Work Life

Dealing With Workplace Bullying and Harrassment

The new year is here and work starts immediately. But while some people are so eager to be reunited with their colleagues after the long holiday, some others are so panicky because of the hostile work environment which perhaps nobody is taking seriously except the victim, namely them!

Bullying isn’t just for the playground anymore. And yes, bullying is a workplace issue; however it is sometimes hard to know if bullying is happening at the workplace because there is a thin line between strong management and bullying. And unlike harassment and assault which are often fairly serious, easily recognizable incidents, bullying tends to be more subtle. It is an accumulation of many small fairly trivial incidents over a long period of time which if taken out of context usually does not constitute an offense or grounds for disciplinary or grievance action.

I found this piece workplace bullying and I think sharing it would be helpful.

How to Deal with Workplace Bullying and Harassment

Part 1: Understanding Workplace Bullying

1. Learn what a bully is and what a bully does.

Workplace bullies use same tools of intimidation and manipulation to bring you down. Learning to recognize their behavior is the first step in putting a stop to it and getting back to work in a comfortable environment.

  • A bully gains enjoyment from tormenting others. If this person seem to make special effort in messing with you, tripping you up, or bringing you down, if they seem to enjoy it, then  you’ve got a bully on your hands.

  • Bullies often have deep-seated psychological issues related to control. Hence your bullying has less to do with your performance and your personality and more to do with the bully’s insecurities.

2. Recognize bullying behaviors.

Watch for the sure signs of a bully that signify more than a simple misunderstanding or personal disagreement. Workplace bullying might include:

  • Shouting, whether in private, in front of colleagues, or in front of customers

  • Name-calling

  • Belittling or disrespectful comments

  • Excessive monitoring, criticizing, or nitpicking someone’s work

  • Deliberately overloading someone with work

  • Undermining someone’s work by setting them up to fail

  • Purposefully withholding information needed to perform a job efficiently

  • Actively excluding someone from normal workplace/staff room conversations and making someone feel unwelcome

3. Pay attention to signs outside of work that suggest you’re a victim of bullying.

You might be suffering from bullying if you suffer at home in the following ways:

  • You have trouble sleeping or struggle with nausea and vomiting because you’re scared to go to work

  • Your family gets frustrated because of how much you talk and obsess about work problems

  • You spend days off worrying about going back to work

  • Your doctor notices health problems like blood pressure and other stress concerns

  • You feel guilty about having provoked your workplace troubles

4. Don’t ignore the feeling that you’re being bullied.

If you feel singled out unfairly, or as if you’re picked on a disproportionate amount, it can be tempting to come up with excuses. “Everyone gets treated this way,” or “I deserve it” are common guilt trips that bullies help to lay on you. Don’t fall into a trap of self-loathing if you feel you’re being bullied. Form a plan to stop the bullying and reclaim your workplace.

  • Unlike schoolyard bullies, who tend to pick on victims they identify as alone or weak, workplace bullies typically pick on employees they consider threatening to their career. If your presence makes someone else look bad enough they feel the need to take you down, take it as a twisted compliment. You’re good at what you do. You know this. Don’t let them confuse you.

Part 2: Taking Action

1. Tell the bully to stop.

This is, of course, more difficult than it sounds, but you can keep a few simple gestures and statements in mind to bring out when you’re feeling bullied.

  • Put your hands up, creating a barrier between you and your bully, like a policeman using the stop signal with his hand.

  • Say something short that communicates your frustration, like: “Please stop and let me work” or “Stop talking please.” This will help you to stand up to the behavior and give you ammunition for your report if the behavior continues.

  • Never escalate the bullying. Shouting counter insults or yelling back might end up getting you in trouble or making the situation worse. Use a calm, collected tone of voice, and tell the person to stop as if you were talking to a dog chewing on a slipper.

2. Keep a record of all bullying events.

Record the name of your tormentor and the method of bullying. Record specific times, dates, locations, and the names of any witnesses to the events. Provide and gather as much information as you can. Collecting documentation is the most important and concrete way to get the bullying to stop when you take the issue to your superiors or a legal team.

  • Even if you’re not sure you’re being bullied, journaling about your feelings in a diary can help you to get your feelings out and figure out for yourself what you’re struggling with. As a result of writing down your feelings and your frustrations, you might decide you don’t have a bully, or that you definitely do and you need to take action.

3. Get witnesses.

Consult with your fellow co-workers any time you feel bullied and make sure they’ll back you up by corroborating your evidence. Have them write it down for future reference. Pick someone who works at the same time you do, or who has a desk near yours.

  • If bullying tends to happen at particular times or in particular locations, have your witness linger in the area if you suspect you’re going to be tormented by your bully. Bring partners into a meeting with a superior who you feel bullies you. You’ll have backup in case things get ugly and you’ll have evidence for later.

  • If you’re being bullied, there’s a good chance others are too. Team up and help each other deal with a common enemy.

4. Keep calm and wait a while.

Make sure that you’ve collected your evidence and that you’re calm and professional. Running to your boss in the throws of emotional turmoil can make you seem whiny, or like you’re overreacting, when there’s a bigger issue at hand. If you’re calm, you’ll be more articulate, present a better case for yourself, and stand a better chance of changing your workplace for the better.

  • Wait overnight between a bullying situation and reporting things to your boss. If you’re bullied in the mean time, or if you have to wait a while before talking to your boss, do your best to avoid your bully. Remain calm and continue on your way. If you expect bullying might happen, you’ll be prepared when it does.

5. Set up a meeting with your supervisor or HR representative.

Bring your written evidence, your witnesses, and present your case as calmly as you can. Practice what you’re going to say before you get in there and have to say it. Keep your complaint short and sweet, and fill out any documentation paperwork provided for you by your superiors.

  • Don’t suggest a course of action unless your boss requests it. In other words, it’s inappropriate to talk to your boss and say, “Bruce needs to get fired because he bullies me.” Lay out your case as strongly as possible and with as much incriminating evidence as you can, say, “I’m frustrating with this behavior and I’ve run out of options, so I thought you needed to know.” Let your superiors come to their own conclusions about a course of action.

  • If your superior is the one bullying you, contact HR or contact your supervisor’s superiors. It’s not the army and there is no “chain of command.” Talk to someone who can make a difference.

6. Follow up.

If the bullying continues and it still hasn’t been sorted out and nothing is being done to stop it, you have the right to take it further and go higher up, by talking to higher management, personnel and even HR (Human Resources). Continue until your complaint is taken seriously and the situation is remedied to allow you to work in a welcoming environment.

  • It would be helpful to come up with a variety of alternatives to help make the situation better for you. If your boss’s supervisor is unwilling to fire your boss but acknowledges that bullying has occurred, are you willing to transfer? Are you willing to work from home? What would make the situation “right” by you? Give it some alternatives serious thought in case you need to present a case for yourself.

  • If you present evidence and nothing changes or the situation becomes worse, consult a lawyer and consider legal action. Provide them with documentation and seek legal action.

Part 3: Recovering From Bullying

1. Make getting better a priority.

You won’t be any good as a worker and you won’t be happy as a person if you don’t take the time to recover from your experience with bullying. Take some time off and ignore work for a while.

  • If you’ve presented a good case for yourself, you should be a good candidate for a paid vacation. Jump on this opportunity.

2. Engage in meaningful and fulfilling activities outside of work.

It’s called work, not super-happy-fun-time, for a reason. Any job, even one at a healthy workplace that you enjoy, can get to you after a while and leave you in need of a vacation that rejuvenates your work ethic and your spirit. If you’ve been bullied and want to start feeling better, you might:

  • Devote time to old hobbies.

  • Read more

  • Start dating

  • Socialize with friends and family

3. Talk to your doctor or psychiatrist.

You might be in need of more substantial care than you can provide by yourself. Therapy or medication might be in order if you’ve spent a considerable amount of time in the grip of a workplace bully.

4. Change jobs.

It may be that, even if the bully has been dealt with, you might be more comfortable seeking new opportunities elsewhere. Treat this whole experience as an opportunity rather than a setback. If you were unhappy at your place of work, maybe developing skills in a new profession, moving to a different climate, or just transferring to a new branch might provide you with a fresh outlook on life and work.


Part 4: Preventing Bullying as an Employer

1. Implement a zero-tolerance bullying policy at your business.

Any health and wellness policy needs to involve anti-bullying protocols. Make sure this is covered and supported by the management and is taken seriously at all levels of the business.

Pair this with an open door policy and hold frequent orientation meetings regarding workplace bullying, making sure employees at all levels are on the look out for this behavior.

2. Address bullying behaviors immediately.

It’s easy to sit back and hope for the best, thinking that your employees will be able to work it out among themselves. It won’t. Don’t let a problem fester among your employees if you want a productive, healthy, and effective work environment.

  • Investigate all complaints seriously and fully. Even if complaints seem to come from overly sensitive employees and turn out to be the result of simple misunderstandings, they’re worthy of your attention.

3. Eliminate competition.

Often bullying evolves from a sense of competition in the workplace, leading employees who feel threatened by the skills of other employees to attempt to bring them down or sabotage their efforts by engaging in psychological warfare. It’s a dangerous and problematic workplace dynamic to let fester.

  • Workplace competition is based on the belief that employees want to be the best and will work harder when rewarded for successes. While it’s true that competition in some business models can increase productivity, it also increases the turnover of employees and can create a hostile and unwelcoming environment.

4. Encourage management and staff interaction.

The more involved your workforce is at all levels with itself, the less likely the lowest-level workers are to take matters into their own hands. Think of it as Lord of the Flies–don’t let the parents be absent from the island, and the kids will be ok.



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