Are you tired of the bully in your workplace? I asked myself that question several years ago when I walked into my workplace which at the time was a minefield jungle of discrimination, bullying, harassment, intimidation and hostile work environment all rolled into one! My particular bully was also the one assigned to train me.
For the next 6-9 months I was exposed to being ignored, comments questioning my competence, training designed for failure, verbal abuse including cursing and all with management’s full knowledge.
What is workplace bullying? Since there are no laws in place to prevent it, there is no clear legal definition. However, Wikipedia (online encyclopedia) defines bullying as “the tendency of individuals or groups to use persistent aggressive or unreasonable behavior against a co-worker. Workplace bullying can include such tactics as verbal, nonverbal, psychological, physical abuse and humiliation.” The individual who is the “target” of abuse may experience some of the following behavior from the bully;
- being the target of insults
- being yelled and cursed at
- every thing you do is wrong
- being treated differently than your co-workers
- being setup for failure
- derogatory comments aimed at the target
- being excluded from office social occasions
- being abused physically
- being humiliated in front of co-workers
Bullies in the workplace come in all shapes and sizes. Research shows that men cause about 60% of all bullying on the job and women account for the other 40%. According to the Workplace Bully Institute, the majority of victims of bullying are women. The study found that men tend to be equal opportunity bullies while 70% of women are bullied by other women!
Why are women targeted the most? Gary Namie, the research director of the Workplace Bully Institute says, “…it is probably because the target women are less likely to respond to aggression with aggression.” Other reasons could be women like people of diversity are under represented at the top corporate levels of business and therefore face more hostility from their male counterparts.
The logic follows that fewer women means more competition for fewer opportunities. Even though women account for about 50% of manager positions only 15 % of those are at the executive level. According to Penny Hersher CEO of FirstRain, “If you are experiencing sabotage or bullying from other women you can change the culture of the group you are in. One way to do this is to get the women in your organization together to acknowledge that you are a group, you are within the same culture, dealing with stereotype and subtle discrimination issues.”
A workplace bully can be a co-worker, supervisor, manager or owner. If your employer is aware of bullying in the workplace and does nothing to correct it, that’s when it becomes “corporate or institutional bullying”. Its bad news for everyone involved when bullying is accepted as a part of the workplace culture. I have personally experienced another insidious aspect of workplace bullying called “mobbing”.
This happened to me in a staff meeting when I asked a very relevant question concerning my department. I was promptly personally attacked by three co-workers who didn’t address the business aspect of my question. Their focus was demeaning my personal character in front of a large group.
The director of the whole IT (Information Technology) unit whom my question was directed to, just stood there at the podium gleefully taking it all in. This response emboldened the “mobbers” even more. What is mobbing? “In a mobbing situation, the ringleader incites supporters, cohorts, copycats and unenlightened, inexperienced, immature or emotionally needy individuals with poor values to engage in adversarial interaction with the selected target.”
The ringleader, or chief bully, gains gratification from encouraging others to engage in adversarial interaction with the target. Many people use the word “mobbing” to describe this pack attack by many on one individual. Once mobbing is underway the chief bully foments the mobbing into mutually assured destruction, from which the chief bully gains intense gratification.
What can an employee do about bullying? Unless bullying involves harassment associated with gender, race, religion, age, disability, sexual preference, marital status, retaliation or whistleblowing it is usually not illegal in America. But, there are some things we as employees can do.
- Remember YOU are the one being bullied
- Remember YOU are not responsible for the problem
- Remember the bully only cares about control not your job performance
Be proactive in asserting your rights by documenting everything associated with the bullying behavior;
- What was said and done
- Any witnesses to the bullying
- Get copies of any memos,company policy,reports,emails,time sheets
- Try to get the bully to create paper trials showing the bully’s pattern of behavior,etc.
- Use the documentation and witnesses or anything else that can disprove the bully’s accusations toward you.
- If possible always try to have a witness present when you interact or meet with the bully.
- Report the bully to the appropriate personnel, such as a supervisor or manager.
- If the bully is a supervisor or manager, report he/she to human resources or a higher level of management including the owner.
Another way to help yourself is to learn more about it.
If your employer has no workplace bullying prevention program in place you and your co-workers could become victims of violence in the workplace.
Finally, contacting your states human rights commission, the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or consulting with an attorney specializing in employment may assist in determining if the bully is in violation of any state or federal discrimination employment law.
Several states are considering passing laws to protect employees from bullying. But, until laws are passed it’s up to us to take action and remove the bully in your workplace!
Download: What Every Target of Workplace Bullying Needs to Know.
Learn how To avoid the traps, stop bullies in their tracks and get your life back!
More Information: OvercomeBullying.org
Are you tired of the bully in your workplace?