What to do about Workplace Bullying
(Originally published Sep. 24, 2014)
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “bullying?” Brats in the playground, pushing and shoving on the school bus or perhaps it’s the online flaming that has generated so much press in the last few years.
But bullying in the workplace, nah, it didn’t come to mind, did it? But tell the truth, have you or anyone that you know ever been bullied? Chances are that you have to some degree or another. Should we say it’s just human nature and a consequence of people working together? Perhaps but regardless, if you’ve ever found yourself in the position of being bullied, you know that it is uncomfortable and highly stressful at best.
Workplace bullying rarely takes the form of physical abuse (we’ll hold off from discussing sexual harassment in this post). Rather the bullying is much more subtle, psychological and insidious.
- A co-worker or manager that neglects to provide you with information that is critical for the execution of your job
- Being publicly scolded and berated for something that you have done (or not)
- Dealing with humiliating actions and rude behaviors in the break or lunch rooms
- Being continually left out of after work gatherings and parties
- Having your work simply “disappear” from your desk
- Teasing and taunting by co-workers
Ignoring such actions will not make them disappear and since we spend the majority of our waking hours in the workplace, burying your head in the sand can be downright detrimental to your health and wellbeing.
Instead of avoidance consider the following action steps that are all designed to stop the bully in their tracks:
- As difficult as it might be, engage the bully in a dialogue about their actions. Often a bully will not even recognize that their behavior is causing you distress. They think that it is “all in good fun” without understanding that what they are doing is causing you discomfort. Conduct this conversation carefully and don’t be confrontational and accusatory. Remember that this is Step 1 and is often successful at getting the bully to realize what they are doing and stop their actions.
- If having a conversation goes nowhere and the behaviors continue it might be time to discuss the situation with HR. Once again the conversation that you have must be conducted in a calm and productive manner; no hysteria or raised voice. State your case, be as specific as possible citing examples of emails or in-person situations in which the bullying occurred. And, of course, be careful about your verbiage lest you lead HR to believe that you are the cause of the problem.
- Don’t spend your lunch hour and break times complaining to your co-workers about the bullying. Surround yourself with positive co-workers and recognize that your time away from work should be used in more pleasant and rewarding conversation. This will assist in minimizing your stress.
While the situation might feel overwhelming, once a company understands that bullying in the workplace will impact productivity and profits, action is soon to follow. Throughout it all you should remain a cooperative team player so that you don’t provide any reason for the company to question your behavior.
For further discussion or comments, please contact Gail L. Trugman Nikol, President Unique Business Solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (516) 935-5641.