As an employee, you expect your workplace not only to be safe, healthy and secure but also free from harassment and other debilitating intra-company personal interactions. Unfortunately, however, your particular workplace may not live up to your expectations, especially if you must work with or around one or more bullies.
Workplace bullying is defined as “health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators,” and includes the following characteristics:
- Threatening, humiliating or intimidating behavior
- Behavior that interferes with, sabotages or prevents someone’s ability to perform and/or complete his or her work
- Verbally abusive language
- Continuing such behavior
Bullying is a form of harassment whereby the bully attempts to control others. You can easily spot bullies when you see them at work. They are the blustering, quarrelsome, overbearing people who habitually badger and intimidate other employees who are smaller, weaker or subordinate to them. When you become the target of a workplace bully, nothing you do or do not do pleases them. They always criticize you and the work you perform.
Conversely, some bullies attempt to control you by pretending to be your friend while, in reality, stabbing you in the back every chance they get. Still, others, especially if the bully is your supervisor or someone else to whom you report, seek to accomplish their control over you by withholding some of the information you need to competently and successfully perform your job.
In today’s politically correct environment, many people tend to downplay the seriousness of workplace bullying, passing it off as such “harmless” things as disrespect or incivility. In truth, bullying can more realistically be called the following:
- Workplace psychological harassment
- Workplace psychological violence
- Workplace emotional abuse
Not surprisingly, many experts say that workplace bullying is the employment equivalent of domestic violence. Both the tactics and the results are the same: the perpetrator keeps the victim in a constant state of psychological imbalance, not knowing when the next “attack” will come, but knowing that it will indeed happen.
If you believe a workplace bully has targeted you, your best course of action is to report his or her behavior to your supervisor, assuming (s)he is not the perpetrator. Go as far up your company’s chain of command as you must to report this bullying to the proper objective person(s). Also keep an ongoing written record of when the bullying occurs, who perpetrates it, how it affects your work, and with whom you speak about it. If all your in-house attempts to bring the behavior to an end fail, you may have a legitimate workplace harassment complaint against your employer.