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Effective strategies to combat bullying

It does not matter if we are starting our first job after graduating from college or university, or mainly switching jobs for better career opportunities in other organizations, we are bound to encounter managers or colleagues who are unduly difficult, manipulative, intimidating for at least once in our lifetime (or perhaps more if we are unlucky).

Bullying is more likely to occur in some environments than others: where a role at work creates conflict or ambiguity, where there are persistent work obstacles, or when workers have little to no autonomy, or when there is an atmosphere of fear of job redundancy and uncertainty, or just rumors of organizational collapse.

If we have to constantly put up with these toxic behaviors at work, it can be extremely detrimental to our well-being and consequently decreases our motivation and productivity at work which can lead to increased absenteeism and sick leave while organizations may struggle with poor public reputation and possible litigation.

Workplace bullying refers to intentional and repeated behavior directed at an employee that is intended to humiliate, embarrass, degrade, exclude or undermine another’s performance. This behavior may come from the management itself, supervisors, or colleagues and it is quite a miserable thing to point out, these bad behaviors are rather prevalent in the workplace.

This is often a real problem faced by many workers on a daily basis around the globe and it is not something any individual should joke about. Recognizing and addressing bad behaviors in the workplace are essential because they can help to eliminate negativity hence creating a healthy and productive work environment in the long run if effective measures are put in place.

According to “Decoding the Personality of Workplace Bullies” by Thomas Chamorro – Premuzic, workplace bullies are often seen as assertive, outgoing, and confident. Though the mentioned traits have a positive connotation to them, bullies do not have the ability to instill empathy and humility to balance these traits out.

Assertiveness and confidence are characteristics which considered to be valuable in the business world and employers may often turn a blind eye when addressing bullying in the workplace. Little do we know that, behind these obvious traits that the bully possesses, they are actually hiding behind a veil of narcissism and low self-esteem. Moreover, bullies often crave a sense of belonging, safety, and mattering. Most of the time, it is a psychological process rather than a physical one.

The 10 types of bullying behavior that are most commonly found in a workplace are:

  • Humiliation and ridicule
  • Withholding information relevant to a person’s employment
  • Delegating a person with work that is below their level of competence
  • Spreading malicious rumors and gossip
  • Shouting or berating a person
  • Removing responsibility from a person who has earned it
  • Imposing unreasonable deadlines
  • Constantly threats of violence or engaging in physical/verbal abuse
  • Regularly criticizing a person in front of other employees
  • Excessive micromanaging/monitoring of a person’s work

Once we have identified that we are a victim of bullying, we must take proactive measures to stop the abuse. The bully at work will not disappear until we do something about it. If we make ourselves an easy target, we will only encourage the bully. If we tolerate the bully’s behavior, we are indirectly training the bully to continue with their reprehensible actions.

Here are some valuable tips that we can exercise and execute if we are dealing with a workplace bully:

  • Stand up for yourself

There is a vast difference between being threatened with not being a doormat, the latter invites more aggression. If we notice that a bully is exerting behaviors and antics that are unacceptable by being demeaning and disrespectful, we should call them out by confronting the bully firmly, directly, and with strong articulation without displaying excessive emotions.

  • Do not ignore the feeling of being bullied

This is not the time to put yourself down even further. When we are being bullied at work, we would think it is a normal path that one has to go through and endure in order to get promoted or being accepted. Statements such as “I deserve it” or “Everyone gets treated this way like I do” are regular guilt trips that bullies help impose on us. Instead, we should form a plan to stop the bullying in its entirety and reclaim our position at work.

  • Document the bully’s actions

Whenever you are being bullied, document the name of your bully, the method of bullying, and details of the incident. Record the times, dates, locations, and the names of witnesses to the events. The most important way for a victim to put a stop to these torments is to gather and provide as much information and concrete evidence to your company’s manager, human resource personnel, or the legal team.

  • Keep calm before making the big move

Ensure that you have gathered sufficient evidence before approaching your manager regarding your episode with the bully. You need to be calm, collected, and professional when presenting the case to your manager, the last thing that you want is for your manager to see you as an emotional train-wreck. It is hard to structure a proper sentence or find the right words to say when you are emotional, it may instead backfire and make you seem whiny or overreacting.

In short, our days at the office should not be filled with intimidation, humiliation, and manipulation by our managers or even co-workers. While many organizations have a zero-tolerance policy, bullying may be hard to prove or even recognized if vague shreds of evidence are presented, making it difficult for managers or human resources to take appropriate actions. But for all organizations, taking actions to prevent workplace bullying is a step towards resurrecting humanity, this will be beneficial for an organization’s reputation and business cost, thus improving the overall health of their employees.