Coping with Workplace Bullying

Adults |

Although “bullying” might sound like something we’d hoped to have long left on the playground, workplace bullying is no joke. Targeted harassment in the workplace is much more common than you might think: at work, you should feel safe and supported, but what if you’re being targeted with sarcastic remarks, humiliated in front of others, or excluded from social functions? You may be asked to take on impossibly heavy, unrealistic workloads or given only menial jobs. Maybe you’re being micromanaged, forced to give up holidays, unfairly asked to take on other people’s shifts, or threatened with demotion or firing. 

Whatever form harassment takes, bullying benefits no one. It can result in worker anxiety, depression, loss of self-esteem, stress, fatigue, burnout and more. Furthermore, companies can experience productivity losses, increased sick leave, higher staff turnover, and in some cases even litigation. Sadly, far too many employees deal with bullying in the workplace. If you or someone you know is experiencing it, don’t lose hope – there are some important things you can do to cope: 

Don’t blame yourself.

You didn’t ask for this and you don’t deserve it. It’s about them, not you.

Stand up for yourself.

If you feel safe to do so, confront the bully privately. Clearly and calmly let them know that their behaviour is not appropriate nor welcome. 

Try to deal with it in a healthy way.

Lean into exercising, meditating, or whatever helps you calm down when you’re feeling overwhelmed. Rally your friends and family around you and let them know what you’re dealing with at work. Don’t shove your emotions down not to be seen nor heard from again – sit with them, deal with them, and let them out productively. 

Document everything.

Write down as many details as possible including dates and times and what was said (verbally or digitally). If, down the line, the bully’s behaviour is pulled into question, it’s helpful to have documentation.  

Talk with someone you trust, but be very careful about sharing your troubles with current co-workers.

You never know what they might pass on or with whom they might share it. Talking about it will not only help you feel better by giving you the space to vent, but it might also help you get some perspective on the situation and find possible solutions.   

If the bullying persists, take it seriously.

When you do get a meeting to discuss what’s happening, try to keep it professional and calm. Writing down some point form notes on what you’d like to say and rehearsing your story beforehand will help you stay collected and focused.  

Be ready to talk about the problem in terms of the bottom line.

Point out that the bully is costing the business money, time, performance and morale. 

Finally, pay it forward. When you get free of your bully, help others do the same – don’t be a bystander when others are victimized. Bullies want to isolate their targets so it’s important to call them out when you see it happening. Most importantly, if you find that your health has begun to suffer because of this and things aren’t getting better even after taking action, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional counsellor for guidance. Not only can they give you some tools for coping at work, but they may also help you create a plan for the future in the event that none of the above seem to help.