We hear a lot about bullying these days. Much of it concerns bullying at school, but this disturbing activity doesn’t stop once we leave high school – it can happen in the workplace as well.
It helps to define what bullying is and what it is not. It is not a one-time only clash, it is not a character conflict, and it is not a case of simple disagreements.
Bullying is far more sinister. It leads to more than making an effort to avoid someone; it leads to a serious impact on the victim’s emotional and physical health. Bullying is persistent and spiteful; prolonged and purposeful. The bullying behaviour cannot be explained with logic. It cannot be dealt with through avoidance. The more you attempt to adjust your behaviour, blame yourself, or doubt your own perceptions, the more power you give the perpetrator – the harder you make it to shake this person’s jaw that seems clamped in your hind side.
Bullies do their dirty work when there are no witnesses, and are deceptive to the max. Clever liars, they deny with utmost conviction anything their victim asserts. And their “credibility” fosters your own self-doubt. A vicious cycle begins.
Bullying infringes on your human rights and attempts to attack your dignity. Such abuse can lead to the victim suffering from depression and even post-traumatic stress syndrome.
The victim may find it difficult to find allies, quite simply because colleagues, at a deep level where they themselves would rather not admit to, are afraid of the bully and wish to spare themselves the same fate. Others, because they don’t understand the level of conniving, secrecy, and maliciousness, “pooh-pooh” the experience, suggesting that it’s all in the victim’s imagination or somehow the victim’s fault.
What then, can a victim, typically the quintessential “nice” person, do?
- If it is in early stages, consider asking the bully assertive questions, for example: Why would you say that? What exactly do you mean by that? Or suggest, “Let’s take this discussion to the manager’s office.” You may nip it in the bud.
- Keep a diary. Courts take cumulative small incidents seriously.
- If you’ve been visiting your doctor for treatment for depression, or seeing a counselor, keep a record of these visits.
- With your diary and documented doctor’s visits, go to your boss and ask for a transfer, have the bully transferred, or ask for a grievance hearing. Share how the bully’s actions are seriously impeding your work, and are bringing the work unit into a situation for potential disgrace.
What is the bully’s purpose? Usually it is to control, to hide his or her incompetence, or to project incompetence onto someone else. Most of us wouldn’t begin to torture a colleague in this way, but bullies are not normal, average, or collegial colleagues. Experts agree: you are dealing with a sociopath or disordered personality, making it critical that you fight back by documenting their actions, and assert your rights by involving management.
Bullies are opportunists: they look for an easy victim. Don’t be one. Learn to stand tall, breathe deeply, make good and sustained eye contact, keep your voice in control, and refrain from responding to the bully’s bait.
(I had a recent client who was being bullied, and when the co-worked said, “You’re lucky you weren’t in front of me because I would have slapped you,” she said nothing at all in a concerted effort to not provoke this woman, but knew she would take this conversation directly to her boss, which she did.)
Oftentimes the victim is the first to leave. Management takes no action, and after a year of suffering, it’s time to leave. See this not as a failure, but as a positive step, as one in which you will grow your career in a better direction.
– submitted by Stephanie Clark, New Leaf Resume