Psychological assault at workplace is one of the subtle ways to hinder one’s career growth. In a Study conducted by VitalSmarts, about 96% respondents say they have experienced workplace bullying in their career. Helene Richards and Sheila Freeman in a book named Bullying in the Workplace: an Occupational Hazard also explore this serious form of psychological bullying.
The book also talks about different case studies where employees spoke about their woes with work bullies. Examples like: "I went on stress leave but the thought of returning filled me with such dread that I never went back." (Ian); "I had lost my identity and self-esteem, and there was a lot of unresolved anger that I had to let go of before I could channel my energies into the future." (John).
According to workplacebullying.org, “one of the greatest tragedies is that the best and brightest are most often selected for targethood. You posed a threat somehow to a person who is not fully developed as a moral human being. He or she may possess skills, their favourites being the ones involving manipulation and control of other people and winning at the game of political sabotage at work. The fact that bullies are threatened speaks volumes about them, not about you.”
VitalSmarts research also point out that bullying will persist if there a complete breakdown of four systems of accountability – personal accountability (the victim), peer (team-mates who witness such behaviour), supervisory accountability (hierarchical leaders), and formal discipline (the HR). The Study says that bullying exists in organizations where all four systems were terribly weak. Which also suggest that there was no apparent step taken against those bullies who remained in the job.
The bully gets validated when the ‘victim’ doesn’t say anything about it, and silently suffers thinking it’s his/her fault. And when colleagues, team-mates don’t resolve the matter, the bully thinks his/her behaviour can be sustained in the long run. However, 51% organizations surveyed said they have policies dealing with work bullies, but only 7% know of anyone who has ever used that policy although 6% say the policy did work to stop a bully.
It was also found that an alleged bully just didn’t stop at one target. In fact, 80% of respondents said that the bully attacked five or more people.
So how would you deal with these nasty set of people at work? The research gives tips for confronting a workplace bully:
Speak up when required
Suffering in silence will not help since keeping mum about it will only make the bully feel empowered to hurt you more. It’s necessary to reverse the thinking. People who don’t shy away from speaking the truth and hold others accountable for the wrongful actions think first about the risks of not speaking up; then they think about the risk of speaking up. This change affects how you face the bully. You always confront him/her. 62% saw sabotaging of others work or reputation due to bullying.
Don’t be judgmental, present facts first
Don’t use provocative language to make your point. Be specific about the things you want to say. Adhering to the detailed facts is what will help you win any argument with the bully.
Demonstrate unwillingness to tolerate
The bullies often resort to such behaviour due to some concerns which might seem legitimate but showing that you will not tolerate such behaviour is the right way to address the issue.
Talk about consequences
While discussing the issue, let him/her know about the shared consequences that you all have to face since it’s affecting your work – projects, customers, clients.
Let them know about the boundaries
Make it very clear about how you expect to be treated in future. Ask for their commitment, and also let them know about the consequence if there is a recurrence of the act.
There is no one way to look at things, and bullies often do that. Don't take it in your stride, speak when it's necessary and do it for others too. If you have faced such nasty behaviour, do share it with us!