How to Handle Bullying on the Job

Career Blog

Bullying in the workplace isn’t new, but thanks to an evolving social consciousness and some very brave individuals, it’s being called out more frequently and thus, those doing it are being held to account. Good HR professionals have been advocating for such action for decades and it is now, more than ever, taking place.

If It Happens to You

If it’s a single, less serious infraction more akin to rudeness or a micro-aggression, some employees will feel comfortable confronting the person directly and requesting that he or she stop the behavior. In these instances, it’s wise to provide specifics such as what the person did, when they did it, and how it made you feel. Sometimes simply standing up to an aggressor will shut them down.

Of course, it’s important to note that regardless of the nature or severity of the offending action you are under no obligation to say anything to the other party. Dealing with a bully is not part of anyone’s job description. Your organization’s HR team is there to handle all such issues, so you do not need to go it alone. If you are the victim of bullying or harassment immediately report it to your HR representative. They should have a detailed process for addressing the matter and in some cases will have it done by an external party.

Common Triggers and Remedies

HR professionals are often asked for typical reasons behind employee aggression. Of course, there is no formulaic answer. Catalysts for conflict can be anything and depend on the personalities involved. Some note that stressful situations such as slow sales or a botched product launch will heighten tensions, but it is not HR’s place to predict, diagnose, or treat behavior that stems from work or personal situations. That is best left to mental health professionals. HR’s job is to help ensure the safety of and respect for all employees by enforcing applicable company policies. This means taking swift action to investigate and defuse the action, removing the offending party if appropriate.

Can Companies Retaliate?

Retaliation is illegal and can produce enormous financial and reputational costs for the company and those who commit this follow-on offense. It’s important that employees understand their rights and speak with HR to understand the process for the initial report and follow on retaliation claim if needed. In the end, preserving your well-being and neutralizing any victimization is always worth speaking out.

The Bottom Line

Positive conflict is healthy for teams as it can spark new conversations, ideas and encourage both collaboration and healthy competition among employees. But there is a big difference between healthy tension and bullying behavior. The latter is never acceptable. There is simply no excuse for the behavior. Bullying destroys engagement, reduces productivity, and kills culture.

If you find yourself in a bad situation report it. Bullies and even talented jerks are being tolerated less and less. Chances are companies will do the right thing and oust the offender and even congratulate you for bringing the behavior to light. But even if they didn’t, even if your worst fears come to pass ­– you’re not believed, they take the other person’s side and stifle your career…even if they did all that, reporting the offense and leaving the toxic organization is still the better choice. No job is worth not doing the right thing for yourself and protecting others who may fall victim to similar actions.

If you have been the victim of workplace bullying, please report it to your HR representative. If you are the victim of domestic violence please get help. You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline – 1−800−799−7233. 

My book, Defend Yourself: Developing a Personal Safety Strategy contains a wealth of resources on the subject. You can download a FREE COPY. Be safe. Be strong.

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