Bullying at work comes in many guises: Micromanagement by overbearing or abusive bosses, unattainable targets, constant criticism, social exclusion, gossip or intimidation, unwanted sexual advances. If these are persistent patterns of behaviour at your work then you’re dealing with a bully.
Bullies target individuals or sometimes exert pressure on an entire team and it can happen in any position or profession, irrespective of where you are on the career ladder. The perpetrator may be a manager, team leader or a competitive colleague. It’s costly to you as an individual resulting in stress, anxiety, lack of confidence, ill health and absenteeism. And it costs the company in lost time, reduced productivity and a high staff turnover. So it’s in everyone’s interest to deal with it. But how?
As a company, make civility part of your culture and treat everyone with respect. Devise a strategy to prevent bullying and investigate claims of bullying robustly. Remember you have a duty of care to your employees. Sounds simple? I know that’s not always the case.
As an employee, first of all are you sure you’re being bullied or is your boss just over zealous about the job? There’s a quick test you can take, that’s been produced by anti-bullying expert Valerie Cade. She speaks globally on the subject of workplace bullying and her website, Bully Free At Work is packed with useful information about how to spot a bully, how to report the issue and stand up to a bully at work.
Keep a diary and log each incident. It may seem petty, but that way you’ll be able to see if a pattern emerges over time and feel more confident that it’s them not you who is being unreasonable. When you make your entries, keep to the facts and don’t use emotional language, so that you have a dated document of evidence you can use if you decide to take further action.
Communicate calmly and confidently. If your bully is verbally abusive, try to be polite and leave the situation as soon as possible. Don’t be hesitant – a bully is often looking to find your weaknesses. kickbully.com has some great practical suggestions about how to rebuff a bully in full flow.
Confront the person. It’s a difficult step to take, but evidence suggests that talking to bullies about their behaviour is often effective. You may feel that you are able to tackle this without using formal channels. Otherwise, confide in a manager or someone in a senior position who will listen to you. It’s important to choose the right person, especially if you are working in a small organisation. In larger companies, the Human Resources Department will provide structured advice.
Ultimately many people don’t want to ‘rock the boat’ and decide to just move on. If you are a PR professional The Works can try to help you settle into a new role. We can’t claim to be able to resolve an issue of workplace bullying, but we’ve listed some websites that will be able to offer help and advice.