In recent years, there has been a lot of media attention on childhood bullying. No one wants their child to be harassed by a bully, either in person or online.
Unfortunately, bullying does not end with childhood. You can and will encounter bullies throughout your life.
Even though I am retired, I currently feel like I might be bullied in the near future, due to some control issues in our condo association. The mere thought of what this bully might do (actually a whole group of them are potential bulliers!) is causing lack of sleep and a lot of stress for me.
I frequently encountered bully behavior at work before retirement as well. Many times, I chalked it up to workplace stress and ignored it. I am not alone in encountering adult bullying.
Shape.com reports that:
“According to recent data, adult bullying is on the rise: In a 2012 survey of workers, 65 percent of American participants reported being bullied at their jobs, and adult bullying happens online and among social circles as well.”
So, how can you deal with an adult bully?
Recognize you are being bullied.
Often you may not even realize that you are the target of a bully. If you don’t realize it, you may not be able to process it, leading to dissatisfaction, loss of productivity, lowered evaluations, and health issues.
So, step one is to understand if you are being bullied. Here are some tips on how to do so.
According to the Washington Education Association:
“…bullies demonstrate intention to perform repeated hurtful or hostile actions; mistreat or control another person verbally or otherwise; and decrease their target’s self esteem.”
PBS, in Adult Bullying states the below as signs that you are being bullied:
- Being left out from work-related social events
- Coworkers storming out of the work area when you enter
- Others regularly arriving late for meetings that you call
- Being given the “silent treatment”
- Not being given the praise you thought you deserved
- Being treated rudely or disrespectfully
- Coworkers refusing to help when you ask
- Spreading rumors about you that aren’t true and that nobody denies
- Being given little or no feedback about your performance
- Others responding slowly to requests that were important to you
- Being yelled or shouted at
- Receiving put-downs about your intelligence or competence
- Your telephone calls or other communications are ignored
- Your contributions are ignored
- Someone interferes with or sabotages your work
- Being the recipient of mean pranks
- Being lied to
- Being denied a raise or promotion without a valid reason
- Being given bigger workloads or shorter deadlines than coworkers
- Being accused of making a mistake on purpose
- A coworker throws a temper tantrum when you disagree with him
- Being put down in front of others
I had to speak with a management peer of mine once at work who regularly bullyied one person in his meetings – making him the target of public pranks designed to embarrass.
Know if you are the kind of person prone to being a bully target. Achieve Solutions believes adult bullies:
“… target victims in many of the same ways children who bully do. No matter their age, bullies are opportunistic and tend to prey on people they perceive as a threat or that they dislike because of differences. They often choose targets who excel and are capable, dedicated, popular, intelligent and attractive but whose interpersonal style tends to be non-confrontational.”
Decide whether to address it or avoid it.
Many times, parents are advised to teach their bullied children to avoid situations where the bully can attack. That may not be effective at work, the bully may actually be able to affect your bosses perception of your abilities! How can you decide if you should address the situation or not?
Anna Worth in How To Stand Up To Adult Bullies suggests that:
“If someone’s sniping is a minor annoyance, let it be. If, however, you’re losing sleep, you hate going to work, or you’re feeling depressed or unworthy because of the way someone’s treating you, then you need to do something.”
Don’t think that you will be able to change your bully’s behavior by yourself. According to the Bullying Statistics site:
“Adult bullies are often in a set pattern. They are not interested in working things out and they are not interested in compromise. Rather, adult bullies are more interested in power and domination. They want to feel as though they are important and preferred, and they accomplish this by bringing others down. There is very little you can do to change an adult bully, beyond working within the confines of laws and company regulations that are set up. The good news is that, if you can document the bullying, there are legal and civil remedies for harassment, abuse and other forms of bullying. But you have to be able to document the case.”
In my case, I won’t try to change the behavior of this ‘old owner’ group, I will just focus on not letting them control my choices and actions, and I will try to modify my own reactions so I don’t experience as much stress and sleeplessness!
How to address bullying.
Figure out if you have legal or corporate recourse.
The Washington Education Association confirms that:
“Bullying is very prevalent in the United States; however, bullying that does not take the form of illegal discrimination or sexual harassment is not illegal.”
Many countries have anti-bullying workplace laws, but not so in the US. Most US laws deal with discriminatory behavior. You might be able to investigate claims due to harassment however. Seek legal counsel.
In corporate America, if it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen. Multiple sources, including Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls advocate documentation. She says:
“Documenting what’s happening is key. Keep track of when, where and how it happens, along with who is present.” This is important so that you can present an objective, coherent case either directly to the bully, or to an authority figure.”
Find allies and advocates.
You don’t want to do this alone. If you try, you may come out looking like a whiner and a problem employee. Find allies and advocates. In How to Stand Up to Adult Bullies, Anna North suggests:
“If you’re being bullied at work, talk to an HR representative. And if the bully is someone in your personal life, Dellasega recommends recruiting “an ally or an advocate” to stand by your side. And, says Hall, “Talk to your spouse, your best friend, your boss, your therapist.”
PBS agrees in article Adult Bullying, saying that you have to effectively tell your story.
“A big challenge in resolving workplace bullying is getting support. Coworkers or higher-ups might not believe it when they hear about it, or the person reporting the problem might be considered petty or difficult.”
They suggest that you need to be rational and document what happened logically, noting key points and important events. Don’t get emotional about what is going on. You will be more believable if you stay calm. Keep the details at hand and in mind when telling your story. Know when and where the incident happened, who else was there as well as what transpired. Tell the story correctly each time. Don’t slip in irrelevant or subjective data. Stay focused on the main issues you want handled.
They futher advised that you keep your skills and talents and achievements highlighted with HR and your boss when you are telling your story. You don’t want them to look at you and think, “Great – another problem employee I have to deal with”.
Have you been bullied at work or in your personal life as an adult? How did you deal with it?