Many of us dealt with “that kid.” That kid who made fun of the way we talked, our clothes or where we were from, leaving us in tears or scared to go to school. The playground bully haunts every school with his/her mean comments and bad behavior, and we all thought that once we left school, we would leave behind the bullies. However, many of us have or will learn quickly that bullying is not just a kid thing.
According to Forbes Magazine, 96 percent of American employees experience bullying in the workplace.* With such a staggering percentage, you are likely to see bullying behavior (directly or indirectly) in your office. This behavior should never be tolerated, but unfortunately, there are currently no laws protecting employees from workplace bullies, so these incidents are dealt with on an office-to-office, company-to-company level. Some companies have zero-tolerance policies, but oftentimes, these incidents aren’t dealt with at all. Bullies thrive in environments where there is lack of action in stopping their behavior, so whether you’re a leader or a new teammate, the victim or the witness, you can make a difference by taking a stand. Here is some information to arm yourself with as we deal with this issue together:
What is Workplace Bullying?
The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) defines workplace bullying as, “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating or intimidating, work interfering (sabotage) or verbal abuse.” ** But what does this mean exactly?
CareerBuilder broke it down a little further as being:
- Falsely accused of mistakes you didn’t make
- Comments were ignored, dismissed or not acknowledged
- A different set of standards or policies for you
- Gossip about you
- Constantly criticized by your boss and/or coworkers
- Belittling comments made about your work during meetings
- Yelled at by your boss in front of your teammates
- Purposely excluded from projects or meetings
- Credit for your work was stolen
- Picked on for race, gender, appearance, etc. ***
Although it’s not typically physical, bullying is a form of violence that causes emotional and mental harm, and because of that, it’s actually tough to identify if you or someone you know is being bullied. WBI wrote out a list of signs to help you determine if you or your friend is a victim of workplace bullying.
What to do if You’re being Bullied
Regardless if it’s your boss, a teammate or that colleague sitting across the room, it’s tough to face a workplace bully. “Standing up to the person” is often easier said than done, so if you’re uncomfortable confronting your bully, here are other options:
Document incidents: As most matters at work, a paper trail can be your best friend. Keep a log of your interactions with your bully, so it’s easier for you to talk about specific instances and how you dealt with them.
Stay professional: Bullies try to push your emotional buttons, but do your best to protect your professionalism. This is also easier said than done, but respond to the bullying in a way you’re proud of.
Talk to HR: Talk to somebody you trust who will take action, like HR. Although you may have a good relationship with your boss, he/she might not want or be able to get involved. Your company’s HR team has been trained in how to handle bullying, so they will be your best bet.
Change jobs: Finding a new job is not letting your bully win; it’s taking a stand and advocating for your emotional health. You deserve a safe work environment, and if your company cannot provide it to you, find a company that will.
What to do if You Witness Bullying
If you have witnessed any bullying behavior, remember the golden policy – if you see something, say something. Either stand up for the person being bullied or bring the incident to HR or a leader you trust. Again, bullies thrive in environments that lack action. Action doesn’t always need to come from the top down – you can make the difference from where ever you sit – remember that.
Again, bullying is not just a kid thing, and although there are not laws to protect everyone outside of the schoolyard, that does not mean we have to tolerate the behavior. Take a stand for yourself and your teammates, and help us get rid of bullying in the workplace!
* Forbes Magazine, “What Workplace Bullying Looks Like In 2014 — And How To Intervene,” http://www.forbes.com/sites/naomishavin/2014/06/25/what-work-place-bullying-looks-like-in-2014-and-how-to-intervene/
** Workplace Bullying Institute, “The WBI Definition of Workplace Bullying,” http://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/definition/
*** CareerBuilder, “Office Bullying Plagues Workers Across Races, Job Levels and Educational Attainment, According to CareerBuilder’s New Study,” http://www.careerbuilder.com/share/aboutus/pressreleasesdetail.aspx?sd=9%2F18%2F2014&id=pr842&ed=12%2F31%2F2014