The topic of workplace bullying has been grabbing the spotlight in recent years. Far from those playground days when the class bully would wait to pounce on his victims as they made their way to and from school, in the work environment, physical threats are replaced by emotional and psychological harassment that can at times be very subtle. According to a survey conducted in fall 2007 by research firm Zogby International, over a third of American workers responded that they had experienced bullying at work.For the victims of workplace bullying, life can be tortuous. The negative effects of bullying show up not only in general work performance and job satisfaction, but also in the victim’s psychological, emotional, and physical health.
Victims of workplace bullying, however, do not have to respond passively to their situation. Here is a series of steps that victims of workplace bullying can do to regain control over their lives:
1. Recognition. The first step towards properly defending yourself against a workplace bully is to recognize that you are being bullied in the first place. Common signs of workplace bullying include:
repeated mistreatment in the form of verbal abuse, offensive conduct or behaviors (verbal and nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating or intimidating, and/or preventing work from getting done through interference or sabotage.
Workplace bullying will often involve other workers who will then side with the bully, either voluntarily or through coercion, and it usually undermines legitimate business interests when bullies’ personal agendas take precedence over work itself. (Workplace Bullying Institute)
2. Acceptance. Once you have recognized the fact that you are being bullied, you need to validate and legitimize your feelings next to it. Workplace bullying is held at the same level as sexual harassment or physical abuse which are known to cause detrimental effects to the victim’s physical, emotional, and psychological health. So if you are experiencing any form of distress as a result of workplace bullying accept the fact that it is normal.
3. Monitor your health. According the Zogby survey, 45% of victims of workplace bullying suffer a host of stress-related health problems including: high blood pressure, hypertension, neurotransmitter disruption, and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. They also suffer from a slew of psychological and emotional issues, such as anxiety, Depression, and Post-Traumatic Stress.
In order to break the hold that your bullying co-worker or boss has over your life, you must first address any health related issues with a qualified professional.
4. Research your options. Seek advice (preferably from someone outside of your work environment) over what you can do in your given situation. Research state and federal law to see if any legal action can be taken (usually only in cases that involve some form of discrimination or sexual harassment). Consider looking for a new job or a transfer to another part of the company.
Trying to convince employers, even from a financial or business perspective, to do something about your workplace bully may end in frustration, but you should also consider this option.
5. Take action. Once you have researched your options, choose the one that makes the most sense for your health and well-being. Your ability to rebound from your bullying experience will depend on how well you considered you options and acted on them.
In short, you can gain control of your life even from the worst workplace bully.