By definition, “workplace bullying” is the repeated, health-harming mistreatment of an employee in the form of verbal abuse or behaviors that are threatening, intimidating, or humiliating.
Bullies practice psychological violence by unleashing verbal aggression through yelling, swearing, or making negative comments. They withhold vital information, steal credit for other’s work, spread malicious rumors, socially exclude their victims, and humiliate victims in front of others.
According to a poll conducted by Employment Law Alliance, Philadelphia-based Reed Group surveyed 1,000 American adults on the topic of workplace bullying.
• 45% said they have worked for a supervisor or employer they consider abusive.
• More than 50% of American workers have been the victim of, or heard about, supervisors/employers behaving abusively.
• Southern workers (34%) are less likely to experience an abusive boss than are their Northeastern (56%) and Midwestern (48%) counterparts.
• 64% believe an abused worker has the right to sue for damages.
Who are the Bully Bosses?
Bullies have a strong desire to be in control and exert dominance. According to organizational psychologist Laurence Stybel, Ph.D., of Boston’s Stybel Peabody Lincolnshire & Associates, there are two kinds of bullies. Unsuccessful ones who don’t last long at companies, and successful ones who are competent, but create problems.
Some bullies operate under the radar undetected because they project such traits as being intelligent, hard working, self-confident, competitive, and independent. Such traits may fill the job description, but they are devoid of empathy and compassion.
Are you working for a tough boss or workplace bully?
A tough boss treats all employees fairly, sets high expectations, and holds employees accountable. If the employee has a problem, a tough boss works with them to overcome barriers and engage in constructive dialogue.
A bully acts with malice and carefully chooses his victims. He creates roadblocks to derail success. His misuse of power and authority is relentless. Bullies are self-centered, emotionally restless, subjective, and focused totally on their own needs.
Bullied employees quickly become mentally and emotionally exhausted. This leads to physical illness, high absenteeism, loss of self-confidence, feelings of depression, social isolation, increased anxiety, sleepless nights and high employee turnover.
Use these seven effective ways to handle bullying bosses:
Tip #1 Verbal self-defense
Don’t let the bully’s abusive words rattle you. Respond calmly and unemotionally. Make eye contact and declare with a firm voice, “Your tone is unacceptable and I won’t tolerate it.” Restrict your statement to the present situation. Confront the bully in private because bullies never back down in public or apologize.
Tip #2 Build and project self-confidence.
Gain self-confidence by facing adversity and meeting challenges. Project this self-confidence through strong body language, high quality work, measured tone of voice and a firm hand shake when dealing with others.
Tip #3 Document everything.
Keep a detailed journal of your interactions, what happened and when, what was said, and any witness statements. You’ll need this information to report the bully to HR or legal authorities. Keep your journal and notes at home and do not create these or store them on the company computer.
Tip # 4 Seek help.
Any employee has the right to take swift action to protect themselves from bullying. Realize loyal coworkers may distance themselves to protect their jobs.
Don’t handle your bullying situation alone. Seek the assistance of a mentor, coach, or legal advocate who specializes in unfair workplace behavior.
Going to HR is a good start. What should you do before you approach HR?
• Support your complaint with documented evidence.
• Get legal advice to know your rights and options.
• Familiarize yourself with your company’s employee welfare policy on bullying.
• Ask your HR representative what you can expect from them and if your conversations are confidential.
• Determine whether others who have approached HR have been labeled complainers or a liability.
If you do nothing, be mentally prepared for more of the same, forcing you to quit your job or be asked to leave as your work quality slips.
Tip # 5 Be psychologically and emotionally prepared.
Not many people like to confront the person they are reporting. Mental toughness will help you feel in control of your emotions and life, you respond proactively to challenges, and act with confidence, calmness and resolve. Being mentally tough will help you to withstand the stress and pressure of the process.
Tip #6 Develop a strong, disciplined mind.
Become more inner directed and self reliant. Pay attention to what you are thinking and feeling. Train your mind to be alert by staying in the present moment. When your mind is strong and disciplined, it enables you to face the bully head on rather than giving the bully permission to control you.
Tip #7 Don’t expect to change the bully.
You have no control over a bully’s behavior or attitude. Your best option is to manage the situation and shield yourself emotionally, psychologically and legally. It’s the company’s responsibility to protect the welfare of its employees’ from all types of workplace behavior and harm, including bullying.
© Copyright 2015 Jennifer Touma and Earnest Hart Jr.