Workplace bullying is a phenomenon that all too often fails to get the attention it deserves. It can take place at any level, from a manager constantly harassing a certain employee to colleagues making fun of each other’s performances. It’s all too easy to pretend this doesn’t happen or to think that people in the workplace are mostly adults who are either too mature or have better things to do than engage in this behavior.
At the very least, one would hope that workplace bullying prevention training would eliminate the problem. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. If you’ve ever experienced workplace bullying, as a shocking 75% of workers have at some point, you know how devastating it can be.
As bad as workplace bullying is, there are steps you can take if you find yourself a victim.
Match Their Aggression
Workplace bullying can often manifest as actions like coworkers frequently cutting you off at meetings or trying to call your productivity into question in front of others. They may try to get more workers to join in and gossip about you, as well. The worst thing you can do is let this slide. Rather, call them out on it. Point out that they’re cutting you off or question them publicly about why they’re singling you out.
Bullies are often cowards, and when faced with a small dose of their own medicine, they may just slink off.
Ask the Bully’s Supervisor to Confront Them
This step will be easiest to take if you and your bully have the same supervisor. It might seem like an adult form of “telling the teacher,” but it can be effective. Those higher up the chain won’t like workplace bullying and will want it to stop because it lowers morale, affects productivity, and can call the company’s ethics into question if left unchecked.
Seeking a supervisor’s help can be particularly helpful if the bullying is due to performance (contrary to instinct, those who are bullied at work often perform at a higher volume than their bully, who is often overcompensating). This will give the supervisor the opportunity to lay out exactly what is expected of the bully and what will happen if those expectations aren’t met, hopefully scaring the bully into quitting the offensive behavior.
If you and your bully do not have the same supervisor, or if the bully is your supervisor, the idea of this step remains the same; just contact the right supervisor about the issue.
Go to HR
If neither of the above tips work, it may be time to inform HR, especially if you find yourself being bullied for something protected under anti-discrimination rights (you might just skip options one and two in that case).
There is a common worry that HR exists to protect the company from any perceived wrongdoing and would therefore do little to address bullying, but this is untrue. While they may not make a public spectacle of the event, they will have a meeting set up with the offending person to discuss why this is happening. They will likely refresh them on the company’s code of conduct, and inform them of the consequences if they fail to comply.
You should never be afraid to contact HR about an issue like this, and their investigation should hopefully be enough to put an end to the ordeal. Remember, they will be invested in the case because they will have a tough time obtaining and keeping employees if they develop a reputation of a toxic workspace.
It’s never ideal, but if all else fails, it is within your rights to take legal action. You’ll need to study your workplace’s policy on disruptive behaviors and seek council from someone like this lawyer in Stroudsburg, PA. Make sure to use the language in your company’s policy when filing your formal complaint. From here, each case can be different, so your legal council will be able to offer the best advice.
While hopefully you’ll never have to resort to that final option, you deserve to be treated well at work, and you have a right to be there as much as any other employee. Never let anyone make you feel otherwise.