Bullying at the workplace can affect your career growth and also your sanity.
So you thought you had bid bullying goodbye when you left school. Well, think again. The workplace can be a terrifying bullying ground too! And there have been many instances where bullying has turned into extreme forms of harassment.
Imagine this scenario. A fresh recruit is all set to make a foray into a career she’d always wanted. She’s young, bright, talented, and full of ideas. Enter a superior who’s used to having her way. She cannot digest the fact that the new entrant has the brains, right attitude, and is hardworking as well. Now, the superior needs to pull up her socks and snap out of her complacency. The situation irks her… she starts finding fault with her junior and with it, begins harassment in subtle forms. Long hours, shorter deadlines, unpleasant behaviour, and finally, she gets the new recruit to quit. A classic example of workplace bullying!
We’ve all seen The Devil Wears Prada, where Miranda Priestley, the editor of Runway magazine, is the classic boss from hell. Whether it’s the boss or a group of bullies, workplace bullying leads to feelings of helplessness, insecurity, inadequacy, and depression.
This article by Premilla D’Cruz and Charlotte Rayner reports on an enquiry undertaken in the country’s ITES-BPO sector to ascertain the presence of workplace bullying through survey data gathered through structure interviews was conducted with 1036 respondents located in six cities.
It showed that 44.3 percent of the sample experienced bullying, with 19.7 percent reporting moderate and severe levels. In keeping with India’s hierarchical society, superiors emerged as the predominant source of bullying, displaying task-focused behaviours.
According to a survey by job portal CareerBuilder.in, about 55 percent of Indian workers revealed that they have been bullied at work. The two most common forms of bullying reported by employees was of being falsely accused of mistakes they didn’t commit (33 percent) followed by being ignored, wherein their comments were dismissed or not acknowledged (32 percent).
Here, we examine different forms of bullying at the workplace and what you can do to face up to bullies and come out a winner.
Are you being bullied?
Yes, if you are:
- Constantly subjected to criticism without valid reasons. Your explanations and proof are ignored, overruled, and dismissed.
- Often singled out and treated differently from others. For example, only you in your team are pulled up if you come in a few minutes late while the others come and go as they please.
- Constantly subjected to nit-picking, especially in front of others. Often, the fault-finding is trivial.
- Ostracised… for example, left out of team lunches, important discussions, etc.
- Threatened, shouted at, and humiliated in front of others.
- Isolated and excluded from what’s happening, especially when in a team environment.
- Given unrealistic goals and deadlines.
- Either overloaded with work or not given any work at all.
- Denied information or knowledge of work at hand.
- Taken off something you have been passionately involved in at the last minute.
- The victim of plagiarism.
- Denied leave without any reason or when on leave harassed with calls, e-mails, etc.
- The subject of formal written complaints and hate mail.
- Denied representation at meetings, often under threat of disciplinary action.
- Constantly made to feel guilty about something that does not concern you.
- Forced into resignation or suspension.
How can bullying affect you?
Bullying can make you
- Scared, stressed, anxious, or depressed.
- Less confident about yourself and your work.
- Less active and successful.
- Less motivated to come to work and do your job.
- Life outside work stressful and strain family relationships.
- Have physical signs of stress like headaches, backaches, etc.
How to tackle the problem…
The Scout Motto works everywhere. When things are going out of hand, note down all that has been done or said to you. And when the time comes for an impartial hearing, make sure you don’t fumble, but have all the information at hand.
It’s important that you set boundaries and limits to what others can say to you, and that includes the way they behave with you. Do not put up with what isn’t acceptable to you.
Make sure to share your thoughts and views openly with colleagues you can trust. Do not keep them bottled up. But also make sure that it does not take the form of gossip. Information should be passed on tactfully.
Sometimes, taking a moment to consider what’s going on in the bully’s head may give you an insight into why they are behaving in a particular way. Is it just you who is being targeted or is the person the same way towards everybody? Is stress aggravating the bullying behaviour? Or is he simply passing on what he’s receiving from his superior? Though there is no excuse for bullying, this will help you understand why they are behaving so and give you ideas on how to deal with the situation.
Find a neutral ear
When things are going out of hand, find a sensible, balanced, and mature person — preferably someone senior or in the HR department — to discuss the issue with. Perhaps a best friend outside work could look at things rationally and give you sane advice.
Trust your intuition
Trust yourself on how to handle a bullying situation. Tell yourself that you ‘need to stick up for yourself’. Take some time to think about whether it’s worth sticking around in a place where there is something unfair and unreasonable going on all the time. If it doesn’t work for you, think of alternatives… and move on.