Bullies aren’t just nasty children in the school playground. The reality is people can be bullied at any age in any environment.
And it’s not as uncommon as you’d think. It has been reported that a 1,700-person academic survey revealed New Zealand to have the second-worst rate of workplace bullying in the developed world, with one in five workers afflicted.
Indentifying workplace bullies isn’t always easy as it can often be subtle and devious, such as efforts to undermine credibility, performance or confidence. Personal attacks and put downs are also common methods of bullying that are more easily recognised.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment define workplace bullying as “repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a worker or a group of workers that creates a risk to health and safety”.
It affects people physically and mentally, resulting in increased stress levels, decreased emotional wellbeing, reduced coping strategies and lower work performance.
Identifying a bully
Anyone can be a bully at work whether it’s a boss, a co-worker or a client. If you’re a victim it’s important to recognise your situation and act.
“Anyone can be a bully at work whether it’s a boss, a co-worker or a client. If you’re a victim it’s important to recognise your situation and act.”
Signs you are being bullied include:
- Being belittled and extensively micromanaged
- Having unwanted gossip and rumours about you spread
- Constantly brining up your trivial mistakes again and again, especially if it’s done in front of colleagues
- Having your achievements ignored and your potential for promotion overlooked
- Being given an excessive amount of work or not receiving all of the necessary information making it impossible to complete a job
- Causing public humiliation and/or excessively yelling or swearing
- Backhanded comments designed to be condescending
- Being excluded from necessary team meetings or emails isolating you socially and professionally.
How to respond appropriately
Assess the bully’s behaviour; is it a one off incident or repeated attacks over a period of time? If it is an ongoing issue then you need to take action.
If possible, gather evidence of the bullying. This might mean keeping notes of your interactions, saving threatening emails or asking a witness to support your claim.
Know your organisation’s policy on workplace bullying so you have a better understanding of how your employer will handle the situation, then report the bully. It can be difficult, especially if the bully has knocked your confidence. Report the bullying as factually and objectively as possible. Recount your experiences and share your documented proof.
By Laura Baker