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Not Sure if You're Being Bullied at Work? Here are the Hard-to-Recognize signs.

What is Workplace Bullying?

Workplace bullying refers to the constant and unprovoked actions of one or more person(s) toward another group or person where the actions are intended to harm (physically/mentally) and humiliate.

Any person, regardless of race/gender/position within the company, can be classified as a bully; meaning it could be a friend, colleague, or even your supervisor.

As adults, we tend to solely (and ironically) link the term "bully" to juvenile situations like name-calling or spreading rumors. Unfortunately, the signs are not always clear and can leave a person wondering what exactly they're dealing with.

The Hard-to-Recognize Signs

  • Belittling: The bully in question seems to make every thought or idea you have seem unintelligent or unimportant to the point of humiliation. This may also include the undermining of your hard work.

  • Isolation/exclusion: The bully in question will purposefully exclude you from work-related events, social gatherings amongst co-workers, and company outings. When confronted with this, the bully will typically fabricate an excuse or provide false remorse.

  • Constant changing of job expectations: This particular instance can appear in two different scenarios. The first is that the bully in question is your boss or supervisor who repeatedly sets impossible work expectations in the hopes that you'll fail. The second scenario is that the bully in question is your co-worker who has either been tasked to assist you and takes the opportunity to steer you incorrectly or goes out of their way to mislead you on guidelines/scope(s) of work.

  • Taking credit: The bully in question, may it be your boss or co-worker, enjoys taking credit for your contributions and research without acknowledging you in any regard.

What Can Happen as a Result of Bullying

The effects of bullying can have both physical and mental effects on a person.

After experiencing bullying, it is common to begin having mood changes, like increased sadness or irritability, panic attacks, headaches, or high blood pressure. This is in part because one's sense of security has being attacked through constant troublesome interactions.

Your job performance may suffer as well due to constant scrutiny and a developed narrative towards yourself that your work is never up to par. Ruminating on these ideas can certainly cause you to become severely distracted and in turn, you likely won't produce quality work.

What Can You Do About the Bullying?

From the very first incident, we suggest (and cannot stress this enough) that you keep track or "receipts" of the abuse. Document everything! Write each instance down on your phone, in a notebook, etc., and be sure to include the date/time and name anyone who was a witness. This information will be extremely helpful later when you need to confirm that the bullying did take place.

Attempt to safely and respectfully converse with the bully about their behavior. Remain professional and calmly assert that they cease and desist in the behavior they are exhibiting toward you. If the conversation does not take care of it, refer to your company's handbook for the company policy on bullying/harassment.

If you've had no success at resolving the issue on your own, speak with your supervisor, assuming that they are not the person responsible for the bullying and can provide a safe space for you. Again, try your best to remain level-headed and calm, and bring forth those receipts! If your supervisor is responsible for the bullying, however, immediately contact your company's HR representative.

Unfortunately, many companies, including their HR department, do not properly handle bullying/harassment cases. If this is your situation, it may be in your best interest to contact an outside HR provider or seek legal counsel.

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