When I think of a bully it’s usually in a schoolyard and the bully is an oversized and awkward, sycophant-surrounded adolescent male. It’s an old stereotype and really needs updating in terms of the places bullying happens. Most readers are aware of the relatively new species called the cyber-bully who, abusing social media platforms continues the reign of terror transferring it from the school playground and toilets to the target’s tablet and phone.
There is however a lesser recognised but equally obnoxious genera of bully many readers encounter every day. It’s the office bully. More subtle than the teenage version, these are older and have had time to hone their deviance. Workplace bullies are every bit as unacceptable and need to be rooted out.
Psychologist, TV personality and author, Dr Michelle Callahan writing in the Huffington post had this to say, “Being a target of a bully not only affects your work life, but can also affect your health, possibly causing headaches, loss of appetite, high blood pressure, insomnia, clinical depression, panic attacks and even PTSD.” Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the condition suffered by soldiers after combat which goes to show what kind of battlefield some offices have become. 2014 statistics from http://www.workplacebullying.org show that 27% of Americans have experienced abusive conduct at work and that 72% of employers deny, discount and even encourage bullying to get the job done.
The statistics also show that 69% of perpetrators are male and 68% of the targets are women. Of the 31% of female office bullies, other women are twice as likely as men to be their targets.
Callaghan comments that women bullies most likely are threatened and want to stop you before you outshine them or expose them. They have perfectionist personalities combined with superiority about their skills and abilities. They cannot manage stress and may have mental health problems or a personality disorder.
Dr Callaghan offers “Ten Tips For Dealing With Being Bullied At Work”
“Don’t get emotional”. Bullies take pleasure in emotionally manipulating people. Stay calm and rational. “Don’t blame yourself.” Know that this is not about you; it’s about the bully. “Don’t lose your confidence, or think you are incapable or incompetent.” It’s a mind game, not based on your actual work performance. “Do your best work.” The bully’s behaviour will seem more justified if you aren’t doing your best work. “Build a support network.” Instead of allowing the bully to make you retreat into your office, work on building your relationships with your coworkers so that you have their support and the bully can’t turn them against you as well. “Document everything.” Keep a journal (for your eyes only) of what happened when (and who witnessed it) so that if you need to escalate this problem to Human Resources or the CCMA, you have the information you need to make your case. Keep emails and notes.
Bullies always underestimate their targets, prove them wrong when you expose them for the cowards they are.