Dealing with Workplace Bullies


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You may have noticed lately that people are increasingly on edge. Blame it on the stress of working in a highly competitive workplace. Or blame it on a sluggish economy where people think no job (specifically theirs) is safe.

No matter how you look at it, tough times bring out the worst in people. This is most evident in the fact that workplace bullying is on the rise.

Chances are, at one time or another, an employee will make contact with aggressive co-workers. It is only reasonable to be prepared, if found bullied at work.

If you are bullied work, what is the right thing to do?

  • Recognize when bullying happens.

“Bullying can take various forms, like constant criticism, being yelled at in front of other people, or even physical abuse,” says Hanna Vineberg, Vice President of Randstad Canada.

“Before it escalates and creates real damage to your mental and physical health,” Vineberg says, “you need to assess the situation and to take appropriate measures to find a resolution.”

  • Speak up.

The first step in addressing workplace bullying is this—don’t let the bully get away with it.

If you (or a co-worker) is being verbally abused, say something. Often a single answer will do–such as “that was inappropriate” or “that was unfair to say.” When speaking up, always be direct and firm.

Respond to a malicious or derogatory statement by asking for clarification—“excuse me, but I don’t understand what you mean.”

Asking the abuser to restate forces them to explain the comment to you and those around you.  This can demonstrate to everyone (including the bully) how the statement went too far.

  • Document the event.

Having a record of events is essential, especially when there is a pattern; having times, dates and nature of the offense available if the situation gets to a supervisor will confirm harassment and bullying in a clear and objective manner.

Yes, if you are the subject of bullying, you are bound to be emotionally charged. It is crucial to be calm and professional. Having cold, hard facts of the situation will help manage your thoughts and let you create a stronger position to supervisors.

  • Report.

If directly speaking to the offender has not resolved the situation, it is time to go to the next step. Refer to your workplace policy manual for the proper reporting procedure.  Most often it is a direct supervisor, human relations office or a neutral third party. Have all documentation available during any discussion of bullying, either formal or informal.

In a professional workplace, bad behavior, like bullying, is not tolerated. After all, effective business leadership treats all parties as accountable, fair and equitable individuals. Corporate ethos geared to peak production will not accept actions that foster a negative work environment.

Bullying is wrong on many levels and is unhealthy for worker safety and efficiency. However, it can be stopped before it gets out of hand.

 

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