Workplace Bullying

We are lucky that culturally we have begun to focus on the impacts of bullying on children. Many organisations and schools have developed anti-bullying policies or practices.  The problem is that the word ‘bullying’ for most of us leads us to think of examples amongst school aged children. What if you are being bullied as an adult?  Most of us who have encountered bullying don’t even really use the term ‘bullying’ to define it, but that is exactly what it is.

Workplace bullying is defined as repeated verbal abuse, threatening, humiliating, or intimidating behaviour or some sort of sabotage or interference of work. The bully can be a boss or a coworker and can target a single individual or a group of people at work.  Since we don’t typically think of bullying as being an issue for adults, we tend to not actually label ‘bullying’ for what it is, which ultimately causes difficulties in finding solutions to the problem.

You may be experiencing workplace bullying if…

  • You have an intense feeling of dread the night before a work week.
  • Your family is growingly frustrated with your obsession about work at home.
  • You feel ashamed to talk about the negative encounters at work with your spouse.
  • Days off are typically spent as ‘mental health days’ to get away from the misery.
  • Family activities are no longer enjoyable.
  • You are beginning to believe that you deserve the treatment you receive at work.

What workplace bullying looks like at the office…

  • Surprise meetings with your boss that only lead to humiliation.
  • Not receiving proper training and your work never being satisfactory for your boss.
  • You are never left alone to do your job without interference.
  • You have a constant feeling of doom, waiting for something negative to happen.
  • People feel it is okay to scream or yell at you in front of others, but you are punished for yelling back.

The truth is that the definition of bullying is defined differently by everyone. These are simply ideas and examples that may help you validate your negative experiences as bullying. Some instances can be very overt and obvious to many as ‘bullying’ and some may be subtler and less noticeable. All can have detrimental impacts on your mental health. Workplace bullying can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder in extreme cases, anxiety, or substance abuse.

What can you do about it?

Because workplace bullying is so detrimental to a person’s overall mental health and happiness, it is important that you don’t simply accept bullying as a new way of life. Remember the statement, ‘bullying is defined differently by everyone’. We cannot assume that the perpetrator understands the impacts of their behaviour. They possibly are modelling their behaviour after someone else and unaware of the extreme impact is it having on others. For this reason, it is important to communicate the impact of their behaviour directly to the person. It is also important to utilise the word ‘bullying’. It is common to skirt around this word with the intention to avoid hurting feelings, but it is a disservice to the individual you are speaking with. This conversation is also important because if the problem continues and you take further action with Human Resources, the first question you will be asked is ‘Did you speak to them directly about this?’ They will also want to know the outcome of the conversation, positive or negative.

Workplace bullying can be damaging to an individual’s confidence, happiness, and well-being.  Bullying is never a topic to be taken lightly. If you would like more information on workplace bullying or simply need someone to help you navigate the complexities of dealing with a workplace bully, you can seek support from a psychologist. They will provide you with the emotional and practical support as well as aid you in the healing and recovery process. Contact us on (02) 6262 6157 or book an appointment online.

Related reading:

Defensiveness: Why they do it and how to deal with it
Is My Boss a Psychopath? Dealing with Corporate Psychopathy
Stress: How to Manage or even Benefit from it

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