on, I started to unlock the series of schemes most of my coworkers plotted against me as they proved to me they were skilled at one thing only: bullying. They gossiped and made sure I knew it. They gave me dirty looks, left me out of everything, told the management lies about me, called me names, attempted to sabotage my reputation and wrote insulting facebook statuses about me with a hashtag dedicated especially for me!

There was no HR, and the management was big on the divide-and-conquer strategy, so it suited them well. They actually added fuel to the flames. I was on my own and I loved my job, so leaving was not my first card.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2017 National Survey, 19% of Americans are bullied, 61% are aware of abusive conduct in the workplace, 60 million Americans are affected by it, 29% of targets remain silent about their experiences, 71% of employer reactions are harmful to targets, 60% of coworker reactions are harmful to targets and, to top it all, 65% of targets left their jobs because they couldn’t take it any more.

This topic was never given any attention by Syrian researchers — not even before the war. However, if a leading country like the United States suffered from these rates of workplace bullying, what would you expect in a third-world, war-torn country where ethics have become quite scarce?

I asked Soulaima Gourani, Expert in Behavioural Sciences at the World Economic Forum, if her coworkers ever hated her in the past, or if she ever had to deal with bullies at work, and her response was, “The number one reason I am not employed is because of coworkers; 80% of my time would be wasted on bullsh*t, politics and evil eyes! I am better on my OWN.”

Here is what you do when you’re the target of your coworkers’ bullying:

1. No, you do not bring cupcakes.

Unless you plan on drugging your nasty coworkers, do not bring peace offerings of any kind. Chances are they will eat your cupcakes and continue to hate your guts… or even worse; they might not eat the cupcakes you spent hours baking.

Peace offerings are for people with whom you had some disagreement or miscommunication — not for those who decided to hate you overnight because they know they can’t be in your shoes.

Maria Sharapova, Russian professional tennis player, once said, “I can’t please everyone; that’s not in my job description.”

2. Stop blaming yourself and rest assured it is not you; it’s definitely them.

“When bullying occurs, victims of bullying often have a tendency to believe that they brought the bullying upon themselves. They also may believe that bullying is punishment for being bad or inadequate in some way.” Sherri Gordon, author of Beyond Bruises, wrote.

WBI research findings have confirmed that targets appear to be the veteran and most skilled person in the workgroup. “Targets are more technically skilled than their bullies. They are the ‘go-to’ veteran workers to whom new employees turn for guidance. Insecure bosses and co-workers can’t stand to share credit for the recognition of talent.” WBI explains.

In her article, Sally Kane, attorney, editor, and writer specializing in legal, career and business topics, mentioned that “bullies often target employees who are fair, honest and ethical or have strong morals and integrity.”

So, if you were not a nark, not a jerk, not an a**hole and not a backstabber, then it’s definitely not you. Even those four people don’t get bullied for being so. Don’t tell me you never came across that extremely popular person who happens to be a total jerk.

3. Always look good and make sure your smile is as bright as sunshine.

This will send the message, “I know you hate me and I don’t give a rat’s a** because I’m fabulous!” Dress the message you wish to convey!

It’ll kill them. Don’t get started with all the Mother Teresa talk. We’re humans, and it’s okay if we fancied making others eat their hearts out every now and then. After all, we are merely practicing self-love and not potentially harming anyone.

Nevertheless, if you did not wish to make your coworkers have their green hearts for dinner, also smile. Smiling and looking good are both confidence boosters. It might also make those grouchy faces around you loosen up and smile a little. Adrian Furnham, Ph.D. wrote, “We automatically copy the facial expressions of others. We reciprocate and in social groups it can be contagious.”

4. Focus on doing your job well.

I’m sure the objective line in your CV does not say, “Make everyone at office love me.” You are at the company because you want to advance your career.

Socializing is a huge part of anyone’s career path — probably unless you were a geeky programmer, but you cannot make envious people love you unless you slack. Do you wish to be a slacker?

Your numero uno priority at work is to do a good job and achieve great results, so focus on that. Your co-workers must learn to grow up and embrace the opportunity of working with a talented professional like you.

5. Be nice and professional all the time.

Especially when management is around. I’m not suggesting you be a hypocrite, but since your workmates are spreading vicious rumors about you, this will indirectly denounce some of the rumors.

I know those poisonous bunch-backed toads don’t deserve it, but this is about who you want to be, so do not allow them to drive you over the edge — or else you’ll be giving them power over you. Besides, you never know what allies you’ll be winning in the process.

Most importantly, this will help you work with them smoothly. It will not ensure their cooperation though, especially if they were crazed apes like my previous coworkers, but remember: Their behavior and attitude says a lot about them, not you.

And, darling, don’t hesitate to be a bitch when you find it fit — just don’t tell anyone I said this.

6. Turn a deaf ear and feel sorry for them.

But don’t say it to their faces — unless of course you wished to have your body stuffed with spicy rice and served during the annual corporate dinner. Even if your coworkers weren’t savages, it’s bad for your image to announce this feeling.

Understand that if your coworkers were not pathetic, lost souls with little or no self-esteem, they wouldn’t have been blinded and controlled with their envy.

Rise above the pittiness.

7. No, we’re not holding one-on-one meetings in a neutral setting to ‘openly discuss your concerns’.

In a company which operates like a jungle, you do not humiliate and torture yourself by sitting in a one-on-one meeting with a baboon diplomatically discussing their demeanor and lack of professionalism.

You do this only when you know you’re dealing with wise, open-minded coworkers who are likely to understand the impact of their bullying on the corporate culture and on their own careers.

8. Burn the candle of all those negative feelings.

Don’t dismiss your feelings, don’t translate them into anger and don’t distract yourself. By doing so, you only oppress yourself and make things worse on the long run.

Use your vocabulary to name your emotions, and be creative. Psychologist Dan Siegel refers to this practice as “name it to tame it.”

According to Tony Schwartz’ article in the New York Times, “Emotions are just a form of energy, forever seeking expression. Paradoxically, sharing what we’re feeling in simple terms helps us to better contain and manage even the most difficult emotions. By naming them out loud, we are effectively taking responsibility for them, making it less likely that they will spill out at the expense of others over the course of a day.”

9. Leave.

Maybe this should have been the first point, but I was assuming you loved your job or needed to cope until you found something better.

If I regret anything, I regret fighting a toxic work environment for 2.5 years. I should have left long ago. Your mean coworkers and sick management are broken, and it’s not your duty to fix them. It’ll only take a toll on your physical health and mental well-being.

Love yourself enough to open that door and walk out of the freak show.

Originally published at medium.com