Are you being picked on at work, but feel unable to prove it or do anything about it? Workplace bullies operate differently than schoolyard bullies. Adult bullies at work won’t try to steal your lunch money, but they will try to steal your self-esteem, your dignity and your respect. Workplace bullies can make you feel threatened, humiliated, offended and intimidated. This pervasive threat that exists in at least half of all organizations, can lead to substance abuse, distrust, depression, loss of employment and violence.
What Shape Does Workplace Bullying Take?
In workplaces where bullying exists, almost 75% reported verbal abuse, about 62% reported behind-the-back gossip with intent to harm, and approximately one-half reported direct threats and intimidation.
In astonishing findings reported by the Society for Human Resource Management, 44% of organizations polled say that they do not have a workplace bullying policy in place, and they have no plans to put one in place for the future.
Bullying is an insidious poison that works to destroy those who are the victim, the perpetrators, and even the organization where it takes place. In a Canadian research study, those who work in a place where bullying occurs, even if they are not the intended target of the bullying, are more likely to quit in order to avoid the atmosphere of bullying.
How to Handle Workplace Bullies
Here are some tactics to handle workplace bullies, in ascending order.
Try to Reason With Them
You aren’t dealing with a child, even though the bullying behavior might make it feel like you are. In some cases, as an adult, rational conversation may smooth everything over.
Use non-emotional, non-judgmental words to communicate your dissatisfaction with the bullying behavior. Be prepared to recall specific incidents when the bullying took place. It is within the realm of possibility that the bully will stop the behavior once they realize how unacceptable it is.
Record the Instances
If the bullying continues, make a written record of the instances when it occurs, along with the situation. Keep a log that entails the time, date, who was present, what was said, what happened, and the duration. This log will provide valuable data for future steps that you may need to take to protect yourself. Keep the existence of the log and its location, private. Don’t tell the bully or bullies that you’ve started keeping track.
Report the Bullying to HR
Request a private meeting with your HR department and bring your log. Don’t surrender your log, but use it as a memory jog to help you recall dates and details. Ask the HR department to record the meeting in your employee record. Find out what action the HR department intends to take on your behalf. Be sure to log in your HR meeting in your record book.
Bring it to a Higher Level
If the HR department doesn’t stop the bullying, take your case to the next higher level of management. Without using threats, convey that your case is a serious one that needs to be addressed immediately. Ask the manager what action they will be taking. Again, record this meeting, along with details in your log.
Remain Calm and Patient
Although you’re the so-called “victim,” you don’t have to act like one. During all these proceedings, it’s important that you remain calm and patient. It can take time for upper management to make changes to take care of bullying. Don’t sabotage your own situation by acting out or being hysterical. Maintain a professional demeanor and proceed with business as usual. You have a powerful weapon in the form of your log, and in the end you will prevail.
Take Legal Action
If your organization continues to fail to support you, it’s time to take legal action. Bring your log to an attorney to discuss your options. Don’t hand over your log, but do allow the legal office to make a copy for their reference. Legal action is your best defense against a workplace bully when your own organization does not back you up.
Gather Personal Support
If you’re in a situation where you are experiencing workplace bullying, it’s important that you have some personal support at home while all this is going on. Bullying has a way of making you feel small and worthless. This is false thinking, and it will help immensely to have someone who knows you help you remember your value in this world.
Some ideas for support include: bullying support groups for adults, personal therapist, supportive friends, understanding spouse, and supportive family members. Don’t try to handle this all by yourself. Away from work, confide in someone who can give you a shoulder to lean on. At work, be the strong, capable person you are, and handle it in a professional manner with the objective steps as explained above. You can rise above workplace bullies.