Nearly one in every four Americans has dealt with a bully in the workplace at some time in their careers, according to a 2014 survey published by the Workplace Bullying Institute. This stressful situation can lead to anxiety, lost days of work due to illness, depression and a constant state of walking on eggshells.
Workplace bullying entails repeated mistreatment by a colleague or supervisor. These actions occur over a sustained period of time instead of as a single isolated incident. Bullying can cause humiliation, intimidation and lost productivity. However, since many people do not even recognize work-related bullying, it is important to know some of the signs and scenarios that identify the situation.
Your boss puts you on a new task that you have never trained for at the office. Even worse, the supervisor does not give you time to learn how to do this new job. When you try to accomplish the task to the best of your abilities, the work is not good enough because your boss has impossible or unrealistic expectations.
Someone at your office yells, shouts, bangs fists and has mood swings. This aggression seems to come out of nowhere and for no reason, yet the bully justifies his yelling and shouting with a made-up reason. You may feel you want to shout back at the person tormenting you.
Pitting Employees Against Each Other
Bullies may encourage conflict and unhealthy competition between employees. The bully may also determine who wins and who loses in this situation. This competitive environment causes employees to turn against one other instead of directing frustrations toward the bully who instigated the tensions.
When you confront the bully, he may deflect blame to someone else or makes excuses for his behavior. For example, your tormentor might tell you that his aggression results from your behavior, or he might blame lack of sleep or personal problems. These excuses do not justify workplace bullying.
Physical and Verbal Threats
A bully at the office might threaten you with negative consequences if you do not conform to his way of doing things. This person might threaten to fire, demote, discipline or punish you. The employee may even threaten to physically harm you or cause emotional distress.
Your co-workers may decide to suddenly stop talking to you, inviting you to lunch or socializing with you. In some cases, these co-workers may be acting under pressure from the bully to try to isolate you.
A bully might try to take credit for your work. On the other hand, a bullying supervisor or colleague could try to blame you for mistakes you never made as he tries to deflect responsibility for his own incompetence.
One subtle type of bullying includes constant lying. These deceptions undermine trust among colleagues by creating false hopes and obscuring reality. By using lies, the bully may also attempt to get a co-worker in trouble.
Failing to Address Concerns
A manager or an authority figure should address your concerns in a timely fashion. However, when the person in authority is a bully, he does not have your best interests in mind. In this case, he may not listen to your concerns, or he may make insincere promises to help that he never fulfills.
Believe it or not, excessive flattery is a form of workplace bullying. This behavior sets up a situation in which the person being complimented becomes more receptive to the bully's manipulation. The victim falls into a subtle trap that can lead to hurt feelings and loss of trust.
Dealing with workplace bullies is not easy. Harassment at work is something no one should have to handle alone. The first step involves going to your human resources department to seek assistance. Document the pattern of abuse and report it to prevent the problem from escalating and causing further stress in the workplace.
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