I’m Being Bullied at Work!

Work can be challenging at the best of times, but when you are being bullied, it can be unbearable.  Workplace bullying is defined by the Workplace Bullying Institute as, “Repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:  Verbal abuse; Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done.”

Protect yourself from workplace bullies by learning how to effectively handle them.

Know your Rights:  According to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers are required to have a policy on workplace harassment.  This policy will cover the definition of workplace harassment, descriptions of behaviour that falls under it, reporting procedures, and confidentiality policies.  Become familiar with this policy so that you can determine how best to approach the situation within your own company.  You can also visit the Ontario Ministry of Labour website to determine your rights and the employer’s responsibilities.

Know when to Ignore it:  If the bullying is a one-time occurrence or if it does not bother you, it may be easier just to ignore it.  Many of these situations diffuse themselves naturally.  If your circumstances fit this description, ignoring it may be your best option.

Know when to Take Action:  If the situation persists, or if  it is making you uncomfortable, then you need to take action.  You have the right not to be subjected to a hostile work environment.  Don’t let these conditions continue.

Confront the Bully:  Let the bully know that their behaviour is unwelcome and ask them to stop.  Even if they don’t listen to you, this conversation ensures that they cannot claim that they didn’t know that their actions bothered you.

Take Notes:  Keep detailed, written notes on everything that happens.  Include dates, times, exact language used, and witnesses.  If necessary, this will help you build a stronger case.

Don’t Sink to Their Level:  Be sure that you always behave with top-level professionalism.  If your bully’s behaviour is called into account, they will try to drag you down with them.  Don’t give them a case.

Escalate the Situation:  If the bullying continues, bring it to the attention of your supervisor.  Ask them what they are going to do to remedy the situation.  (Also take notes about this meeting)

Know When to Walk Away:  If you don’t get any support from your supervisor, you need to make a decision.  Can you live with this harassment?  If not, it may be time to move on. If your supervisor isn’t supporting you, then it is unlikely that the bullying will ever stop.

Know that you are Not Alone:  If somebody is bullying you, then they are violating your rights.  You have the right not be be bullied.  According to the HR reporter, one in four workers have felt bullied at work.  Take action, you deserve better.

(Written by: Karen Bivand, Source:  http://www.workplacebullying.org, Canadian HR Reporter, April 25, 2011)

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