3 Tips for Dealing with Bullies at Work

Ryan Morris
by Ryan Morris
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No matter how old you get, it seems like bullying never goes away.

People often think of bullying as something that happens mostly to the young, and picture it occurring largely in cafeterias and schoolyards.

They don’t picture it as something that can happen just as easily to adults at their places of work, even though thousands of adults report experiencing workplace bullying every year.

But if you find yourself victim to workplace bullying yourself, have no fear.

Your friends here at Zippia have put together a guide to help you figure out how to best manage the situation while keeping your dignity intact.


1. How Does Bullying Still Happen in the Workplace?

Generally speaking, bullying occurs because one person feels the need to increase their standing by making themselves look better than another person, which they believe they can accomplish by putting down someone else.

In this sense, bullying comes from a place of deep insecurity — no one who is genuinely confident in their own abilities would be self-conscious enough about someone else’s success that they would feel the need to sabotage them in some way.

That’s why it should come as little surprise that some of the most frequent targets of bullying are veteran employees or workers who are otherwise the best at what they do.

You see, while bullying in the adult world functions similarly to how it does in the world of children, targets are chosen very differently.

Rather than looking for the weakest or least popular group members to keep down, workplace bullies tend to target those that they perceive to be a threat.

There isn’t a lot a person can do to avoid being targeted in this way because the threat is a perceived one. That is, it may only exist within the bully’s mind.

But there are some things you can do to mitigate or even ameliorate the bullying itself — and a few things you might want to avoid doing entirely.

2. What Not to Do When You’re Being Bullied at Work

Even attentive managers and HR workers can have a tough time spotting and dealing with bullying problems in the workplace because bullying can be tough to spot.

What’s more, most people aren’t naturally equipped to deal with workplace bullies, so when they’re faced with the problem, they might find themselves making a few mistakes that can give bullies an unnecessary advantage.

If you are making these mistakes, don’t feel bad — they’re easy ones to make. But if you can recognize that you’re making them and take steps to correct them, you might find the bullying can get a little bit better or even disappear entirely.

Here are some things you should avoid doing at all costs if you find that you’re being bullied at work:

  • First thing’s first: don’t assume that the bullying is just going to stop on its own. It can be appealing to try and just stay quiet and hope that your bully will give up and leave you alone, but generally speaking, this will just make a bully extra determined to find some way to get to you.
  • Don’t forget to keep track of everything that’s happening to you. Assuming that the bullying doesn’t stop, you’re going to at some point need to report individual instances of bullying to serve as evidence against the bully. So write down recollections of individual instances, save all harassing emails, and if you can, try to document a particular instance of bullying on a cellphone camera or sound recording. It’ll go a long way toward proving to someone else that you’re in trouble from an abuser.
  • Don’t let yourself become isolated. It can be easy to be intimidated into silence, letting the bully sabotage your relationships with other employees. Getting you on your own is precisely the kind of situation that gives your bully power, so if you find that this sort of thing is happening to you, it might be high time you finally ask for help regarding the bullying.

3. Things You Should Definitely Do When You’re Being Bullied at Work

As we mentioned, it’s difficult to know what to do in the face of a bully, especially in the moment.

That’s why it’s useful if you can come up with a plan before the bullying happens for how you’re going to deal with the situation.

Planning your actions out ahead of time can make it easier to stick to your guns when the situation arises, which might just make all the difference to you when it comes to finally kicking your bully to the curb.

If you find you’re being bullied at work, here are a few big things you should try:

  • Talk to your coworkers about the bully and their behavior. Odds are good that if you’re feeling victimized, that either someone else you’ve worked with has also felt victimized or else someone you’ve worked with has noticed what’s been going on. In the moment, people often accidentally take the side of the bully, but outside of the situation, people naturally side with victims, so talking like this can make it easier for you to get support for your later documentation of the bully’s behavior.
  • Set limits for what you’re willing to endure from your bully. This will make it easier for you to stand up for yourself if you remind yourself ahead of time that, say, maybe you’re willing to let them make fun of you, but you’re not willing to let them enter your personal space and make you feel uncomfortable.
  • Finally, as soon as you have the proper evidence, you need to tell your Human Resources department as well as your own management about any instances of bullying. These systems are ostensibly in place to help you, so your company should have some way of dealing with situations like this as they arise. Unfortunately, people are flawed and don’t always carry out company policy in ways that genuinely deal with bullies. If you find your company trying to sweep a case of bullying under the rug, consider quitting your job and/or finding yourself a lawyer.

Wrapping Up:

That’s all for this one! Just keep in mind:

No matter what the reason is that you’re being bullied or what methods your bully (or bullies) is using to do so, you should always keep in mind that bullying is never the fault of the victim.

Even if you find that you’re making many of the mistakes listed in the second section of this article, don’t feel bad about having made them. In general, people aren’t naturally equipped to deal with workplace bullying — it’s the kind of thing that really sneaks up on you.

That’s because, for the most part, we just don’t expect it to happen. There are rules in our society, unspoken or not, and it can often feel like the place that those rules are the most observed are in work situations.

And always remember that if you find yourself in a situation where you’re being bullied, there should be someone higher up who can help you — and if not, there’s always the nuclear options of leaving your job or seeking legal help.

Best of luck! Here are some other links to help you on your way:

3 Tips for How to Properly Motivate Employees
3 Tips for Asking (And Answering) Intern Interview Questions
3 Tips for Dealing With a Micromanaging Boss

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