When we think about bullying, we tend to picture younger kids getting picked on at the playground. But apparently adults experience their fair share of bullying as well -- particularly those who work in an office setting. In fact, a whopping 29% of employees claim they've been bullied on the job, according to a CareerBuilder survey.
Certain workers are more likely to be bullied than others. A good 40% of LGBT adults say they've experienced on-the-job bullying, while 39% of younger workers aged 18 to 24 say the same. And 32% of women have had a similar experience.
If you've been the victim of bullying at work, you should know that you do have options for fighting back. And the sooner you exercise them, the sooner that bullying is likely to stop.
What constitutes bullying?
Though bullying can take many different forms in a work environment, the underlying theme is that victims have come away feeling grossly disrespected and mistreated. For the purpose of its study, CareerBuilder defines bullying as:
- Being constantly or rudely criticized by a boss or colleague (or group of colleagues).
- Being subject to belittling comments about your work in group settings.
- Being gossiped about.
- Having your input dismissed or ignored.
- Being falsely accused of mistakes you're not actually to blame for.
- Being yelled at in front of others.
- Being intentionally excluded from projects or meetings.
- Being held to a different, and less beneficial, set of standards than others.
If you've experienced any of these, or a variation thereof, it pays to get proactive. Otherwise, that bullying is only likely to continue.
How to fight back against bullying at work
If you've been the victim of job-related bullying, you should know that there's a good chance your manager's or colleagues' behavior is in violation of company policy. It may even be against the law. It's for this reason that you'll need to keep a detailed record of any and all bullying incidents you're subject to.
Each time someone at the office mistreats you, document what happens. Write down the date, time, location, and players involved. Be sure to include a list of people who witness the bullying, even if they're mere bystanders. And do your best to get as specific as possible so that you're able to give a clear account of what happened. For example, if a co-worker used racial slurs when addressing you during a meeting, write down precisely what that person said, and the context in which he or she said it.
Not only it is vital that you maintain a record of the bullying incidents you're involved in, but you should also store that record someplace secure. Unfortunately, keeping it on your laptop may not be good enough. For better protection, store a copy online, or send one to your personal email.
Once you've established a pattern of bullying, take that information to your company's human resources department. Better yet, get a hold of your employee handbook and highlight the sections the person who bullied you has clearly violated. This way, your HR department will have no choice but to take action.
Though the idea of approaching HR might seem intimidating, you shouldn't let your fear of being labeled a tattletale stop you from speaking up. Surprisingly, 72% of workers who fall victim to bullying don't report it to HR, and that's a huge mistake.
Finally, if all else fails, you may want to get an outside attorney involved. If you go this route, your best course of action may be to arrive at a settlement that allows to feel secure financially as you look for a new company to work for. But if you're thorough in your documentation, in many cases, it won't come to that.
Though you'd think adults would be past the bullying stage, that clearly isn't the case. Just know that you do have rights as an employee, and you shouldn't hesitate to protect yourself from bullying as needed.