Dealing with Workplace Bullying

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Think that once you leave school bullying is never going to happen again? For some people, the reality is much different. nzgirl looks at workplace bullying and how to deal with it…

Think that once you leave school bullying is never going to happen again? For some people, the reality is much different.

Workplace bullying occurs more than you realise, and human resources expert Andrea W Needham has written a book about this very subject. The book, “Workplace Bullying – the costly business secret”, outlines the types of people who are typically targeted by workplace bullies, and gives tips on how to stand your ground in bullying situations.

What sort of effects does workplace bullying have on adults?

There are a whole range of responses – staff can lose self-confidence, feel low and not work to their full potential. But it’s employees who are bullied, not those who are bullying, who are seen as the innocent party.

When workplace bullying is reported to supervisors or human resources staff it is often the bullied employee who is asked if what they did to warrant such treatment. Employees are often faced with questions like, “What did you do to upset them?” or “I don’t believe they would ever say that”.

So what is a workplace bully? According to Andrea, workplace bullies are very clever. They come across smart and quick, but if you try and face up to the bully they can be quick to change the subject or repeat what they just but change their wording to confuse you.

How do you spot a bully?
– The bully is verbally hostile – making snide comments or criticising you or your work.

– Withholds resources – eg: information, training or equipment so you can’t complete your job properly.

– Bullying gets worse after it has been reported to superiors and the bully can “recruit” co-workers to work against the bullied employee.

What to do if you think you’re being bullied:

1. Identify who is responsible for the bullying
Identify clearly the person responsible for the bullying – is it a co-worker, a manager or someone who is being influenced by another person.

2. Talk to people about it
Keeping quiet about bullying on makes it worse…this is what the bully wants you to do! The more you talk about it to family, friends or co-workers the more evidence you’ll have to support your case if you decide to take action.

3. Keep records
Each time your bully harasses you verbally, physically or disrupts your work make a note of it – where, when, who was responsible, potential witnesses etc… This is invaluable evidence in a harassment case if you decide to take action.

4. Don’t retaliate!
The worst thing you can do is retaliate. No matter how tempting it is to get back at the bully physically it’s just not a good idea.

5. Don’t leave
No matter how tempting it is, don’t quit your job or ask for a transfer. This will give the bully a sense of satisfaction or increase their feeling of power over you. Why should you leave your job? It’s you who should be staying and the bully leaving.

6. Complain formally about the bullying
Wait until you have gathered enough evidence to show that you are being bullied before you make a complaint to your supervisor, boss or human resources person. This will prevent the bully claiming that there has been a misunderstanding. Make your complaint in writing and keep a copy for yourself. Include all the records and other evidence that you have been collecting along with the names of any witnesses. In most cases, the only way to stop workplace bullying is through a formal complaint.

Check out Andrea’s website for more information about workplace bullying and to do a test to find out if you are being bullied.

If you think you may be a workplace bully or you’re being bullied yourself there is a number you can call to get advice and information – it’s 0800 ZEROBULLY (0800 93 76 28). Zero Bully is available from Monday to Friday 9:00 am to 7:00 pm and Saturday 9:00 to 12:00 noon.

Andrea’s book Workplace Bullying is in good bookstores now, it’s a great read and certainly opens your mind.


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