At some point in your career, you may come across a co-worker who is on a mission to make your life a living hell or even get you fired. Unfortunately, workplace bullying is not uncommon. A 2012 Career Builder survey found that roughly 35% of workers said they felt they were being bullied at work. This is up from 27% the year before. Here are some ways to manage a bullying situation at work.
1. Know the signs
In some cases, you may not be sure if you’re being bullied. Most of the time you can be pretty sure, but there are some signs that may give you a clue. According to Workplace Bullying Institute, you may be the victim of workplace bullying if: your time off is being used for “mental health days” so that you can avoid the person who is making you miserable, you feel sick the night before your work week begins, or you feel so ashamed of being controlled by someone at work that you don’t want to tell your spouse or partner.
2. Address the bully
Immediately let the perpetrator know that his or her behavior is unwelcome. Be prepared, however, for the possibility that this may not go as planned. Just because you address the behavior does not mean it will stop. If this is the case, you’ll have to take the next step and talk to a superior. What if the bully is your boss? If the bully is your boss, and addressing the behavior did not help, you’ll have to speak with your boss’s supervisor.
3. Alert management
Let your direct supervisor as well as your human resources department know what is going on. It will be difficult to help you if no one knows what is happening. And this way, if things escalate, your managers will not be taken by surprise and will already have some background information.
4. Look for alternatives
When you speak to your supervisor and human resources, suggest some ways that you would like to see the situation handled. Investigate whether it would be possible to transfer to another department or to change your seating arrangement.
Sometimes quitting your job is the only way to get out of a bad situation. If you have tried everything in your power to stop the bullying, and there has been no resolution, you may need to quit in order to preserve your mental health and self-esteem. The effects of long-term bullying can have tremendous consequences, including depression.
“Bullying is a behavior that should not be tolerated, but is very common in the workplace. All employees have a right to feeling safe at work. We each deserve happiness and personal success. If you are being targeted by a bully, you may not be in a position to force the bullying to stop. You may find yourself in the very difficult situation of realizing that your best option is to leave your job. While this is very unfair, it may be the healthiest and fastest solution to your situation,” said Annie Clayton in Brilliant Not Bullied: Workplace Bullying Unveiled: Take Back Control of Your Career.
6. Don’t punish yourself
Sometimes things don’t work out and your employer may blame you for what happened. You may even get fired over something that wasn’t your fault. If things did not work out the way you would have liked, resist the urge to blame yourself. You are not to blame for being bullied.
“Much of the pain you now feel comes not from that single missed opportunity, but from beating yourself up over not taking sufficient action to right the wrong. The fact is that it was your employer who set the stage for the bully to operate as a loose cannon, failed to constrain him or her when told about it, and made you fend for yourself, isolated at work,” said Gary Namie and Ruth Namie, Ph.D. in Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity on the Job.