Michele Armani and Sally Meisenheimer
Dear Style & Substance:
I know all about bullying with kids from watching the news, reading articles and even taking my teenage children to see the bullying movie. I am starting to think that I am being bullied at work by a superior co-worker. I am not sure what to do. Any advice?
Bullying is often thought of as an issue affecting young people, but adults can bully, and be bullied, as well. Anytime there is a situation where one person has some level of control over another there can be two basic outcomes in the relationship: an abuse of power and disrespect or hopefully, mutual respect based on common goals.
First, recognize types of bullying and your thoughts, feelings and experiences about your professional relationship. People who are bullied often find fault with themselves and begin to believe that the bully’s behavior is valid. The victim of bullying does not ask for or invite harm or disrespect.
Bullying in the workplace can take many forms, both subtle and blatant:
• Belittling by a supervisor or co-worker; disparaging comments or minimizing your contributions.
• Publicly correcting or pointing out errors and mistakes that would be better addressed privately, or constant criticism, either formal or informal.
• Using sarcasm to communicate or humor to belittle or embarrass.
• Intimidation and threats - words or actions.
• Issuing demands as opposed to polite and respectful requests.
Some workplace environments can be very stressful; however, angry attacks, yelling, or screaming are never appropriate. Severe behaviors are best addressed by a third party such as a Human Resources staff person or union representative.
There are important steps you can take to strengthen yourself against bullying behavior:
• First evaluate and validate the situation. Don’t gossip or create drama by discussing it broadly with coworkers. Confide in a close, objective friend who can offer an unbiased observation of the situation.