Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bullying – It’s Not Just for Kids Anymore!

We talk a lot about bullying. It’s wrong and it shouldn’t be tolerated. However, bullying doesn’t stop when school ends. Unfortunately, bullying often continues into the workplace. According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (yes, there is such a place), over 50 million Americans say they have been bullied at the job. This too needs to stop.

Here are some signs of workplace bullying

  • You are given tasks that you have not been trained on, saying no is not an option and asking questions is frowned on. Needless to say, when you complete the task unsatisfactorily, it’s all your fault.
  • You spend your work day feeling agitated and anxious knowing that something bad is about to happen (and it usually does) 
  • Jokes are made at your expense and teammates make baseless complains about you and your performance.
  • You are left out of meetings and team activities.
  • You are shocked when accused of incompetence, despite a history of objective excellence, typically by someone who cannot do your job 
  • You are never left alone to do your job without interference usually in the form of criticism, knit-picking or derogatory comments.
  • People feel justified screaming or yelling at you in front of others, but you are punished if you scream back 
  • You are singled out for discipline or chided for behaviors that others engage in without any consequence.

If you feel you are being bullied, first off, you are not alone. And, unlike school-aged bullying victims, you are not being targeted based on any perceived weakness. On the contrary, many targets of workplace bullying are targeted because others view them as a threat based on their knowledge or expertise. Often they appear to be more independent and/or more technically savvy than those doing the bullying.

Sometimes targets become targets not for their technical skill but because of their social skills. Workplace Bullying targets are often well-liked or generally respected. Finally, the target tends to be a non-confrontational type of person. They are not going to respond to bullying with equal treatment. Unfortunately, this makes more bullying more likely.

There are very few laws against bullying on the job so taking legal action isn’t usually the most effective way of handing bullying. It also does nothing if you, the target, sink down to the level of your bully. In fact, tit-for-tat with a bully will normally lead to more bullying.

To combat the bully, start keeping a journal. Use it to list the facts relating to each incidence of bullying “On November 1 (when) Sally Shaw (who)copied a vacation photo of me from my Facebook page and passed it around to co-workers (what)  including Lisa, Stephanie, Allison and Heather, who all joined her in ridiculing me and the outfit I was wearing in the beach photo.” As you journal, stick to the facts and try not to interject any emotion.

Once you have several incidences in your journal, go to your manager, If your manager is involved, go directly to Human Resources. If you think that HR might squash your complaint, if possible, go over their heads to corporate HR.

If nothing else works, you might have to consider a transfer or getting a new job all together. No job is worth your peace of mind or emotional health.

What other advice would you give someone being bullied on the job?

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