Dealing with Workplace Bullies
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I’m sure you thought once you finished primary school “see ya later playground bully” only to find that there are nasty people in high school too? And like me, I am sure some of you finished year 12 and thought “thank God I don’t have to see those mean girls again” only to find that in all aspects of life there will always be someone who makes you feel belittled or less of a person. Unfortunately, this can occur in the workplace and is more common than you think! According to Safe Work Australia, 37% of adults said they’d personally been bullied at work while another 19% said they’d seen it happen to someone else.
Being bullied at work can harm both your mental and physical health with the potential effects of stress, anxiety, depression, trauma, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues and much more. Below I will break down what workplace bullying actually is, what it looks like and how you can deal with it. Because after all your wellbeing comes FIRST!
Workplace bullying defined
According to Safe Work Australia, “workplace bullying is repeated, and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety”. This bullying can take different forms and even be indirect – for example deliberately excluding someone from work-related activities. It can sometimes be obvious, and it can sometimes be subtle which therefore means it is not always easy to spot if a friend or colleague is being affected by bullying.
Unfortunately, unlike harassment, bullying is not illegal. Harassment hinges on being mistreated based on sex, race, religion etc so if the behaviour is unrelated to one of those, it might be toxic and soul crushing, but it is not against the law.
This is where companies need to step in and ensure they have an adequate Bullying policy which is signed by employees upon employment. KLC Recruitment write and tailor policies to suit your business so if you don’t have one of these in place, or if you have noticed your workplace doesn’t have these in place – reach out to KLC and we will help guide you through this and write you up a policy.
How to spot a bully
Bullies can be anyone within your organisation from the boss to a peer or even a lower level employee. Here are four kinds of bullies you might encounter and I have listed the behaviours they display keeping in mind that one bully could adopt multiple tactics.
The Aggressive Communicator
This type of bully is your ‘text book childhood movies’ type bully whereby they are loud, outspoken and angry and make a public scene to instil fear not only to their target but to their co-workers in hope they are scared not to become the next target. Aggressive communicator’s include not only yelling, but sending angry emails, using aggressive body language and publicly showing a form of hostility.
This type of bully may not yell at you or your face or in front of other people but they will disparage you so regularly that you begin to doubt your abilities and they wear you down so much that the quality of your work might objectively suffer. This bully might humiliate you one-on-one or in public by pointing out your mistakes, taking credit for your work, leaving you out of things, socially isolating you or even playing jokes on you.
Some bullies manipulate and control their targets by withholding things from them such as instructions, information, time, or help from others therefore setting you up to fail. This can also include the piling of work with a deadline that is impossible to meet therefore making you look like a poor performer or punishing you for being a few minutes late to a meeting when others within the team who are tardy don’t face punishment. This definition makes it sounds like this person is in a management position however this person can be a peer who is holding out on passing on important information to you therefore preventing you from doing your job.
One of the most difficult bullies to detect is the one who talks behind your back. They pretend to be your friend and champion you in person but undermine you to others. They control your reputation with others which has the potential to make you feel isolated and worthless at work. You might find this out eventually from someone tipping you off or you might feel the coldness in the air which can send anyone into a paranoid spiral.
How to deal with a bully
There are many types of workplace bullies and thankfully there are many ways to deal with them. Here is how:
Speak up early on
The moment you feel someone being hostile to you, stop it in its tracks! Pull them aside and come from a place of love. Body language is very important in this conversation – stand tall, arms at your side, nose up and speak with confidence.
Document the abuse and your performance
Keep a journal of the who, what, when, where and why of things that are happening. Also keep any emails that you feel could be used as evidence to back up your side of the story when you bring it up with management.
Look into your company’s policies on bullying, mistreatment, verbal abuse or anything similar. In addition, seek legal advice to confirm whether your situation might include harassment.
Talk to your manager
If you have made some attempts to deal with the situation and you haven’t got anywhere, speak with your manager or director and let them know what is going on. They might be in a better place to subtly bring it up with the person in their next one on one or personal review.
Look for another job
If things are really bad and there is no solution then put your health first and most jobs. If you don’t feel comfortable suing them as a reference explain to the next hiring manager the situation you experienced and hopefully they should understand. KLC currently have a wide range of roles available so if you are in the market for a new position visit our jobs page for more information.
Bullying can take a huge toll on your in the office and outside of it. If you are being bullied consider the above options or try seeking professional help from a counsellor or therapist or find someone who understand trauma. Practice mindfulness, eat well, get around those who love you and most of all, remember YOU ARE AMAZING!
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