Signs of workplace bullying and how to combat it

Workplace bullying can negatively impact a person. Recognizing the signs is the first step to combat workplace bullying.
Signs of workplace bullying and how to combat it

“My boss would send me very demotivating emails, dump her work on me and take credit for the work I would do. She would snap and yell at me for no reason. I had a lot of bad days. I was annoyed. I was asked to work even after I got home after a long day. Soon I reached a point where I didn’t feel like going to work anymore. I was angry, confused and tried to avoid interacting with her. She also made fun of me because I was generally quiet.”

- As told by Nikhita, a young media professional

“I would work real hard and slog to get a story. My boss would take my story and claim it as his. There was no one I could trust at my workplace. It was my first job and my boss constantly yelled at me, ‘They didn't teach you or what?’ Everything that I did or said, I was taunted. Whenever I wrote a good story, I was bullied, controlled, and emotionally abused. I had to take his permission for every small thing. It all built up to a point of me wanting to quit. It damaged my self-esteem, and I asked myself, ‘Am I really this stupid?’”

- As told by a young news reporter (Name withheld on request).

Being bullied at the workplace can be a huge blow to a person’s self-esteem. A workplace is where we spend a substantial part of our waking hours, it is where we put in a lot of thought and energy. To be treated badly in such a space causes a serious change in the office environment for an individual, affecting their mental and physical health. To this end, it is important that we stay watchful of such behavior.

Workplace bullying can manifest in many different ways. Read below for a checklist of some key signs.

Some of the signs for workplace bullying are:

  • You are humiliated at work, and criticized.

  • You are told that nothing you do at work is ever good enough.

  • You are labeled as incompetent, and sometimes by someone who knows nothing about you or your role.

  • Your work is constantly interfered with.

  • Others are told to stay away from you, not interact with you or work with you.

  • Everything the bully does to you is based on their mood. It is for their own personal interests, rather than the organisation's interest.

  • You always feel anxious, like nothing is going right.

  • You feel lonely at work, with no support from HR or colleagues.

  • Others are allowed to say or do anything to you, but you’re not allowed to fight back or stand up for yourself.

  • When you stand up and speak up for yourself, you are accused of harassing the bully.

  • Any request to be given a different role, to be transferred to a different position or department, or to report directly to another boss is not addressed.

  • Your superior does not give you credit for anything, on the contrary they take the credit for everything you have done.

  • The bully expects you to do their personal menial tasks, or tasks for their personal gratification, and threatens you with negative consequences to your career if you do not do them or refuse to.

The first step towards coping with workplace bullying involves being well equipped with the knowledge of what its different signs are. After this, it is necessary that you take certain steps to combat it. Remember there’s nothing wrong in not having recognized the signs earlier; it’s not your fault. The important thing for you to do is to focus on your health and fight back if you need to.

Is it possible to combat workplace bullying? And how?

Maullika Sharma, counselor, and director at Workplace Options says, “Workplace bullying can have a negative impact on productivity by killing one’s creativity, enthusiasm, motivation, joy of working, self-esteem and self-worth.”

To combat workplace bullying, she points out, “If the organization has a policy of zero tolerance for bullying, there are many things an employee may be able to do – like make a formal complaint or an informal complaint to the skip manager (a manager who is one or two levels higher than the immediate manager). But if the organization does not give the employees the freedom to speak up and report such behaviour , then there is not much an employee can do. If the manager, the CEO and the HR are aligned with the manager responsible for bullying, the employee doesn’t really have any option left besides changing their job.”

Paying attention to your  own health and focusing on what you  need during this time is very important.

With inputs from Maullika Sharma, director, Workplace Options.


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