When we talk about bullying, we often think of children and the school environment. However, bullying in the workplace is also a sad reality. In my HR career, I saw many sides to this phenomenon; if not dealt with sensitively and correctly, it can lead to difficulties for all those involved.
As a victim of bullying, you may not know what to do. Many cases go unreported and, in other cases misunderstandings arise. With that in mind, here are some tips for identifying and dealing with bullying at work.
Is it bullying?
Decide whether you are actually being bullied, as your employer will view any allegations very seriously. Being managed and spoken to about poor performance, if done properly, will not (usually) be bullying. It is important to understand the difference between bullying and performance management before deciding to take things further.
Bullying is usually carried out on a repeated basis. Decide whether your situation is the result of a one-off incident, or a prolonged period of bullying.
What is bullying at work?
Bullying could come from anyone within the workplace, but it can come in many guises.
This is not an exhaustive list, but examples of workplace bullying could include:
- Threatening behaviour
- Unwanted sexual advances and harassment
- Excluding and ignoring people
- Insults, rudeness or intentional embarrassment
- Spreading rumours
- Making staff members carry out demeaning or pointless tasks
- Unwarranted personal or professional criticism
- Preventing promotion or professional development
Bullying is not necessarily limited to face-to-face communication. It is just as serious if bullying happens by email, telephone, or any other type of communication.
What are the consequences of bullying?
If not dealt with appropriately, bullying could cause serious damage to your career. It can also lead to reduced physical and mental health which, in turn, may lead to long absences. This can have serious effects for a business.
Outside of work, it can also lead to sleeplessness and loss of self-esteem. It may also be difficult to keep concentration, which can make daily tasks more difficult.
What are typical excuses for bullying?
Bullies at work may try to persuade you that any wrongdoing is just a misunderstanding. Their managers and others may also try to explain their behaviour.
Typical excuses include:
- They are under a lot of stress or pressure to get results
- He/she is ‘passionate’
- They are ‘firm, but fair’
- They are ‘just not like that’
Even worse, it could feel like an organisation allows key people to act as they choose. This could lead to staff not wanting to speak up for fear of the consequences.
However, it is important to recognise that these kinds of excuses are not acceptable. Bullying is always inexcusable and, if you feel that you are a victim, you need to take action.
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