How to conquer bullying at work

Discovering the reason why workplace aggression is happening will help you overcome it.

by Miranda Kennett
Last Updated: 17 Dec 2015

It's hard to thrive at work if we're being bullied or feel that we are. Getting beyond our hurt to sort out what's really going on behind workplace aggression is a big step towards overcoming it.

STEP 1: BECOME A DETECTIVE

Start by asking yourself some questions and amassing some facts:

Is this unwelcome behaviour persistent or was it a one-off? If persistent what seems to trigger it: a specific action, the presence or absence of other people, the time of day/week/month?

Is it just you or does the perpetrator behave in the same way to others? If so, do the targets of abusive or undermining behaviour share any attributes, eg, gender or race? How do they cope?

If it seems it's just you who is picked on, is there anything you can identify that you do, consciously or not, that might provoke this reaction? Have you encountered this behaviour before?

Are your expectations of how you should be treated reasonable?

What specifically does the bully do that makes you unhappy? Is the form of the abuse verbal, nonverbal, psychological or physical?

What's up in the bully's life? Is there something that's making him or her stressed, insecure or bitter?

STEP 2: CALIBRATE THE PROBLEM

On a scale of 1 to 10 how severe is the bullying? Your answer will help you decide the best option in handling the problem.

STEP 3: DECIDE ON YOUR OPTIONS

Armed with this data you are now in a position to consider your options. As with playground bullying, the most important thing is to talk to other people, rather than suffering in silence. The more severe the bullying, the more essential you take some action to protect yourself:

SEVERITY

1-2 Occasional, mild. Disparaging remarks, unfair sanctions.

POSSIBLE ACTIONS

Ignore it.
Avoid typical spark points.
Do others share your concerns? Ask colleagues for coping tactics.


SEVERITY

3-5 Repeated incidents. Undermining confidence and performance. 

POSSIBLE ACTIONS

Talk to the bully calmly, explain why you feel unhappy and ask for his or her suggestions on ways to improve the situation.


SEVERITY

6-8 Persistent ridiculing, setting you up to fail, ignoring or excluding you.

POSSIBLE ACTIONS

Document the incidents, collecting emails and memos.
Get corroboration from witnesses.
Talk to HR and/or your boss's boss.


SEVERITY

9-10 Severe persecution, clearly targeted at you. 

POSSIBLE ACTIONS

Report the bullying formally.
Ask for a transfer - for you or the perpetrator.
Consult an employment lawyer.
Leave.


Miranda Kennett is an independent coach. If there's a leadership issue you'd like her to address, contact her at miranda@mirandakennett.co.uk. Follow her on Twitter @mirandajkennett.

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