You would be forgiven for thinking that bullying is a problem of the playground – name-calling and taunting probably happened to all of us – or was carried out by others – at some point during our schooldays, but as you grew up, you grew out of it – right? Not necessarily. This may come as a surprise to some, but bullying in the workplace is just as common as at school, and can even be more of a problem.
Knocking you down
Bullying in the workplace comes in many forms, and can often be more subtle than at school. There are differences between genders too; men are thought to be more openly aggressive bullies, whereas women are more likely gossip or manipulate others emotionally. It can also sometimes be difficult to realize if you’re the target, especially if it starts small and escalates over time. Think about whether it’s happening again and again, or if it’s just someone having an off day. Other sure signs include personal insults and criticism, sabotage or taking credit of someone else’s work, or intimidating and humiliating behavior.
The long-term consequences
What it is important to realize is that, as well as the immediate effect of the words or gestures making you feel intimidated, uncomfortable, or upset, is the long term effect that receiving these insults can have. This is particularly relevant for your health, and especially if long-term. Workplace bullying causes health problems including heart disease and high blood pressure, and depression is also more common. Trouble with eating and sleeping are also commonly reported problems of those suffering stress from workplace bullying.
What you can do
Finding the courage to stand up to bullies in the workplace can be really difficult; think about the situation carefully and consider your options before acting, and don’t be afraid to search or ask for help if you need it.
· Stay confident and don’t blame yourself. This can be easier said than done, but bullying is more often about the bully than the person they target.
· When speaking to bullies, stay calm and rational. Getting emotional and worked up serves no purpose, and will likely encourage the bully as they have got a reaction out of you.
· Seek out support. Build friendships with other colleagues or research options of professional guidance and counseling.
· Write notes about specific incidents in case you need to escalate the issue to your manager or HR department, and educate yourself on the company’s policies about harassment and equality.
Of course, you may well not be on the receiving end of bullying but instead see it occurring to others in your workplace. Other people may not be as confident or well equipped to deal with bullying, so be prepared to lend a hand and diffuse the situation.