For months, it quietly happened, and then, suddenly, the assault ratcheted up to the point where I was unable to function. My website, the thing I created and allowed me to connect with people across the world gave me the finger. (You know what finger I’m talking about.) I was locked out; not for 20 minutes or an hour, but for days at a time. Three words: brute force attack.My site wasn’t hit dozens or hundreds of times, but thousands. Saying it was under attack was putting it mildly. Yes, I have things in place to keep the wanna-be hackers out but didn’t realize it would work against me too. Finally, I figured out a small change that would allow me to do my thing and continue to block the attacks. Eventually, it trickled off and, it may be too soon to say forever, it stopped.I didn’t do anything wrong except show up, want to work, and some people who didn’t even know me thought I had something they wanted and tried to stop me.
A website attack is one thing, what about when it happens at work?
Interesting, that when I started my position with a company that will remain unnamed, (this time I can say forever and mean it), I was also targeted by people who didn’t even know me. Only days into the job they put out a ton of effort to block me and take me down. They thought that targeting me would yield something good – my firing.We did part ways, the company and I, however, the one thing I know for sure is it didn’t get better after I was gone.You know what I represented to the managers and directors who felt threatened by my presence? Change.Creating my position was a massive change for the organization.What I wanted to accomplish would also mean change, and discomfort and growing pains.Before I understood what was happening, I was under attack in ways that were both subtle and overt. One thing it had in common with my website attack was that it was unrelenting.Initially, I was brought in to forward the senior leader’s agenda, but I was clear about my passion, experience, and point of view in my interviews too. We had to be a match, they didn’t want to hire a warm body to fill a seat, and I am more than a warm body.It was only once I started that I realized that my agenda and their’s deeply conflicted. I viewed my job to create a great place to work, not build a jail cell with lucite bars people wouldn’t know existed until they rammed into them face first.Then the attacks started. Slowly at first, not too aggressive, more low-key distrust and nastiness. Eventually, it built to all-out hostility, and there was no small tweak that I could make to make it trickle off.
What can you do when you’re under attack?
Don’t freak out
It’s confronting. Being under attack feels personal, but that’s not always the truth. Some people are bullies. They force their agenda instead of leading the way forward. When I left my position, do you think they stopped targeting people? No, they just found someone else. When they see you lose your cool, they level up their attack because it’s working. REMEMBER
: When you feel your blood pressure rising, a deep breath goes a long way.
Stay true to yourself
It’s tempting to do something radical to make the attack stop. I was so frustrated that I thought about shutting down my site permanently. With that company I worked for, I thought about letting myself become weak and backing off from what was best for the employees, all to protect my job and paycheck. (Did I mention it was a great commute too?) Instead, I chose to stand strong. REMEMBER
: They want to break you; you don’t have to let them.
Reach out to your supporters for help and advice
I was the solo HR practitioner in my organization but had professional colleagues to turn to for support and counsel. The Director of Marketing also started at the same time I did, and we had each other to lean on as we both acclimated to the organization. For my site, I turned to Twitter and got advice on how to manage and stop the attacks. REMEMBER
: There is always someone out there willing to help you’re brave enough to ask for it.
Refuse to be a punching bag
It hurts when you’re under attack. Good news is that even when less than ideal, there are always steps you can take to alleviate the pain and protect yourself. You never have to suffer at work, accept bullying, or be a punching bag. Not every path will yield positive results, but waiting things out is not always the right choice either. Personally, I have an action bias and when under attack it’s time to take action. REMEMBER
: You are smart and valuable. If you’re under attack at work, you don’t have to stay. You always have a choice.“Know that you have the power to choose change.”~ Alli PolinThe great news is my site is letting me do my thing, and I didn’t have to shut it down. The even better news is that I didn’t work for that company for one day longer than I did. The light inside of me was dimming. You and I? We were born to shine.