01670 631877 / 07737 491728 sian@peacefulminds.org.uk

Bullying at work


Bullying at work

What is workplace bullying?

We all recognize a bully because most of us remember them from school. What we don’t expect is to have to deal with them as adults. In fact a lot of people don’t recognise they are being bullied. Signs of bullying:

  • become depressed and down

  • not getting to sleep or waking in the middle of the night

  • hating the thought of going into work

  • being snappy with family

  • lack of confidence in social situations as well as work.

  • putting the bully’s behaviour down to a clash of personality with themselves and taking most of the blame.

Bullying can also be very obvious and involve aggressive attitudes and rudeness, however, it can also be more subtle. For example, excluding and ignoring people in conversations or passing them in a corridor or street. A person’s contribution to the workplace can be ignored, petty or unjustified criticisms can be made by the bully. Overloading people with work is an other form of bullying. This has significant affect on a persons self-esteem as they can think that this is evidence that they are not good at their job.

Why do they do it?

Bullying is a symptom of low self worth. A deep feeling of being not good enough can manifest as over compensating behaviours. Which is why a person’s strengths in the workplace can make the bully feel threatened, and that triggers their behaviour. If the bully feels the other person is more popular, better looking, more competent or earning more than this is a trigger for revengeful behaviour.

can make working life miserable. You lose all faith in yourself, you can feel ill and depressed, and find it hard to motivate yourself to work.

What can I do?

Don’t think you are making a fuss out of nothing or that you are to blame. This is the most common reaction. If in doubt talk to an objective friend then find an ally at work. Don’t be ashamed to tell people what’s going on. Bullying is serious it can effect you long after the bully has gone, and you need to let people know what’s happening so that they can help you. A lot of the time when you share your experiences you may discover that it’s happening to other people too or the person in the role before you.

Speak to someone about how you might deal with the problem informally. This person could be a representative, such as a trade union official, HR or your supervisor or manager.

Stay rational even though you can feel ill and hopeless; the criticisms or personal remarks are not connected to your abilities. They are a direct reflection of what the bully thinks of themselves deep down, the bully’s own weaknesses. The bully needs to feel superior and control you as it staves away self-loathing. Stay calm, and don’t be tempted to explain your behaviour. Ask them to explain theirs.

There is a chance that the bullying may not be deliberate. If possible, talk to the bully as they may not realise how their behaviour has affected you.

If it is very subtle making it difficult to recite petty instances tell them it’s a collection of minor instances adding up into a big negative attitude. You don’t need to get into an argument about who said what and did whatever. If you say this is how I feel, they can’t say “ no you don’t” . Tell them how it’s affecting your life. If you feel like you’re getting drawn in to a row., tell them that all you want to do is to make them aware of the effect they are having, and leave that with them.

If there are definite instances describe what’s been happening and why you object to it. Stay calm and be polite. If you don’t want to talk to them yourself, ask someone else to do it for you.

This is known as a contemporaneous record. It will be very useful if you decide to take action at a later stage. Try to talk calmly to the person who’s bullying you and tell them that you find their behaviour unacceptable. Often, bullies retreat from people who stand up to them. If necessary, have an ally with you when you do this.

Making a formal complaint is the next step if you can’t solve the problem informally. To do this, you must follow your employer’s grievance procedure. Be confident that your reaction is enough proof for you to do something about the situation. One thing is certain. It wont just stop.

It may take a little while to regain confidence after it has stopped or even if it has only reduced. Anxiety and low mood can be managed and even eliminated with help. This is where going to your GP or engaging in CBT will help speed things up.

Sian Barnard

CBT psychotherapist

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