Workplace bullying represents offensive, vengeful or cruel behavior by someone with the purpose of deliberately humiliating or undermining another co-worker. It’s a widespread problem that affects many people in different work environments. Approximately 54 million Americans have been bullied at some point in their career, according to a survey conducted by the Workplace Bullying Institute.
Who gets targeted?
There are countless reasons why people are bullied at work; here are a few of the more common ones.
- Targets play by the rules. Some employees like to cut corners or slack off (especially when the boss is not looking) during work hours. However, others don’t indulge in such behaviors, which is why they become a problem for the slackers.
- Targets pursue excellence. Whenever a person does a good job and receives recognition, there may be one or more co-workers who are jealous or feel inferior. Since envy is one step away from hostility, these underachievers will look for ways to sabotage their colleague. If the bully is a supervisor, they may even go so far as to steal the credit for good job performance.
- Targets are shy or vulnerable. People who are shy and insecure, or perhaps disabled or disfigured, make the ideal target for bullies. Success in many workplaces is based on competition which means that some people will do anything to get ahead of their co-workers. Sometimes, this means picking up on their colleague’s weaknesses and exploiting them. This also extends to people of different race, religion, or sexual orientation.
What are the common signs?
These are some of the signs of someone who may be the victim of workplace bullying:
- Isolation. People who are bullied by their co-workers tend to isolate themselves from the rest. They avoid the office kitchen because they don’t want to come face to face with their bullies, they eat lunch separately, or they may take the stairs in order to avoid a possible confrontation in the elevator.
- Censorship. Constant bullying can turn anyone into a social pariah. The victims of workplace bullying refrain from personal opinions. They rarely express their desires, preferences or needs. It’s actually a form of self-censorship that results from constant criticism and humiliation.
- An overall depressive mood. Depression is one of the first signs of workplace bullying. Victims may perceive the office as a hostile environment where nothing good ever happens. Not only does their depression affect their work productivity, but it can also cause other problems including anxiety or trauma.
How do we stop bullying?
- Don’t be a passive spectator. If you see one of your co-workers being bullied by another, don’t hesitate to intervene. Start by becoming the co-worker’s friend so they won’t feel so isolated. If necessary, be prepared to report the situation to the Human Resource department. By taking action against workplace bullying, you can prevent such events from ever occurring.
- Take a stand. If you are the target, stand up for yourself by letting the bully know in a polite, professional manner that his behavior is unacceptable. Keep a detailed log of the interactions in case you need to talk to a supervisor. If the bullying continues, you may need to consider changing to a safer, more comfortable work environment.
Seek professional help
Workplace bullying is a serious problem, so don’t hesitate to ask for help if you are struggling with this issue. Seek counseling through a qualified mental health professional so that you don’t become overwhelmed and develop anxiety issues or become self-destructive. The sooner you can get a handle on the situation, the better your quality of life will be.