Workplace Bullying: How to Address and Ways to Deal with It

Every company has its share of bullies, whether an unfair manager, an aggressive employee or a hostile client. Without intervention, bullying can erode a person's psychological security, diminish their well-being, and cause them to leave their jobs. To make matters worse, caving in to or accepting bullying may encourage that person to persist with their abusive conduct.

Key takeaways:

Bullying can be categorized as workplace violence because it can leave long-term psychological scars on the people being bullied. This article looks at some of the characteristics and implications of workplace bullying. It also discusses the consequences for the workplace and what individuals may do to prevent this sort of conduct.

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Workplace bullying and its effects

While the term "bullying" lacks a standardized legal definition, it is often understood to refer to the following types of harmful behavior by another individual or group:

  1. Destructive, threatening, inappropriate, or humiliating.
  2. An act of dominance that degrades humiliates or harms another person.

Bullying in the workplace occurs when someone is consistently mistreated by a coworker or a group of coworkers. It might be anything from physical threats to social exclusion. In addition, if another person's behaviors at work endanger a staff member's health or safety, this is classified as bullying.

Health risks

Frequently, if bullying is not addressed, the victim experiences the following:

  • Dangers to health such as high blood pressure, mood changes, panic attacks, stress, ulcers, headaches, loss of appetite, and sleep deprivation.
  • Inability to work or concentrate.
  • Loss of self-esteem.
  • Poor decision-making.
  • Lower productivity.
  • Reduced standing within the organization.
  • Protracted economic, financial, and professional concerns.

What workplace bullying looks like

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Research reveals that one-third of employees have experienced workplace bullying. Young employees, women, and LGBT employees report the greatest incidences of workplace bullying. Respondents to the survey identified the following as the most prevalent types of bullying:

  • Being wrongly accused of committing mistakes.
  • Contributions are being ignored, rejected, or disregarded.
  • Receiving heavy criticism from the employer or coworkers.
  • Having to adhere to different policies or norms.
  • Having rumors spread about them.
  • Belittling statements directed at them during presentations.
  • Being screamed at by a manager in front of colleagues.
  • Not being included in projects or meetings.

Examples of workplace bullies

The brazen bully

These sorts of bullies make demeaning remarks or speak over others in meetings. They want you to know they are in control and are willing to tread on anybody to drive their message home.

The passive-aggressive bully

This individual will grin and offer a remark in passing, such as "Wow, for once you're on time. We are so privileged!”

Passive-aggressive bullies make you uncertain as to whether you were just praised or humiliated. Or they may tell you one thing while telling others an entirely different story. The issue is that they act in such a subversive manner that it is difficult to detect.

The “blunt” bully

Blunt people are usually abrupt, overly assertive, and uncensored. This directness can seem aggressive and is often very hurtful. They are not your typical bullies since they are not out to create trouble on purpose. These people may not even be aware of how they seem to others.

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Why do people bully, and why is it still a problem?

Bullying has been a hidden scourge in academia, industry, and healthcare for decades. The epidemic has exacerbated the high-stress levels that people are experiencing. This perfect storm of circumstances is fertile ground for bullying to thrive.

There are several possible explanations for bullying behavior.

A desire to control people and gain social standing.

They have poor self-esteem and a desire to feel better about themselves.

They can lack empathy or are in denial of their behavior.

They feel angry, dissatisfied, or envious.

They can be socially awkward and insecure.

Some may have experienced emotional neglect, bullying, or violence themselves.

Bullies are more prone to have persistent disorders such as depression or violence.

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Those who are victims of bullying in one circumstance may become bullies in another.

How to cope with the bully at work

If you are being bullied, remember that it is not your fault. Every worker has the right to an environment free from fear and intimidation. Having to deal with a bully at work can be a delicate and complex situation. Some employees may take it upon themselves to deal directly with the bully. However, because intimidation may be at the root of the bullying, it might not be prudent to deal with the bully directly, especially if the person is in a higher position.

Things you can do

Tell someone you trust. Facing bullying alone may be very hard. Tell a friend or someone you work with what's going on.

Keep notes every time the bullying happens. Write down the time and place and what occurred, and if anyone witnessed it. Save any abusive texts or emails the bully sent you.

Approach them. If you feel strong enough, speak with the person who is bullying you about their behavior. Let them know that their behavior is unacceptable and offensive. This can be done in person or on paper. Bring a colleague along as backup.

Use the formal complaint procedures. If talking to the bully doesn't work, inform a supervisor about what is going on.

Learn what your rights are at work. An employer can’t punish you if you report them for bullying.

If you are considering leaving the job, seek legal advice.

If you think stress is harming your health, you can talk to your doctor and get a medical certificate to take some time off from work.

Counseling can be a big help to discharge some of the toxic emotions and gain some objective perspective.

If you can bring about a resolution of the bullying, then it is important to move on emotionally for the sake of your mental health. If the matter cannot be resolved, you might need to consider leaving the job. Remember, you cannot change the bully; you can only be responsible for your behavior and choices, as difficult as this might seem.

Given the pervasiveness and severity of bullying in the workplace (for both victims and witnesses), it is more important than ever to foster an environment where employees are comfortable working together to prevent and eradicate the problem.

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