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Workplace bullying: Are you a target?

Workplace bullying is defined by WBI as, “repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators. It is abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, or work interference-sabotage-which prevents work from getting done, or verbal abuse” (2014).

According to a 2000 study conducted by WBI, workplace bullies target veterans in the organization, who are skilled, independent and thus not subservient. These individuals are well liked by coworkers, associates, partners, etc, which the bully deems as a threat. The study also revealed 45% of workplace targets suffer stress related health issues.

Most targets are not confrontational and therefore do not react with aggression towards a bully. In this occurrence, the bully develops a sense of impunity, especially if the employer does not interfere with the misconduct.

In this instance workplace targets should understand the steps they can take to help eliminate the unfair treatment.

The steps include:

1. Confiding in a trusted mentor, coworker, or associate to discuss the issue. They may be able to provide advice from personal experience.

2. Confronting the bully in a professional manner. Calmly discuss the issues with the bully without showing vulnerability or becoming confrontational.

3. Not discussing the situation with multiple individuals. Do not initiate or contribute to office gossip and rumors.

4. Not being intimidated by the bully. The bully may try to make the target feel bad about themselves or as if they did something wrong.

5. Continuing to work normally. The bully wants the target to fail. Therefore, continuing to work normally will defeat the bully’s goal.

6. Ensuring supervisors and others are aware of one’s work. Workplace bullies make it a mission to spread untruths about the targets work quality, teamwork, and other components of their job. They even are petty and report the smallest infractions to supervisors or other individuals such as human resources personnel. To dismiss any claims made by the bully, the target can keep track of written documentation such as emails, reports, etc, as well as documenting meetings, with the bully’s signature, to validate one’s work contributions and integrity.

7. Maintaining workplace relationships. Workplace bullies try to isolate the target from their coworkers, supervisors, etc by spreading untruths to develop mistrust. Therefore, maintaining relationships and not allowing the bully to alter others’ attitudes toward their competence will again deter their goal of sabotage.

Although the suggestions above may be successful for some individuals dealing with a bully that is a peer, it may be difficult for others, especially if the treatment is coming from their supervisor, human resource personnel, or other executive that has the ability to eliminate the bullying, but instead is contributing to or condoning it. If this is the case a grievance* may have to be filed or other measures, including litigation may have to be exhausted; especially if those expected to handle workplace bullying are using their power to encourage and/or contribute to the bullying.

*“Grievance – a complaint made due to being unsatisfied or unhappy about a situation, the feeling of being treated unfairly, or something that caused distress” (Merriam-Webster, 2014).

Reference

McKay. R.D. (n.d.). Workplace bullies: What to do about them. Retrieved from http://careerplanning.about.com/od/bosscoworkers/a/bullies_at_work.htm.

Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Grievance. Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/grievance.
Workplace Bullying Institute. (2014). The WBI definition of workplace bullying. Retrieved from http://www.workplacebullying.org/individuals/problem/definition/.