The unfortunate truth is that bullying doesn’t stop when you leave high-school, and many of us will see bullying throughout adulthood.
One of the places bullying continues to exist is at the workplace. Are you a victim? Is there somebody who insults you at every moment? Is there somebody who gives you “extra" attention, and goes out of their way to do it? If so, then you might have a bully on your hands.
But you can’t just up and leave your job because there’s a bully there, so what can you do about it? Well, dealing with a bully can be tough but there is a way to do it.
First of all, you need to determine if you’re actually being singled out by a bully or if this person just has a bad attitude. Because if they just have a bad attitude, then you know that you don’t have as big of a problem on your hands. See how they treat everybody else; does it look similar to how they treat you? Or do you seem to get extra attention from this person? If you seem to have a “special” relationship with this person, then there might be a bullying problem.
Here’s a list of bullying actions for you to look out for:
-Belittling (especially in front of others)
-Hovering (being around you more than they should)
-Making your work harder (maybe by withholding crucial work info)
-Attempts to take credit for your work
-Making you feel unwelcome (making it hard for you to be part of the conversation, inviting everybody except you to lunch)
But the most obvious clue is that one - or all - of these behaviors are experienced again, and again, and again.
Can you relate to this? If so, then it’s time for you to take some action.
First of all, it’s important that you maintain composure when dealing with a bully. Don’t get emotional and throw a hissy fit; that just shows the bully that they're getting to you. Instead, focus on just doing your work and acting as if everything’s normal. It won’t be easy, but the last thing you need is to give the bully more ammo. If they see that your work is lacking in any way or that you’re late or something, then they’ll use it against you.
Secondly, you need to take real action to thwart the bully behavior. This part will be tough, as lots of people hate confrontation, but the temporary discomfort is outweighed by the long-term benefits. It starts with “calling them out,” and explaining to them in clear detail that their behavior is unacceptable. The point of this is to detail their actions to them, that way they understand that you’re aware of their bullying behaviors.
Then explain to them why it’s frustrating. For instance, if they're insulting you in some way, then tell them “it makes me feel unwelcome when you make comments like that about me, is that your intention?” Or if they’re hovering, “I feel very uncomfortable when you hang outside my office for no reason, do you have a good reason for it?”
Once again, the point is to bring light to the bully that you’re aware of what they’re doing. Even for bullies, outright admitting they’re bullying others can be hard (unless you’ve got a bigger bully on your hands, which will require further steps as you’ll see), so this will throw them off balance.
At this point you want to wait and see what the bully will do. If they keep bothering you, repeat the advice listed above. What you want is for them to give up after seeing that you aren’t an easy mark, so give it a couple days and see if they start to let up.
If nothing changes, then it’s clear that you need to take bigger steps to deal with them.
This part will be annoying to do, as it proves that the bullying is getting to you, but it’s necessary. Start keeping a journal of all incidents involving the bully; this includes time, date, location, and witnesses. You need to “build a case” against this bully, and this means proving a pattern of bullying behavior.
The best evidence is the indisputable kind, so make sure to keep track of any emails, voicemails, or paperwork that proves bullying behavior. See if anybody else has experienced being bullied by this person, and if you can, get others to witness the bully in action.
There’s no exact number for the amount of evidence needed, just make sure that you can prove that it’s an ongoing problem that affects your work and work life.
After gathering the necessary evidence and eyewitness testimony, organize and prepare it for a presentation. You’re going to show it to the higher-ups, and it needs to be clear that you aren’t just overreacting and that you’re dead serious about dealing with a workplace bully. So keep a cool head, present your case, thank them for their time, and then leave. It’s just like any other meeting with your superiors, so treat it as such.
It’s also important to be aware of any affiliations the bully might have with the higher-ups. If you know they’re friends with the manager, go to HR. And if it’s reversed, go to management.
This is the hard part, but you’ve got to just wait and see what happens. If all goes well, then steps will be taken to reduce workplace bullying and things will get better. But the reality is that sometimes - even if you do everything correctly - things will not work out the way you’d like. If this is the case, then be prepared for the possibility of leaving your job for one that treats you more fairly and will actually help you with your work-related problems. You don’t want to work in a place that allows bullying, and it’s not worth staying if your job does.
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