HR Blog

December 17, 2021 | Olaide Bakare, PHRi

Unfortunately, for some people, bullying does not end in the high school. Bullying at work, amongst grown adults, is a reality. And it is a reality which if not dealt with in the right way, can have very damaging effects.

Do you regularly feel intimidated by and dread to work near a particular co-worker? Does a co-worker talk over you at meetings, criticize you, or steal credit for your work? Are you repeatedly yelled at, insulted, given impossible deadlines, or isolated from opportunities by a senior colleague or boss?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then chances are good that you have a bully co-worker or boss!

Workplace bullying refers to any repeated, intentional behaviour directed at an employee that is intended to degrade, humiliate, embarrass, or otherwise undermine their performance. It can come from colleagues, supervisors, or management.

In addition to the actions described previously, you know you are working with a bully when he/she picks out your mistakes and constantly brings them to your attention in a condescending manner. Or worse, they gossip about you, and tell lies to your co-workers.

If you feel you are the victim of workplace bullying, begin to take action with these steps:

Speak Up

One of the best things that you can do for yourself is that the minute somebody mistreats you, you speak up in that moment and squash it. Firmly tell the person that his or her behaviour is not acceptable and ask them to stop.

Resist the urge to retaliate, as this may result in you looking like the perpetrator and will most certainly cause confusion for those who may need to officially evaluate and deal with the situation.

Document the Abuse and Your Performance

If it took you a while to realize the full severity of what was happening to you and you feel like you have missed your chance to react quickly, start documenting.

Record the date, time and what happened in as much detail as possible, as well as the names of witnesses. Remember, it is not just the character of the incidents, but intent of the behaviour and frequency. If you decide to report the bully later, you will want to be able to give concrete examples of the behaviours you are describing.

In addition, start filing away any emails or other evidence to back up your side of the story. For example, if your boss is criticizing your performance, collect documentation that demonstrates quantifiable results of projects you are working on as well as any praise-filled emails you have gotten from other stakeholders.

Get to Know Your Company’s Policy

Does your company have a policy about bullying, mistreatment, verbal abuse, or anything similar that you might be able to reference?

Find out all the details you can, including processes on informing supervisors and the steps you can expect them to take.

Talk to Your Manager (or Someone Else, if Your Boss Is the Bully)

If you have made some attempts to deal with the situation and have gotten nowhere, you can consider speaking to your manager (assuming they are not the bully, of course).

If your manager is the person who is bullying you, or you do not feel safe talking to your manager directly, you can take your concerns to someone more senior than them, or straight to human resources (HR). Use your notes as a reference and clearly outline what has been going on and how it is affecting you. A lot of the time, HR will try to sort things out through mediation. But the person who is bullying you could be given a written warning or even be terminated.

Take Care of Yourself Outside of Work

Bullying can take a huge toll on you in the workplace and your personal life. But it can help to try to balance the damaging influences with positive ones.

If you can, engage in activities outside of work that would make you feel good about yourself. Spend time with your friends and family and lean on them for support. Though, be aware that venting constantly about your work woes could strain your relationships.

In conclusion,

Bullying is a serious issue in many workplaces, as it affects the overall health of the organization. An unhealthy workplace can have many detrimental effects, ranging from increased absenteeism to increased turnover, increased stress, increased costs for employee assistance programs (EAPs) and recruitment, decreased productivity and motivation, reduced corporate image, and consequently, poor bottom line.

As an employer, you have a responsibility to prevent workplace bullying. To start with, all organizations, no matter the size should have well known procedures in place for dealing with grievance and disciplinary matters, including information on which employees can turn to for work-related problems.

There should be a well-known policy on what acceptable and unacceptable behaviours are, and such policy should be periodically reviewed and monitored.

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