Michele Armani and Sally Meisenheimer
Dear Style & Substance:
I know all about bullying with kids from watching the news, reading articles and even taking my teenage children to see the bullying movie. I am starting to think that I am being bullied at work by a superior co-worker. I am not sure what to do. Any advice?
Bullying is often thought of as an issue affecting young people, but adults can bully, and be bullied, as well. Anytime there is a situation where one person has some level of control over another there can be two basic outcomes in the relationship: an abuse of power and disrespect or hopefully, mutual respect based on common goals.
First, recognize types of bullying and your thoughts, feelings and experiences about your professional relationship. People who are bullied often find fault with themselves and begin to believe that the bully’s behavior is valid. The victim of bullying does not ask for or invite harm or disrespect.
Bullying in the workplace can take many forms, both subtle and blatant:
• Belittling by a supervisor or co-worker; disparaging comments or minimizing your contributions.
• Publicly correcting or pointing out errors and mistakes that would be better addressed privately, or constant criticism, either formal or informal.
• Using sarcasm to communicate or humor to belittle or embarrass.
• Intimidation and threats - words or actions.
• Issuing demands as opposed to polite and respectful requests.
Some workplace environments can be very stressful; however, angry attacks, yelling, or screaming are never appropriate. Severe behaviors are best addressed by a third party such as a Human Resources staff person or union representative.
There are important steps you can take to strengthen yourself against bullying behavior:
• First evaluate and validate the situation. Don’t gossip or create drama by discussing it broadly with coworkers. Confide in a close, objective friend who can offer an unbiased observation of the situation.
• After reflection, clarify the outcome you want to achieve. Bullying will not go away until the situation is addressed in a discreet, direct and confident manner.
• Be precise in stating your point of view; do not focus on feelings, rather the facts of how a situation was handled and how you would hope and expect to be treated in the future.
For example, if your supervisor criticizes you publically, wait for a time you two can speak privately, state your understanding of the need for correction, but request that you want it to be done privately and constructively. Review an employee handbook and state the guidelines for the situation as outlined.
• At all times try to adjust your body language to be respectful, but not timid; stand up straight and look directly at this person.
A S K
Style & Substance
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