Thursday, December 1, 2011

How to Handle the Office Bully and Abuse

Many workers report that they have been bullied at work, other individuals may not know what bullying includes or how to recognize it when it occurs. Overall, bullying creates a hostile work environment and this uncomfortable work atmosphere is against EEO requirement and can be reported in an official complain. Equal numbers of men and woman become bullies in the workplace, so it is not just men and not just women that might abuse an employee.

One hallmark of bullying in the workplace is that a talented, competent employee is the one that is usually bullied, rather than someone that does a mediocre or bad job. A talented, skillful individual is a threat to the bully.

What can a target do if he or she is being bullied in the workplace? The advice you’ll probably hear from your well-meaning family and friends is to push back. But sometimes that’s just not viable. The fact is that bullies are weak people who choose their targets by who they feel won’t fight back. Some people are just not confrontational.
Also, pushing back can cause the situation to get much worse.

The first step in dealing with bullies is to recognize what or who is the bully

First, you must determine whether or not an act is considered bullying.  Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes; would you behave that way?  If you answered ‘no’ then you might have a bully on your hands.

 So what is bullying at work:
A person becomes a ‘target’ of a workplace bully because they brought something positive to the workplace that another person feels threatened by such as skills and education, recognition from a supervisor, or positive interactions with colleagues. In any case, you were ‘targeted’ because you are the biggest threat to the bully and they will do whatever they can to make your working environment a living hell.

If you still don’t know what a bully is, here are some tips to spot a one:
  • Easily gets too close and personal with you in order to find out your fears and weaknesses
  • Will try to isolate you from other workmates
  • Usually roars at you with insults or will try to humiliate you (might use comedy as a guise)
  • Does not act accordingly inside the workplace
Bullying Will Make You Sick
Bullying causes increased feelings of stress and tension in the body and can lead to clinical indications of :
  • anxiety,
  • weight gain (Even if you don't eat more!),
  • headaches,
  • backaches,
  • nausea,
  • ulcers,
  • insomnia,
  • over sleeping,
  • nightmares,
  • skin rashes,
  • diarrhea,
  • irritable bowel syndrome,
  • high blood pressure,
  • depression,
  • low self-confidence,
  • organ involvement of kidneys and heart,
  • suicidal idealization (thoughts of suicide)

 We suggest the following ways to deal with bullying behaviour:

Document actions
Once you have recognized a bully or bullies, the next thing to do is to document and take note of the encounters.  Write down what exactly happened and NOT what you felt.  Write down where and when it happened, what he or she did, and who were there to see it.  Keep a detailed journal of the harassment.

Address the Matter
First and foremost, you must address the matter. If you let office bullies get away with trying to intimidate you or with disrespecting you to any extent, they will only become more ferocious and blatant. Bullies often mistake kindness for weakness because their entire motive is preying on who they perceive to be as weak. You may choose to address the bully head on or file a complaint with upper management. If you choose to alert upper management and they continue to harass you, you will have to confront them head on.

Stay Away from the Bully
The next step is to stay away from the bully as much as possible.  If you are on the same team or department, continue carrying out tasks with him or her but always keep your distance.  Keep your relationship strictly professional so you can continue carrying out your tasks well.  Make sure other coworkers are involved  so that there is always a witness to neutralize the situation.

Confront Him
Yes, I know that this is a scary step, but it’s essential.  Muster up the courage and let the bully know that you do not deserve this kind of treatment.  Do not be hostile or violent.  Keep it cool and professional.  Since bullies are commonly unreasonable, they will most likely continue bullying anyway.

Expose the bully
Make the business case that the bully is “too expensive to keep.” Stick to the bottom line. If you drift into tales about the emotional impact of the bully’s harassment, you will be discounted and discredited. The trick is to get the employer to stop the bullying for its own self-interests.

Insanity is doing the same thing every time and expecting a different result. Stop it!
You cannot change a bully, ever. Only she/he can change himself, short of good therapy or a miracle from God. Keeping an upbeat attitude will get old under the constant haranguing of a bully. Just hoping the office bully will change is hopeless. Accept the fact of the abuse and make plans to address it or quit and address it.

The Role for Human Resources
Though employees and managers may not want to admit they have lost control of a bully, it may be necessary to call in the human resources department to help defuse a situation.  For the target of bullying, going to HR (either alone or in a group)  can be empowering, Lynn says. Of course, in a small company where the owner serves as the factor head of human resources, this option may be easier said than done.

If an employee comes to you with a complaint, you should ask them to do a little self-reflection: Is the problem bigger than the bully? Does the employee feel the overall workplace is hostile, or is it just one individual? Could the problem be solved by reassigning the employee to a different role or manager?