Are you being bullied? I have been learning about the impact that bullying has on the lives of two women I have met since I set up my business. Both had experienced bullying, either themselves or one of their children being bullied! I’ve never been bullied myself: one male colleague yelled at me down the phone when I refused to do as he requested and stood my ground and he wouldn’t stop to listen, however, he calmed down when I told him that I would hang up if he didn’t stop shouting! However, having worked in many different organisations and coached and supported people who felt they were being bullied at work, I am aware of the physical and emotional impact it can have.
Individuals have shared with me that has left them feeling paranoid, weak and worried that they are are overreacting. As someone who is passionate about people reaching their full potential at work, I know that having employees feeling like this is going to impact morale and hinder productivity. How can someone get into ‘flow’ when they can’t trust that their colleagues or manager has their best interests at heart?
So what do we mean when we talk about bullying? ACAS says…
“The key is that the actions or comments are viewed as demeaning and unacceptable to the recipient. Bullying may be characterised as offensive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behaviour, an abuse or misuse of power through means intended to undermine, humiliate, denigrate or injure the recipient.”
Bullying can take many different forms ranging from embarrassing people in front of others, excluding someone on purpose, spreading gossip and now, of course, leaving derogatory comments on social media about someone. The trouble is that it can often be hard to prove and can come down to one person’s word against another’s.
This week Gemma Hills, The Anti-Bullying Mum, posted this excellent article on frenemies. Read it to assess whether you’re being bullied by a friend, either at work or in your personal life. You can read it here. https://theantibullyingmum.co.uk/mum-got-frenemy/
So if you’re being bullied, what should you do about it? Well, you have a number of potential options:
Rise above it.
This can be easier said than done. You could just ignore it and go about your work as usual. It is possible that the individual will stop if they don’t get the reaction they wanted. It is, of course, possible that they will move onto someone else! If this happens then you need to support the other person and raise the issue with someone in authority but at least you won’t be on your own.
Talk to the bully.
You might think that I have lost the plot here but it is possible that the person who is doing the bullying is not doing it with the intention of hurting you. It is important to remember that it is the behaviour, not the person that is the problem. If you decide you are going to talk to them, then plan out what you are going to say in advance. Use an example and talk about how it affects you. Be assertive. Be honest, direct and calm. Do not apologise. If you don’t feel you can talk to them, then that’s ok too. You should trust your instinct in these matters.
Try not to take the comments to heart, they may reflect the other person’s own weaknesses rather than your own. It is possible that they are meant to intimidate you in some way, maybe they feel threatened by you. It is important to stay calm and don’t start to explain yourself. You need to keep a diary of what is happening: record the incidents, date, time, place, what happened and if anyone else was present. If it is happening over social media then take screenshots of the comments and keep them. These notes will come in handy if you decide to make a complaint.
If it continues then you need to seek advice. Depending on the size of the company you work for there may be a number of different people you could approach. Start with your Manager, unless it is him/her that is behaving badly. If your company has an HR department then speak to someone there or a Trade Union official. If it is affecting your health, sleep, or mood then you should make an appointment to see your doctor. There are some good websites online, look at ACAS website and visit the citizen advice bureau for support.
We must all do our bit to make sure that this behaviour is dealt with appropriately. It has no place in our lives, private or work.
Let me know what you think.