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Bullied in the Workplace

June 30, 2011

Bullied in the Workplace.

For some, memories of school may conjure up a mixed bag of fun and friendship, for other’s they may remember their school day as a living hell. For those being bullied was an everyday occurrence, where the playground was a battlefield. Even when the school bell rang at home time there was still the difficulty getting home in one piece.

For many of those school children who were subject to being targeted by a gang of meat-heads or spiteful girl group, the idea of escaping from school and into the world of work was their only dream they had to hold on to, believing that once they turned sixteen the world would be a different place. Unfortunately there are still some people who believe that being a bully is the only way to get ahead in life and carry on using the same scare tactics they had used in school.

Being bullied at work comes in many guises. The victim may be picked on for any number of reasons; from a clash of personalities, to more specific dislikes. These could be either because of gender, race or sexual orientation. With discrimination laws in place, the bully may use a variety of tactics to undermine the individual, without exposing their true dislike of that person. For example, they may continuously criticise the person’s work or totally ignore the staff member completely,  giving them no encouragement or direction. Other bullies may overload an individual with more work than they can possibly manage, which can then lead to being threatened with the sack or bypassed when it comes to promotion.  

The feeling of embarrassment or fear of repercussions for those on the receiving end of being bullied may stop them challenging such unreasonable behaviour.  Those who do complain may fear getting the response that they are being ‘over sensitive’, and that what was said was taken out of all proportion. Even so, if the individual feels that a comment was said in such a way to undermine them, then it is better to nip such causal bulling in the bud to prevent it being repeated.                                                                                                                             

As for more personal attacks, even light-hearted ones about someone gender, sexuality or race can become irritating at the very least. However, left unchecked, these causal snide comments may grow into more derogative statements about the individual, with the perpetrator claiming that’s how they had always spoken without complaint before. In most cases it is best to have a quite word with the person stating how inappropriate their remarks are coming across, before they are allowed to get any worse.

Regardless of the industry, there is always the chance of coming across a more upfront bully who will use many different types of intimidations to get their own way. Tune into any episode of the BBC flagship programme The Apprentice and you will meet a group of people apprently at the top of their game, belittling their competitors in a bid to win Lord Sugar’s approval. Celebrity chef, Gordon Ramsey prefers to wear people down with a barrage of swearing in order to get his point across. Both these examples may make great television viewing, but for those people who have to step into the work place on a daily bases and have their boss or work colleague shouting them down to get their point across can have an extremely detrimental effect on the individual. Just as in the playground, if the bully thinks they can get away with more, that is exactly what they will do. If swearing and belittling becomes the norm, then when things reach boiling point and word are not enough a slap, punch or kick have been known to follow.

In the current climate were being in secure employment is becoming as rare as finding hen’s teeth, too many people fear of speaking out, even when the bullying becomes extreme. This really should not be allowed to carry on. In most organisations there are protocols in place to protect the employee; no one should feel afraid of repercussion if they speak out about bulling in the work place. Considering that for many people, the work place is where they spend the majority of their day; tackling bulling in the work place is of the upmost importance. Should you find yourself being bullied at work, here are some top tips to beat the bully.

Challenge the bully’s behaviour.
Some people can make off the cuff remarks that to them is having a little fun at your expense. Nip such behaviour in the bud by challenging them. Most light bulling of this kind can be stamped out.

Keep a diary
If the bullying is more aggressive, keep a diary. It is important to keep to the facts, who said what and in what manner. Also make a note of other people who witnessed the bullying, ask if they would be willing to back up what you have written. In this technically age Bullies can use the internet to intimidate. Keep any aggressive emails or social net work messages that have been sent.  It is also a good idea to keep a note of these in your diary

Don’t miss out –
Do not allow a bully to isolate you from other’s at work. For many, going out on ‘work do’s’ helps build the bond of working relationships. Confide in someone from work, you could simply say you find it difficult walking into a luncheon/party/ ‘drinks do’ on your own and would they go with you. There is nothing stronger then walking into a staff do with a confident smile on your face. Failing to go to one or two outings may isolate you further.  

Speak to your manager or a senior colleague
Bullies rarely pick on a single individual. Make an appointment to speak to your Manager, if it’s your manager who is being the bully, speak to another senior colleague. You may find that the bully has a track record and is already on the way out. Either way, do not choose to do nothing; things in most cases will only get worse.

Get support
If your company has a trade union, join it. Being part of a union can give you advice and support throughout the process; this can particularly helpful if the person bullying you is your boss.  Trade unionists also have many years of experience, guiding you through the legal side of things (should it come to that) as well as being supportive to you, when you emotionally need it the most.                           

Don’t let the bully drag down
The worst thing you can do is allow the bully to interfere with your life outside of work. Being bullied may make you feel more isolated and not wishing to get involved with other things outside of work. Call your friends up and arrange to go out, a trip to the movies may take your mind of things without having to talk about things until you want to, but remember not to bottle things up. Go to the gym, join a running club, give yourself something to look forward to.

The most important thing to remember is that all bullies rely on you being afraid to speak out. If you are being bullied confide in a friend and take some action; the worst thing you can do is suffer in silence.

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