Bullying has gotten a lot of press lately, but what do you do when the aggressor is the same person who signs your paycheck?
Office bullying can severely impact employee morale and self-esteem, and it can also send ripples of bigger-picture fear through workers concerned with missing out on opportunities to advance or even losing their jobs. If you feel that you're the victim of office bullying, read up on eight tips to bring some civility to the workplace.
1. Take a step back and assess the situation objectively. Is this actually a one-time instance of poor communication? Or is this indicative of a pattern? "If you're coming in to work dreading the day and prepared to take an alternative route to your desk in order to avoid the other party, it's likely you're being bullied," says Charlotte DiBartolomeo, CEO of The Red Kite Project, a Philadelphia-based human capital development firm.
2. Don't stand for it. Remember that your job shouldn't cost you your health – physical, mental or emotional. Remain strong and don't let the bully bulldoze you. "Calmly standing up for yourself will show you are assertive (not aggressive) and have agency over the situation, which are characteristics a good employer is looking for," advises DiBartolomeo.
3. Keep records. If this is an ongoing issue, be sure to document the harassment. Track dates, times, locations, and any witnesses. Write down any direct quotes and keep copies of any emails or correspondence that include bullying behaviors.
4. Turn to the rules. Before taking matters into your own hands, review the employee handbook or company policies on how to handle workplace conflicts. If your employer has procedures in place, you'll want to proceed accordingly to make sure that your issue is handled appropriately.
5. Research your legal protections. Whether or not you're ready to contact a lawyer, it can help to have an understanding of whether the bullying you're experiencing falls under any anti-discrimination laws. You may never take legal action, but the knowledge that what's happening isn't just immature but is also against the law can be a good card up your sleeve, and may help you better understand that the problem isn't with you.
6. If possible, seek out common ground to open a dialogue. DiBartolomeo offers some suggestions for the type of uniting language that can be effective, "For instance, 'I know we both really value the work we do here and I want to find a way for us to work together smoothly,' is a great uniting statement. Asking the question, 'Is everything okay between us?' is also a non-accusatory way to start a win/win discussion."
7. If appropriate, file a formal complaint in line with workplace policy. Be sure to include reference to any peace-making efforts you've made on your own as well as any documentation of the bullying.
8. Have an exit plan. If there's really no way to change the situation – if your bully is the highest-ranking person within the company, for example, it may make the most sense to leave the organization completely. Get ready to launch a job search with the goal of finding a much better place to work.