Did you think that bullying was only a schoolyard problem? Think again!
Did you think that bullying was only a schoolyard problem? To give you some perspective on just how much bullying there is in the workplace, it might help to know that there are multiple groups (e.g., WBI and IAWBH) that are dedicated to studying and eliminating workplace bullying! In a 2014 study, WBI found that 65 million Americans were affected (either directly or indirectly) by workplace bullying.
Workplace bullies are usually (you will not be surprised to hear) the bosses. As happens in most workplaces, leaders are placed into positions of power based on their business results but not usually based on their people skills. Naturally, not all bosses with low people skills are automatically bullies. Many simply have low leadership skills, and are unable to deal effectively with others. It’s those that treat others in an abusive fashion, and do it again and again, that can be defined as bullies.
What does a workplace bully look like?
Perhaps it’s someone that yells at everyone, tells them they’re stupid, threatens them, never shows any sort of satisfaction or gratitude in the work of others (in fact, it’s likely the bully will take the credit). Input is not only not valued, attempts at providing it are firmly and rudely rebuffed; employees who try may even be made into “an example” of someone who thinks they are smarter than the boss and doesn’t know how to follow instructions.
As noted before, the results of the WBI study included employees that were both directly and indirectly affected by workplace bullying. Perhaps you don’t feel that you have been directly bullied by a boss or co-worker, but maybe you have witnessed it happening. Think about what it would be like to be sitting at your desk while one cubicle over from you, your co-worker is being constantly berated by his boss. Do you think that wouldn’t affect you? Don’t you think you would wonder if you’re next? Take this hypothetical situation and multiply it again and again, across companies of all sizes, in every city, across the US and around the world. Is it any wonder that workplace engagement (the level of happiness/satisfaction/dedication to work) is so low?
How do you deal with a workplace bully?
There is no perfect way of dealing with this, and it’s important to remember that you are probably not going to change the behavior of the bully. You can, however, do some things to keep yourself sane while you weigh your options.
You have to start with being honest with yourself about the situation: is this a true bullying situation, or are you just unhappy with your job and you are looking for someone to blame? Assuming that it’s really a bully that you are dealing with, you need to remind yourself – again and again – that it’s not about you. Easier said than done, right? Yes, nobody said this would be easy, and ultimately it’s likely going to be a “band-aid” on a situation that cannot realistically be fixed. If you are truly being bullied, you will likely need to make a tough decision and decide if this workplace is for you.
Have you dealt with a bully in the workplace? How did you handle it? Let us know by leaving us a voicemail at 646-653-9278 or sending us a message here.