Having to deal with a bully in the office can cause a lot of distress, frustration and even anger. Bullying in the office can be anything from efforts to affect your self-esteem to calling you names or constantly criticising you. Even though a bully may make you dread going to work every day, it is possible to survive bullying tactics in the workplace.
It can sometimes be difficult to recognise exactly what bullying in the office is. Sometimes, the intimidation can start out as seemingly innocent comments. However, in time, you will probably realise that you are the subject of constant sarcasm, verbal abuse, humiliation, and being blamed when things go wrong.
Although bullying in the workplace may not be very common, a 2017 report in the United States found that 19% of people at work have experienced some form of bullying. Among the targets of office bullying, 23% felt that they had to leave their job to escape the bullying. Bullying can also start to affect your self-esteem and lead to emotional problems. (1)
There are some effective ways to stand up to an office bully to help survive the intolerable treatment that you have to face.
Let’s look at positive action you can take to stand up to a bully at work and avoid feelings of inadequacy when it comes to your job.
First, it is very important to realise that bullying is a cowardly practice rooted in the insecurities of the bully. Very often, a bully is driven by factors such as a need to control, fear of their own inadequacies, envy of your success, or other personal issues.
It can be helpful to try and identify if any others in the office are a target of the bullying behaviour. This may help you realise if the bully has an issue with other members of staff in general or just with you.
In some cases, it helps to talk to a trusted colleague to get their opinion on the person’s actions. This can help to put things into perspective and realise if there truly is a problem of bullying.
You should start documenting every time you encounter negative actions from the bully. You should record the date, what was said, and also make a note of anyone else present. (Of course, don’t do this in front of the bully!). This will give you something concrete to report later on if you can’t resolve the bully’s behaviour.
If you receive a bullying email, then make sure and keep a note of the correspondence for later use.
When dealing with a workplace bully, you need to take a firm stand and set specific limits on their behaviour. For example, if a bully watches over your shoulder when you work or enters your cubicle uninvited, you should firmly address the issue. You could ask what it is they are needing or inform them that they should ask permission to enter your workspace.
One very important fact when it comes to communicating with the bully – it is very important to stay calm and not enter into arguments with them.
In some cases, the bullying behaviour may persist despite your efforts in setting limits. In these cases, you should confront the bully and have a trusted colleague present.
It is very important to keep emotions out of the discussion and just stick to facts that you have documented. You should also explain how their behaviour is impacting on your work – after all, personal vendettas should not be allowed to affect the productivity of the organisation.
During the discussion, you should explain what behaviour is acceptable and what is not acceptable in the future.
If you find that they bully continues their unacceptable behaviour, you may need to speak to your manager or involve Human Resources in the matter. During the discussion with your supervisor, it is again important to leave emotions behind and just stick to the facts you have documented. You should also inform about the impact their behaviour has on your performance and your desire to continue working in a pleasant environment.
In some extreme cases, it may be necessary to look for a new job or request a transfer in the organisation. You may even have a case for legal action if your boss or bully take breaks labour laws on the treatment of employees.
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