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5 Helpful Ways to Deal With a Bully at Work

office bully

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If you’re being bullied at work, you don’t have to just take it.

Statistics show that 35 to 45 percent of people in the workforce have experienced bullying at the office, and at least 15 percent have witnessed it (if they haven’t been a part). That means that we don’t just leave bullies behind once we’re off the playground. Bullying is alive and well in our offices and meeting rooms.

Here are some ways to handle this situation if you ever have to face it:

Learn Everything You Can

A good first step if you think you’re being bullied is to try to regain control of your situation and your emotions. One thing you can do to is to learn everything you can about bullying: knowing what bullying looks like, how it plays out, how many people it affects and ways you can deal with it will put you in a better position to overcome the behavior and make you feel more in control of your situation. Find out what your company’s policies and procedures are when it comes to bullying. Learn what occupational laws can help you and what legal rights you have. The knowledge will give you a sense of power in what can be a very powerless-feeling situation.

Document the Behavior

Another thing you can do to curb your emotional response and help you feel in control of the situation is to document the bully’s behavior. Make specific notes about what happens, including the exact actions, times, places and especially witnesses. This kind of track record will help you prove a pattern when you are ready to report the bully. It also makes it difficult for the bully to simply lie his way out of it.

You also need to document when the bully’s behavior has impacted business. This makes it not just your problem but a problem for the company. Keep a journal of your notes, but make sure you don’t store it at the office. If you do it on a computer, make sure it’s your personal computer. Bullies would feel no shame in snooping through your things at work to remove any evidence you may have collected.

Preserve Your Relationships

Often, when someone is bullying you at work, he is badmouthing you around the organization. This can be demoralizing for you, but you can get control back by preserving your relationships. First of all, continue to do your best work, which means you can’t take anything the bully says about you to heart. If you’re doing your best work, the bully really won’t have any ammunition against you when he tries to make you look bad.

Then, build a network of support. If you’re doing good networking in your company, people won’t give much credit to what the bully is saying about you. Also, it’s possible this bully is also doing the same thing to others, and you can support each other. You’ll need this network to back you up when you report the bullying behavior. You’ll also need this network if you decide it’s best to switch jobs inside the company. And you’ll need this network if you decide it’s best to find another job outside the organization. Most of all, you need to preserve your reputation so your work life is not destroyed.

Take Care of Yourself

Bullying can have a major effect your mental and physical health. If you are being bullied at work, you need to take care of yourself. Get counseling. This isn’t a sign of weakness or giving in. A bully can really mess with your head, even causing post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), and a counselor can help you get control back so you can feel like yourself again.

Be mindful of your physical health. Get a good night’s sleep, stay physically active, and eat well. All these things will better prepare you to stand your ground if the bullying starts up again. And if you’ve been feeling physically ill, see a doctor. A bully can affect your blood pressure and digestive health, among other things. Focusing on your own mental and physical health will help you take the emotion out of the situation and get back the control you need.

Get Help

Finally, the best thing to do when you’re being bullied at work is to get help. You may not be able to stop bullying behavior on your own. Your first line of defense is, of course, management or human resources at your company. If you’ve been documenting the behavior thoroughly and you’ve educated yourself on company policy and workplace law, you’ll be ahead of the game when approaching management. Also, if you can make a direct correlation between the bullying and the organization’s bottom line, you’ll get more support on the inside.

But keep in mind that help on the inside may not be your best bet. You may have a hard time getting someone in the company to believe you, depending on who the bully is. Also, some organizations have a history of ignoring bullying behavior. You do have other options. Seek help in a friend or mentor—here’s where that networking comes in handy—preferably someone higher up the ladder. Or find yourself a legal advocate who understands workplace law and maybe even has a background in helping with bully situations. Whatever you do, don’t suffer in silence. Get past the emotions and get control back by seeking out help.

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