Workplace Bullying is a Serious Issue. Take Decisive Action To Protect Your Physical and Mental Health
Kevin William Grant
Published on
April 17, 2021

Workplace bullying is harmful, targeted behaviour that happens at work. It might be spiteful, offensive, mocking or intimidating. It forms a pattern, and it tends to be directed at one person or a few people.

A few examples of bullying include:

  • Targeted practical jokes
  • Being purposely misled about work duties, like incorrect deadlines or unclear directions
  • Continued denial of requests for time off without an appropriate or valid reason 
  • Threats, humiliation, and other verbal abuse
  • Excessive performance monitoring 
  • Overly harsh or unjust criticism
  • Comments about your physical appearance
  • Game playing designed to reduce your self-esteem and wellbeing

Criticism or monitoring isn’t always bullying. For example, objective and constructive criticism and disciplinary action directly related to workplace behaviour or job performance aren’t considered bullying.

But criticism meant to intimidate, humiliate, or single someone out without reason would be considered bullying. 

According to the Workplace Bullying Institute, more than 60 million working people in the North America are affected by bullying.

Existing federal, provincial, and state laws only protect workers against bullying when it involves physical harm or when the target belongs to a protected group, such as people living with disabilities or people of colour.

Since bullying is often verbal or psychological in nature, it may not always be visible to others. 

Read on to learn more about ways to identify workplace bullies, how workplace bullying can affect you, and safe actions you can take against bullying. 

Identifying Workplace Bullying

Bullying can be subtle. One helpful way to identify bullying is to consider how others might view what’s happening. If most people would see a specific behaviour as unreasonable, it’s generally bullying. 

Bullying behaviours might be: 

  • Verbal. This could include mockery, humiliation, jokes, gossip, or other spoken abuse.
  • Intimidating. This might include threats, social exclusion in the workplace, spying, or other invasions of privacy.
  • Related to work performance. Examples include wrongful blame, work sabotage or interference, or stealing or taking credit for ideas.
  • Retaliatory. In some cases, talking about the bullying can lead to accusations of lying, further exclusion, refused promotions, or other retaliation.
  • Institutional. Institutional bullying happens when a workplace accepts, allows, and even encourages bullying to take place. This bullying might include unrealistic production goals, forced overtime, or singling out those who can’t keep up. 

Bullying behaviour is repeated over time. This sets it apart from harassment, which is often limited to a single instance. Persistent harassment can become bullying, but since harassment refers to actions toward a protected group of people, it’s illegal, unlike bullying. 

Early warning signs of bullying can vary:

  • Co-workers might become quiet or leave the room when you walk in, or they might ignore you. 
  • You might be left out of office culture, such as chitchat, parties, or team lunches. 
  • Your supervisor or manager might check on you often or ask you to meet multiple times a week without an apparent reason.
  • You may be asked to do new tasks or tasks outside your typical duties without training or help, even when you request it. 
  • It may seem like your work is frequently monitored, to the point where you begin to doubt yourself and have difficulty with your regular tasks.
  • You might be asked to do complex or seemingly pointless tasks and be ridiculed or criticized when you can’t get them done. 
  • You may notice a pattern of your documents, files, other work-related items, or personal belongings going missing. 

These incidents may seem random at first. If they continue, you may begin to worry that you did something to cause them and fear you’ll be fired or demoted. Even on your time off, thinking about work may cause anxiety and dread are the generally desired outcome bullies want to generate in their targets.

Take Decisive Action

My best advice to you is to get out of the situation by:

  • Finding a new job as soon as possible.
  • Taking time off or a leave of absence while job searching.
  • Meet with an employment lawyer to discuss the matter and your legal rights.
  • Document everything by day and time in a detailed log.
  • Gather evidence for any potential litigation or legal action.

Don’t let workplace bullying become a pattern; protect your health, do all you can to move on, fight back with support, and don’t expect human resources to be on your side. Bullying in the workplace is commonly a symptom of a toxic workplace environment that permeates the organization’s management. Be acutely aware that the human resources department is unlikely to be on your side since human resources protect the organization rather than the employees. Seek legal action and exiting the situation protects your health and finances while building your self-esteem.

My recommendations may appear clear cut and dry, but if you remain in a toxic situation where you are bullied, your health will suffer. Your self-esteem will become depleted, making it more challenging to embark on your path to your brighter future. Life is too short to suffer alone and in silence. Seek out professional support, talk with a financial planner, get perspective from friends or family, and break the silence so you can take decisive action.

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