Bully Behaviour In Our Office

Question:

I’m being harassed and bullied by my co-worker. It’s been going on for a long time. The reason for this is unknown to me, but I think it is because I’m given more authority and responsibilities. What I do is important to my Managers. All the work flows through me. There are about 8 of us. Some other co-workers support him. The nature of his behaviour is that he ignores me while he greets others. He teases, insults, criticizes, tries to find fault with everything I do and bitches behind my back. I reported him once to management. They told me to answer back. This did help to some extent. I need help in handling him and others who are supporting him.

Signed,

Feel Harassed


Answer:

Dear Feel Harassed:

You are not alone. Research of workplace bullying has found it all too common. Miami Herald columnist and CEO of BalanceGal, Cindy Krischer Goodman, in “Workplace bullying a growing problem” (June 28, 2011) includes the Key findings from the Workplace Bullying Institute’s 2010 survey:

35 percent of workers have experienced bullying firsthand; an additional 15 percent have witnessed it.

62 percent of bullies are men; 58 percent of targets are women.

Women bullies target women in 80 percent of cases.

Bullying is four times more prevalent than illegal harassment.

The majority (68 percent) of bullying is same-gender harassment. An earlier study reported: “In a prevalence study of U.S. workers, found 41.4% of respondents reported experiencing psychological aggression at work in the past year representing 47 million U.S. workers (Schat, Frone & Kelloway, 2006). The research found that 13%, or nearly 15 million workers, reported experiencing psychological aggression on a weekly basis.” From what you described the actions of your coworker fit the definition of bullying, but only the general and not the legal definition of harassment. Therefore, my remarks pertain to bullying; however, in reporting the abusive acts of your coworker, I would not use the term “bullying”. It rather is more to the point to describe the language and uncooperative acts that frustrate you and your productivity.

It is good to know that you once reported your coworkers the verbal abuse and have had some success by following management’s advice to answer back. This should give you courage to fight the destructive and stressful interaction of your coworker. So before you report it again, wouldn’t it be wise to continue to stand your ground and talk back. Ideally, teasing, insults, criticism, and faultfinding should be confronted immediately, or ignored and dealt with not long after one-on-one privately.

If you want your coworker to stop teasing, faultfinding, yelling, or swearing, firmly tell him to stop it. Raise your hand in a stop sign gesture accompany it assertively, “Jason, (or whatever is his name) you’ve said enough. No more!” If he persists, you have some choices to repeat your self until he tires of hearing “Stop, Jason” or you can exit saying, “I have other jobs to do. We can discuss this later if necessary.” We have made this suggestion in other Q&As on verbal abuse. You can find other of our advice on this topic in our Archives, such as: Verbal Abuse http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=3658

There are many sites that give advice about how to deal with workplace bullying. Kickbully.com is not as belligerent as it sounds. This site presents a series of lessons on how to confront a bully on the spot. One of the ways that it recommends fighting a bully is to paraphrase what you have heard and to preface that with such openings as: · “Let me be sure I heard you right.” · “Let me make sure I understand you.” · “I’d like to understand your point.” · “So you think ___?” · “Why do you think ____?” · And in response you can add, “How would ____ lead to ____?” The purpose of paraphrasing is to seek clarification of what prompts the teasing and faultfinding.

Bullying is workplace aggression, which the researchers divided into categories: · Incivility: rudeness and discourteous verbal and non-verbal behaviors. · Persistently criticizing employees’ work; yelling; repeatedly reminding employees of mistakes; spreading gossip or lies; ignoring or excluding workers; and insulting employees’ habits, attitudes or private life. · Interpersonal conflict: behaviors of hostility, verbal aggression and angry exchanges. (What To Do About Workplace Bullies By Dawn Rosenberg McKay, About.com Guide http://careerplanning.about.com/od/bosscoworkers/a/bullies_at_work.htm) McKay spells out steps to how to deal with a workplace bully: · Seek the advice of a trusted mentor who may have dealt with this situation before. · If you can, confront the bully in a professional manner, but only if your physical safety isn’t threatened. Don’t sink to his or her level. Stay as calm as possible. Don’t yell or threaten. Often bullies are looking for this type of confrontation and it will encourage them to come back for more. Don’t cry or show weakness either. That’s usually what the bully is after in the first place. · Don’t try to win over other people to your side. The way in which you handle the situation will allow them to make their own judgements. · Don’t allow the bully to intimidate you or make you feel bad about yourself. You know your true worth. Don’t forget what that is. · Do your job and do it well. The workplace bully wants you to fail and when you don’t he or she will be defeated. · Make sure your superiors are aware of your work. Workplace bullies often try to spread the word that your are not doing your job well and will even go as far as to report the smallest infractions to your boss. Your actions will carry more weight than his or her words.

Thinking ahead about the language you might use to stop aggression and to shift it to clarification is something that you can do as an individual. But you should not have to stop it solo. Unfortunately, managers don’t have a good record of dealing with bullying, but they should because allowing its presence hampers output and costs their workplace in that its victims are more frequently absent, stressed, ill, and quit.

This said should help you realize that you shouldn’t be shy about reporting the behaviors you describe. But when you report them you should have a log of incidents that show a pattern. You say this has been going on for a long time; therefore, your coworker has a pattern and habit that has worked for him. Since it has worked for him, at least to the extent that it makes him feel superior to you, it will not be continue and not be quickly fixed. Log incidents in which your coworker was negative. Write down the words he used and how he responded when you tried to answer back. Include dates and circumstances that prompted each of them.

Some companies have established policies on bullying. My co-workplace doctor, Tina Lewis Rowe, responded to one question about Changing the Bullying Policy http://workplacedoctors.com/wpdocs/qdetail.asp?id=3668 To illustrate what such a policy might contain, I’m copying an example of a WORKPLACE BULLYING POLICY Adapted from The Commission of Occupational Safety and Health, Government of Western Australia Company X considers workplace bullying unacceptable and will not tolerate it under any circumstances. Workplace bullying is behavior that harms, intimidates, offends, degrades or humiliates an employee, possibly in front of other employees, clients, or customers. Workplace bullying may cause the loss of trained and talented employees, reduce productivity and morale and create legal risks. Company X believes all employees should be able to work in an environment free of bullying. Managers and supervisors must ensure employees are not bullied. Company X has grievance and investigation procedures to deal with workplace bullying. Any reports of workplace bullying will be treated seriously and investigated promptly, confidentially and impartially. Company X encourages all employees to report workplace bullying. Managers and supervisors must ensure employees who make complaints, or witnesses, are not victimized. Disciplinary action will be taken against anyone who bullies a co-employee. Discipline may involve a warning, transfer, counseling, demotion or dismissal, depending on the circumstances. The contact person for bullying at this workplace is: Name: _____________________________________________________________ Phone Number: ______________________________________________________ EXAMPLE WORKPLACE BULLYING POLICY Adapted from The Commission of Occupational Safety and Health, Government of Western Australia (http://www.worksafe.wa.gov.au/newsite/worksafe/media/Guide_bullying_emplo.pdf) Finally in what has been a far too long answer, please keep your sense of humor and don’t take the blame for causing your coworker to belittle and bully you. Work for you and also for him should not be something you hate to come to. It is not your whole life, and you will survive if you don’t just bite your tongue and see your self as a victim. Think big. Think team. Your work group of eight is part of something big. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that is worth working for.

William Gorden