If you thought you left bullies behind in school, think again. While bullying is typically classified as childish and immature behaviour, that doesn't stop some adults from subjecting their peers to it. As an adult, you can be bullied socially by a friend, by your significant other or family member or at your workplace. Any form of bullying can have an adverse effect on the victim's mental health, but bullying at the workplace can be especially tricky to deal with, given that it is done within the framework of a professional environment.
Do you think you're being bullied at work? Let's understand how to deal with workplace bullying and what kind of behaviour constitutes it.
Bullying can be defined as the use of force, aggression or coercion to abuse, dominate or intimidate and vulnerable person. While such behaviour is usually ascribed to children, adults with unresolved childhood issues as bullies have the capacity to carry forward such behaviour in their personal and professional life much after they've 'grown up'. In the professional sphere, bullying is usually a form of power struggle, According to an American study by the University of Phoenix, 75% of employees surveyed had been affected by workplace bullying. That's right, 75%. Let that sink in for a minute.
Bullying at the workplace can take several 'subtle' shapes and forms, so if you've been feeling uncomfortable with the way a coworker has been treating you, here are some signs to watch out for:
- You often find yourself being excluded from important workplace events like meetings, lunches and after-work drinks
- You notice people stop talking the minute you enter a room; people exchange knowing glances when they see you or you hear your coworkers snigger behind your back
- You often have false rumours being spread about you
- You are publically humiliated for even the tiniest of mistakes, while others are often given a free pass for way more serious issues
- You are subjected to unwanted sexual harassment and sexual advances, despite you repeatedly refusing them
- Your reasonable requests and demands are rejected without explanation
- Your achievements are constantly downplayed and you don't feel appreciated for the work you do
- Somebody else often takes credit for the efforts and hard work that you put in for a project
- You find people consciously sabotaging your work or progress
- You are threatened about the security of your job if you don't meet additional, unreasonable demands
- You are told to 'work things out amongst yourselves' by your HR/boss
- Your moves are constantly questioned
- Your coworkers make comments about your personal life or your activities that take place outside the office
- You are faced with discrimination based on your gender, race, religion or sexual orientation
- You fill up with dread and anxiety at the thought of going to work in the morning and look for excuses to take leave
If you find yourself dealing with one or more of the situations listed above, you're being bullied at work! However, the question is how to deal with workplace bullying. Once you've recognised that you're being subjected to toxic behaviour, you can learn how to effectively deal with it. And while bullies may have innovative tactics and forms, there are only a certain number of effective ways you can deal with bullies. And remember, it's essential that you stop bullying as soon as you realise that it's happening. Read further to know how to handle a bully at work.1. Look Inward
Bullies prey on vulnerable people. While we're not suggesting that you are responsible for somebody else's bad behaviour, sometimes our own behaviour can make us an easy target. Do you let them dump their extra workload on you without uttering a word? Do you ignore them when they make a snide remark about you? Although you might think that staying silent is the mature way to respond to such people, in situations like this, it's important to recognise your own behaviour and change it. Be assertive, and don't let people walk all over you.2. Confront Them
So you realise that your own 'soft' behaviour might be triggering your bully. Or maybe it has nothing to do with your behaviour and you still find them picking on you. As soon as you understand that you're not being treated fairly, you need to confront your bully. Walk up to them and talk to them in a calm, but assertive manner, and tell them that their behaviour towards you is NOT okay. And be specific! Give them details about incidents where their actions negatively affected you and your work. Most likely, this should resolve your problems because bullies only gain power from the fact that the other person isn't likely to speak up. Once they realised that you're not taking their behaviour lightly, they're likely to back off in fear that you might inform a superior.3. Call Their Bluff
More often than not, bullying in the adult world is subtle as compared to direct bullying that children face. Adults will not creep up from behind and give you a wedgie while you walk to your English lecture. Your bully at work is likely to turn your coworkers against you by spreading false and malicious information about you, shoot down your ideas during meetings or purposefully exclude you from post-work activities with your coworkers. So the next time they tell you that your idea sucks, say "How would you have done it?". If they say something smug and vague like "I would have just got it right", ask for specifics. This will make them nervous, because more often than not they don't have a better idea. They're just picking on you!4. Document Everything
If you're too intimidated to confront your bully immediately, make sure you keep a log of all the times their behaviour has made you uncomfortable. Keep a word document on your computer and add as many details are possible, including the time, their actions, the consequences of their bullying, etc. When you do decide to confront them, you can give them exact details. They will not expect this and the fact that you're taking it so seriously will throw them off. This will also be very helpful if you decide to take official action against them.5. Confide In A Colleague
Every bully's strategy is to isolate you and push you into a corner. They feed on your fear and count on the fact that you'll be too embarrassed to tell anyone. So don't let them have that power! Find a coworker you can trust and confide in them about your behaviour--if it's a superior, even better! They can give you the advice and confidence that you need to confront the bully and take action against them. If they're in a position of power, they can bring it up with their colleagues. If nothing else, they can at least lend you an ear and help you vent.6. Speak To HR
If you've tried all the strategies above, but your coworker continues to bully you, it's time to bring in the big guns. Print out all your log sheets and walk straight up to HR. Talk to them about their workplace bullying policies, but make sure you don't go in angry--this will only work against you. Maintain your cool, and ask your coworkers to back you up. If you make a strong case, HR will be compelled to take action against your bully, or in the least, issue them a warning.7. Let It Go
What gives bullies their power is knowing that their actions are affecting someone negatively. So instead of getting frustrated, anticipate their moves and beat them at their own game--by acting nonchalant. When they notice that their bullying isn't amounting to anything, they'll eventually let it go.
Hope this helped you to understand how you can handle bully at work. Always remember, NOBODY CAN HELP YOU WITH BULLYING EXCEPT YOU!
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