Are You a Victim of Workplace Bullying?

Learn the difference between strong management and bullying

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Learn the difference between strong management and bullying

Workplace bullying is a repeated pattern of negative behaviour. It can affect your mental and physical health, as well as threaten a healthy work environment. It’s important to know the difference between strong management and bullying. Comments and reviews intended to provide constructive employee feedback are not usually considered bullying. You are not being bullied if someone is merely expressing a difference of opinion, offering constructive criticism, guidance or advice about work-related behaviour.

However, it’s not acceptable to be continually treated with disrespect, leaving you hurt, embarrassed or angry. Bullying can involve hostility, rudeness, intimidation, spreading rumours and gossip, insults or put-downs, using offensive language, scolding, yelling, stalking, spying or tampering with personal belongings, and deliberately interfering with the “victim’s” work and career advancement.

If you are not sure if an action or statement is considered bullying, use the “reasonable person” test: Ask yourself if most people would consider the action/words acceptable.

If you are concerned about damage to your emotional health (or a co-worker’s), watch for the following changes since the abuse began:

  • Feeling inadequate doing work you once felt confident doing.
  • Loss of interest and enthusiasm in work you once enjoyed.
  • Experiencing more health problems than in the past.
  • Suffering from moodiness, depression and/or insomnia.

What can you do? Document the abuse and keep any abusive notes or e-mails. If you are uncomfortable about confronting the abuser yourself, consider talking to your supervisor (if they aren’t the abuser) or human resources staff. Present your concerns in a professional, factual way. Resist the urge to speak badly of the abuser, or to retaliate. It can make you look like the bully.

If you witness workplace bullying, offer the victim your support and encourage them to take action. Go with them to meet the supervisor or help them confront the bully in a calm, mature manner.

Seek support by talking to friends, your partner, co-workers, a counsellor, your doctor, your minister, or an attorney. Being abused destroys your self-esteem. A strong support system helps maintain sanity, and makes you aware of your legal and ethical options for action.