STOP BULLYING IN THE WORK PLACE
BULLYING IN THE WORKPLACE
Normally we associate bullying with school. If you were bullied at school you felt assured that moving on to university, going out into the work place or just becoming an adult meant not having to deal with disturbing or threatening behaviour again. You would be treated as an equal or simply recognized for your talents.
Unfortunately life and people are not that straightforward.
And even if you were bullied at school that does not automatically mean you have a higher chance of being bullied in the workplace. You might even have been the bully at school and now find yourself being harassed or intimidated by your boss or colleague. Food for thought.
In most countries there is a process for dealing with workplace bullying. Some companies are great and others would prefer if you just quietly left and didn’t make any trouble especially if the bully is in higher management, ( you might have come across the ‘ oh but its very difficult to replace someone at that level with his/her expertise so maybe it’s better you left…’ line. It’s more common than we would like to think.
SO WHAT EXACTLY IS BULLYING?
Persistent disturbing behaviour.
Persistent threatening behaviour.
3. Persistent intimidation.
Note the word persistent each time. It’s important to note that a one off scenario with any one of these behaviours does not necessarily constitute bullying. Unprofessional behaviour – yes. Rudeness – yes. Nastiness – yes. Not yet bullying.
Everyone can have a bad day and a build up of stress, frustration or tiredness, maybe even a looming deadline panic and you might react wrongly to something or someone in your work environment. You might deliver a comment like ‘get it done on time, I don’t care how late you have to work’. Once is forgivable, I always think. Especially if the person circles back next day and apologises. A second time and you need to be wary, perhaps ask colleagues is this normal behaviour for this person (especially if you are new), but a third time should raise all the red flags (with or without apologies).
Bullying is also when the consequences of refusing to do something, (beyond your job spec or something unreasonable), are damaging or disadvantageous to the victim. Intentional behaviour (sometimes subtle, sometime overt) that causes a normal person of ordinary sensibilities to fear their job safety or even their personal safety.
Bullying is intentionally creating a hostile environment for certain individuals that makes it difficult or uncomfortable to work in. This could be discrimination in the workplace. Being ostracized from social gatherings. Having important information with held from you to make you look bad e.g. told the wrong time for a special meeting, not passing on vital paperwork or the wrong paperwork. This sort of behaviour more often comes from a colleague rather than a manager.
Bullying is mental harassment. Repetitive hostile behaviour. This could be done only when you are alone with the bully so everyone else thinks you are exaggerating. Or it could be done deliberately in public in order to disgrace you or undermine you. It could be happening behind your back. Clever belittling of your work or suggestions of adverse behaviour. Unless you have a well intentioned person who quietly gives you the heads up on what happens when you leave the room, you may live with constant suspicions in your mind or be blissfully unaware.
Bullying is constantly undermining your work or talking over you in meetings.
Bullying is when a manager uses his/her position to threaten job security. With this one is does not need to be repetitive. Once is enough to get this threat.
Last but not least -
Bullying is asking for personal or intimate favours in return for either job security or promotion. What is known as quid pro quo which is latin for ‘something for something’.
WHAT BULLYING IS NOT!!!
Expressing differences of opinion.
Giving constructive feedback on work related behaviour.
Managing the poor performance of a worker.
Giving a verbal or formal warning as per the guidelines issued by your HR Dept. (If the guidelines have not been followed, seek advice).
So if you are unlucky enough to be caught in a situation at work wherein you feel you are being bullied in one form or another YOU MUST DO SOMETHING.
The bully and the bullying will not go away no matter how much you wish it would. Also if you continue to tolerate the bully’s behaviour you are allowing him/her to think this behaviour is acceptable to you.
All sounds easy enough in words but in practice it’s often extremely difficult to deal with as the balance of power is not going to be in your favour.
The biggest obstacle to overcome is to reset your thinking about yourself and your relationship with the bully. Believe it or not it’s not personal. It’s not about you specifically. If or when you leave your job, the bully will undoubtedly find another target.
You see, bully’s are rather clever. They make it seem like it’s personal and only you but in reality they are covering up for their own inadequacies. So by shining the light constantly on you and pointing out your misdemeanours, failings or perceived incompetence he/she is skillfully deflecting away from themselves.
Don’t wait for the next time your boss/ line manager rubbishes your work, talks over you in a meeting or shoots you down in a meeting. Have a meeting with them ahead and ask for their advice on how to improve on what they are not happy with. Tell him/her your ideas ahead of the meeting so he can’t shoot them down in front of people. If he/she still continues the negative behaviour in meetings or gatherings, you now are in a position to respectfully challenge them if they okayed everything the day before.
Remember – and keep telling yourself this – it’s not about YOU. You just happen to be filling a role that he/she has control over.
In the expat world, here in Qatar, things are complicated by the fact that the primary earner will often have schooling and housing as part of the package. So it’s not just the job that is being threatened; it’s your whole social life, your kids schooling and where you live that comes under threat (if it’s company housing). Losing your job or quitting means literally having to move lock stock and barrel and often to another country. This is a huge burden on anyone and often it’s much easier to grit your teeth and soldier on.
But years of working in such a toxic environment (and some people do live in it quietly for years), takes its toll on your dignity, self worth and a deep rooted shame sets in. It’s not easy to remain indifference and you may be too long in it to believe what I said earlier about reminding yourself its not personal. (The hell it’s not personal, you may be thinking. What does she know?)
And I don’t know for sure, of course as every bullying situation is different and unique and received by the victim in a unique way.
No one can tell you walk out now, leave your job, it’s not worth it. You can only do that if and when you feel you have had enough and it’s time. Something will click or snap and you will be able to make your decision one way or another.
You might decide to confront the bully (easier when it’s a colleague). However do it in a calm and controlled way. Rehearse what you want to say. Try it out on someone first. Stick to facts. Avoid subjective accusations like ‘you treat me unfairly’ or ‘you are always running me down’. Because believe it or not they might not be aware they treat you unfairly, maybe they treat everyone unfairly. And the hardened bully may think – so what! If you don’t like it – leave.
Stick to hard facts – ‘I’ve noticed you don’t always agree with my ideas in meetings, could we meet up before the next meeting and I can go through everything so we are both working off the same page. It would look so much better in front of the management?’
If your boss continues to reject or pick holes in everything you suggest, simply ask him/her there and then what they would recommend as an alternative.
‘I’ve noticed you stand very close to me sometimes, please understand that my religion requires modesty in all areas of my life. I would appreciate it if you would leave more space around me. Nothing personal of course’.
This is a mixed gender issue. More often it is the male invading the female employee’s space. But it does happen the other way around also.
Bully’s like this rely on their actions being so subtle that you come away thinking – did he or didn’t he??? Was it a mistake or my imagination? Once maybe, but not anymore than that. And if you challenge him he can easily put it down to your imagination or the classic retort – Yea you wish.
Trust your instinct. Avoid close contact as much as feasibly possible. If you have to pass each other in a small environment make a big thing of letting him go first. Sit down rather than standing if you are having a meeting. If you feel you are being touched. Jump up and say OMG was that a spider and again make a big thing of it. And of course you have every right to call him out on it as soon as it happens –
In a loud voice say –
Did you just touch me? I swear you just touched me. You have done it before but I wasn’t sure, this time I am. Please keep your distance or I will involve HR or the police for my own safety.
Even if he blusters and denies it. Suspicion has been laid down and that may be enough. If it persists then you have to take it further. I would always recommend finding someone in HR rather than your line manager as this is a private thing.
Do you have a separate or effective HR Dept? Make discreet enquiries and source out a name that you feel would be willing to believe you and support you
If possible document any persistent bullying. Date, time, place, what was said or done, any witnesses? As much information as you can. Did you tell anyone after it happened? Would they be willing to be a witness to your distress?
Does the bully pick on anyone else? Can you rally up others and build a case.
Be careful regarding the laws in Qatar about defaming anyone’s name. Talk to your HR Dept. and ask their advice first and always.
Even when your job is the secondary income with no threat to your home or school, it is very demoralizing to have to make decisions about whether this environment is worth the anguish or the constant erosion of your dignity. Especially hard if you enjoy the work and earning your own money.
Everyone has a breaking point. A moment where you feel you have given so much to this job or forsaken so much of yourself that you reach the point of no return and just quit.
Before you get to that point start finding ways to either deal with the bully. Rally support or talk to someone who has the power to do something about it. Ultimately it may not change anything, depending on how important the bully is to the company. (It’s a sad reality I’m afraid). They may even be aware of the behaviour and compiling evidence. In which case your evidence may not help you now but may help someone in the future.
Start looking around and see what’s on the job market.
You may still be thinking ‘Why should I move?’
Instead ask yourself ‘How does it serve me to stay? What is the cost to my dignity and self worth? Is it worth it in the end?’ Answer the questions honestly.
This is the part where you have control. You have 100% control over your decision to stay or go. Prepare yourself so that if you do decide enough is enough it will happen because you want it to and are ready to go. Not because your hand was forced or you felt you had no other option.
Remember this person’s comments and views on you and your work, are just from one person. Someone who is prejudiced against you or has it in for you. It is not the truth. It does not in any way sum you up as a person.
I always say to clients ‘You are not the sum total of one person’s estimation. No one person can completely define the whole you’. Whether their estimation is good or bad it is coming from one source and often with an agenda.
The future is bright and you are about to step into it.
ICF Certified Life Coach.
I’m also a Mum of two beautiful people, partner to an amazing man, cat rescuer, baker, quilter, photographer, reader, ex-teacher, aspiring writer, lover of good food and I’m told I make great coffee.
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