Your company has a responsibility to prevent bullying and its impact.
But what is bullying in the workplace and its different types? Why do people bully in the workplace? And what do you do if you or someone in your workplace is being bullied?
We answer these questions and more in the below Quick Guide to Workplace Bullying.
What is Workplace Bullying?
Workplace bullying is repetitive and excessively unpleasant actions and behaviors put on an employee or group of employees, that negatively impact health and safety in the workplace.
This type of harmful behavior in the workplace often goes unreported, mainly because of its shameful, intimidating effect on the victimized employee.
In even more extreme cases, workplace bullying may not come to light due to the victim working a lower-level position, and feeling intimidated. However, it's not always a boss or manager who is doing the bullying, and it can very well be a co-worker on the same level as the person feeling victimized.
There are several different types of bullying. Having an understanding of the different types of bullying can help you know when to identify it. These include:
Verbal bullying: With verbal bullying, the bully uses their words and/or writing to be hurtful or mean. This can be done via teasing, calling someone names, unsolicited sexual comments, making threats to harm, or mocking.
The aggressor seeks to achieve dominance over the victim by demeaning or lowering his/her self-esteem.
Cyber bullying: With cyber bullying, the bully uses sources such as cell phones, computers, and social media to spread false or unkind information about someone else, which can cause humiliation. Emailing and texting are two common forums used to perpetrate this behavior.
Types of Bullies: As previously mentioned, workplace bullying can come in many forms. One of these is the prankster, someone who doesn't know the difference between what's mean and what's funny. Another one would be the saboteur. This is a person who tries to take credit for work that you did, or go out of their way to make your job harder than it has to be.
There are also critics. These are the folks who, no matter how good a job you do, it's never good enough for them. Some workplace bullies simply shut you out. For example, they won't tell you when there's a meeting among employees (where important information may be dispersed), then blame you for not knowing the proper procedure or course of action when the time comes to use that information or training on the job.
There is the boss bully, the person who controls whether or not you keep your job. This type of bully feels that you are required to agree with them about everything they do or say (job-related or otherwise), whether they are morally right or wrong. Boss bullies also may attempt to treat you like a puppet, and try to force you to do tasks that are abnormal or seemingly only for their amusement.
Why People Bully in the Workplace
Bullies hardly ever bully because they think they’re bigger and ‘badder’ than anyone else. In fact, quite the opposite is true, and they actually have issues with their own confidence. Below are some common reasons as to why people may bully in the workplace.
Lack of Self-Esteem: One of the main reasons that a person bullies is because they are not confident in their own abilities. The way they choose to respond to this incompetence is by being extra aggressive or belittling to others. They are very sensitive to even the smallest comments. Actions or words directed toward them that are even slightly critical of their work performance will very likely be found offensive. This is one reason some workplace bullies act out the way they do, they feel threatened by their coworkers who outperform them.
It may be a boss who is doing the bullying; they may feel threatened by a worker who is doing an excellent job; someone who could potentially replace them.
A Need to Control: Bullies can be controlling. One way they measure their productivity is by pushing others around, and by talking down to them. This person may not necessarily be someone who does the hiring and firing; they may be a same-level coworkers trying hard to impress the boss. This type of bully wants the boss to see that they are in charge of workplace activities and that they are in control of their fellow employees. In a bully's mind, this is the type of behavior they think will eventually get them promoted.
Being Bullied: Instinctively, a person will know when they are being bullied simply because of the way they feel. A workplace bully may try to make their victims feel isolated. For example, an entire office knows about a new rule, but one person isn’t informed. When that person breaks that rule (one that they didn't even know about in the first place), they get punished for it.
A workplace bully may also try to make their victim do impossible tasks; or give them so much work to do that they could not possibly meet a deadline. When the deadline is not met, the bully may shout at the worker in front of other people, making them feel horrible and embarrassed. A bullying victim may let Human Resources know about this situation, but HR may suggest trying to work the problem out with the person. This approach will not likely be helpful, especially if the bully is in a higher position than the victim. The victimized worker feels they may lose their job if what they say to the bully is perceived as insubordinate.
A Toxic Work Environment: A toxic work environment can feed into a cycle of workplace bullying. This can stem from anything from unhealthy power dynamics to gossip to poor communication. If employees feel burnt out or unhappy in the workplace due to toxicity in the workplace, it can cause further decreases in self esteem or a need to regain control, which can lead to bullying in the workplace.
What to Do if You are Being Bullied in the Workplace
Would you know if you were being bullied at work by a co-worker? And if you were, what would you do about it? Below are our tips for what to do when you feel that you are being bullied in the workplace.
Seek Support: After being bullied at work, you may feel hesitant to seek support due to embarrassment or shame. It's important to remember that personal health (physical and mental) should be prioritized when dealing with these types of situations, especially if they had been going on for a long period of time. It's okay to see medical professionals, mental health specialists, or to seek therapy. It is important to not isolate yourself.
Speak Up: Speaking up to a bully is likely the hardest thing for a victimized employee to do. Confronting your bully alone is a good method to get straight to the point. In this conversation, the victim should be completely honest with the bully about how the situation affects them. If this private conversation doesn't work, and the bully doesn't back off, then the next step would be to talk to upper management.
Document/Report: Documenting incidences of workplace bullying can help you better identify it. Being able to provide evidence of consistent bullying will help you build a case when you report it. If you don’t know who to report workplace bullying to, you should ask you human resources department, supervisor, or even just a trusted colleague.
What to do if You Witness Someone Being Bullied at Work
Your actions you take when you witness someone being bullied are just as important as the ones you take when you are getting bullied in the workplace. Below are some things to consider when you see someone in your workplace get bullied:
Support Victim: If you find yourself sitting on the sidelines overhearing or even bearing witness to someone being bullied on the job, the best thing that you can do initially is pull that victim to the side and ask them if they realize that they are being bullied. It's important to establish this knowledge because sometimes they may not even realize that the way someone is continuously aggravating them, isolating them, gossiping about them, or treating them badly in other ways is actually labeled as workplace bullying, and that actions should be taken to stop it.
Document/Report: When you witness the bullying, pull the victimized person to the side and encourage them to document these incidents. They may be hesitant to do so, but let them know that without proof there will be no record or building of a case against the bully. Offer to help them as a witness or to support them when they report the case to a supervisor.
Workplace bullying happens a lot more than people actually realize. It doesn't just affect the person being bullied, but can make the entire workplace toxic. A strong first step to reducing this behavior in the workplace is providing effective training. Get a head start on this with our Workplace Bullying Workshop today!
Posted by Katelyn Roy on