Facing bullying at work

Bullying – When one worker physically or psychologically intimidates another for purposes of getting his or her way; it is a form of abuse.

If it happens to you, you should know what to do about it. Read on below for an insight into bullying and what you can do. We also have a downloadable checklist you can take with you to your manager or HR.

Download the checklist here: Workplace Bullying Checklist

  • Does my employer have a bullying & harassment policy
    • Check your organisation’s intranet or ask Human Resources.
  • Who are the bullies and why do they do it?
    • While we think of bullies as physically intimidating, that may not be the case at work. Someone with power who exerts that power in an abusive manner to influence your behaviour is bullying. Bullying can be peer to peer for no reason other than the need for attention, or as a response to jealousy, deep-seated resentment or a person’s emotional issues. Bullying can also be associated with sexual, racial, age, or other forms of discrimination.
    • Bullying occurs when you are personally confronted in an uncomfortable way, and you fear the consequences if you don’t act as the bully wants. The threat can be expressed or implied, but in either case you are being bullied if someone “gets in your face” in a personal, insulting, or intimidating manner.
  • What bullying looks like
    • Bullying comes in all forms – name-calling, unwelcome kidding, physical intimidation, threats, harassment and any other type of abuse. When it comes from a supervisor, a line must be drawn between that person’s authority and your personal rights, and you need to be clear on where that line is.
  • What to do if you are being bullied by a co-worker
    • The first step is to tell the bully to stop the behaviour. Tell the person you will file a report if the behaviour doesn’t stop. This may end it, but if not, you need to follow through and get help from your organisation. If this brings further threats of harm or even harsher bullying, don’t back off.
    • Bullying is not just your problem. Your employer has an equal stake in correcting the behaviour. Request help from management in writing. Cite your fear of repercussions or even your fear for your safety. As with sexual harassment, go to the next level of management if needed.
  • What to do if you are being bullied by a supervisor
    • If the bully is a supervisor, the response is very much the same, except that now you must document the abuse in writing, making sure you clearly differentiate between instructions that fall within the scope of the supervisor’s job and your rights to personal dignity and safety.
    • If co-workers have witnessed the bullying, enlist their support. Talk to the supervisor about your concerns, but don’t threaten. If the behaviour doesn’t stop, tell the person that you intend to bring this to the attention of a higher authority and that you’ve documented your observations and the effect on you. This may make things uncomfortable, but it should lead to a resolution. If it doesn’t, you may need an attorney to continue the discussion for you.
  • Get help and avoid victimisation
    • Top management does not want you to be bullied. Your morale is crucial to productivity, and bullying can lead to unwanted employment complaints and legal challenges. Everyone benefits when you are proactive, act early and do not allow yourself to adapt to the victim role. Find support inside or outside your organisation so you can take the right steps to end bullying fast.

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