For most of us the term bullying conjures up images of mean kids who terrorise the meek, the weak, the different and the lonely. This is perhaps because of what we witnessed or experienced when we were children. Or it could be because this is usually how film, television, literature and pop culture portray it.
Lamentably, bullying doesn’t always end with childhood. Bullies don’t suddenly grow up and miraculously turn into wonderful adults, and growing up won’t protect you from being bullied.
Adults can face bullying on many fronts. It can happen in relationships, friendships, work, and family. I even have friends who are bullied by their kids!
So how do you know if you’re being bullied at work?
Well, according to this public service organisation, and this Australian workers website,workplace bullying constitutes the following:
• Offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting comments
• Aggressive behaviour
• Teasing and practical jokes
• Pressuring someone to behave inappropriately
• Unreasonable deadlines or targets
• Unjust criticism
It can also take on more subtle forms like excluding you from activities, ignoring your opinions and contributions, and overloading you with unpleasant work.
So what do you do if you think your colleagues, your employees, or your boss is bullying you?
First, collect evidence. Emails are first prize, but when someone verbally abuses you, write it down. Ask witnesses if they saw what happened and get their version of events too.
Second, tell someone. You can talk to your direct manager (unless she is the problem), your HR representative, a union representative or your colleagues. As with schoolyard bullies, speaking out is the best way to stop this behaviour. Use the examples you have collected in step one.
You can even tell the person bullying you. Often, people don’t even realise that they’re being unfair. Clashing personalities might lie at the root of your problem, and speaking frankly could resolve the issue.
If your direct manager or HR representative refuses to act, you can take it to upper management or even at outside organization. But remember, the onus would be on you to prove that you are being bullied and that you have followed the proper reporting channels.