Did you have a bully in your school? Every school has at least one. Maybe you were the kid that wore a “Kick Me” sign on your back and wondered why other kids seemed to always gang up on you. I was that kid (the “Kick Me” sign kid, not the bully). I didn’t wear pocket protectors or tape on my glasses. But I was desperate to be liked, and I often felt like I failed. I had a hard time standing up for myself and I was targeted by bullies a lot as a result.
In my last post, How to Support Coworkers When Tragedy Strikes, I saw an unexpected but somewhat common thread in readers’ comments. People had experienced tragedies and returned to work environments that were –- for lack of a better word –- hostile.
Workplace bullies aren’t typically the focus of this blog, but they are a common issue that thousands of workers across this world deal with.
A workplace bully is someone who mistreats another employee or a group of employees for the sake of appearing superior or for a higher salary. According to studies like this one, there is an 80% likelihood that this bully is a manager or supervisor.
Why is this? It could be a number of reasons, and sometimes it happens to people with the best of intentions. For example, a person with too much pressure can crack and then begins to lose it on his or her employees. Most often, though, this isn’t the case.
Remember my story of being bullied at school? Some of it transferred into my working adult life, too. Some of my people-pleasing habits (and my failure to say “no”) resulted in a few bosses using unfair tactics to control me and other employees –- withholding promised raises, insulting us in front of other coworkers, and screaming at us for mistakes they had made.
8 Signs That You May Be a Bully’s Target
- You leave your house each Monday with knots in your stomach. You are visibly stressed.
- When your boss calls you into their office, you rack your brain searching for what you may have done wrong.
- Your boss openly screams at you with other coworkers around.
- Your boss rejects your ideas and then later re-adopts them, stealing credit for them in the process.
- Your boss withholds raises, bonuses, or other payment unless you fulfill a certain task.
- You continually keep your resume updated because you expect that any moment will be your last at the company.
- Your coworkers are often in full agreement when anyone comments on your boss’ behavior, but no one will publicly own it when your boss bullies you.
- You find yourself physically becoming sick or struggling with headaches at your job.
Toxic Work Culture = Health Hazard
My friend Kevin runs a company dedicated to exposing workplace bullies and eliminating toxic work environments. Kevin worked for a company that was dictated by a workplace bully. The culture around him became shaky and unstable, and most of it was because of unethical practices by the executive management. When Kevin tried to shine a light on what was happening in his work culture, he was fired. Months later, the massive corporation fell to the ground.
Kevin went on to start his own team with the sole purpose of exposing toxic leaders and creating “jerk-free” workplace cultures where honesty and respect build a thriving place to work.
In his studies, he found that in many cases that toxic workplaces have some frightening effects on the health of employees. Many workers experience nervous breakdowns. Several studies show that more heart attacks occur on Mondays than any other day of the week.
How to Overcome a Workplace Bully
Have you been targeted by a toxic boss? Do you find yourself dealing with one of the 8 signs above?
Here are some things you might consider doing:
- Talk to your boss. If he or she has any humanity at all in them, tell them what you are perceiving from them. Never accuse them of being a jerk. Use specific examples of when you felt mistreated and ask him or her to consider how they are coming across — and to stop.
- If your boss reports to higher management and he/she is not stopping the behavior after you have asked, you should report to higher management.
- If higher management does nothing or sides with your boss, you should look for another job. There’s no point in staying in a job that makes you miserable.
- If you have been bullied or harassed at work, you should talk to a counselor. Know that it’s not your fault.
Have you encountered a bully at work? What were some things that helped you?
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