By Brad Zehring, DO
I would rather be a little nobody, then to be an evil somebody - Abraham Lincoln
Typically, when bullying is talked about it is in the context of children or adolescents during some level of schooling. Rarely do we think about bullying as an adult issue. However, much more attention has been focused on adult bullying – more specifically, adult bullying in the workplace.
According to various sources, citing research and survey’s, it has been reported that as many as 1 in 4 adults will face some form of bullying in their career. It is important to point out the differences between constructive criticism, workplace conflict, and bullying. Workplace bullying focuses on the person rather than the performance or task being completed by the person. In addition, the person being targeted feels powerless to stop it. Making the situation worse, is when the adult being bullied goes to management to report the offense and the abuse is minimized or discounted altogether. Complicating the issue further is the difficulty verbalizing what is taking place or being unaware that what is occurring is bullying, leading to worsening suffering.
What are some forms of workplace bullying?As discussed earlier, workplace bullying can be described as an extreme pattern where the person is isolated apart from his/her performance or task. Some examples of workplace bullying are: being left-out of work-related social events, coworkers refusing to help when asked, coworkers leaving the room when you enter or routinely arriving to meetings late that when you call them, being yelled at, put down, or disciplined in front of your coworkers. These are some of the ways that workplace bullying presents, but it is not an exhaustive list.
How workplace bullying is harmfulFor individuals who are being bullied in the workplace, their desire to go into work day after day is diminished and their satisfaction in their performance and with their employer decreases. Many reports discuss the loss of productivity when job satisfaction decreases. Beyond the psychological stress (depression, anxiety, PTSD, etc) – which should not be minimized, stress from bullying can lead to physical illness such as stroke, heart attacks, chronic fatigue or dissatisfaction in an person’s personal life – including leading to suicide. There are many reports documenting poor job satisfaction negatively affecting all areas on one’s life. Feeling accomplished and satisfied in a career can lead to a happier personal life and vice versa.
How to prevent or deal with workplace bullying
While recognizing or speaking up about workplace bullying can be a difficult task - it is important not to be silent about bullying experiences, whether personal attacks or witnessed attacks on colleagues, or isolate from those that may be able to help. Currently, states are working on anti-bullying bills to encourage healthy workplace environments, but fostering a workplace for your coworkers that doesn’t tolerate bullying is key. Many organizations provide or contract with mental health professionals willing to discuss, advise, and help an individual navigate the process. It is important to document your concerns and be specific and concise with the message you are trying to convey if you feel you are being bullied. Despite how difficult it may be, it is important to approach the bully or go to your supervisor with a calm demeanor and discuss your concerns rationally. Lastly, it is important to have an open mind about the situation. Sometimes it may be that the “bully” does not realize how his/her actions have affected you. Approaching them, or the situation, calmly will provide an environment for understanding and increase the probability for change.