Written by Catherine Adenle
Most adults are civilized at work and they make up the majority of the work population. Unfortunately, bullies are also part of the work place. Although bullies are in the minority in the workplace, they still exist and so bullying exists.
I am sure that you will agree with me that bullying is a delicate situation for anyone to deal with whenever it rears its ugly head. When bullying happens, it is a situation that the person being bullied must handle with care. First, let’s start by defining the word, ‘bullying.’
Bullying as I see it is a deliberate attempt to belittle, control or undermine someone. It typically happens over a prolonged period of time and it can severely damage self esteem and confidence. Bullying can be obvious or it can be subtle. It can take place in private or in front of others. Also, the circumstances can vary greatly from person to person. However, bullying is a problem that causes a lot of stress to the person being bullied. When you find yourself the victim of one of the few bullies in your work place, you have to do something about it. Why? Well, if you spend more hours at work than you spend at home, there is no reason to feel like you are always standing on egg shells at work.
A bully will usually combine various types of behaviour. Following are some of the typical types of behaviour that occur when someone is bullying you:
Obvious bullying might consist of:
Bullying can sometimes be unconscious. The bully may be unaware of their actions or the full effects of their behaviour. On the other hand, a bully that is your manager may be aware of causing you offence, but they may see it as strong management or positive hands-on supervision.
It’s not your fault, it’s them.
Remember, you don’t deserve to be bullied, because no one does. Do not in any way think that you caused the bullying. Bullies have a great need to control other people, either openly or indirectly. Usually, bullies are in positions of authority, they could be managers or supervisors. Their actions may be driven by envy, fear of inadequacy and insecurity about their own competence, and the bullying behaviour may emerge in their desire to keep any possible rivals down.
To be honest, bullying is essentially cowardly. The bully hides his or her own inadequacies, while making out that other people are at fault. If you are being bullied, perhaps the bully has seen you as more capable, successful, popular, or attractive than they are. In most cases, the targets of bullying are usually above average performers, much more efficient and better at what they do than the bully. Less common reasons for bullying include race, vulnerability, timidity, gender or disability.
Remember, you are not alone.
The good news is that you are not alone and bullies exist in all workplaces and offices. For instance, the Zogby study, in conjunction with the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute (WBTI), found that:
Other surveys (by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, TUC, UMIST, Staffordshire University Business School) suggest that bullying is happening to between 3 and 14 million employees in the UK, and from extensive feedback, pro rata in other countries. See case histories for the similarities between your case and those of others.
How do you know if you are being bullied?
If you regularly try and avoid a particular person at work, if you regularly feel intimidated by them, afraid to work near them or you get yelled at, criticised, put down, insulted or frowned upon by them, then, you might be at the receiving end of bullying.
You may be working with a bully if your mistakes are constantly brought up or if your work is sabotaged. If you wake up in the mornings and dread going to work, you may have a bully as a co-worker or boss. If you feel as described above, these are the actions to take to defeat the bully. See Are You Being Bullied at Work?
12 Telltale Signs and What to Do About It
How do you handle a bully at work?
1. First, assess the situation
When it comes to feeling bullied, you have to trust your instincts. If you feel bullied, then, you are probably a victim. Keep a close eye on what is happening around the situation between you and the person in question.
If others are experiencing this bullying behaviour and it is not just you then, get together with them and find out how they feel and what the next step should be. There’s power in numbers. If it is just you, go ahead and do something about the situation.
2. Don’t ignore the situation
Don’t think ignoring the situation will make it go away. Guess what, it is not going to stop the bully. As a matter of fact, you are giving the bully more power by not addressing the situation. There is no need to add fuel to the perceived fire power that the bully has or ignited. So, evaluate the situation carefully. You cannot ignore bullying; you should not allow yourself to be a victim but rather try and be victorious. If you are being bullied, discuss the situation with a trusted manager, Human Resources (HR) support manager, colleagues, a mentor or anyone closest to you. You need to confide in someone so that they are aware and can look out for you.
3. Document the bully’s actions
Any time you experience a bullying behaviour, document the date, time, the name of person(s) present and details of the incident. Note names down if other employees witnessed the incident. Keep a log of every little thing – insults, what’s said, how it’s said and any other back stabbing moves made. If when you eventually seek help from HR, documentation of the bully’s impact on you, the business results and success, gives the HR information to work with on your behalf. Remember, you cannot work at your best if you are under a lot of stress as a result of bullying. The bully is not just hurting your feelings; the bully is also sabotaging business success. If bullying occurs in an email or in any correspondence, keep the electronic e-mail and file a hard copy.
4. Don’t play their game
An African proverb says, “If a donkey kicks you and you kick back, you are both donkeys!” It’s easy to let someone push your buttons and for you to fly off the handle at them. However, you should ensure that this doesn’t happen. You really don’t want to stoop to their level. In a professional environment, you have to show respect for your work and your colleagues. Try your best to ignore the bully and their actions. Don’t be baited for any reasons, you don’t want them to set you up. Good chances are that the bully is looking for a reaction from you. When they don’t get one, they may eventually relent and stop.
5. Set limits and confront the bully
Remember that you could respectively set limits on what you will tolerate and exercise your right to tell the bully to stop the behaviour. Confronting a bully may be scary and hard. But, as Jonathan Littman and Marc Hershon suggest in I Hate People, bullies are “only effective when they’re on solid ground. So, you need to shake their solid ground so that they take notice.
It could be easier to convey your message better if you find the time to practise the steps with a friend so that you are more in control and comfortable responding when the bully attacks.
By making statements about the bully’s conduct directly to the bully, you’re putting them on notice. Keep up your game, don’t lose your temper or composure, but calmly let them know that you are serious about not allowing them to walk all over you. By the second or third attempt, the bully will know that their game is up and change their bullying behaviour. You can address the bullying behaviour of a bully towards you in your workplace with persistence and personal courage.
This confrontational approach works in the middle of the office as well. If the bully is yelling abuse at you, in the presence of everyone, be firm and ask them to stop right there in front of everyone. You can neutralize the bully’s behaviour and regain your clash-free workplace.
6. Put the bully on blast and inform trusted senior authorities
If after you have confronted the bully you haven’t noticed a change, then, it is time for the next step. If you are sure that you’ve done all you feel you can do, take the issue to your Human Resources Manager. Remember to take your documentation with you and be sure to address the issue from a work perspective. Elaborate on how the behaviour is affecting your work. Inform them of how important the issue is and must be sorted out, stressing your desire to continue working in a comfortable, safe environment.
7. Know when to have another plan
Once you’ve asked for help and nothing changes, you may need to consider the possibility of leaving or changing departments if you work in a big organisation. It is important that you think of yourself first. It’s not worth it to stay in a negative environment just to prove a point. If the bullying is causing you a lot of stress, you need to seek professional help. There are also legal steps you can take to help you. Investigate your options thoroughly before making any decisions. And always remember that you deserve a friendly, peaceful environment to work in just like we all do.
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