How to Respond to Workplace Bullying

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By EmployDiversity

For many people, the word “bully” conjures up images of the big kid on the playground that pushes other kids or takes their lunch. However, unfortunately, bullying occurs far beyond grade school and extends into the workplace.

Bullying is when a person attempts to assert power over someone else through the use of aggression. The behavior is hurtful, isolating, and demeaning and can create an unsafe workplace for those targeted.  Even if you’re not the victim, being in the presence of a bully can be scary and embarrassing. The unfortunate thing is that bullies are often tolerated in the workplace because dealing with them can be difficult and uncomfortable.

Although bullies can have different personalities and approaches, there are a few common bullying personas:

  1. The Angry and Aggressive Bully: This is the name calling and insulting bully. This person is loud, aggressive, and enjoys publicly humiliating others and making a scene. Authority or power is usually the basis of their confidence.

  2. The Win-Lose Bully: This type of bully has a need to win and for others to lose. They want to hurt people and be perceived as better than others. Their self-confidence grows by seeing others fail.

  3. The Multiple Personality Bully: This type of bully is charming. When you tell others about the bullying behavior, they may not believe you. They want to take advantage of people and will be nice to those who can help them get ahead.

  4. The Gossip Bully: This type of bully will be nice to your face, and then insult you behind your back. They can damage your reputation without you even knowing about it.

While there are many different types of bullies and bullying behavior, there are some common and effective ways of dealing with them:

  1. Stop the behavior: The most important thing to do is to stop the bullying behavior as soon as possible. Bullying can be very emotionally harmful if left to continue unchecked. Victims of bullying can have increased rates of depression and anxiety, feelings of sadness and loneliness, and can lose of interest in work and in activities they used to enjoy. They are more likely to take sick time and be non-participatory or unengaged at work.

  2. Try not to get Emotional: Bullies enjoy the reaction. They get even more excited and motivated by seeing someone get hurt and upset. The best response to a bully is to stay calm. It gives them less satisfaction and they may be less likely to continue their bullying behavior.

  3. Document the Issue: Keep a detailed record of the bullying behavior: what happened, who witnessed it, and when it occurred. Solid documentation will be important should you seek assistance from your employer or a lawyer.

  4. Seek help: Your company may have a formal process for dealing with bullies and this should encourage you to report the behavior to HR. If there’s nothing formal in place, seeking the assistance of a trusted manager or supervisor can be helpful as they may be able to intervene.  

Dealing with workplace bullying can be challenging. Bullying can take many different shape and forms and there may be complicated workplace relationships and politics to navigate. Regardless, bullying should never be ignored as it has the potential to be very harmful to the victim and destructive to the workplace.