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What to Do When Workplace Bullying Starts Affecting Your Career

Topics: Work Culture

When you think of bullying, you probably think of school-aged children, not grown adults in the working world. However, some people do not become more mature and compassionate as they age. Often, individuals who were bullies as children grow up to be bullies as adults—and torment their coworkers.

Here’s what you need to know about workplace bullying, and how to deal with it so that your career doesn’t suffer.

workplace bullying

(Image Credit: Found Animals Foundation/Flickr)

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Recognizing Bullying

If you’ve ever been bullied as a child, you’ll probably recognize it when you see it at work. However, if you’ve never experienced it before, then you could mistake the inappropriate behavior as a judgment of your skills or competence—and that’s terrible for you as a person and a professional.

Here are some common forms of bullying to look out for, as outlined by Bullying Statistics:

  • Shouting or swearing at an employee or otherwise verbally abusing him or her.
  • One employee being singled out for unjustified criticism or blame.
  • An employee being excluded from company activities or having his or her work or contributions purposefully ignored.
  • Workplace bullies use language or actions that embarrass or humiliate an employee.
  • Practical jokes, especially if they occur repeatedly to the same person.

Effects of Bullying

Workplace bullying isn’t just a nuisance; it’s also extremely damaging to a person’s well-being and self-worth, which directly affects their career. Studies show that bullying can result in stress-related health complications such as hypertension, depression, anxiety, and even PTSD, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. What’s more, workplace bullying also contributes to lower morale, higher turnover, and lower productivity due to the hostile work environment created by the harassing behavior. Needless to say, workplace bullying is no joking matter.

In her article for U.S. News, Chrissy Scivicque, founder of Eat Your Career, outlines five steps you can take to nip workplace bullying in the bud, including evaluating the situation to determine if the behavior is consistent, intentional, and directed at you, documenting everything, and getting a supervisor involved if necessary.

“The trick is to remain polite and professional while still setting your limits firmly,” says Scivicque. “Don’t let the bully get under your skin—that’s what he wants.”

Bullying of any sort should never be condoned in the workplace. Managers should be the ones to take action and play an integral part in preventing and dealing with workplace bullying—but, unfortunately, many times they’re the ones doing the bullying. (Here’s what you can do if that’s the case.) In fact, the 2014 WBI U.S. Workplace Bullying Survey found that a majority of workplace bullying is carried out by bosses (yes, you read that right), and an astonishing 72 percent of employers deny, discount, encourage, rationalize, or defend workplace bullying.

In the end, the office should be a safe environment that promotes and cultivates productivity, camaraderie, and equality—otherwise, the workplace turns into The Hunger Games and you end up fighting for your career to survive, rather than thrive.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you experienced any form of bullying in your career? If so, how did you deal with the situation … or did you? Share your experience with our community on Twitter, or leave your comment below. Sharing is definitely caring in situations like this.

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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Leonard NoltAnnabel DohertyGlory BorgesonGregg MorrisDavid Snyder Recent comment authors
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David Snyder
David Snyder

I’m a former letter carrier for the US Postal Service. I became a target after defending another employee who was being bullied and showing my contempt for the bullies. It cost me my career; the piling on of work was done to make me quit and it worked. Towards the end, the office got a new postmaster who empowered the bullies because it undercut the carrier union. Six months after I was gone I wrote a tell off letter to… Read more »

Leonard Nolt
Leonard Nolt

Thank you, Leah Arnold-Smeets for this fine article about workplace bullying. As one who was the target of a workplace bully for nearly three years, diagnosed with PTSD, and forced to leave, (at the age of 58), a job I had for 30 years, I know how malicious and destructive workplace bullying can be. I was employed at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center in Boise, ID when I became the target of a bully. She targeted me by blocking communication… Read more »

Annabel Doherty
Annabel Doherty

My story is being told bit by bit in the public posts on my facebook page (in my name – profile picture is of a numbat and the wall picture says Bite my R6). My situation ended up in court and it was all made public. I actually wanted this to happen so that I would be able to tell my story in public with no threats of litigation. Because of the work I do and the skills I have… Read more »

Glory Borgeson
Glory Borgeson

The comments so far on this post are heartbreaking. None of the bullying stories in these comments should have gone as far as they did. In each commenter’s story, the bully should have been stopped by upper management. But rarely are workplace bullies stopped. Rather, their behavior is either ignored or supported. I became so concerned about the negative effects of workplace bullying on the targeted people that I wrote a book to help targets figure out how they’re going… Read more »

Leonard Nolt
Leonard Nolt

I love the photo!!

Gregg Morris
Gregg Morris

The short version. I was a non-tenured journalism professor at Hunter College and early on when I noticed the first signs of bullying, I decided it was in my best interests to leave. My last book, my second, was selected as one of the 100 recommended books by the New York Times and I had a new literary agent. I started making plans to leave and expected a decent advance which I was willing to risk would be enough for… Read more »

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