How to Handle Workplace Bullying

If you are being bullied at work, you are not alone. As of the date of publication, the Workplace Bullying Institute states that 35 percent of working people in the United States have reported being bullied. Workplace bullies come in various forms, including executives, managers, supervisors and subordinates. Bullying can negatively impact your physical, mental, social and economic health, so it’s critical that you overcome it.

You might be inclined to blame yourself for the bullying; however, you are not the problem. Bullies use all sorts of abuse, such as unwarranted criticism, yelling, humiliation, personal insults, sabotage and intimidation to control their victims. Beneath the bullying behavior lies someone who is insecure about his own weaknesses, failures and incompetence. Employers may also play a role in bullying behavior. This may happen, for example, when employers provide overly competitive environments or fail to punish bullying behavior.

Consult a mental health professional to determine the impact the bullying behavior has had on you. Also, have your physician check for stress-related diseases such as hypertension and heart disease. Then determine whether it’s best to stay with the company and fight the bully or you should leave for the sake of your health. Review your company’s stance on workplace bullying to see if it even makes sense to report the bully; some companies have strong anti-bullying policies, while others don’t. Contact an attorney to know your options under federal and state law. For example, if the bullying stems from discrimination or a violation of the company’s internal policies, you may have a case. If you decide to stay and fight the bully, take some time off from work to regain your composure and prepare a plan of action.

Do not respond in kind to the bully. If you fail to react to her provocations, she might realize that she cannot manipulate you and might even stop her behavior. Continue to perform your work according to, or above, company expectations.

Workspace Bullying

Write down everything the bully has done to you to establish a pattern of her behaviors. Covert actions such as slandering and petty humiliation are generally harder to prove than overt behaviors such as throwing things and angry outbursts. Over time, covert behaviors poison the work environment and become easier to detect. By documenting a series of behaviors rather than relying on a single incident, you prove the bully’s intent. Keep the journal and written communication you have had with the bully such as emails and memos in a safe place. Write down the bully’s interaction with other employees. If he makes allegations against you or engages in petty criticism, ask him to validate them. If he can’t, note that you asked him to substantiate them and he failed to do so. Be calm and methodical during this process. Gather witnesses, such as other employees who he has bullied as well.

Report the bully to your human resources department, or if applicable, your manager. Submit all the proof you have, including results of your doctor visits. Be prepared for the bully to deny everything or even have his own “case” against you.