Bullying In The Workplace, Part I

When you hear the word, 'bullying', what comes to mind? When I hear that term, I usually think of the stupid things like being made fun of for having a lisp I dealt with in middle school. Other people I know report being gossiped about, physically threatened and asked out by a popular guy as a joke. I know we want to think that we left that sort of thing behind when we grew up but, sadly, some people never do. Since they can't do so in the locker room, however, these 'adult bullies' pick their targets from the workplace. But how can you identify 'office bullying'? How can you tell if you or someone you know is being bullied? If bullying does go on, what can you do about it?

Some examples of workplace bullying are:
  • Being singled out for criticism while others get away with murder. For instance, having a minor mistake being blown up so much that you have 8 different people talk to you about it (thank you, Office Space)
  • Having work either heaped upon you for no particular reason or assigned to someone else while you are relegated to menial tasks (making copies, filing, etc) that are not part of your job description
  • Having unrealistic expectations set, especially if those expectations change as you get close to achieving them. 
  • Someone seems to have a personal agenda against you and you have no idea why
  • Others can be nasty to you without penalty, but you are reprimanded if you defend yourself
  • Not being told about deadlines until it is too late to meet them or having deadlines changed for no reason. For instance, I once got into trouble for missing an early-morning meeting that I had no way to know about ahead of time.
  • Sometimes, being given grief about having other commitments outside of the job. For example, the incident above occurred in a part-time restaurant job. I wasn't able to come to random meetings during the week because I had a full-time job, and one manager made such a big deal about it that I quit a job I had had and enjoyed for over two years.
  • Having others take credit for your work or your contributions belittled or ignored
  • Superiors 'pulling rank' to get you to do things for them that aren't in your job description, an adult version of 'do my homework or I'll beat you up'
  • Being the butt of teasing or gossip
  • Being isolated/excluded/ignored/overridden/sidelined for no real reason
  • Being pushed/coerced to quit, take early retirement, take leave, etc, such as the restaurant job I mentioned above.
  • Being 'talked down to' or belittled, especially in front of others

Like I said, some people never grow out of behavior that should have ended by the time they hit puberty. While most of these are trivial in and of themselves, they can be destructive when they happen on a regular basis and add to stress you may already be feeling.

In the next post, I'll go over how you can tell if someone you know is being bullied and, if so, what you can do about it.

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