Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tips for Dealing with Workplace Bullying

Dr. Michelle Callahan has an article on The Huffington Post about workplace bullying and how to deal with it in ten tips. Interestingly, women appear to be the biggest perpetrators of workplace bullying and a large percentage of Americans say they have experienced workplace bullying at one time or another.

Here are the ten tips Dr. Callahan gives to deal with workplace bullying:

1.Don't get emotional. Bullies take pleasure in emotionally manipulating people. Stay calm and rational to diffuse the situation.

2.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. They are usually beating you at a mind game, not based on your actual work performance.

3.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.

4.Build a support network. Instead of allowing the bully to make you retreat into your office, work on building your relationships with your coworkers so that you have support and the bully doesn't turn them against you as well (although she will try and may even be successful).

5.Document everything. Keep a journal (on your personal computer or in writing, but never leave it in the office) of what happened when (and who witnessed it) so that if you need to escalate this problem to Human Resources, you have the information you need to make your case. Keep emails and notes.

6.Communicate. Pull the bully aside and talk to them someplace quiet where you can privately tell them how their behavior is inappropriate and that you won't tolerate it.

7.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.

8.Stay healthy. 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.

9.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.

10.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. In the worst-case scenario you may need to leave your job or be prepared for a long hard fight with your bully and your employer.

I often get a lot of calls where employees are being treated disfavorably by co-workers and they often want to refer to it as a "hostile work environment." It is hard to explain to people that a general hostile work environment not related to their belonging to a protected class is not actionable (though some states are trying to change that) and that they need to pursue alternate routes like speaking with their supervisor or human resources. No one should ever be miserable in their job and in this economy many people cannot just quit and hope to find another job so quickly which is why these tips are great starting points to cope with workplace bullying.

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