Top Tips for Dealing with Workplace Bullies
Did you deal with bullies when you were in school? From the playground bullies of elementary school to the cliques of high school, kids who pick on other kids are a frustrating reality. If you were excited to leave that all behind when you graduated, you might want to hold off on celebrating. Bullies are nearly as prevalent in the workplace as they are in the schoolyard. In fact, it’s estimated that 60 million Americans deal with bullying each year, and 61 percent of those bullies are bosses. How you deal with workplace bullies can make all the difference in your work environment.
Workplace bullies come in many different varieties. There’s the aggressive communicator, expressing displeasure loudly all the time, whether it’s by yelling, sending angry emails, or using aggressive body language. Some bullies take their power by disparaging and humiliating others, constantly criticizing and insulting their targets, whether verbally or through email. This type of bully socially isolates people, pointing out their mistakes to others, but taking credit for their work. Some of the most frustrating bullies are those who manipulate others and withhold resources, setting their targets up for failure. There’s also the behind-the-scenes meddler, who pretends to be on a person’s side and yet undermines that person behind his or her back.
No matter what type of bully you’re encountering, it can make you dread going to work. In fact, nearly half of the people who are targeted by a bully at work experience stress-related problems including anxiety, panic attacks, and clinical depression. Workplace bullying has been defined as “repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees, abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating or intimidating, work sabotage or verbal abuse,” according to the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute. An estimated 81 percent of employers are perceived as doing nothing to combat bullying, and in fact, 71 percent of employer reactions and 60 percent of coworkers’ reactions are harmful to the targets of bullies. Considering that bullying isn’t illegal if your boss and coworkers are unlikely to help, what can you do about a bully?
It’s going to take personal courage, but it’s worth it if you’re able to improve the environment of your workplace.
- Nip it in the bud. If you’re going to stop bullying at your workplace, you need to speak up as soon as possible after it starts. As soon as you feel you’re being mistreated, call the problem to the attention of the person creating it. Explain why it’s a problem, and call to the bully’s values to cast your request for a change in behavior in a positive light. Use assertive body language, and say the person’s name frequently during your exchange. Establish clear expectations, setting limits on what you will tolerate, describing the behavior and offering suggestions for a different way to handle things.
- Document what’s happening. Keep a journal of what’s happening, and save emails or any other evidence of this bullying behavior, printing things so you have a hard copy as well as digital. If there were any witnesses to an incident, make a note of that, too. Pay attention to how the bully treats your coworkers, and ask them to document things as well. Bullying has a negative impact not just on the person being bullied, but also on the business as a whole, so it’s important to be ready to report it to HR if it doesn’t stop.
- Practice self-care. Bullying is hard on a person, and if you’re being bullied it can take its toll. Find ways to take care of yourself, spending time with family and friends and participating in activities that make you happy. If you are having trouble handling things, talk to a therapist or counselor, preferably one well-versed in trauma-informed counseling.
- Familiarize yourself with your company’s policies. Many companies don’t have a formal policy on bullying, but by reading the employee handbook you can find language that explains your organization’s values, as well as what is expected of employees. You might also consider seeking legal advice, especially if your situation qualifies as harassment.
- Talk to someone with power. Sometimes, ending bullying behavior is as simple as speaking to the boss about it. Unfortunately, sometimes the boss is the bully, in which case you’ll need to go higher. Talk to management and HR, bringing documentation and explaining what you’ve already tried. Plan what you’ll say ahead of time, being specific about actions you’d like management or HR to take.
- Don’t be afraid to find greener pastures. Unfortunately, most bullying situations lead to the target leaving the job. If you don’t see any resolution forthcoming, it’s smart to polish your resume and start looking at what else is out there, in case things don’t improve.
If you’re a boss looking to help your team bond and stave off workplace bullying, you might consider holding off-site training sessions. Away from familiar surroundings, in a more relaxed atmosphere, team members can learn together and connect. At Texas Training and Conference Centers, we pride ourselves on providing companies with training facilities that feature high-quality equipment and exceptional service. Our computer labs and other spaces come equipped with internet accessibility, printers and fax machines, Wi-Fi setup, on-site tech support, full projection systems, workstations, whiteboards, and computers furnished with the most cutting edge technology, to ensure that your training event is a success. Soundproof rooms, continental breakfast, and optional catered lunches are just a few of the other ways we provide the little niceties that make a big difference for your event. For the past 18 years, we’ve provided exceptional service to businesses throughout Houston, and we have the expertise to help you make your event a success. To learn more about Texas Training and Conference Centers, call us at 832.982.1708 or contact us through our website.