Unfortunately, difficult economic conditions can increase the negative behaviors that people will tolerate in order to keep their jobs. If you ever find yourself the target of workplace bullying, it is important to have strategies to safeguard your emotional and physical well-being.
If You Experience Workplace Bullying
If you are being bullied at work:
- Don’t deny the problem. It is important to recognize when you are being bullied and to take steps to protect yourself.
- Don’t blame yourself. Workplace bullying is usually about control and rarely has anything to do with you personally.
- Get help.
- Check your company’s policy. Are there any guidelines or protocols that address workplace bullying? Is there a resource person that you can talk to about the situation?
- Contact your employee assistance group, if one is available. These groups are confidential and may be able to advise you. As an added bonus, your request for assistance can help document your experience of being bullied.
- Reach out to family, friends, and/or a professional counselor.
- Create a paper trail of the bully’s “bad behavior” and your “good behavior”. For example, if you receive a threatening phone call from the bully. Don’t call the bully back and subject yourself to further abuse. Instead, respond to the call via email, reiterating the bully’s threats and formulating your own professional response. If the bully ignores your work-related requests, send an email indicating that you haven’t received a response and copy others.
- If you choose to confront the bully’s bad behavior, always do it in writing. State your concerns in an email, and keep it professional. Indicate that you are raising your concerns in an effort to work better together.
- Exercise caution when confiding in your co-workers. Be careful about saying things to others that you don’t want to get back to the bully. The last thing you want to do is provide evidence against yourself. Also, some co-workers won’t want to be put in the middle, in which case you should respect their wishes and seek support elsewhere.
- Be impeccable. Keep your performance level high, and play strictly by the rules. This is often the best defense against someone who is trying to sabotage your success.
- Maintain a cheerful and positive attitude, even if you have to fake it. While this will be very difficult to do, it will show the bully that his or her campaign is not having the desired effect, which is sometimes the best revenge. (One caution though, some bullies may respond by escalating their campaigns.)
- Do not lose your temper. Always behave in a professional manner, regardless of how the bully is behaving. Not only will feel better about yourself, but it will also prevent the bully from gathering ammunition against you.
- Be proactive. Bullying behaviors are repetitive and often predictable. Do your best to anticipate the bully’s behavior, and have an action plan ready. Try to stay one step ahead of the bully.
- Take care of yourself. Relish your downtime. Relax, and do things you enjoy. Consult your healthcare provider if you are experiencing signs of stress or other medical issues.
- Update your resume, and keep your eye out for other jobs. It is empowering to know that you have other choices and that you don’t need to tolerate a hostile work environment. You should also realize that many workplace bullying situations can never be satisfactorily resolved. It’s best to be prepared for all possible outcomes.
How To Report Bullying
If you decide to report the bullying:
- Keep a written diary that details the nature of the bullying (e.g. dates, times, places, what was said or done, and who was present).
- Maintain copies of harassing/bullying paper trails, such as emails, and save threatening voice messages. You should also hold on to copies of documents that contradict the bully’s accusations against you (e.g. time sheets, audit reports, etc.)
- Keep a list of people you think may have observed the bullying. Find out if any of those people would be willing to speak on your behalf.
- Make a list of all the efforts you made to work the situation out (e.g. emails, phone calls, requests for help from HR or Employee Assistance)
- If you are experiencing serious health problems as a result of the bullying, get a documentation from your doctor.
- Report the behavior to an appropriate person or department, such as Human Resources or your Union Representative. Be prepared to present your case and back it up with plenty of documentation and evidence.
Don’t be a victim. Take a proactive stance to protect yourself. Use this situation to motivate yourself to find a better situation and environment.
Note: This article was first published in Cliff Harwin’s newsletter.