It can be hard to admit that you’re being bullied. We often see it as a sign of our own weakness or even convince ourselves that we’re being too sensitive. Worse again, we accept bullying as a part of working life, an unavoidable stress that comes with being in a high pressure environment and dealing with multiple personalities. This is just not the case.
Whatever the circumstances, there is no acceptable justification or reasoning behind bullying. If you find yourself the victim of a workplace bully, here’s what to do.
Review your situation
Can you think of specific and repeated instances that you felt undermined, humiliated or abused by someone at work? Take note of what happened and the effect it had on you. It’s important to get this clear in your head before you take the next steps. If it helps, actually write down relevant incidents and be as accurate and precise as possible. For example, “at our last meeting you laughed and rolled your eyes each time I spoke. I felt embarrassed and less confident speaking in front of our team.”
Doing this will help you to separate the most serious instances from ones which could be misconstrued as humour or “banter”.
Have a straight conversation
The next step in shutting down bullying behaviour, is addressing it. If you’re not confident enough to do this in a group of people, ask the colleague in question for a minute of their time, then privately tell them that their behaviour is unacceptable. It’s a difficult discussion but one that has to happen if you want things to improve. Be prepared for them to be defensive, dismissive or even aggressive towards you as a result of you calling them out. If this happens, do your best to stay calm – bullies will try to use your emotions to discredit you.
Speak to a colleague
Being harassed at work can be extremely damaging for your mental health but confiding in a work friend or team member can help. Sometimes just sharing your problem can make the experience less traumatic and help validate your feelings. It’s likely that other people in the company are being mistreated by the same bully in which case it’s good to discuss your collective options.
Take it to management
If you’ve spoken directly to the bully but nothing has been resolved, you need to bring it to your superior. Explain to them how you’re being treated and the impact it’s having on your performance and wellbeing. If your superior is the problem, report them to their boss. Don’t ignore the situation, taking action is the only way to stomp out negative behaviours.
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