When it comes to how to beat bully behaviours at work, it's best to first develop a plan of action BEFORE you jump into action. Here's your first step...
FIRST, are you suffering bullying or some other form of negative work behaviour? Is there a power imbalance with the bully? Do you feel powerless to defend yourself? Is the behaviour repetitive? If you answer 'yes' to these 3 questions then you're dealing with workplace bullying. SECOND, how does your workplace conduct bully investigations and how are the targets/victims treated? This is important as, funnily enough, research found bullies are often highly conversant with....
But hang on! ...how do I KNOW I'm being bullied?
oops... my bad. Yep...
...you're absolutely right, and I know you're right because even the research says so. Quickly identifying and NAMING the negative behaviour you or others are dealing with is the FIRST step to finding a way to stop it.
However, and bear with me here! - it IS possible you're dealing with a tough boss, a socially awkward or incompetent co-worker or staff.
These behaviours CAN appear very similar to bullying - you may (or may not) find this hard to believe, but there it is. Read my article on the '33 signs to identify a bully, socially awkward or incompetent boss, co-worker, or...' to find out how to quickly recognise the differences.
Am I experiencing workplace bullying?
This is a powerful question to ask yourself. How do YOU feel when you're at work ... be honest!
For example, in the past few weeks or months, have you been feeling anxious for no apparent reason?
Or, you may even be second-guessing yourself and confused because you know something isn’t quite right, but you just can’t put your finger on it. You're confidence could be dropping or you talk and interact less with some or all members in your team or group.
You may find you heart is inexplicably racing, you're sweating copiously, you're sleeping less, drinking more alcohol, snapping more, crying... for no real reason.
Maybe you're becoming more hesitant about talking to or emailing a particular person, because you KNOW their response is consistently volcanic.
Or you've recently transferred to a new team, and after six months on the job, have been marked as under-performing in your performance rating. For the first time ever!
The more you de-mystify the toxic environment and realise that (generally speaking) it’s not about you...
...the less personal it becomes (...sort of).
It's quite possible your workplace has accidentally institutionalised bullying and harassment because (for example) the environment has outpaced existing employment policies and/or code of conduct.
You may be dealing with this if your workplace is desperately pretending it's 'effectively' dealing with toxic online behaviour and harassment by using 1990's thinking, outdated policies, or ANYTHING that dodges the fact cyberbullying, cyberstalking, or any type of online or cyber behaviour now has the capacity to FOLLOW you from work to your home, be anonymously mass broadcast and potentially defame your reputation.
Some questions to ask yourself to find out if you're experiencing workplace bullying:
- Am I feeling safe at work? When do I not feel safe (who's involved)?
- Am I consistently dealing with negative (even toxic) situations?
- Do I often feel threatened, scared, terrified, immobilised, or isolated at work?
- Is it becoming harder to think and get things done?
- Do I feel increasingly defenseless to protect myself due to some sort of power imbalance (e.g., role-based or psychological power) with one or more people at work?
- Are other people excusing bad or toxic behaviour because of their position, role or the results they need to deliver?
- Am I sweating, do I have a faster heart beat, feel ill, dizzy, or experience sudden and unexplained pains in my arms, chest or back? (if so, seek immediate advice from a health expert such as you local doctor).
- Do I find that the persistent conflict, confrontations or interpersonal aggression with xx or team is eroding my ability to do my job, defend myself, is undermining my confidence and making me hate or scared of coming to work?
- Is it negative or toxic face-to-face behaviour, or online communications, or a mixture of both?
- Do I consistently feel threatened?
Knowledge is power
Your first step is to become crystal clear about what exactly you’re dealing with.
Google is a great resource, so search Google for “bullying behaviour” or “workplace discrimination” or “harassment” or “cyberbullying” or “cyber-stalking” so you are across the definitions and the detail.
OR read my blog article HERE about the 11 Signs of Online & Offline Bullying.
This process can be incredibly cathartic.
The moment you realise, “Ah, this behaviour is xx.” you can research it and learn about it, and figure out what is triggering it, how to deal with it, defuse it, interrupt it etc.
Knowledge really does equal power!
Identify & Name Bully Behaviours With This FREE List
You probably now want a simple list to refer to so you can NAME the TYPE of bullying or cyberbullying behaviour you're experiencing.
If so, simply click on the image below or get your free guide HERE...
Please write to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know if this article helped you, and what else you'd like me to research and write about.
If you want a personalised and tailored toolkit to help you stop or control negative workplace behaviours BEFORE it turns to bullying or cyberbullying, check out my eCourse HERE that I’ve created around the same topic! For a short time I'm offering it on a free trial basis as I'm seeking participants' feedback via a short 2 minute survey on completion. I'll use the feedback to improve the course.
OR tell me what you'd love to see in my upcoming eCourse "Beating Bullying Behaviour At Work" (previously "Neutralising Workplace Bullies") at email@example.com
Dr Felicity (Flis) Lawrence has a PhD in organisational social psychology from the Faculty of Education, QUT (+BA SSc & Dip PM), with 25 years experience in private, military and government workplaces. She uses a mixed adult education, academic-evidenced approach to help people leading & working in organisations create respectful, safer work cultures by preventing bullying, fostering new insights, and diagnosing organisational problems. Email team@DrFlis.com, LinkedIn or follow her blog Twitter or Facebook.