Do you ever feel like your workplace is oddly reminiscent of your old high school days? The gossip, the backstabbing, the passive-aggressive behavior, the cliques? Bullying in schools has been a relevant topic as of late, and unfortunately, it’s alive and well in the workplace, too. Workplace bullying is detrimental to your business, your clients, and to the emotional well being of your employees. Whether you’re a business owner or an employee, a great small business tip is to identify bullying and then take the proper steps to terminate it.
Should you or an employee find yourself in a workplace bullying situation, here are small business tips to stamp out the problem as quickly as possible.
Examine the situation
Look at what’s going on objectively. Is the perceived bully nasty with everyone or just you? Are you giving this person too much power? Perhaps the bully has an attitude problem that has nothing to do with you. Determine if you’re being too sensitive or if there is real intention by the person to cause you emotional or physical distress.
This, of course, is not intended to place blame on the victim. Just remember, however, that the workplace is a professional environment, not a place to feel warm and fuzzy all day. With varying personalities and temperaments people are bound to have disagreements.
Bullies, on the other hand, engage is consistent and aggressive harassment, belittling, or other such unreasonable behavior. They will single a person out and systemically abuse, threaten, humiliate, intimidate, or sabotage. Bullies intentionally do harm.
Stand up for yourself
If you a shrinking violet, you are an easy target for a bully. Bullies are deterred by people who show confidence and intolerance for their abuse. Remember that people treat you the way you teach them to. You give people instructions regarding what's acceptable behavior and what's not.
Remain polite, professional, and firm when you set limits. Practice your responses ahead of time if you need to. Say something straightforward, like, “I don’t think your tone is appropriate right now”. Sometimes simple and firm statements can deter a bully. Look the person in the eye, stay even-toned, and calm. Be consistent in your dealings with him/her and the bullying is likely to stop.
Document the situation
Keep records of everything that happens in the event that Human Resources or legal action is needed. Log everything the bully does and says, and the dates and times. Should things take a turn for the worse, detailed record keeping will be crucial.
Involve your manager. In cases of extreme bullying, there’s only so much you can do on your own. If the bully is too stubborn, irrational, and you feel threatened, you need to take the problem to your superiors. Talk to your manager. If you are a manager, talk to Human Resources or the owner of the company. Be prepared with your documentation, describe what has been going on and how it has created a hostile, uncomfortable, and unproductive environment for you. If the person bullying you is too out of control and has no intention of stopping their behavior, sanctions will need to be put in place, if not termination. The situation may not be resolved as quickly as you’d like, but at the very least, the problem will be out in the open and you can feel you have allies.
Left unchecked, workplace bullying can harm your emotional, physical and mental health. If you’ve done your best to manage the situation, your only remaining option is to take it to management, HR, or the owner(s) of the company. As a small business tip for owners who want their businesses to thrive: everyone deserves a safe and comfortable work environment in which to produce quality work, build friendships, and contribute in a positive way.
Do you have suggestions regarding how to handle workplace bullying? Let us know!