Protecting Yourself Against Workplace Bullying
Workplace bullying refers to repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed toward an employee (or a group of employees), which are intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, undermine, or which create a risk to the health and safety of the employee(s). Our mental and emotional wellbeing is likely to be affected when we perceive that we are the target of behavior that could be described as bullying. It can significantly impact productivity and how you interact with other coworkers.
Corporate or institutional bullying can manifest itself in different ways:
- Placing unreasonable expectations on employees, where failure to meet those expectations means making life unpleasant for (or dismissing) anyone who objects.
- Dismissing employees suffering from stress as weak, while completely ignoring or denying potential work related causes of the stress.
- Encouraging employees to fabricate complaints about colleagues with promises of promotion or threats of discipline.
Victims of bullying experience significant physical and mental health problems, such as:
- High stress
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Financial problems due to absence
- Reduced self-esteem
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Sleep and digestive disturbances
- Increased depression and self-blame
- Family tension and stress
It's important to note that bullying is different from harassment. Harassment is one type of illegal discrimination, defined as offensive and unwelcome conduct, serious enough to adversely affect the terms and conditions of a person's employment, which occurs because of the person's protected class and can be imputed to the employer.
There are things you can do about bullying. Employees can regain control and take action by:
- Recognizing that you are being bullied.
- Realizing that you are not the source of the problem.
- Recognizing that bullying is about control, and therefore has nothing to do with your performance.
- Keeping a diary detailing the nature of the bullying with information such as dates, times, places, what was said or done, and who was present.
- Obtaining copies of harassing or bullying paper trails.
- Expect the bully to deny and perhaps misconstrue your accusations, and have a witness with you during any meetings with the bully.
- Report the behavior to an appropriate person, such as a Human Resources representative.