Bullying in the Workplace:
Many people wrongly believe that bullying is a childhood phenomenon. Surely adults wouldn’t stoop to bullying? Unfortunately, they can and do. It’s just not always immediately recognizable because adults can bully in more subtle, devious ways. Because their victims often don’t even recognize that they’re being bullied, these grown-up bullies are able to get away with their bad behaviour. It doesn’t have to be that way, however. That is, not if we make a concerted effort to recognise workplace bullying, to speak out about it, and to call bullies out on their actions. Detecting adult bullying is easy… once you know what to look for.
- You’re under constant criticism, no matter how well you perform.
We all expect to receive constructive criticism at work. And sometimes our boss or supervisor might have a bad day and snap about something. But then there are times that we’re criticised when we know we did nothing wrong, and we know that other employees wouldn’t have been criticised in the same way or for the same thing.
When that happens, it’s bullying. This causes stress by undermining your confidence in your own abilities. But these criticisms aren’t about what’s wrong with your work. They’re about your bully trying to exercise control over you and your emotions.
- There’s gossip about you making the rounds.
Gossip can be anything from whispers about your personal life to whispers about how you landed the last promotion. Gossip can be immensely hurtful. It alienates us socially, when people are spreading unkind and untrue rumours about us. Bullies love to set people against one another. Remain polite and professional, and when you hear rumours about others take them with a grain of salt.
- You’re being excluded from meetings.
When there’s a meeting concerning a project you’re a part of, your department, or anything else directly connected to your work and your peers are invited and you’re not, it can sting. It makes you feel unimportant and unappreciated. This in turn leads to stress and anxiety.
- You’re being excluded from work-related social gatherings.
Just as being excluded from meetings leads to feeling isolated and unimportant, so does being excluded from casual work related get-togethers. Of course, all of the other women in the department going to lunch next door isn’t officially “work related” but if they make it a point to exclude you, this is another sign of bullying.
- You’re using up your personal days just to relieve stress.
When the best use for your paid time off seems to be taking off Mondays now and then just to sit in bed and ruminate on your stress levels, something is wrong. If you actually like your job, but you would avoid your office at all costs, you should be taking a closer look at what’s going on. You’re not lazy or unmotivated. You simply have a natural inclination to avoid the place where you’re being bullied and hurt.
- You find your work hampered by subtle sabotage.
If you constantly find your projects in hot water because of easily avoided “mistakes” by others, it could be a subtle form of sabotage. For example, forgetting to give you a memo that the client wants to make a last minute change to the project—until it’s five minutes before your presentation. Not letting you know about a rule or policy change until you get dinged for it. Rescheduling a conference call and letting everyone know but you. These are all ways that your bully can try to exert control by sabotaging your efforts. They can make you feel weak, ineffectual, and they damage your trust in others.
- You’re scheduled for impossible tasks.
Related to subtle sabotage, scheduling you for impossible tasks is another form of bullying. For example, if your supervisor is aware of which days you need to pick your child up from school directly after work, and they persistently schedule extra tasks that evening that you can’t finish on time, that’s a form of bullying. They’re trying to control you by either forcing you to say no (therefore looking bad as an employee) or to rearrange your personal obligations.
- Your ideas and work are being stolen.
Having your good ideas and successful projects pulled out from under you and credited to someone else is definitely a form of bullying. The message the bully is sending here, is “no matter how hard you try, you’ll never succeed.” Because even when you do succeed, someone else gets the credit. It’s incredibly demoralizing.
- You’re blamed for things that weren’t your fault.
On the flip side of that coin is the opposite problem: you’re getting credit, or rather blame, for other people’s mistakes. When the team is running behind on a project, the bully somehow makes you the scapegoat. The message here is that even if you avoid all wrong-doing, you’re going to be punished simply for being you. That’s the essence of bullying.
- You’re being micromanaged without reason.
Whether it’s done with a condescending air or simply as a way to bark more orders at you, being senselessly micromanaged when your peers are not is a sign of bullying. Your bully is sending the message that you’re incompetent.
You can seek help, and believe in yourself
Being bullied can cause you to suffer dangerously high levels of stress. All too often victims of bullying feel embarrassed, as if they’ve somehow brought the situation upon themselves, or as if “this wouldn’t happen to someone else.” That’s just what bullies want you to think.
People who minimize your problems and don’t validate your feelings simply do not understand the effects of bullying or the way that high levels of stress can negatively impact your mental and physical health. Seek help from those who acknowledge that your problems are important and that your feelings are meaningful. Document your experiences at work, and don’t be afraid to get help to make the bullying end.
Tags: bullying, workplace stress, mental health