Bullying is something we all hope not to have to deal with much beyond the 6th grade. Unfortunately, workplace bullies are a problem many people face. Unlike playground bullies who often resort to using their fists, workplace bullies generally use words and actions to intimidate their targets.
If you would like to try to deal with this situation before you are so demoralized that you contemplate bringing a gun to work, here are some tips:
1. Understand that all bullies first test the waters by saying or doing something provocative and then very carefully gauge your reaction. Responding with hesitancy shows the bully you will make an ideal victim. When you respond confidently, a bully is far more likely to categorize you as someone who would make a lousy victim.
2. Build yourself a support network. Bullies separate and isolate their victims, sometimes going as far as to cause division within the victim's family. The bully may be manipulating your work colleagues into distancing themselves from you, either by sweet-talking them with charm, or by playing on their vulnerabilities.
3. Carry a notepad and pen with you and record everything that the bully says and does. Also make a note of every interaction with personnel, management, and anyone else connected with the bullying. Beware that you may be accused of "misconduct" and "unprofessional behavior" and a few other things when you do this.
4. Consider leaving. Regard it as a positive decision in the face of overwhelming odds which are not of your choosing, not of your making, and over which you have no control. In some cases, walking away is the best thing to do, for in doing so, you regain control. If you are forced into leaving, make it clear to your employer “in writing” that this is due to bullying. Get professional advice before signing anything. Choose to move on and find an employer who truly values you and your skills and where your career can flourish.
5. Criticisms and allegations, which are supposedly about you or your performance, and which sometimes contain a grain (but only a grain) of truth, are not about you or your performance. Do not be fooled by that grain of truth into believing the criticisms and allegations have any validity – they don’t.
6. Do your best work. The bully's behavior will seem more justified if you aren't doing your best work, or if you do things like come to work late, take long lunches, turn in work late, etc.
7. Don't allow the bully to isolate you from your colleagues. Keep up your workplace friendships.
8. Don't blame yourself. Acknowledge that this is not about you – it's about the bully. Don't lose your confidence, or think you are incapable or incompetent. Bullies are usually beating you at a mind game, not based on your actual work performance.
9. Don't expect to change the bully. Real behavior change is difficult and it takes time. You have no control over a bully's willingness to accept that they have a problem and to work on it. You can do your best to manage the situation, but it's really the company's responsibility to be observant and responsive to the needs of their workers and the general work environment.
10. Don't get emotional. Bullies take pleasure in emotionally manipulating people. Stay calm and rational to diffuse the situation.
11. Educate yourself. Learn everything you can about bullying, your company's policies on inappropriate behavior, and occupational law regarding this kind of experience. The more you know, the better your chances of successfully dealing with this situation.
12. Evaluate the situation. It's important to trust your instincts in situations like this. If you feel bullied, you probably are a victim. But look closely at what is happening around the person in question. Is everyone afraid of them? Do they have a reputation for this sort of thing? Are you not the only one experiencing this?
13. Follow the grievance procedure, but beware that such procedures may be biased in favor of management, as well as possibly being ill-prepared for dealing with bullying on any significant level.
14. Get counseling. It will help you deal with the stress, especially if the bullying is already affecting your physical and mental health. You have to take care of yourself. Maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle outside of work to help you cope with the madness at work. Work out, get a good night's sleep, and eat a healthy diet.
15. If you are being physically threatened, don't waste a minute before you report it to both your employer and the police.
16. In some cases, depending on the damage done, you may want to get an attorney and file a law suit.
17. Make sure your superiors are aware of your work. Workplace bullies often try to spread the word that you are not doing your job well and will even go as far as to report the smallest infractions to your boss. Your actions will carry more weight than his/her words.
18. Seek the advice of a trusted mentor who may have dealt with this situation before.
19. Stand up to the bully. Depending on the gravity of the situation, tell the bully that the way he/she is choosing to handle the situation “doesn't sit right with you.” If the bully doesn’t understand (which he/she may not due to his/her nature), then you may want to forget constantly confronting the bully and go straight to the manager. If the manager is the bully’s best friend, go even further up the ladder until someone tells that jerk to knock it off! If everyone in that place is corrupt, then consider going to the police!
20. Understand that the bully’s objective is to have a good time at your expense. One strategy to consider is to simply ignore the bully. “No reaction” on your part equates to “no fun” on his/her part.