Are You #Bullied-at #Work?

November 18, 2019

© Carole Kanchier, PhD. Nov 17, 2019

 A top-notch salesman, who has had 22 years of successful experience with his company, is being criticized for his ethics and blocked access to needed resources, by a new regional manager.

Do you feel discriminated against or harassed at work? Are you humiliated or falsely accused of being incompetent? Do you feel apprehensive about going to work, anxious while you’re there?  If so, you may be the victim of bullying.

Bullying is defined by Wikipedia as the use of force, coercion, or threat, to abuse, aggressively dominate or intimidate another. The behavior is often repeated and habitual. One essential prerequisite is the perception (by the bully or by others) of an imbalance of physical or social power.

Both genders bully, but women bully more than men. Women are the primary targets for both female and male perpetrators. According to research by the Workplace Bullying Institute, women bullies choose women targets over 80 percent of the time.

The most common workplace bullying relationship is between an abusive boss and targeted subordinate. Drs. Gary and Beth Namie, co-founders of the Workplace Bullying Institute, note that about 70 percent of targets report that the bullies outranked them. A workplace bully could be your boss, the chief executive or peers.

Once targeted, bullied individuals faced a 70 percent chance of losing their jobs, according to a Workplace Bullying Institute survey. Few perpetrators were held accountable.

Bullying Examples

If you’re not sure a behavior is bullying, use the “reasonable person” test. Would most people consider the action unacceptable? Examples include:

  • Falsely accusing someone of errors not made
  • Spreading malicious rumors
  • Discounting someone’s thoughts and feelings. Isolating someone
  • Disregarding accomplishments. Taking credit for target’s work
  • Undermining work. Belittling opinions
  • Physically abusing someone
  • Demoting without cause. Giving poor performance evaluations
  • Constantly changing work guidelines
  • Assigning unreasonable workloads
  • Withholding necessary information or resources
  • Blocking training or promotional opportunities

Bullying victims experience numerous effects. These include shock, anger, feelings of frustration and helplessness, loss of confidence, inability to sleep and stress-related illnesses. Anxiety about going to work and inability to concentrate are other outcomes.

Bullying affects the overall “health” of an organization. An unhealthy workplace is characterized by high absenteeism, accidents and turnover, and elevated employee assistance, recruitment and legal liability costs. This results in low productivity, morale and customer service.

Responding to Bullying

What to do if targeted by a bully? Behavior that’s unreasonable and offends or harms you, should not be tolerated.

– Document the abuse. Record the date, time and details of the event, names of witnesses, and outcomes.  Keep copies of the perpetrator’s correspondence.

– Consider confronting the perpetrator. Ask an impartial third party such as a trusted supervisor or union member to accompany you to the meeting. Show evidence you’ve collected that demonstrates bullying behavior.

– Solicit the assistance of higher level management.  Don’t confide in anyone close to the bully. If a top executive is the perpetrator, reaching out to someone within the organization can be risky, ineffective. With a bully at the top, your situation probably won’t improve. Your best option may be to leave.

Ask colleagues and clients to provide documented perspectives of your performance. This can illustrate your superior’s assessment of your performance is incorrect.

– Don’t retaliate.  You may look like the perpetrator and confuse personnel responsible for evaluating and responding to the situation.

– Move on.  Consider transferring to another department in the organization or change employers. Request a severance package. Positive opinions of coworkers, other supervisors and clients will provide needed documentation. Before giving notice, get critical personal property off the premises.

View your move as a positive change, not an escape. It’s better to leave on your own terms and time than wait for involuntary termination. Tell supervisors why you’re leaving. Don’t broadcast your impending resignation.

Start an external job search. Be discreet. Top-brass bullies sometimes use the full weight of the organization to trash careers of workers who turn on them. Don’t discuss negative aspects of the company with prospective employers. Emphasize your accomplishments.

Minimizing Bullying

Organizations have a legal responsibility to protect employees. Senior management must let perpetrators know bullying isn’t tolerated. A comprehensive written policy that covers varied harassment examples must be shared with all employees, and apply to all organizational levels.

  • Outline the process by which preventive measures will be developed.
  • Provide examples of unacceptable behaviors, working conditions.
  • State organization’s view of bullying, commitment to preventing it. Specify consequences.
  • Encourage reporting of all aggressive incidents. Treat all complaints seriously.
  • Outline procedures for investigating and resolving complaints. Address them promptly.
  • Outline confidential processes by which employees can report incidents without fear of reprisals.
  • Provide victim support services and employee prevention training.
  • Monitor and regularly review organizational policies.

Always be respectful, professional. Try to resolve issues before they get out of control.

Author Bio: Carole Kanchier, PhD, is an internationally recognized newspaper/digital columnist, registered psychologist, coach and author of award winning, Questers Dare to Change Your Job and Life available at amazon

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Dr. Kanchier has taught at University of California, Berkeley and Santa Cruz, University of Alberta, and other institutions of higher learning. Carole Kanchier is known for her pioneering, interdisciplinary approach to human potential.