by Traciana Graves – Project Bully Free Zone
Just because we’re older (and, as the saying goes, wiser) doesn’t mean that we aren’t susceptible to some of things we experienced when we were young—we can still have little crushes on celebrities, catch the chicken pox and even be involved in bullying.
Workplace bullying can be difficult to define. The question that I am most frequently asked is: what does workplace bullying look like, and how is it different from people simply being rude?
I like to define bullying with the following acronym, because bullying is any action that is:
Aggressive Intimidating Repeated
An act of incivility or a single rude gesture or comment is more than likely a co-worker speaking or acting out in frustration, while a repeated cluster of them could be considered bullying. Workplace bullying can include the forms of bullying we remember so well from childhood, including verbal and physical aggression, but it can also be more sophisticated, including psychological abuse and alienation.
The majority of reported incidents has been perpetuated by bosses. Often bosses believe that bullying is the only way to maintain high levels of efficiency and productivity when in reality workplace bullying costs $180 billion each year in lost man hours and productivity.
Since workplace bullying has been overlooked until recently, there are few laws within most corporations and on the state and federal level that protect employees’ rights against bullies. However, things are changing. 21 state legislatures have or are currently considering anti-bully legislation and the federal government is refining workplace harassment law to ensure its adequacy against workplace bullying. Companies that do not act in compliance with these rapidly changing laws will face strict fines and other penalties. In addition, people found guilty of workplace bullying could be charged with seemingly unrelated offenses. For instance, because the laws have not caught up with the times, workplace bullies could face harassment, assault and even terrorism charges.
You might be a few years older, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t run into some of the same things you did on the playground or in the halls at school. However, since you are older, you now have the wisdom of knowing you have a choice about how to handle the bullying you see or experience. Here are some tips to handle bullying in the workplace:
1) Record, record, record! Make sure you record all dates, times and details of an incident. If witnesses are present, make sure to write down their names.
2) Keep a paper trail. If you receive texts, emails, voicemails or other electronic forms of bullying, save them.
3) Speak to someone about how to deal with the issue informally. This could be a union representative, your manager or an HR representative. Find out what your options are and determine how you feel about these options before taking formal action.
4) Speak to the source, if you feel comfortable. Sometimes the bullying may not be deliberate and all that’s needed is a word to the wise.
5) Ask close friends and family to support you. Bullying can be devastating on your health and mental wellness, and a support network can act as a wonderful cushion to hold you up through difficult times.
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