Tips for Deal with Bullying in the Work Place

Do you feel like you want to quit your job and just go home?  Do you feel anxiety and physically ill thinking about going to work?  Are you “walking on egg shells” at your job?

Today at work you come out of your office and a coworker approaches you demands “what is wrong with you?!”  This is not a onetime experience.  This coworker frequently insults you and your work in front of others and challenges you in front of your customers and coworkers.  The coworker questions your sanity.  The coworker often tells you how you are living your life wrong, such as not having kids but instead choosing to do rescue work.  When you have approached a supervisor about it, they minimize it and say it is just his way of talking and interacting with you.  Nothing changes.

You work to excel at your job.  You have a strong work ethic.  You follow directions well.  You know your job and consistently do it correctly.  However, you are often told that you are not doing your job well and that the policies and procedures have changed, yet no notification has been provided.  When you seek clarification, you are spoken down to and threatened with write ups.  You are overworked and not given time off for self care.  Your job is constantly being threatened for one reason or another.  Petty complaints are filed against you such as you take breaks when you should not, or that you sit sloppily at your desk. You are told that you talk to others too much, yet are not social enough and don’t participate in activities.

Do either of these scenarios sound familiar to you?  Have you or someone you know experienced similar situations?  We often think that when we enter the work force as adults that we won’t experience bullying anymore. This wrongly assumes that as people get older they mature and stop bullying, but unfortunately, this is not always the case.  According to many resources, it is estimated that 50%-75% of the work force experiences bullying at some time.  Below are descriptions of bullying that you may have or will experience in your work place:

1.    Verbal abuse-such as name calling , insulting a person, criticizing. Insulting how you talk or using nicknames for you against your wishes are some examples of this.

2.    Offensive behaviors (both verbal and non verbal)-such as threatening, intimidation, or humiliation, including mocking or threatening harm or damage to your reputation.

3.    Work interference-such as preventing one from completing work such as constant distractions. For example, frequently coming to your desk to ask to borrow items or rearranging your work space and removing needed items from your desk.

4.    Spreading rumors and gossiping-such as telling others about a person’s personal life whether it is factual or not and without that person’s permission.

5.    Creating and instructing a person to keep an impossible work schedule-such as working 12 hour shifts 6 days a week and mandatory overtime regardless of personal needs or plans.

6.    Taking credit for work or ideas completed by a person other than oneself-such as the bully telling the boss that they had completed the spreadsheets when you did them.

7.    Changing policies and expectations without notice-such as changing the lunch break times and not informing staff yet addressing their “misconduct” and attempting to make them feel confused or “crazy”.

Workplace bullying has several consequences such as:  causing good employees to resign, decreased productivity, increased use of sick/personal days, and causing physical health and mental health issues of the one being bullied including heart issues and anxiety.   Are you experiencing any of these? 

Here are several tips to help deal with bullying in the workplace:

1.    Tell the bully to stop!  I know, not so easy, but do it!  Remove yourself from the situation and avoid engaging in retaliation or responding to their taunts.  Do so every time and keep repeating it!

2.     Document everything!   Make sure to keep a record of when, where, and how you are being bullied and any events leading up to it or following it.  Make sure you keep this documentation safe and document everything-no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

3.    Address concerns with your supervisor. If it is your supervisor who is bullying you, then contact their supervisor.  Be sure to state facts and use “I statements”  Be direct and firm with your discussion.  Do not allow others to intimidate you or make you feel like your feelings and impressions are false or overreactive.  You have a right to your feelings and thoughts and no one should or can take that away from you!

4.    Understand that the bullying behavior is not about you, but about the bully. They may have been bullied and this is their way of handling it BUT-it is not acceptable!  Don’t take it personally and accept that it is something that is wrong with the bully; however, I certainly understand and know this is easier said than done.

5.     Remain calm! Usually bullies look for a response that they have harmed you.  If you keep calm and don’t react, they will not be rewarded.  Try to keep a neutral expression and not display distress; again, not easy but with practice you can and will do it!

6.    Participate in therapy….Experiencing bullying can be very traumatic and often brings up memories of being bullied as a child.  Therapy will allow you the chance to process your feelings in a safe and supportive environment. 

7.    Practice self care!   Yes, we have talked about this in previous blogs, but it so very important that it can’t be reviewed and discussed enough.  Some suggestions for good self care include going to a park, doing something fun from your childhood. I like blowing bubbles, daydreaming, and taking a staycation where you stay home and just not work!

8.    Find a new job. No job is perfect, but remaining in an environment where there is bullying and bullying is tolerated is not good for your emotional or physical health.  Explore your options and begin applying, especially if you do not get support from your supervisors to end the bullying.

9.    Remember and focus on your strengths!-You are a great person!  You were hired for a reason and you are doing well.  You don’t deserve this!  Love yourself!

10.  Remember what Dr. Seuss said:  “Be yourself because the people who mind don’t matter and the people that matter don’t mind.”  You can’t go wrong listening to and following Dr. Seuss!

If you have experienced bullying as a child or as an adult, I am here to help you work through the trauma and anxiety related to it.  I care and I understand!