Workplace bullying - beat it!
Cleaner, CEO, office junior, driver or clerk, perhaps the one thing that we all share is the expectation to be treated with dignity at work. Yet when that expectation is shattered and we are bullied or harassed in the workplace, it can be difficult to know what to do for the best.
The majority of people feel they left bullying behind in their school days and had moved to a better way of communicating so it comes as a shock to be the target of aggression. Victims will feel powerless, or ashamed that they feel unable to stand up to the bully. It is usual to feel that you are alone, one of the few adults targeted in this way. Is it some reflection on you? Yet just as in the school yard nothing could be further from the truth.
Bullying and harassment in the workplace can take many forms:
- Undermining someone, this might be through spreading malicious rumours or gossiping. It might be a boss setting someone up to fail in their work. It may be taking away responsibility from someone without reasonable cause.
- It can be making offensive jokes (especially those which are sexist, religious, racist etc). It can be the use of profanity or belittling someone's opinion all of the time (especially in front of others).
- It can be intruding on someone’s privacy or pestering them. This includes managers asking personal details that they have no need to know.
- It can be overloading someone with work or pressure, or deliberately avoiding or passing over them.
If this is happening to you, the first thing to be clear about is that you do have a right to be treated with dignity and respect at work. That is true no matter how well you are performing in work. Your employer is bound to protect you from harassment at work and you can ask them to take action to stop any harassment.
There are practical steps you can take. You can talk to your manager (if your manager is the problem talk to their manager or to HR). Be clear about what the unwanted behaviour is and what you would like to happen. Often it can be helpful if you have noted in a diary some incidents, dates and times, of what happened, who was there and what was said. However, at this stage make it brief and to the point. You may have other supporting materials like emails.
If you are a member of a union they have practical ways to help you and support you through the process. Ultimately if your employer does nothing you may have legal redress. Yet most people find that there is a way through the problem well before that.
Getting the right support is key to help you combat the mixed feelings and to help you process your self-esteem and confidence and so you may consider counselling through your company’s EAP service or privately.
Whatever way you decide to tackle your problems at work, remember you have that right to dignity and respect. So you are only asking for what is due to you. Get support and decide what action you want to take to be treated with dignity at work.
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