According to a 2014 survey by the Workforce Bullying Institute, 27% of the people surveyed confirmed they had been bullied at work.
Unfortunately bullying in the workplace is as rife as it’s ever been. Office politics are always present, and there are always people being bullied and pushed around.
This survey really only touches on the surface of the overall problem. As with any form of bullying there are many who feel like they can’t admit it, or maybe just don’t see the signs.
Have you ever been bullied at work?
Or do you think you may have been, but you’re making excuses for the person bullying you?
When we think of bullying in the workplace we think of bosses, people with power, and those who have the authority to tell us what to do.
But bully isn’t restricted to people with power. Peers, colleagues, and even co-workers with less authority are known to bully others.
Because bullies are people who are insecure with themselves. They are generally paranoid, need to control others, and will prey on anyone they can get away with bullying.
Their end goal is to gain satisfaction from belittling, diminishing, and causing hurt to their victims. Through an ongoing campaign of aggressive and demeaning behavior.
10 Ways to Recognize Workplace Bullying and What to Do
You Notice You’re Treated Differently to Your Peers
Without looking at how ‘equal’ others are on a micro level, it should be fairly obvious if you see your peers treated differently to you. Are they being given better leads if you’re in sales? Maybe they are allowed more time off unquestioned, or a bigger bonus.
This is a common tactic for a bully to try and make you feel bad. And, if you question it you’re playing right into their hands. It gives them the opportunity to lie to you, or humiliate you. There is little you can do about it.
Your Hard Work Gets Discarded
There is not many worse feelings than putting a lot of hard work into a project – only to have it discarded. If your boss suddenly changes direction on the workflow they had previously set you, and just starts from scratch ignoring what you have done. This is bullying.
It can happen that goals are shifted. In this instance the correct thing to do it is to recognize the work you have done. Either finding a way to use some/all of the work, or congratulating you on what you have done and apologizing.
You Are Needlessly Micromanaged
This is one of the more uncomfortable experiences while working. Having someone breathing down your neck all day takes its toll. If every decision you make is questioned regardless of the importance, you’re under the microscope.
This is done to give you the feeling that you are not capable of doing your job. To make you feel insecure, under-valued, and with the end goal of squeezing you out of your job. Being treated like this usually pushes people to make mistakes, compounding the problem.
You’re Excluded from Social Events
We all spend a lot of time at work. Interacting socially with co-workers on a personal, or corporate level is important to a lot of people. If you overhear people talking about social events you didn’t even know about, or find you’re being excluded from communications – this is bullying.
This is a power move by the person responsible for inviting others to events. It gives them a great deal of satisfaction being able to single you out, and make you feel bad. It’s best to rise above it, try not to force your way back in to social events. You’ll only feel alienated while there.
You’ve Been Verbally Abused
Verbal abuse in the workplace is never acceptable. You’ve been victimized if you’ve experienced being shouted or screamed at, had cuss words directed at you, or been disrespectfully spoken to.
Verbal abuse can be a lot more subtle too. Sometimes just in the way you’re being spoken to or about. Even jokes and comments that make you feel uneasy are not acceptable. The line between professional and personal is very clear, it shouldn’t be crossed.
People Gang up on You
Not everyone is going to agree with decisions in the workplace. But there are ways to discuss and show others if you agree with them. If people are ganging up and all telling you the same thing this is a form of bullying.
A pack mentality is formed to gain strength in numbers. If you are outnumbered, your voice cannot be heard. Arguing with a gang of individuals sticking together is fruitless.
You Feel Stress and Anxious
Bullying is largely psychological. It’s not often people get physical with each other at work, if they do it becomes a criminal case. Bullying takes its toll on the mental health of the person being victimized. Leading to stress, anxiety and depression.
This can also lead on to physical issues. Like increased blood pressure, issues sleeping, lower immune system, loss of appetite, and more. This is a serious situation to be in, if you don’t start doing something about it soon you can do irreversible damage.
You Are Publicly Disrespected
It’s one thing having someone pick on you in relative secrecy. But being bullying in front of others is much worse in most cases. If your boss chooses a team meeting or a meeting with clients to pull you up on your work, they are unfairly targeting you.
This is done to embarrass and shame you. The person doing the public scolding is usually celebrated because they have followers, or the people round them are too scared to speak out. It’s an unpleasant situation to be in.
Your Work Is Unfairly Criticized
If you find yourself suddenly being criticized regardless of what you do, you’re being treated unfairly. There are ways of providing feedback and criticism that doesn’t feel like you’re being targeted. If there are some genuine issues with your work, a good manager will work through it with you.
The intention here is to make you feel bad about yourself and your work. Leading to making you question yourself, and probably lead to making mistakes.
Your Job Is Made Difficult for You
Someone who has bad intentions for you will make your job more difficult. Giving you seemingly impossible tasks, changing their minds, and not communicating properly.
A bully will enjoy seeing their victim struggling or trying harder than others. It’s a senseless and horrible act, but that’s how they get satisfaction for their lack of self-esteem.
What You Can Do If You’re Being Bullied
If you are being bullied it’s normal to feel very alone. Especially if it’s your superior doing the bullying, who can you complain to, right? But you’re not alone, and you should absolutely do something about it, here are some options:
Speak with HR or a Trusted Person in Authority at Work
The human resources department are supposed to help investigate, and resolve bullying. It will take some courage to approach them, but you have to do it.
They will provide you with all the information and support you need to find a resolve. If for whatever reason they do not, it just may not be possible for you to stay with the company.
You may also know someone else in the company that holds an authorities position. They should understand and be sympathetic. They may also have the authority to do something about the bullying, or speak to HR for you.
Understand Your Employee Rights
Before taking action contact a government or free advice line. Find out where you stand legally in your state, and be aware of your rights.
Employees have rights, no one should put up with being treated unfairly. There are many organizations that help with the ever-growing problem of bullying. Reach out to them.
Find Another Job
This may sound drastic on the offset, but think about your health and well-being. If you are suffering with health problems, stress, and worrying about work all the time – you will be better off finding a job you enjoy.
Believe in yourself and your self-worth. Work on your self-confidence that will have taken a bashing. Then start looking for a new job. Sometimes it’s just not worth the battle, as sad as that may seem.
If you are looking for further resources, the Workplace Bullying.org website has some useful information.
Phil lives in England, UK, and has around 20 years experience as a professional life, career and executive coach. He started this blog to help others find and define their own self development journey. Blogging about a wide range of topics to help facilitate a better future.