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What to Do If You’re Being Bullied at Work?

What to Do If You’re Being Bullied at Work?

It’s hard when you are being bullied and don’t know where to turn. You can tell yourself it’s their problem and that it’s not you but it doesn’t stop it from hurting. Similarly, you may feel that you are powerless to stop it and if you open your mouth it will only cause more trouble for you. It’s difficult to know the right direction to make but there is a way you can stop it.

Whatever the case, whether its personal remarks, remarks about your work or consistent exclusion, bullying affects you on a personal level and on a professional one. It’s difficult to be motivated and perform when someone is constantly hassling you. How are you meant to put 100% in at work when you feel embarrassed, angry and/or upset and perhaps you no longer want to be at work? It’s a horrible situation to be in and numerous people quit their jobs due to workplace bullying.

How do you know if what you are going through is classified as workplace bullying? If you have encountered a persistent pattern of mistreatment from your work colleges then you have experienced workplace bullying.

Workplace bullying can be more on the sly than what we encountered on the playground and as adults it can sometimes be more difficult to know what to do about it. There are a copious hoops to jump through. If you tell your boss you could be labelled a ‘tell-tail’ and a target for further workplace bullying. You might be concerned that if you don’t deal with it ‘appropriately’ you could lose your job? In most cases, bullies have been the ones who are meant to be in charge! Who can you turn to in this instance!?

When you are being bullied in a job it can turn your dream job into a living nightmare. You may be tempted to try and get another job as soon as you can but if you never resolve the bullying you could continue to feel victimised for years to come. You’re only human, so when someone does something to you that is completely unjust and you lose a job you love over it, naturally you’ll brood over that for some time.

Bullies can make you second guess yourself. Someone says something negative about you and others follow suit, of course you’re going to second guess yourself when nobody is standing up for you but is rather ‘siding’ with the bully. This will make a bad situation even worse and often be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

The truth is, the reason these other co-workers are following suit is nothing to do with you. It can be difficult to get people on your side when you’re being bullied, simply because your co-workers are afraid of becoming the next target. Unfortunately, this is a self-perpetuating situation because as the bully collects followers the bullying behaviour will be encouraged. What’s most important is that you understand the psychology behind this and know that they are not siding with the bully because they believe what the bully says, but rather out of fear that they could be the next target. This doesn’t make it right and you may feel betrayed but keep in mind, it really isn’t anything to do with you.

Rather than genuinely assessing the capabilities and effectiveness of your work capabilities a bully in a position of authority may block you from climbing the corporate ladder. Cases involving managers abusing their power have included taking commission by not approving an employee’s sales, or relieving an employee of many of his or her duties and giving the employee an extremely low performance review. These are only a few examples of how managers have bullied their employees in the past. You may have had a similar experience or a completely different one, but if it has resulted in you feeling continuously harassed and victimised, then your manger has been bullying you.

Whatever the case, it’s worth documenting any evidence that you come across. Keep records of communication between you and the bully and whenever you can and direct as much of the communication between yourself and the bully towards a method that ensures you have this evidence in writing. This approach can save you a lot of time and effort in the long run, it can substantiate your claim and help to keep your professional reputation intact.

It’s important not to lose sight of yourself and who you are in these situations. Create a list of all the positive attributes about yourself and refer back to this whenever you feel targeted. There will be conflicts between what’s on the list and what the bully and his/her followers are saying but just remember that what’s on your list is a more accurate account of who you are. Nobody knows you better than you. What the bullies are saying is coming from a place completely disconnected with reality and won’t reflect the real you.

Your list should be a true reflection of your skills, competencies, experience, and personal attributes. If you are making the right effort to get the right idea of who you really are then you will tailor your list to each specific accusation you have encountered to be sure you are highlighting the exact elements which show the contrast between what they are saying about you and the real you.

Figuring out how to resolve workplace bullying can seem like being stuck in a maze with numerous pitfalls and booby traps. Nevertheless, the bullying has to be stopped somehow. In a workplace situation this will often mean using an existing system that has been integrated into the business you work for. However, don’t blindly trust these systems as they don’t always adequately achieve their stated goals.

Anyone can make an honest mistake and use the wrong system in their enthusiasm to get justice. The key here is to do your research and learn from others mistakes before you make them yourself.

Too often individuals rely on internal systems because they fail to realise the lack of independence that these systems have. The problem with internal systems is that they are too caught up in the interpersonal relations within the company and can often result in the case being closed and the incident being covered up. Naturally, if the one you’re complaining about is above you on the corporate ladder and gets wind of your complaint, not only are you on thin ice but the chance of the whole thing being hushed up is quite high.

Ultimately, you require a system that will pass on your information so it can be remedied without you becoming victimised any further. If your CEO/Boss is socially responsible a third party system will already be in place. In the case of a third party system, all you need to do is use the code provided by your boss and enter this, along with your evidence into an email which will be processed by a third party service. The third party will ensure that the information is transferred to the appropriate personnel at your work so they can resolve the issues and your name will be completely wiped off the record.

Organisations that provide third party systems are easy to access and very willing to help. International Whistleblowers and New Zealand Whistleblowers are two such organisations. These organisations work by using the evidence you gather to inform your superiors of what’s occurring within the business, without mentioning who provided this information. Your protection is of the upmost importance to these organisations. If you have witnessed or experienced workplace bullying, please don’t hesitate to contact either of these organisations. It is recommended that you contact these organisations using a communication method that can’t be tracked back to you, such as a private email in an internet café. In some cases, these organisations can offer you a financial reward once the case is successfully settled.

Using a third party system, such as International Whistleblowers, helps the organisation you work for. The third party system is designed to be mutually beneficial for both the employee and the employers. Workplace bullying costs businesses thousands and sometimes millions of dollars in staff turnover and reduced productivity. According to Rayner and Keashly (2004) workplace bullying would cost an average of $1.2 million to an organisation with 1000 employees, solely due to replacement costs of those who leave due to experiencing or witnessing workplace bullying.

If your employer is unaware that they have access to this service then you can show your initiative by telling your employer that this service exists. Through taking this initiative you are helping not only yourself and your boss but also making it easier for future claims to be dealt with swiftly and easily. You can do something about bullying and you can be rewarded for your efforts.

If you have experienced or witnessed workplace bullying, please don’t hesitate to contact International Whistleblowers or New Zealand Whistleblowers.

International Whistleblowers and New Zealand Whistleblowers are organisations that predominantly deal with whistleblowing cases. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a Whistleblower is “a person who informs on a person or organisation regarded as engaging in an unlawful or immoral activity.” Meaning that when a person violates an employment law or is behaving immorally you can use these organisations to help you.

Reference list:

Rayner, C. & Keashley, L. (2005). Bullying at work: A perspective from Britain and North America. In S. Fox & P. E. Spector (eds.) Counterproductive work behavior: Investigations of actors and targets (pp. 271-296). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

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