Let’s start with the facts. An estimated 53.5 million Americans report being bullied at work — that’s 35 percent of the workforce. Clearly, being bullied at work isn’t quite the same as being bullied when you were a kid, but it’s close. Let’s uncover exactly what it means to be bullied and what you can do to help stop it.
The Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) defines being bullied at work as "repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons by one or more perpetrators by verbal abuse, offensive behavior or threats, or interference with the work getting done." Bullying is a form of control in which the targeted person is at risk of losing her job, experiencing a decline in health and losing friends.
Lynette, who has encountered bullying at work firsthand, recounts her experience. "The bookkeeper at my office job felt she needed a victim at work. When we would pass in the 3-foot-wide hallways, for example, she would plow through the middle, forcing me to back up against the wall. She was also verbally abusive and never had a smile to spare. I tolerated this for 18 months before deciding life was too short to put up with this any longer," she shares.
Bullying is harder to deal with than you may think. Going to the HR department may not change anything whatsoever (though it’s always smart to make the bullying known). If you’re being harassed in the workplace — which normally implies sexual harassment — there are laws in place to prevent that from continuing. With bullying, it’s more of a gray area.
Lynette knew she needed to take action in her situation. "I began to keep a journal of incidents, date and time, and six months later used that journal as an attachment to my letter of resignation. My boss was shocked when he read the journal, but being that he was close to the bookkeeper (she was his best friend’s wife), he didn’t fire her. I knew I had to exit the situation as my own solution," Lynette states.
Again, even though there are no laws against bullying, always go to your supervisor and the HR department so they’re aware of the problem. Other tips include:
Remember that if you are being bullied, you’re not alone. You have a right to feel safe in the workplace, and no one should cause you to feel differently.
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