Ever heard the story of an ugly duckling born to a family of pretty ones? He gets teased and teased some more. Tired and upset, he leaves duckville. The ugly duckling finds a flock of swans and realizes that he is actually one of them. He is finally happy until the big burly swan pokes fun at him ‘coz he was brought up as a duck. He cries and he cries. The end.
Moral of the story: Bullying is an equal opportunity offense. It could happen no matter what your circumstances are. Whether you are a little duckling or a fully grown swan. And the story is no different if it happens to happen to you, at work.
A study done in collaboration with the Workplace Bullying and Trauma Institute (WBTI), performed in 2010, showed that nearly 35% of US employees are victims of workplace bullying, while about 15% swear that they have seen it happen.
Office Bullying is not an uncommon phenomenon. And if you are feeling abused, you are certainly not alone. We are here to help. We are not promising to reform the bullies but we are certainly going to try and help you find ways to tackle them and give them a proverbial round house kick in their over inflated behind!
However, before you start huffing puffing and getting geared up to swing your foot, let’s find out first how to tell a bully from a person who is just cranky because of a bad day.
Well. There is always a pattern. Not a pretty one like you would see in expensive china. Just an ugly face of insecurities and other manipulative tendencies that lead people to become bullies. Bullies could be smart and conniving in hiding their tracks and use covert ways to abuse you.
They could also be outrightly dense and aggressive to not even bother to make their offensive ways unknown to others. They would bully overtly, yelling and intimidating their targets, reeking havoc on their way (Read Twelve manipulation techniques used to abuse you at work).
Office Bully Examples
Here are few classic ones.
-The coworker or boss who constantly belittles your accomplishments. He doesn’t care that you have worked your best and really hard. He will find a way to make you feel unaccomplished. Are you really proud of that report? Phhbbt!
-The colleague who lies about you to others. He will spew stories that somehow manage to make whatever you do, suspect. Do you know the real reason why she got that promotion?
-The boss who yells at every chance he gets. He is that guy from your school yard who used to steal your lunch money and call you silly names. Who cares about your daughter’s PTA? You better come to work this weekend. (Read signs that you become a corporate slave)
–On a serious level bullying can transform into harassment, even sexual. That’s a serious and important topic to be considered separately. But if you do feel sexually threatened at work, seek legal help.
How does office bullying really impact you?
You could be the target and suffer from trauma and stress. Going to work might become the biggest task you can’t handle. You could be calling in sick often. You might try to blend into the boring furniture, at work, just so as to not be spotted. Your career growth might be harmed. You could be praying each day for sweet release, either in the form of another job, for you or your bully. And worse, it could impact your mental well being, slipping into depression and unsocial behavior.
Read how stress is killing you.
These are all very dangerous effects and if left unchecked, can become even more serious (Read helpful habits to reduce stress). Won’t it be a swell idea to instead find ways to make your bully’s life somewhat uncomfortable? We are not talking about a Bollywood style intakaam saga. Just a message directed at the giver of your pains.
Follow these six steps towards inner peace.
6 Tips to tackle Bullying at Work
1. Recognize and acknowledge the behavior
It is not always easy to realize that you are being targeted for making fun or showcasing someone’s power over you. It could be done behind your back or even in ways that only an equally evil and Machiavellian mind can detect.
What you can, however go with, is the feeling you are left with after associating with someone like that. If you see a repeating pattern of being left with a bad feeling about yourself, as a consequence of their behavior towards you, then that person is the one probably causing it.
The moment you recognize your abuser, you can stop feeling like you are the source to your unhappiness at work. It is that guy, the bully, who we shall call Donald Dump.
2. Here’s where I draw the line, Mr. Dump
Set your limits. If you don’t like the way he talks to you, or makes fun of your hair everyday, or even decides to scream at you, twice after every meal, you should let him calm down first and tell him that this behavior is not appreciated.
Be objective and its better to not break into tears and a shaky voice if you want to sound strong and determined. Say it as you see it. I don’t like you making such jokes or please calm down before you speak.
As long as you make him aware of your limits, you will know when he has deliberately broken them. Once he does that, it should be perfectly justified for you to move on to a counter attack.
3. Keep a scrapbook
Document the offense. That way you will have your story straight if it needs escalation.
Today Donald Dump called me a liar, at 10:35am. He stole my report at 2:07pm, falsified my numbers sometime right after and told everyone that I am incompetent, at 5:18pm. And oh! He even said something nasty about babies, at noon.
Does he love sending you hate mails or nasty messages? Print them, file them and store them safely away from anyone’s access. Become a James Bond 006, one in the making. Investigate the way his behavior, and its impact on you, is in turn impacting the corporation.
You were constantly hounded by this man about an irrelevant detail which instead made you miss the deadline and thus the client.
Store the evidence of the voicemail sent three hours before the deadline. The one asking you to stop everything and run to the store to get him his angry pills.
4. United we stand, divided we stall
A bully is a creature of habit. So if there is a Donald in your office, he is probably being nasty to not just you but also Suzy in accounting, Javed in admin and Maria in IT. Keep your eyes open for other victims and take them into your confidence.
So whenever he does something unpleasant, point it out. Odds are you will find people who understand your plight. Encourage everyone to document his actions. Having more than one person call him a bully just makes for a better case.
5. Confront the bully
Give him a chance. Tell him that this is unacceptable and let him defend himself. Be respectful and calm. Don’t go into a rant of how it was your childhood dream and how you traveled across the country part on foot, and part on top of a bus, just so you could work here.
The moment you become vulnerable, lose your cool and your focus, Dump will get his bullying ground back under his feet. Just stay strong and objective. If you find that your words are essentially bouncing off his thick head and out of the window, just move on to the next step, escalation.
6. Dump The Dump on your employer’s lap
Once you and your pals have all the data to support your case, use it to show someone, preferably way higher than you and your bully, that his actions are detrimental to the company. You see, it is your employer’s responsibility to provide you with a good and healthy working environment.
If they are willing to set the bully straight, your job is done. If not, then you will have to choose between either staying put and getting a legal ground to fight with the employer or perhaps, leave and look for another opportunity. The former requires strength and courage.
While commendable, you should hold your health and sanity in priority and recognize when you are beginning to jeopardize them. You see the main aim is to expose the bully and protect yourself. If protection means that you have to move to another workplace away from the toxicity, by all means do so.
Just make sure you have evidence of the workplace harassment that Dump caused. It will come in handy if you sue him and your former employer for his negligent retention.
That brings us to the obvious question of who should you approach when you escalate? Well, research your company well. If the bully is the brother in law of the CEO, then you’d rather forget about any employer reprimand.
Not unless he is the kind of family the CEO rather not have. Go to someone who has a good reputation and is well respected. Someone who can hold the bully responsible for his actions. Don’t try to play any political game if you are not cut out for scheming. You will just end up digging a hole you can’t get out of.
The ultimate goal is to save yourself. While you would certainly want to resolve all bully troubles and live happily ever after at your company, sometimes it may just become important for you to recognize your health and safety risks and get yourself out of a toxic situation.
Whether you choose a legal comeback or not is your prerogative, but one thing is for sure, in these times and times to come,
Build a wall around you to protect yourself from the likes of Dump.
Sources: 1, 2 and 3 | Image credit: UCSD Neuroscience