15 Tips to Successfully Avoid Escalating Workplace Bullying

(Last Updated On: May 16, 2022)

How to avoid escalating workplace bullying? “Treat Your Coworker Like a Child: How to Tame a Terrible Boss or Office Bully,” a recent article on Health.com, offers some sound ideas for coping with workplace bullying. Bullying isn’t limited to children. Bullies are no longer relegated to our childhood playgrounds; they now wander the hallways of our offices and other places of business as grownups. Indeed, workplace bullying is so frequent in the United States that up to 35% of workers—roughly 54 million people—report being bullied at work, while 15% report witnessing it.

It even gave readers three simple pointers on how to treat your employer like a kid at the end of the piece;

  • Make it entertaining,
  • reinforce excellent behavior,
  • learn his or her triggers.

These suggestions in the two-page paper are well-founded and incredibly valuable when correctly implemented, however, the problem you should consider is concealed in the information that was left out. There are two components that are lacking, and without them, your office bullying problem will only get worse.

Workplace bullying, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute, is defined as a pattern of damaging abuse by one or more offenders who target their victims with threatening, demeaning, abusive, isolating, and/or sabotaging behavior. More than half of all bullying is carried out by offenders who are higher in rank than their targets, and a third is carried out by the target’s peer (s).

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Bullying can take many forms, including:

  • Making false accusations against the target.
  • Using nonverbal intimidation techniques like staring and the silent treatment
  • Changing the standards or measurements for success on a regular basis
  • Constantly criticizing and refusing to recognize good work
  • spreading false information about the target
  • Isolating the objective from the rest of the team
  • yelling at or shaming the target in public
  • Taking credit for the target’s efforts
  • Demanding unreasonable things
  • sabotaging the job of the target
  • ignoring the target’s feelings or viewpoints

Symptoms of workplace bullying include

While anybody can be bullied, the majority of bullies have good characteristics such as being nice, cooperative, highly educated, well regarded by higher management, or excellent at their employment. Targets suffer considerably at the hands of bullying coworkers, maybe in part due to their pleasant exterior. The following are signs of workplace bullying:

  • Cardiovascular difficulties, anxiety, headaches, stomach problems, lack of appetite, sleeplessness, melancholy, panic attacks, and recurrent sickness are all stress-related health conditions.
  • At work and outside of it, poor morale, self-doubt, and low self-esteem are common.
  • Having difficulty controlling emotions, focusing, or making judgments
  • Feeling unwell every night before work, or when you get up for work in the morning or hate going to work in general
  • Feeling exhausted and in need of mental health days on a regular basis
  • Even if it means sacrificing productivity, making mistakes at work, or avoiding the bully
  • Fearing criticism or humiliation if you offer your opinions in front of the bully
  • Feeling powerless, dejected, embarrassed, or as if there is no way out

The crucial thing to remember is that a target has worth and agency, no matter how unhappy they are. Continue reading to understand how to cope.

Here’s what you need to know to successfully deal with workplace bullying, whether you’re a target, a witness, or a bully’s boss (and professionally). Before attempting to deal with an office tyrant, keep the following two factors in mind:

Reaffirm your objective, and keep both your vocal and nonverbal communication under control.

Establish Your Goals

The first and most important issue when communicating with a bully should be your own personal objectives in the situation. When you act or speak out in anger and irritation, you’re more likely to want to harm the aggressor as much as they wounded you — the age-old idea of “an eye for an eye.”

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The problem with focusing on retribution when defining the intended goal is that you are more likely to mimic the bully’s own behaviors toward them, with the predicted effect of them feeling as upset as you did when they did it to you. However, because the workplace tyrant’s original bullying behavior was justified in their minds, treating them the same way would most certainly increase the degree of friction between you.

Rather than attempting to bully the bully, it is more beneficial to work on changing their behavior to something more beneficial. Because it’s no longer about how you feel, recognizing that is your intended goal can help you better regulate your own emotions. Your efforts to discover behavior that will benefit both of you are more likely to succeed because, rather than attempting to change him or her, you are considering their needs and seeking to improve the situation for both of you.

Organize Your Presentation

Before you meet a workplace bully, having the proper purpose is simply one factor that can improve your chances of success. The second step is to maintain control of your own communication so that your words and actions are consistent with your goals.

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It’s natural for individuals to perceive a workplace bully as a threat. Coworkers are on high alert even before the bully does anything, anticipating the impending bullying behavior. These assumptions (although reasonable) lead to a negative thought pattern, which reduces the efficacy of your communication abilities.

Any negative attitude toward, or opinion of, the bully can eventually impact the non-verbal aspects of your relationship, which the bully can pick up on through your facial expressions, tone of voice, or any number of other small quirks that come with human interactions.

Alternatively, keeping your attention on the proper aim and taking a little more time to analyze how you communicate your views and opinions can have a significant impact on how the other person interprets your ideas. Finally, this can determine if the bully is willing to engage with you to find a solution or simply becomes defensive and escalates the office bullying.

If you’re in charge, here’s how to deal with a workplace bully?

Even if you aren’t directly participating in workplace bullying, you may be accountable for controlling it as a supervisor. If you observe an employee as either the victim or the offender, it is your obligation to intervene and help the entire team develop healthy work culture. Here are some pointers to get you started:

  • Make it a practice to resolve conflicts quickly. When personality problems emerge, be proactive in addressing them. This sends the notion that pleasant interactions are the norm rather than the exception.
  • Take allegations of bullying seriously. Don’t dismiss or push workplace bullying under the rug if a witness or target reports it. Investigate and resolve the problem in a professional manner, without accusing or jeopardizing the target’s privacy.
  • Record everything. This not only helps with the inquiry but also shows that you did everything you could as a manager to handle the problem.
  • Positive interactions are modeled. Recognize the target’s achievements, treat everyone with respect and admiration, and show good interpersonal relationships. You are demonstrating positive reinforcement and advocating the sort of conduct you anticipate from everyone on the team with these acts.
  • Make a record of it. Declare bullying as unacceptable conduct in the employee handbook to show you’re serious about combating workplace bullies. Create methods to examine bullying allegations and prevent bullying.

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If you’re the target of a workplace bully, here’s how to deal with it.

It’s easy to feel helpless when you’re the victim of a workplace bully—in fact, bullying is meant to make you feel vulnerable. However, there are strategies to deal with bullying and improve the working environment. Begin with the steps listed below.

Bullying should be called out for what it is. Many individuals are unaware that bullying occurs in the workplace. If you’re being bullied, the first step is to admit that you’re being mentally harassed, emotionally abused, or bullied—whatever label works best for you. Then, even if you’re being abused, commit to putting your health first. Remind yourself that your health is worth fighting for—this will keep you determined to do whatever it takes to stop the bullying.

Be confident. If you’re feeling brave, call out the bully’s actions as they occur. If they call you a name or raise their voice at you, express calmly and clearly how you like to be treated instead. Then state the probable repercussions if the conduct continues: “If you continue to disrespect me in this manner, I will need to speak with our supervisor and maybe file a formal complaint,” for example.

Follow through on the sanctions if the conduct persists. Maintain healthy limits by refusing to work unnecessary hours or redoing previously completed tasks. It’s critical not to place too much blame on yourself for the circumstance. The problem is with the other person, not with you.

The bully is ultimately at blame for the toxic dynamic that has developed. It’s doubtful that the bully will change without your help, and certainly not as soon as you’d want. You have no influence over their actions, so don’t take on too much of the blame. No one else but the employer is responsible for dealing with workplace bullying.

Keep detailed records. Bullies are cunning, and they won’t treat a target badly in front of their bosses, making it difficult to call them out. Avoid this problem by recording everything that happens, from verbal abuse in an email to aggressive critique in a meeting. Keep track of the date, time, and any eyewitnesses for each occurrence, as well as any written or digital communication. It may also be beneficial to digitally record discussions with your bully, but first, make sure you live in a state that allows you to record verbal exchanges with the bully without his or her knowledge and includes those recordings in your official complaint.

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Make your argument. After you’ve documented the bully’s actions, you may report it. Begin by informing your immediate supervisor about the abuse. If your boss is a bully, report them to management at least two levels above them. When presenting your argument, attempt to position the problem as a business expense. Even if the emotional toll is genuine, you may strengthen your argument by portraying it as more than a personal matter. Keep the focus on how bullying impacts team morale and productivity.

While it may be tempting to report the situation to Human Resources, especially if your boss isn’t listening to your complaints, keep in mind that HR is a management tool. If your employer rationalizes or excuses the bullying, regardless of whether you talk with a supervisor or HR, it may be time to start searching for a position at a firm that respects its employees with respect.

Prepare for positive revenge. It’s quite possible that the bully will find out about your report. Even if they’ve assured your superior that they’ll make apologies, expect them to try to get back at you in subtle ways. Even if they behave kinder to you in public, don’t share personal information with them since it’s possible they’ll use it against you later.

Recruit help. Being the target of bullying can be highly stressful, so having a support system in place may help you deal. Outside of work, seek solace from friends, family members, and other people. Enlisting the aid of a professional counselor or therapist may be beneficial. Make time for other parts of self-care, such as a balanced diet, exercise, and sleep. Maintaining good health can make it much simpler to deal with.

Consider pursuing legal action. Workplace bullying is often not criminal, which makes it difficult to handle through the legal system. However, if your employer refuses to act on your behalf after submitting a formal complaint, it may be beneficial to speak with an employment lawyer. They can assist you in determining if your case is worthy of going to court.

Leave if required. Bullying can have a negative impact on your emotional and physical health as well as your professional performance. In other words, the circumstance isn’t ideal for professional progress. If despite making a formal complaint, the corporation fails to take effective action, it’s definitely time to search for a new job. You won’t be alone; up to 77% of bully targets quit their employment, either willingly or involuntarily.

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Take away

Bullying in the workplace is a serious matter, especially for those who are bullied. Whether you’re the boss of a bully or you’ve been singled out by one, it’s critical to put the victim’s and the office’s well-being first. Make it a policy that bullying will not be allowed at work, at home, or anyplace else—whether that means standing up for yourself or an employee or simply walking away.

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