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How to Deal With Workplace Bullies, According to Science

Topics: Career Advice
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We all pay a cost for unchecked bullying in the workplace.

Research shows that bullying at work can harm an employee’s well-being and job performance. Rudeness can feel like a threat and rob us of our cognitive and personal resources that would otherwise be put into doing our jobs.

However, the costs of workplace bullying can be especially devastating on a personal level for the target of a workplace bully. Being treated with rudeness and hostility can cause long-term health problems, including loss of concentration and poor decision-making, anxiety and depression, as well as heart disease, back pain, headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances and various minor illnesses.

Here’s how to protect yourself from rudeness, negativity and bullying in the workplace.

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Acknowledge That There Is a Problem

Many targets of workplace bullying look to themselves to solve a problem that is mostly outside of their control. Targets sometimes think, “What did I do to deserve this response?” or “How can I act so this person will be nicer to me?”

Don’t do that. A rude person is a rude person for his or her own reasons. Recognize and acknowledge that this person has a problem being polite and appropriate in a workplace setting and stop putting pressure on yourself to change somebody else’s behavior.

Document the Behavior

Keep a log of each and every time the bully is rude, dismissive or otherwise inappropriate with you. Write down infractions along with the date and the name of any other people who witnessed the behavior.

This is an important action regardless of any future steps you may or may not take. This log serves as a reminder to you that the abuse happened and is not just a “feeling” on your part. It can also show you a pattern of toxic behavior.

Of course, you want to keep this log private unless and until you choose to approach human resources. At that time, it will be extremely helpful to have specific examples to support your claim that you are being bullied at work.

Find Social Supports

According to researchers at the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI), the most effective stress mitigation factor is social support. Per WBI:

Validating human support can reverse the deleterious effects of emotional abuse. Isolation exacerbates the distress. Sometimes learning about the first-time experience can alleviate distress. After all, bullying is rather ambiguous when first experienced.

Where can you find this support? Family and friends are a good source. Peer coworkers can also help and may be more likely sources than managers.

Find someone you trust and reach out to them. They can help counteract the effects of workplace rudeness and bullying.

Tell Us What You Think

Have you been the victim of workplace bullying? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.

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