Bullying is not limited to taking someone’s lunch money or pushing someone down in the schoolyard. It actually represents quite a few behaviors, including physical aggression; verbal aggression; emotional aggression, such as spreading rumors or hurtful gossip; sexual aggression; and cyberbullying.
If you think bullying is just a problem for kids and teens, think again. Bullying is not isolated to school hallways or playgrounds—an alarming 35 percent of adults have been bullied or are currently experiencing bullying in the workplace, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute.
Tackling bullies in the office
Bullying colleagues (or even managers) is nothing new, and many victims keep it a secret because they fear they’ll lose their job if they tell someone. Unlike playground bullies who often use their fists to scare victims, workplace bullies generally use words to intimidate.
Any of the following behaviors can be regarded as bullying, including:
- Verbal or written threats
- Being humiliated in meetings among peers
- Undeserved criticism
- Exclusion from meetings or communications relevant to your job
It’s important that bullied victims take measures to stop the bullying. Whether it’s a peer or supervisor causing a hostile work environment, you need to speak up in order for the situation to change.
If you feel you are a victim of a bully in the office, here are some tips and resources that can help you:
- If you have an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) through your employer, they can help. Most people don’t want to bring up the bullying in the workplace for fear of losing their jobs. Talking to an objective third party who knows how to handle these kinds of issues can be helpful.
- Contact human resources. You don’t have to tell HR the name of the bully. You can explain that someone in the department has been bullying you repeatedly. Keep a record on file as proof in case of retaliation.
- Tell the bully how you feel. But be calm—it’s best not to yell or threaten because bullies often feed off this type of behavior, which encourages them to come back for more.
- Don’t be afraid to be yourself around your other colleagues. Keep your relationships with your workplace friends.
Bullying can really take a toll on a person’s life, so if it’s a problem that affects you, take steps to resolve it as soon as possible. And remember, you’re not alone—if you feel that confronting the bully is not the right option for you, seek help from a third party, such as an EAP counselor or your human resources department.