Bullying in the workplace is common and is getting more attention. There's no need for an employee to needlessly suffer due to a co-worker or boss who enjoys manipulating others and seeing them suffer. It's the classic situation where a person lifts themselves up by pushing others down.
When the term "bully" comes up we often think of the bully we knew in school. That person probably grew up to be the workplace bully, using the same tactics just in a different time and place. They,
● Intimidate their victims,
● Spread rumors to tarnish a coworker's reputation,
● Fail to invite an employee to an important meeting, and
● Make fun of coworkers or tell inappropriate jokes at a victim's expense.
The bully's goal in school may have been to climb up the informal hierarchy of students. As an adult the goal may be to climb up the management ladder by torpedoing the careers of co-workers with backstabbing or simply making their lives so miserable they leave.
In a Forbes article bullying expert Sherri Gordon says,
● Being bullied can have serious physical, psychological and professional consequences, especially if it's long-term. Victims need to protect themselves.
● Recognize what you can control (your response) and what can't be controlled (the bully's words and actions).
● Set boundaries with the bully. Be direct about his or her unacceptable behavior and language. Inform the person that if they continue you will make a report to management. Remain calm, cool and matter of fact. If you become emotional the bully will use it against you.
● If the bullying continues and this isn't a one-time incident, report it to your supervisor and/or human resources. If the bully is your boss, go to his or her supervisor.
● Document the incidents, including dates, times, quotes and witnesses. Make your presentation as professional and thorough as possible. Stick to the facts, avoid emotion and ask that the situation be resolved.
Workplace bullies may target coworkers who are the most capable they want to eliminate any threat to their own advancement. Victims may be the people the company should most want to keep.
Ideally the bully will stop once you let the person know you won't be playing his or her games. Management should recognize bullies are counter-productive. They poison an atmosphere that should be positive and emphasize team work.
Being bullied, in and of itself, is not necessarily illegal. However if the bullying is severe enough and targeted towards those of a legally protected basis (race, sex, age, disability, nationality) it may constitute illegal discrimination if the employer doesn't stop it once it's on notice of the problem.
If you believe you're the victim of workplace bullying, it's impacting your work and your health and management isn't taking effective action to stop it, contact our office. We can discuss the situation, whether laws have been broken and what you should do to protect yourself from further harm.