BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – In recent years, community leaders have taken great strides in addressing incidents of bullying on school campuses and in the cyber realm

Healthcare experts note that similar incidents can affect adults in the workplace. 

According to The Workplace Bullying Institute, workplace bullying affects 48.6 million Americans annually. 

But how is this form of bullying defined and what can be done to combat it? 

What workplace bullying looks like

According to Psychology Today, workplace bullying has been defined as, “a malicious attempt to force a person out of the workplace through unjustified accusations, humiliation, general harassment, emotional abuse, and/or terror.” 

One woman’s battle with such a situation is cited on The Muse, which says, “When Laine (who asked to use her middle name for this article) got a job at a nonprofit with a mission she really believed in, she thought it would be a great gig. But then her boss, who was often traveling, started criticizing, from afar, every little thing she did—to the point that disparaging emails were pretty much the only kind of communication she received from him.”

The article goes on to say, “She started working longer and longer hours, but “the harder I worked the worse I was according to him… Everything I did was wrong,” Laine says. He told her that “every team is just as good as its weakest link and you’re the weakest link.” For a long time, she believed him.”

In addition to the sort of constant criticism Lanie dealt with, experts say those who are targeted may become subject to other aggressive behaviors such as:

  1. Being addressed with threatening words, disrespectful language, or verbal abuse.
  2. Spoken to in a degrading or demeaning way that includes insults or name calling.
  3. Blasted with inappropriately harsh criticism in the presence of other employees.
  4. Targeted by gossip mongering or rumor spreading.
  5. Left out of vital job-related information and not provided with assistance when it is  requested.
  6. Routinely assigned with unfavorable or unreasonable tasks.
  7. Retaliated against for acting as a whistleblower.
  8. The butt of personal jokes, mocking behavior  
  9. Deliberately excluded from meetings or activities that they should be attending.
  10. Shunned, excluded, marginalized, or given the silent treatment.

Why bullying occurs

Individuals who engage in workplace bullying may do so for a number of reasons.

Some, who find themselves experiencing undue stress in their personal lives, may not even realize their anxiety is creeping into their behavior at work and becoming inappropriate. 

But experts say others know exactly what they’re doing, and their aggression is intentional. 

Along those lines, Dr. Dorthy Suskind’s Psychology Today article on the subject profiles most workplace bullies as, “Narcissistic, lacking in job expertise, and adept at taking credit for the efforts of others. Bullies often operate behind a veil of secrecy, seeking control through manipulation, gossip, sabotage, gaslighting, and isolation. Bullies are often threatened by targets’ competence, creativity, and social capital and thus go to work attempting to push them out.”  

How to cope when targeted

If a person finds themselves on the receiving end of bullying behavior there are several approaches to dealing with it.  

The Muse suggests trying some of the following ways to cope: 

  1. Speak up early on – As soon as mistreatment occurs, have a peaceful conversation with the person who’s behind the offending behavior. Let them know that you hear their perspective and appreciate their values as a team player, then suggest that for the sake of the team, they treat you with respect. Essentially, nip the bad behavior in the bud before it becomes worse. 
  2. Document the abuse and document your performance – The Muse suggests keeping a journal of all incidents of bullying and who might have seen it occur. This includes any emails with threatening language or verbal abuse. 
  3. Take care of yourself outside of work – Dealing with aggressive behavior at work can take a toll on one’s physical and emotional health. To add more positivity to your life and stay balanced, it may be helpful to join a softball team, support group, or find time to have fun with friends and family. Make sure you have enjoyable activities to look forward to outside of your nine to five. 
  4. Do your research – The Muse says, “Does your company have a policy about bullying, mistreatment, verbal abuse, or anything similar that you might be able to reference? Since bullying is not illegal, many companies don’t have a formal policy against it. But it’s worth your time to check your employee handbook or any other document that lays out the organization’s values and expectations. It can only strengthen your case if you’re able to point to that language if you decide to make a complaint.”
  5. Talk to your manager or someone else in a supervisory role – If you’ve tried to peacefully squash the situation with the individual and this hasn’t worked, it can be helpful to speak to someone in a position of authority and explain what you’ve done to try and resolve the situation. Then, ask for additional advice on how to keep peace within your team. 
  6. Look for a new job – According to The Muse, “The reality is that most bullying situations (77% according to WBI’s survey) end in the target leaving their job, whether because they got fed up and quit or they ended up getting fired… So it’s in your best interest to start job searching as soon as you can, especially if your company doesn’t have a policy or culture you trust to squash bullying swiftly and forcefully.”

Hopefully, most of this article’s readers will never find themselves targeted by a workplace bully. 

But should this occur, there are typically ways to peacefully resolve the situation. Click here for more information on the topic.