While bullying may be an issue that you expect to find on a playground, it is still creeping into adult’s lives in the form of the workplace bully. However, unlike the current, vocal anti-bullying campaigns that are urging children to speak up and get help, adult support over this similarly relevant issue seems to be lacking.
Perhaps we feel embarrassed or childish for making an issue out of a difficult person at work. Regardless of the reasoning, when another person’s words or actions continually humiliate you, isolate you or make you feel threatened, you are in fact a victim; and you absolutely deserve the harassment to stop. No matter your age or profession, workplace bullying is a real issue and luckily, it comes with some real solutions.
Evaluate and Understand
The first thing you need to do is evaluate the situation yourself. What type of bullying behavior are you experiencing? Is this person(s) aggressive, judgmental or full of blame? Is the problem one person, or your whole team? Do you think it would improve if you were reassigned somewhere else, or is that option even possible in your position?
It is important to remind yourself that the bullying, while it may be directed at you, in most cases is not about you at all. Someone who thrives off of bullying behavior is lashing out based on their own insecurities and issues. Chances are you have become a target because there is a great quality about you that makes the aggressor feels threatened.
Bullying is not something you should try to tackle all on your own, if you really want the issue to stop then you are going to need the support of those higher up. See what changes your boss can bring into the situation. Perhaps global accommodations (like addressing the workplace climate as a whole or encouraging transparency) will get the bully to wise up.
If the indirect approach does not leave lasting results, it’s time to confront your bully with a support team behind you. Prior to the sit-down be sure to document all incidents to make this situation as formal as possible. Your efforts toward resolution need to be made clear, and a paper trail will only help your cause.
Support and a Sit-Down
Should your bully attack you during your preparations, be sure not to react. This is a situation that needs to be handled in private if you really want a resolution. Additionally, getting a public rise out of you is probably your bully’s dream come true.
Instead, set up a private meeting with your boss or an HR representative somewhere where your bully will not feel the need to save face. Have your incident account ready to some off the formality of the situation with dates, times and descriptions.
While your bully may be the person who is completely at fault it would not hurt to diffuse the situation by making it more of a conversation about “what we can do to improve our workplace relationship and environment.” Sometimes a willingness to meet someone halfway will make them feel less threatened and hopefully, more receptive to the changes that need to be made.
Self Care and Carry On
Be sure not to discount the stress and unnecessary anxiety brought on by a bully. As a victim, you need to be willing to provide yourself with some self care. Find a healthy outlet to release any bad feelings or frustrations (like exercise or therapy). Also, be willing to give yourself some additional comfort with rest and relaxation.
Carry on with the knowing that what a bully says or does is less about you and more about them. Still, in no situation do you deserve to be someone’s punching bag. If necessary, continue to document incidents so that further, more permanent disciplinary action can be taken.
Also, arm yourself with reflective reasoning. If there is a “next time” put your bully’s bad behavior on spotlight with a question like, “I don’t understand the point of what you just said/did, can you explain?” Find a balance between remaining both calm and alert. Above all hold your ground, a bully will lose his/her steam when they realize that they cannot get a rise out of you. Watch out for your own best interest and strive through your own words and actions to make the workplace as peaceful a place as possible.
What other ways can a workplace bully be managed?