First, I hope you’re never a victim of work bullying (or any other forms of bullying). Unfortunately, the prevalence for bullying is high. While we cannot control the bully’s actions, we can control our response.
Let me share with you my personal experience of being a victim of bullying:
I landed my first job post-college in a very reputable lab. I loved the work and was inspired by my employer. Unfortunately, these positive sentiments didn’t extend to all my colleagues. There is one, who we shall call X, whose mere presence brought me stress. X constantly belittled me with snide remarks, criticisms at meetings, and unwillingness to work together. While my self-esteem wasn’t hurt, I found work to be a very hostile environment. I began to dread going to work. Yet, I wanted so much to make peace, which consequently allowed X to walk all over me. My only response was to rant and cry to Thanh. This lasted for years. I held onto the hope that things would change, but they never do.
The bully must change. If not, the victim must change. I allowed X to exert power over me. If I changed my attitude – instead of giving in, but to stand up for myself – I might not have been bullied. I needed to first stop seeing myself as a victim in order for X to no longer see me as the victim. Otherwise, the vicious cycle would repeat and mentally break me down. Fortunately, I was able to escape the cycle by changing my environment. I resigned to pursue graduate studies.
Do not let anyone steal your joy. If you’re in a situation in which you can no longer navigate your own sense of joy, get out. Don’t be afraid to look for another job or seek higher education to advance your career. Know that you don’t have to put up with bullying.
Of course, I realize my advice is a bit idealistic. Not everyone has the opportunity to get another job or advance their studies. Yet, we all must make ends meet with or without a salary. So if you must settle for the less-than-ideal and temporary relief, below are tips to deal with a bully at work:
1) Show up. When we are not comfortable with our work atmosphere, we hit the snooze button three times and end up late to work. We’re simply not motivated to show up. But such attitude quickly accelerates into poor performance, which “justifies” the bully’s criticisms. Crush the bully with your work success.
2) Confront. This does not mean a rehearsed speech to be given at a scheduled meeting. This means telling the bully his/her bullying behavior while it is taking place. “X, you interrupted my report and I would like to finish.” “X, I appreciate the criticisms. How would you handle it instead?” “X, you’ve made a racist remark and I would like an apology.” These confrontations must be in the moment for the bully to understand where and when they have stepped over the line.
3) Document. If you believe that these incidents must be reported to Human Resources, they will need detailed documentations. Note the date, time, what happened (witnesses?), and how it impacted your performance and overall company success.
Stay positive. You are not the problem. The bully is at fault. It is key to always have control over your own happiness. Never, ever allow anyone to take away your smile and confidence.