Take ‘bullying’ by the horns

An intimidating boss, a rude colleague, a client who hurls insults. Have you encountered such professionals whose attitude and behaviour negatively impacted your productivity? Chances are, you might have experienced bullying.

Workplace bullying can be roughly described as “repeated mistreatment; abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating, work sabotage, or verbal abuse.” It includes behaviour that disturbs you emotionally and hampers your health. As NHS points out, “Excluding and ignoring people and their contribution, unacceptable criticisms and overloading people with work are other forms of bullying.”

How do you address this problem and what could you do if you find yourself in the line of fire?

  • Start by reviewing the events and situations that have disturbed you. Is it just a case of conflicting styles and opinions? A harmless prank or unsavoury joke? Or is there more to it? If the negative behaviour is targeted at you (an individual) intentionally, repeatedly, and persists over a period, it could be bullying.
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  • Document the instances. Make note of what exactly happened, the context, the words or language used, gestures, etc. Understand that all bullying doesn’t take place face-to-face. It could be over the phone or e-mail too. Documenting helps you track the pattern and frequency of instances. You could even share your notes with trusted colleagues to build a supportive network, that can help you deal with the situation.
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  • Assess whether to talk it out. Check whether the person treating you badly has demonstrated kindness and courtesy towards others. If yes, the bully could just be a difficult person.
    A conversation could help him/ her realize the effects of their behaviour on you. Think about what you want to say. Talk it out or ask a colleague or friend to do so for you. Difficult people might be unaware of their actions, but remember, bullies aren’t. It’s essential to make this distinction, and clearly.
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  • If you feel up to it, take the ‘bull’y by the horns. Challenge what he/ she says gently but firmly. If they criticise your opinions or work, ask how they would have done it differently. Ask them to share specifics. As Lynne Curry, HR expert, points out: often, the bully has nothing constructive to add and will back off.
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  • If it persists, report to the HR. Continued bullying doesn’t just affect your performance. It can deal a blow to your self-worth and have long-term mental and physical consequences. Talk to your supervisor or boss about it. And if the bully is your boss, or if talking to your boss doesn’t change things, report to the HR head. Stick to the facts and share as much evidence as possible.

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, 27% respondents in a survey had experienced abusive conduct at work. As the Duke of Cambridge, Prince William says, it’s time to stand up to and not stand by bullying.

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