Are You Being Bullied at Work? Here’s What to Do
If you’re having trouble motivating to go to work in the morning, you might hate your job — or you might be the victim of workplace bullying. Anyone can be a bully at work, whether it’s a boss or a co-worker or a client. If you’re a target, it’s important to recognize your situation and respond appropriately, in order to minimize the damage to your psyche and career.
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In a nationwide survey commissioned by CareerBuilder earlier this year, 28 percent of workers reported they have felt bullied at work — nearly one in five (19 percent) of these workers left their jobs because of it.
The study confirms that bullies can be peers (46 percent) as well as managers (45 percent), and sometimes even higher-ups in the organization (25 percent).
According to experts, there’s a general lack of awareness about bullying and what constitutes bullying in the workplace. Because of this, targets sometimes are not aware that the people they work with are bullying them.
Bullying, whether the target is aware or not, causes a lot of stress, and stress-related health complications. The impact could be physical and/or psychological debilitation, including but not limited to hypertension, heart strokes, depression, etc. The Workplace Bullying Institute shares a comprehensive list of effects of bullying.
So how do you know you are being bullied? Here are some of the tell-tale actions of a bully.
- 1. Overlooking or belittling the target’s work and achievement.
- 2. Backhanded comments on the target’s personal life or any other aspect unrelated to work.
- 3. Excessive yelling, swearing, and/or causing public humiliation.
- 4. Withholding critical information relevant to the target’s job with/without the target’s knowledge. Not sharing opportunities that could benefit the target.
- 5. Overworking, assigning excessive work, making it impossible to complete the job.
- 6. Keeping track of/maintaining a record of the target’s mistakes and constantly bringing them up even for trivial or irrelevant reasons.
- 7. Extensive micromanagement and expressing repeated distrust in the target’s caliber.
- 8. Blaming without any justification or proof.
- 9. Isolating the target, socially and professionally.
- 10. Spreading unwanted gossip and rumors about the target.
So what can you do if you are being bullied?
- Assess the situation: Recognize if you are being bullied or if this is one isolated incident. When you are in the right frame of mind, reassess your emotional reaction as well before you take any drastic action. If the unpleasant behavior is targeted over a period of time and repeated, then you need to realize that you are being bullied.
- Seek help: If you are stressed out, or are facing health issues, address your health and mental well-being first before you decide what to do to better your situation at work. Take a few days off if required and seek professional help.
- Record your interactions: Keep a note of your interactions where you feel bullied. If there’s a paper trail, threats via mail, witnesses, etc., document your exchanges.
- Confront the bully: There may be a possibility that the bully does not really know that he is bullying you and that his actions are stressing you out. Having an open discussion gives the person a chance to revisit his behavior. If you see him getting defensive or retaliating, you will have to go higher up the chain or to a neutral third party.
- Know your organization’s policy: Although it’s not necessarily illegal to bully at work, many organizations have a zero-tolerance policy. Understand how your organization will handle the situation.
- Report the bully: It is easier said than done, but keep the emotion out of the equation. When presenting your case, be as objective as you can in recounting your experiences and sharing your documented proof.
- Stay prepared: There may or may not be any action taken, depending on how your organization treats the case, especially if your bully is in a position of power. Before you report the bully, consider what your options are if there is no action taken. Can you ask for a transfer? Apply for a different job? If you need to look for a job, start now. In case things do not go as planned, you don’t want to be left without any options.
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Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
Padmaja Ganeshan-Singh is a freelance writer and an HR professional with extensive experience in employee relations, talent management and career development. She can also talk endlessly on the merits and demerits of forced distribution and pay for performance. In her free time, she tries to figure out the personality type of people she meets using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator. INTJ anyone?