Just when you thought the tormenting and psychological trauma was over, you experience a new kind of hell: workplace bullying.
Maybe you were one of the lucky ones who made it through elementary, middle, high school, and possibly even college, relatively unscathed from bullying. School is over and you’re settling into your career. You decorate your cubicle, greet your coworkers each morning, and abide by the company’s rules. But rather than feel at ease everyday, you’re beginning to have a sense of dread, nausea even, that feels like a knot in the pit of your stomach. You start to dislike going into the office, obsessing over what’s happening at work, and are taking more and more time off for mental health breaks. There may be a sense of shame or disbelief about the opposition you’re experiencing from a certain someone. And you may be wondering why you’re being singled out.
You may be a victim of workplace bullying.
A University of Phoenix research study conducted in 2008 by Dr. Judy Blando revealed that 47 percent of participants admitted to being bullied during their career and 75 percent reported witnessing mistreatment of others. The study indicates that in recent years the government has discouraged bullying and violence in schools, but has done little to address workplace bullying by passing legislation to prevent bosses and coworkers from harming others in the workplace.
According to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), workplace bullying is defined as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, and involves work interference, like sabotage, which prevents work from getting done, or verbal abuse. The study also includes in its definition the inclusion of both intentional and unintentional behaviors that a coworker perceives as an intentional effort to be harmed, controlled, or driven from the workplace.
Workplace bullying has many motives and is believed to be driven by the perpetrator’s need to control the targeted individual. It’s thought to be initiated by bullies who choose their targets, timing, location, and methods, escalates to get others to side with the bully, either voluntarily or through coercion, and is even likened to domestic violence at work.
In addition to the definition, it’s important to be able to identify the signs of workplace bullying in order to protect yourself and others. Here are just a few of the experiences you may face at work. These have been compiled from the Workplace Bullying Institute.
Signs of Workplace Bullying
- You are given a seemingly impossible task for which you execute the work, yet it is never good enough for the boss.
- Others at work have been told to stop working, talking, or socializing with you.
- No matter what you do, you are never left alone to do your job without interference.
- People feel justified screaming and yelling at you in front of others, but you are punished if you scream back.
- HR tells you that your harassment isn’t illegal and that you have to “work it out between yourselves.”
- Everyone–co-workers, senior bosses, HR–agrees (in person and orally) that your tormentor is a jerk, but there is nothing they will do about it (and later, when you ask for their support, they deny having agreed with you).
- Your request to transfer to an open position under another boss is mysteriously denied.
Workplace bullying doesn’t end at the office, either. It’s often something you take home with you everyday. From feeling so ill before work that you think you may vomit, to skyrocketing blood pressure and being urged to find a new job by your doctor, bullying can manifest physically. It also creates mental anguish that may negatively affect your relationships with others and yourself. From days spent feeling exhausted and lifeless, to no longer enjoying your favorite activities, depression and anxiety are not far-fetched.
Fortunately, there is hope. Even if it means looking for new employment, removing yourself from an abusive workplace is the best decision. Here are some suggestions on how to deal with a bully from the Workplace Bullying Institute.
- Naming the problem is the first step. Whether you identify it as bullying, psychological harassment, psychological violence, emotional abuse, it’s important to give it a name, especially when bullying is downplayed because it’s not the textbook definition of illegal.
- It’s also crucial that you don’t blame yourself, and recognize that you did not do anything to invite the unwanted abuse.
- WBI recommends taking sick leave or short-term disability, which can be granted by your doctor. While out, it’s suggested that you do five things: (1) check your mental health with a professional and discuss your plan of action (stay and fight, or leave); (2) check your physical health for stress-related diseases: (3) research state and federal legal options and talk to an attorney; (4) Make the bottom-line business case for stopping the bully, found here; and (5) start your job search for the next position.
- Finally, it’s recommended that you expose the bully. Because targets lose their jobs–involuntarily or by choice for their health’s sake–in more than 77 percent of cases, it’s paramount that you present evidence against the perpetrator.
This is just a brief look into workplace bullying and what it entails. The Workplace Bullying Institute is an invaluable resource to those who are experiencing related problems at work. Most importantly, you are not alone and shouldn’t be ashamed to confide in someone you trust.
How did you deal with a bully at work? Share your thoughts on the EcoSalon Facebook page.
Related on EcoSalon