How to Deal With Office Bullying
Article brought to you by: Phillip Donaldson
Bullying is a concept that is most frequently associated with schools and youth. For the most part, people do not expect to experience this type of behavior as adults. Unfortunately, adult bullying does take place on a regular basis, particularly in the workplace. In fact, most people have either experienced this type of treatment at one point in their career, or have intentionally or unintentionally been a workplace bully themselves. For some people, bullying at work can be so severe that it is disruptive and can put their career in jeopardy. To prevent this from occurring, people must know how to recognize and effectively put a stop to work bullying.
What is Bullying?
Bullying can be defined as acts of aggressive or abusive behavior that are meant to belittle, insult or otherwise demean another person. The behavior of an adult bully is repetitive and it is meant to make the victim feel as if he or she is less competent or acceptable. When it comes to workplace bullying among adults, it is often not physical in nature. Work bullying is typically verbal and typically involves an abuse of power, criticism, threats and humiliation. The workplace bully often wants to make his or her victim feel and look incompetent.
Identifying a Bully
There are certain obvious and accurate ways to identify a bully in the workplace. This is generally done by observing the person's behavior. An office bully may portray one or more identifiable traits, such as "tattling" or going to management about everything - no matter how small, silly, or irrelevant. Other identifiable traits include always placing the blame on someone else for things that go wrong, and picking on another employee repeatedly and publicly. Office bullies are people who regularly like to point out the mistakes of others and share them with everyone in the office. A bully in the workplace may be one or more than one person. In some cases it can be a group or just a pair of co-workers who bully others. Often there are also signs that a business or department is affected by an adult bully. These signs are typically noticeable in terms of employee demeanor. Places affected by chronic adult bullying may have a high turnover rate, a high level of suspensions, legal actions against employees, frequent disciplinary procedures, and/or high rates of absences due to sickness.
Negative Effects of Bullying in the Workplace
Office bullying has a number of negative effects that range from loss of productivity to the development of physical and mental health problems. Bullying often results in a loss of productivity for the victim that can ultimately cost the business money. The victim of adult bullying at work may suffer from serious mental and physical problems such as panic attacks, anxiety, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression. When the bullying continues over time these symptoms could contribute to even greater health problems leading to panic attacks, and even heart attacks or strokes. Some victims may suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. Any of these conditions further affect the workplace in the form of time off from work due to illness or doctor's appointments. In some cases the behavior of an office bully may cause the victim's productivity to drop to a level that he or she is demoted or fired, resulting in financial hardship. Other times the employee may quit rather than suffer further bullying.
Steps to Stop Bullying
Often people find it difficult and even embarrassing to discuss workplace bullying. Despite this discomfort it is important to do so. Because of the potential impact that office bullying can have on a person's career, finances, and personal life, it is important that steps are taken to put an end to it as quickly as possible. No one should allow themselves to be subject to this type of abusive harassment regardless of whether the bully is a co-worker, manager, or even the actual owner.
The first thing that a person must do is talk with the individual or people who are doing the bullying. A request to stop the offending behavior is the correct first step in the event that the person is unaware of his or her behavior. The second step is to take accurate records. A person should document everything that transpires between the bully and themselves - including the request to stop the behavior. Include a date, the names of any witnesses to the incident, and the time that it occurred. If the behavior is non-verbal but in the form of emails or letters, keep copies of all correspondence. Once these first several steps have been done it is time to report the bullying if it has not stopped. In doing this it is necessary to know who to file the complaint with. If the office bully is a co-worker it is generally best to first speak with a supervisor. If the supervisor is not effective in stopping the bullying, a person should speak with human resources or upper management. If the person responsible for the bullying is a supervisor, going directly to human resources is the best course of action. Even after the complaint has been filed it is important to continue documenting anything that transpires. The conversation with the supervisor and/or human resources should also be documented and copies of any paper work kept in a safe location. These documents and notes will be important for the final step which is to contact an attorney. The attorney should be one that specializes in employment law and who is familiar with cases that involve bullying at work. This step is only taken if all other efforts to put a stop to the behavior have failed. All documentation should be presented to the attorney who will determine if there is a valid case or not.