If you are yelled at frequently at work, are subjected to abusive language, unreasonable criticism, sarcasm, or rumors, are ignored and excluded from either work-related or social activities, are given impossible deadlines or illegitimate extra work, had your responsibilities unduly taken away from you, or had your job description changed without due notice and explanation, then you are the victim of workplace bullying.
Unfortunately, you’re far from alone. In a 2010 survey by Workplace Bullying Institute (BMI), almost 50 percent of those polled revealed that they had been bullied in the workplace or had seen other employees bullied. WBI pointed out that, in fact, some 54 million have been bullied at work at one time or another. That’s a big number and a significant statistic for organizations, too, because bullying significantly impacts an employee’s productivity—whether you’re in real estate or insurance or marketing or some other field.
What to do? Here are a few suggestions from the experts:
Face the bully. Talking to your tormentor is certainly a difficult thing to do, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s in fact one of the best moves available to you. Confronting him (or her) accomplishes three things immediately: it tells him that his behavior is affecting you and your productivity (and thus the company); it makes it clear to him that you won’t tolerate it and you want him to stop; it makes the case for you that you talked to him and tried to resolve the issue, in case the matter progresses to the supervisor or boss.
Be firm. If the bullying only involves extra work, just learn to say no—and be firm about it. Office bullies, even the less-offensive ones, zero in on colleagues who have difficulties refusing, dumping more and more work on them as time passes. Be professional, be polite, and above all, be steadfast in refusing what is unreasonable work or work that shouldn’t be yours in the first place.
As a rule of thumb, you should accept only work from your immediate superior, although special circumstances exist that can legitimately override this. Bullies tend to take advantage of this gray area to pass on work to you. In most cases, refuse work from anyone other than your boss. You have a right to refuse. Knowing that should give you confidence to be even more firm the next time.
Document incidents. If matters escalate and you decide to lodge an official complaint, you’ll need documentation to corroborate your case. It’s vital that you keep a record of each incident of bullying by your colleague towards you, making sure that you include date, time, witnesses, and circumstances. Preserve email and other forms of correspondence between you and the bully.
Report matter to immediate superior. If confronting your colleague doesn’t stop the bullying and you need to report the matter, don’t bypass your immediate superior. He or she has to be in the loop; if he’s an impartial superior, then he’s going to be your ally. Make sure though to tell him you’d like to be productive in your work, but your colleague’s unprofessional behavior is affecting your job performance.
Consult an employment-law attorney. In the extreme case that no or ineffective intervention is made by your HR and management, consider seeking the advice of an employment-law attorney. Self-protection is a basic right.
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