Do you have a sinking feeling that people are talking about you behind your back at work and making you look bad to your boss? If so, you are probably right. Workplace bullies are more common than people want to believe, and a majority of people experience workplace bullying firsthand at some point during their careers. You may be a victim of bullying and not even realize it.
In the workplace, bullies undermine your productivity, self-esteem and the integrity of the company. By keeping bullies in check, you can benefit your company as well as yourself. Learning how to deal with a bully in the workplace and understanding your options is important to find resolve. And if worse comes to worst, you can always pack your bags and find a new job.
Bullying takes place in several forms. It may not be immediately obvious to you that you are the victim of a bully, so here are some common roles taken by bullies.
- Direct Approach – Many bullies take a direct approach to demeaning you in the workplace by using put-downs and nasty comments about you in front of your boss and other coworkers while you are present.
- Indirect Approach – Other bullies will take a less direct approach by spreading rumors about you when you are not within earshot. It is almost impossible to tell when a coworker is speaking about you behind your back. However, one way to tell is when someone with whom you were previously friends with suddenly stops speaking to you or gives you cold stares.
No matter how you are being bullied, there are some important strategies you need to implement to resolve the situation.
- You need to establish a firm base of allies. Bullies typically succeed by destroying all of your credibility with your coworkers, so having people who will support you under any circumstance is crucial. Stop to chat with your coworkers often and let them know that you are a good, hardworking person. Compliment them on their own work and thank them for being someone you can always trust when you are in need and be genuine in your comments. Next time someone speaks ill of you, your allies will stand up to defend you.
- Don’t let the bullies get to you. If they see that they have succeeded in bringing you down, they will only keep pounding you harder. Stand up for yourself, but do not call attention to yourself as a victim. Maintain a high standard of work and make it clear to your boss that you are a competent and capable employee. After all, the reason you were bullied in the first place could be that the bully was jealous of your achievements and felt threatened by you. Make sure to keep calling attention to yourself in a positive way by letting your work shine!
- Communicate with your boss about all of your concerns. Keep the conversation as friendly and positive as possible by reminding your boss how much you enjoy working for the company. Make it clear that you have given your all to the company in terms of your work effort and point out how much you have contributed. With any luck, you boss will recognize the value of your work and help you find a solution to the bullying.
In some cases, especially in large companies with complex hierarchies, your boss may actually be a bully. This is because your boss feels threatened by your performance and worries that you may be promoted into his or her position one day. If possible, go up three levels and express your concerns to someone who is not involved with the bullies. Higher authorities who are not in the middle of your workplace drama can often see the situation more clearly and will see your stellar work performance as an asset to the company.
Finally, when all else fails, be prepared to find a new job. While you are still at the company, polish your resume so that you will have an easier time finding a new job. You can also collect business cards from good clients who appreciate your work and may have positions for you at their own companies. Finding a new job is a great opportunity to branch out into a similar field of work or a completely different career that you have always wanted to try. Plus, your experiences with bullies at your old job will make you better equipped to prevent and handle bullying at your new job.