Bullying In The Workplace


Do you have a person in your workplace that you dread running into during the day? Do you find yourself looking over your shoulder, taking precaution to walk around with other staff, getting sick to your stomach just walking to your car at the end of the day; and all because you’re living in fear of a fellow employee? Sounds like you might be having an issue with a bully.
Some people tend to thrive on exploiting the vulnerable, and those exploited don’t always have to be the stereotypical nerdy girl or guy picked on by some muscular good-looking ex-football star. The real world is much more complex than that. And it’s sad really when you think about it; somebody gaining satisfaction from the power they have over someone else. There isn’t sufficient space in this blog, nor do I have all the answers that might explain what’s going on in the head of a bully, but I want to focus on what you might do if you find yourself the victim of this anyhow.
And this situation has to soon be remedied or you’re going to have some long-term anxiety issues. Some victims have been known to quit their jobs outright just to eliminate the power of the bully over them in the workplace, and if the community where they live is small, some pick up and move to other neighbourhoods or even other towns. This doesn’t really address the issue or change the behaviour of the bully, but it does offer the victim an immediate solution, even if it does create other issues like finding a new job, bearing the financial cost of a move or being isolated from family and friends who may live in the old neighbourhood.
Imagine if this were our child in primary school. As parents, we’d probably have a talk with our youngster when they came home and tell them a variety of things. We might suggest they stand up for themselves, tell the bully to stop, and we might put in a phone call to the school Principal, or make an appointment in person to advocate for our child and get the authorities to intervene. Maybe things would improve, and maybe they wouldn’t. If this was in high school where kids tend to see each other outside of the school itself, we might even hope the school transfers the bully to another school, or get our teen to another school.
But when the problem is more personal; we’re the one being bullied and we’re an adult, we don’t tend to follow our own advice. The idea of confronting a bully that you may have to work with all day long is sickening. It requires assertiveness, courage and that may be something we don’t feel we have. And while you may think about going to your boss, what if the boss shrugs it off, tells us to deal with it our self, or even doesn’t see there’s any problem at all? Then what?
Thankfully, there is more acceptance in 2014 than in years past for coming forward with these kinds of issues in the workplace. Many employers have policies set in place to deal with workplace harassment, some have employee counselling programs in-house, or will cover the cost of external counselling services. To get these solutions in place however, you have to alert your organization that you are experiencing a problem. Rather than see this as aggravating the problem with the bully or stirring up a hornet’s nest, see this as being a proactive step to resolve your issue.
Other options include asking your boss to set up a meeting with the employee, yourself and a third-party. Yes, you will probably be ill just thinking about that scenario, but it may be preferable to doing nothing and allowing the situation to continue. Your focus isn’t on getting them into trouble, it’s about maintaining or regaining your mental health and working free from harassing behaviour. Some bullies don’t even see there is an issue. How can they not? Well it’s true. When they do know they are being a bully, they alter their own behaviour and really do try to change how they may have been interacting with you.
In other situations you may be able to apply for a transfer to another office or workstation, where you don’t run into each other, and this preserves your job. If this is an option, you may not even need to raise the issue with anyone at all.
If you feel that you are a victim, good advice is not to join the bully and start beating yourself up too. What do I mean by that? You know, feeling miserable because you tell yourself you should do something or say something and yet you don’t so you get mad at yourself. Beating yourself up over your reluctance or inability to take action only adds to the problem. Bullying is wrong and should not be tolerated. One way or the other, you must take action and sooner is better than later.
Anyone can be a victim of bullying. You would be surprised how many well-adjusted confident people have someone in their lives at present or in the past, whom they have found themselves bullied by. Hard to imagine maybe, but ask them and you’ll find it’s often true. Bullying is not just your problem, it’s everybody’s business.

5 thoughts on “Bullying In The Workplace

  1. Kelly —
    Your article has an unfortunate ring to it.
    In one of my more recent roles there was a bully within the organization. Some of those whom he bullied over the years did leave their jobs; others continued to endure it. On the sidelines, were a dozen others who might shake their heads, or send IMs to one another about the bully’s actions and statements, but wouldn’t do anything beyond being expressing that something should be done.
    I took it upon myself to get something done. I formally complained about the bully and his behavior. Much to my chagrin, the process was heavily weighted upon the evidence I had — which wasn’t a lot. Bully’s, I discovered, are very calculating. They cover their tracks by doing such things as “forgetting” to record a particularly offensive status review.
    The final comment from the case manager after our meeting was that my complaint would be investigated further. I doubt it ever was because the case manager left the company the day after listening to my complaint.
    No long after, I left as well.

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    1. I’m glad you stood up for what was right Michael, and those left behind after you left may have also appreciated your efforts.
      Ironic in the timing of the departure of the Manager. Sometimes moving on is the best for our own mental health.
      Thanks for your contribution.

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  2. Targets, victims and witnesses of bullying have a few avenues to pursue (as compared with victims of sexual harassment) when subjected to bullying, i.e., repeated and obvious acts of aggression, spreading malicious rumours, excluding someone socially or from certain projects, undermining or impeding a person’s work or opinions, insulting a person’s habits, attitudes, or private life and intruding upon a person’s privacy. Others include being rude or belligerent, destroying property, assaulting an individual, or setting impossible deadlines. Although bullying is recognized as detrimental to occupational health, there is little political or corporate interest in stopping it.

    In schoolyard bullying, the bullies are children, whose behaviour is controlled by the leaders, i.e. the school administration. In workplace bullying, however, the bullies are often the leaders themselves, i.e., the managers and supervisors. Therefore, reporting a bully to the HR dept, for example, may expose the target/victim to the risk of even more bullying, slower career advancement, or even termination, on the grounds of being a “troublemaker!”.

    Workplace bullying has severe consequences, including reduced effectiveness and high employee turnover. An employee who suffers any physical or psychiatric injury as a result of workplace bullying can confront the bully, report the bully to the HR department or to the trade union, if any, or bring a claim of negligence and/or a personal injury claim against both the employer and the abusive employee as joint respondents in the claim. If the law does not persuade employers to deal with workplace bullying, the economic reality will persuade them. Training sessions can help when combined with a confidential reporting structure, but it is difficult to alter the basic nature of some individuals, who may need counselling.

    Maxwell Pinto, Business Author

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    1. “Setting up impossible deadlines” in a corporate setting sounds very familiar to me. How did I previously manage to put up with two other co-workers with the same job title as mine who couldn’t seem to carry their own weight of work and then they demand that I get the majority of the work completed at the end of the day prior to leaving office? Isn’t any wonder why i came to be self-employed a few years later down the road.

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