Ahh, bullying… That time-honored tradition of assholes all around the world, be they schoolyard thugs or that hell-spawn, Janice from accounting. The only way to defend against it is by making a stand, no matter how hard it seems.
Bullies target those who they perceive as weak, since bullying is almost always an indicator of deep insecurity and a desperate desire to be loved. Remember, bullies are people too. Horrible, horrible people.
Most of us are so accustomed to casual workplace abuse that we can’t see bullying even if it hit us on the face with a rusty shovel. In order to determine what constitutes bullying, let’s examine some of its telltale signs in ascending order of intensity.
1. Spreading lies and insidious rumors
One of the favorite tactics of bullies everywhere is shaming their victims by spreading all kinds of falsehoods and outright lies. If you find yourself on the receiving end of funny looks and hushed conversations when you enter a room, odds are someone has been trash-talking you.
This kind of mild assault is easy to internalize and very detrimental to your well being. Ignoring it won’t help either, as it will only be interpreted as a sign of weakness. Remember, silence is consent.
2. Constant criticism and offensive jokes
Criticism is a valuable tool for self-improvement, but the line between constructive evaluation and a war of attrition on your self-esteem is often blurred.
Now, this particular form of bullying is very tricky to identify, especially since it is sometimes concealed in jokes and sarcastic comments that leave you wondering if the bully is serious or not. The objective here is to offend you and confuse you at the same time, so that your ability to defend yourself is diminished. If you confront the bullies they can easily deny everything and claim it was just a joke.
3. Messing with your work
This is the point where the bullies are actually getting bold enough to mess with the workflow in order to get under your skin. Usually, this form of bullying is used by those higher in the company hierarchy, or senior employees. They will make unreasonable demands, apply chaotic deadlines and feed you misinformation so as to undermine your perception of self-worth and make a fool out of you in the eyes of the management.
This is the first really serious step towards outright harassment and unfortunately it is easily misinterpreted as upholding a competitive work ethos.
4. Breach of privacy and tampering with personal effects
If you find yourself in this stage of workplace harassment, it means you should have stood up for yourself a long time ago. Having your email account, your computer, your workstation or even your phone tampered with (I suggest you take a look at phonedetective.com for that last one) means you are dealing with someone who is borderline sociopathic and not necessarily on this side of the border.
The time for doubt has passed. You are being bullied and you had best address the situation immediately. Otherwise you may find yourself in the almost unmanageable position of…
5. Being intimidated and verbally and/or physically abused
This behavior is a direct assault on your person and you should address it as such. Women are most often targeted in this manner but men can also find themselves being attacked with profanity or even violence, especially in male-dominated work environments with strong “macho” overtones.
Although verbal abuse can and does happen a lot, there are certain jobs where co-workers are not above using physical force to try and break your spirit. Armed forces, athletic teams and the like are prime suspects for this kind of incidents.
Consequences and prevention
Make no mistake: bullying can happen to anyone and it can absolutely wreck your life, even outside work. Effects of bullying include, but are not limited to, feelings of shock, rage, helplessness, low morale, stress, anxiety and misery. In extreme cases it can even lead to psychosomatic symptoms such as insomnia, physical pain, loss of appetite and even substance abuse. Not to mention that bullying has even more far reaching effects and it can also be detrimental to a company’s productivity and success.
The best time to prevent bullying is yesterday. If you feel you are being victimized immediately tell the responsible party to stop. It is even better to be accompanied by a supervisor or union member when doing so. Also, keep a detailed record of incidents and events, documenting severity, frequency, names, witnesses and any other relevant information.
Finally, be prepared to move legally against the bully. Nevertheless, do not lash out, otherwise you may find yourself cast in the role of the perpetrator and confuse your superiors as to what is really going on. And of course, no matter how tempting it is, do not set their house on fire.
If you think you need help, please don’t wait and contact the aid organisation below. Hang in there and keep safe.
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