Studies over the past decade have confirmed that workplace bullying is a global problem in which the target is berated, harassed and left in an inferior position.
The behavior becomes a condition of continued employment. Such bullying occurs in physical actions, whether aggressive verbal language or body language. Bullies fail to address the target’s concerns, such as ignoring reasonable requests to support the completion of job tasks, or ignoring clarification on job duties; bullies also focus on elements that a target values. For example, if the target prefers a certain lunch time, the bully will repeatedly change the lunch break without notice to harass the target. The studies, including the independent study by Hollis (2012) confirm that bullying can contribute to health concerns for the target including, stress, hair loss, insomnia, and weight swings and suicidal thoughts.
Unfortunately, many organizations ignore complaints from targets. From the 2012 study on workplace bullying in higher education, 28% of the respondents stated that the organization did nothing to alleviate the bullying problem on campus. Another 19% percent of respondents said the bully was only transferred to another department.
How did bullies respond when they were reported?
Become more hostile: Many bullies become more aggressive as they can’t believe that they have been held accountable for their bullying tactics.
Silent treatment: Bullies will disengage in anger and stop any communication, even when communication is necessary to complete job tasks.
Play the victim: Bullies will claim to be the harassed target to cast aspersions on the true target reporting them. By taking the role of the victim, the bully hopes to get away with the bullying behavior.
Vicarious bullying: The bully will recruit supporters to send bullying behavior to the target through another staff member.
How did respondents from the study protect themselves when the organization failed to create a healthy workplace?
Several open ended answers revealed respondents’ strategies for finding relief when the organization failed to address a bully on campus.
Disengage: Many respondents reported more sick time, tardiness and apathy for the position. It is human nature to withdraw from any hurtful environment.
Job hunt: Several respondents who were bullied were looking for a new job to escape the hostile environment.
Report to EEOC or Office of Civil Rights: Some respondents were able to explicitly tie the bullying treatment to illegal activity and reported the harassment to the Office of Civil Rights or the EEOC
Find support: Many respondents sought counseling, turned to family and sought out new interest to counteract the impact of the bully
Often, when I am speaking on the topic, invariably, someone will ask me “How do I deal with a bully who….”
The solution starts with a conversation. Whether in a union shop or not, advocate for yourself and tell the bully about the problem. Be kind yet firm. Remember a bully picks on those who they perceive to be the weaker personality. Nonetheless, kindness is not weakness. Try to work together to resolve the matter. If the bully continues to ignore reasonable requests, keep detailed notes about bullying incidents; find a witness who can confirm how you are being treated. Consider seeking help up line from the boss; but remember most studies confirm that the organization will do precious little to protect any organization from bullying. Lastly, consider the strategies above. Stress is a killer. Reflect is your job worth compromising health and mental well being?
Read more posts by Leah Hollis, Ed.D. here. Leah is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.
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