Don’t let workplace bullies win

by | 27.07.23

Unfortunately bullying isn’t one of those things you can put behind you when you become an adult, offices can have bullies too. In fact they are more common than you might think. Being bullied at work can harm both your mental and your physical health. It really is damaging and can create a place where you are always afraid and you can’t be yourself. Here I am going to break down what workplace bullying actually is, what it looks like and how you can deal with it. So here we go:

What is bullying?

According to the dictionary bullying is “repeated mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators”. It usually consists of abusive conduct – including verbal abuse – is intimidating, threatening or humiliating to the target. It can and often does interfere with the targets ability to get their work done.

How to identify a bully

There are four types of workplace bullies, the majority are bosses but over a third are work colleagues. In short bullying can come from any direction. Here are four kinds of bullies you might encounter. 1) The aggressive communicator you shouts a lot or sends angry emails. 2) The constant critic who picks on every little thing you do and tells you how it could be improved. 3) The gatekeeper who manipulates you and withholds resources including instructions on how to do a job. 4) The two-headed snake, this is one of the most difficult kinds of bully to detect but basically they are someone who pretends to be your friend whilst undermining you behind your back.

Don’t be afraid to speak up

You do have a window of opportunity to nip things in the bud before you become the long-term target of a workplace bully. One of the best things you can do for yourself is the minute somebody mistreats you, you speak up right then and squash it. If you don’t deal with a bully in the early stages, it’ll only get worse. Remember bullies aren’t brave, in fact usually they are weaklings, so confront them if it happens to you, I promise you they will quickly back down.

Record the abuse and what you did about it

If it took you a while to realise the full severity of what is happening to you and you feel like you’ve missed your chance to react, start recording. Keep a diary of who, what, when, where and why things happened. In addition if the bullying is being done by email, and bullies love this media, keep a copy of all emails to back up your story. If you report it at any stage to a senior Manager or HR this is good evidence.

Do your research

Does your Company have a policy about bullying, mistreatment, verbal abuse or anything similar? Since bullying is not illegal many Companies don’t have a formal policy against it. But its worth your time checking your employee handbook or contract of employment. It can only strengthen your case if you’re able to point this policy out if you decide to make a complaint. At the same time consider seeking legal advise to see whether there is some sort of legal recourse.

Talk to someone

If you’ve made some attempts to deal with the situation and haven’t got anywhere speak to your Manager – assuming they aren’t the bully of course. If your boss is the problem think about whether you trust someone above them enough to seek their advise. The key here is to assess the situation and to try to gauge relationships within your Company.

Approach HR or someone in power

Before you make any moves to talk to HR you’ll want to do a few things. Firstly decide who in HR you think is the best person to speak to. Secondly think about how you can make a business case about the bullying, by business case I mean how this persons behaviour is affecting your productivity and the office atmosphere. Finally think about what you want. Is it that you just want to let them know or is it that you want their help or do you want to get the person transferred or sacked? What is your aim and what are you going to do if this doesn’t happen.

Should you look for a new job?

The reality is that most bullying situations end with the victim leaving their job, whether it’s because they get fed up or end up getting sacked because their performance suffers under the stress of long-term abuse. So if you are being bullied and nothing is being done about it and the horrible individual is not going to stop their war against you my advise is it’s in your best interest to start searching for a new job as soon as you can.

Bullying is a horrible, horrible thing and whilst this is easier said than done, do your best not to take bullying personally. Remember when someone is bullying you its more about them than it is about you. Often a bully is acting from a place of insecurity, jealousy or from the need to control. In fact the target of bullies are often high performers who are doing well at work. Don’t feel bad about yourself just keep in mind that a bully is always a sad individual.

Good Luck

Angela Burton