Bullies who torment kids on the playground don’t always stop being bullies when they grow up - in fact, a grown-up bully could be your boss! According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 1-in-3 workers have been targeted on the job.
And it’s common for the bully to be the boss – because bullies tend to end up in positions of power. They’ll chip away at the victim’s self-confidence by dissing their work, making fun of them in front of coworkers, and spreading rumors. Adult bullies can also be subtle - say, taking credit for someone else’s work, or cutting them out of the loop.
And it’s more than just disruptive. Half of all workplace-bullying victims experience anxiety and depression - and one-quarter suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder! Not to mention stress-related health problems, like high blood pressure.
But if you’re bullied at work, be careful about filing a complaint. Human Resources usually won’t get involved unless the harassment is based on race or gender. And if you go over the bully’s head, and report them to their boss, they might retaliate. They may also explain it away as part of their “tough management style.” And don’t plan on your coworkers coming to your defense! Almost half of those who witness bullying won’t stick their neck out, because they’re worried they’ll be the next target.
So, what CAN you do? Stand up for yourself. The longer the behavior goes unchallenged, the harder it is to stop. That’s from workplace expert Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. She says that you should confront the bully without getting defensive or emotional. Instead, give a calm explanation of how your work has been affected. Like, “I can’t finish the projects you assign if I’m left out of key meetings and emails. I’m concerned that this will impact the company’s bottom line. What do you suggest?”
And get your resumé ready. If they’re not willing to meet you halfway, it’s probably time to move on.