Bullying doesn’t end in school. In fact, it can extend to the workplace and affect not only your productivity but also your wellbeing. Here’s how to stand up for yourself at work
Bullying is crippling. It hurts not only your self-esteem but also your mental wellbeing. It’s even worse when you experience it in the workplace, where you spend almost an entire day. Although there are few current statistics on workplace bullying, it has been mentioned that this type of behaviour has become increasingly prevalent over the last 20 years in South Africa. Workplace bullying is defined as, “Repeated, deliberate, humiliating actions on an employee that is unwanted by the victim and essentially creates an adverse working environment and leads to an interference in the employee’s level of job satisfaction.” With this said, it’s no surprise that if you are a victim of bullying or witness someone who’s being bullied, a lower job satisfaction or little or no motivation or engagement at work is inevitable.
With this said, bullies are like pimples, uninvited and annoying at best and detrimental to your physical and mental wellbeing at worst. Such people are manipulative and two-faced. They are masters at tainting your image while making you feel like it’s your fault you are being treated badly. The worst part is that they almost always get away with their behaviour, mainly because they get in the good books of their superiors and manipulate the situation. Or, to my humble opinion and from my past experiences, the company simply lets them. No matter how unlikely it is, you can stand up for yourself at work. Here’s how:
Address it as early as you can: When I first started at one of the companies I worked for, a colleague approached me and said people were complaining to her that I wore tight, short clothes. She was clearly lying about people complaining to her. I told my line manager and another superior, who didn’t have problems with how I dressed and she was called to order. Whether she listened or not is a topic for another day, but the fact is I addressed the situation immediately. If you see someone acting in ways that hurt you, tell them, if they continue, take it up to management.
Get it on paper: Document everything your bully does or says. This is important for when you decide to report the bully later. You will be able to give concrete evidence of your side of the story.
Revisit your contract: It might give you invaluable information on how to formally and professionally address matters that affect your work. Since bullies seem to have amnesia and don’t follow proper procedures to try to show you their so-called power over you, show that you are more professional and know your rights at work. Otherwise, do your homework and visit sites like the South African Labour Guide, which will guide you in reporting harassment if the company is not doing anything about your situation.
Talk to your manager, or someone else, if the manager is the bully: It can become tricky if you are working with a small team. Trust me, I have been there. However, talk to your manager about how the situation is affecting you and ask for professional advice on how to handle the situation. If your manager is the bully, ask who you can best speak to, maybe someone more superior to address the situation.
Look for another job: Sometimes, the best way to deal with a toxic work environment is to leave it. Look for other job opportunities if the company is not doing anything to squash this behaviour. At the end of the day, you have family and loved ones to go back home to. Your depression hurts them. Rather, leave as soon as you can.
Source on the definition of workplace bullying: wiredspace.wits.ac.za