Bullying in the Workplace

Not too long ago, I talked about hidden bias and discrimination in the workplace and how it can drastically affect people in the workplace. This blog will focus on defining workplace bullying, and what you can do if you find yourself in a hostile work environment.

Workplace bullying is a real problem, it happens all over the place and it is very difficult to manage. I know from experience.

My Experience

I just proposed to my wife and she was wearing the engagement ring that I was still making payments on. I just started a contract painting job with a small painting company and was very excited to do some hard work and get that ring paid off so I didn’t have to worry about it, come the wedding day. Little did I know that being a new contractor, I was in for some very intensive on-the-job training. Every day that I painted, I had someone watching me and swearing at me. I was cussed at every day, and when I did something wrong, it got even worse. I did learn some very valuable skills, but once I got that ring paid off, I quit. I was very lucky to have a job and be working during that period of time, but it was the first time in my life that I had very low self-esteem.

Unfortunately for me, in a contracting job, there was little option for me to make the bullying stop. My company didn’t have an HR department or standards that the company was forced to adhere to. If I said anything about it, I would have just been fired. But that doesn’t have to be the case for you.

Defining Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying is defined by the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) as; “Abusive conduct that is threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; any kind of work interference/sabotage that prevents work from getting done; verbal abuse.”

The bully typically has a need to control their targets, and they are very meticulous about selecting the proper target, timing, location, and methods of bullying. They could be making fun, unwanted pranks, withholding important resources (such as keeping someone off of an email chain with important memos). There may be people who are coerced to join in and side with bully and the bullying will typically take precedence over the work itself.

Next Steps

If after reading the definition of workplace bullying, you believe that you have been or are being bullied (or if you are a concerned friend or family member), there are two things you need to know about what is happening to you:

  1. You are not alone
  2. You did not cause this bullying to happen

I want you to know that there are ways to fix this; you don’t have to live with your current work conditions. WBI has a three step approach to handling workplace bullies:

  1. Name your Situation – You need to recognize that you are experiencing a legitimate phenomenon. Call it bullying, psychological violence, or emotional abuse- you need to name it. Giving it a name legitimizes your situation and helps you realize that you are not alone and that it can be fixed.
  2. Take Time Off to Heal and Prepare – Getting ready will require a clear head, and you need to be able to enjoy some time alone and with your family to get ready to launch your counterattack.
    1. Check in on your mental and physical health, as these can be greatly damaged by workplace harassment.
    2. Look into legal options (1/4th of all workplace bullying cases are a result of discrimination) and company policies on harassment.
    3. Prepare a business case against the bully using WBI’s “Estimating Costs of Bullying Worksheet”.
    4. Be ready for retaliation.
    5. Start a job search for your next position.
  3. Expose the Bully
    1. Be prepared to leave; targets lost their jobs in 77.7% of cases either voluntarily for health’s sake or involuntarily.
    2. Make the business case that the bully is “too expensive to keep” to the highest level person you can reach (who is not closely associated with the bully).
    3. Stick to the bottom line, if you start talking about personal stories, you may be discredited.
    4. Give your employer one chance to fix it; if they side with the bully, it is time to leave. In some cases, employers are simply looking for a reason to let the bully go.
    5. If you must leave, make sure you tell everyone about the bully and that you had to leave for your health’s sake.

We all deal with difficult people in our lives, but workplace bullies are an entirely different breed. By following these steps, you will do wonders for your health.

Ask Tim Dimoff to Speak to Your Company About Bullying

Author Tim Dimoff is an expert on workplace bullying, and he can help your organization put an end to this issue once and for all. Call (330)730-3424 or fill Contact Tim to have him come to your workplace today.

2 Comments

  1. I am glad to have never experienced or witnessed workplace bullying, but I don’t doubt that it can be a problem. I DO know that people can sometimes say things which are hurtful or demeaning, whether in word or in their tone. The important thing is that we be able to identity the problems for what they are, as you mentioned. Then come the next steps that you listed for resolving the situation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>