Bullying At Work: Breaking the Silence

Learn how to cope with workplace bullies!

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Whether people are comfortable admitting it or not, bullies at work exist. It’s likely we’ve all at least witnessed some bullying behaviors. What is bullying? It’s any kind of harassing behavior that is exclusionary, offensive, or interrupts others’ work tasks. The research on workplace bullying has been looking at why and how bullies act at work, as well as how you can best cope with bullying behavior. It’s stressful to be bullied, so it’s important to know how to respond if you encounter a bully at work. Read below for more on how to combat the negative outcomes that stem from bullying at work!

You’re Not Alone

First, if you’re afraid that admitting you are being bullied at work means you are weak or less capable, know that you’re not alone. Between 11 and 18 percent of employees report being bullied at work. While it’s upsetting that so many people experience this, it also means that you might be able to confide in others about your experiences and get good advice. Plus, you can’t do anything to address the situation if you don’t first admit that something is wrong. Don’t feel guilty if you are being bullied – that will just add to the stress of being bullied overall. Once you are able to see that someone is bullying you, you can move on to figuring out how to cope with it.

admitting bullying
Speak your truth! If you are being bullied, admit it to yourself as a first step. No shame in that!

Make Sure to Take Care of Yourself Outside of Work

Bullying is linked to a lot of negative well-being outcomes. Often, when people experience negativity at work, they will tend to spend time worrying about it at home. It’s important to remember to disconnect from the bully when you’re outside of work for this reason. Make sure you don’t dwell on the bullying when you’re trying to enjoy other things. You might try mindfulness or meditation once a day, if this seems hard. We have talked about the benefits of mindfulness for disconnecting from stress before. Using it to disconnect from bullying is helpful too! The less you focus on the bully, the less the bullying will affect your self-esteem and satisfaction with your life and work.

Remind Yourself Why You’re Awesome

Bullying is intended to make you feel bad. Reminding yourself why you rock might help to fight these feelings. This is particularly important because long-term bullying can lead to depression and negative health behaviors. It sounds silly but try writing down the things that you’re really good at or the things you like most about yourself. Then you can read them when you feel yourself starting to think negatively. If there are people in your life who you trust and love, you might also ask them to be aware of the situation and give a little more positive encouragement than normal. A little positive self-talk can go a long way!

bullying makes you feel bad
Look yourself in the eye and be honest about how great you are! It can easy to forget when you’re being bullied by others.

Remind Yourself Why You Like Your Job

If you are in a generally good organization but are still experiencing bullying, it can help to remind yourself of how the organization has supported you in the past. It can be easy to get wrapped up in the negative when you’re being bullied, but taking a step back and thinking about the parts of your job or company you do like can help. Remembering what you like can put things into perspective. In other words, the bullying is stressful, but it doesn’t encompass your entire work experience (hopefully). Keeping yourself aware of the things that make you happy at work can help you cope while you are trying to deal with the bullying head on.

Tell Someone You Trust About The Bullying

Finally, bullying at work is not acceptable. Your manager or someone you trust (like HR, especially if the bully is your manager!) at work should know. Without proper documentation, you won’t have a good record of what you’ve experienced. Then, it will be harder for the company to take action.

There are other things that you can ask for in addition to just stopping the bully. People are more likely to bully others when they feel their job tasks or role are unclear and when they don’t have a lot of freedom at work. When people don’t feel comfortable or in charge within their own jobs, they sometimes take it out on others. You might suggest that all employees have a little more leeway in how they do their jobs or that efforts to set clear expectations of employees are increased. Some of these structural changes might decrease the likelihood for bullying overall.


Originally Published: August 13, 2018

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