How Do You Solve A Problem Like ….? Dealing With Workplace Bullying.

Have you ever been the victim of workplace bullying? What exactly is workplace bullying anyway and how would you know if you have suffered from it?

Workplaces with negative cultures can be poisonous to productivity and can even impact on people’s quality of life. I was chatting to a friend the other day about an experience I had in a former workplace where a senior manager could be somewhat mercurial, to say the least. One minute she was singing your praises, the next literally throwing things at you. It was exciting. When my friend and I were chatting we had a good chuckle about it, because it was a very long time ago but, when you think about, it was bullying behavior and at the time was pretty upsetting. Why does it happen and if it does why do we have a tendency to just grin and bear it?

Now I’m not in any way a qualified psychologist but thinking back to those moments in my career that may be considered bullying I can think of a couple of common factors.

Now, I’m not excusing bad behavior, just exploring some options, so here goes.

  1. Hey it could have been me! I know right, impossible, as I am largely perfect in every way. Well this is shocking but that may not always be true, although let’s face it, this is true most of the time.
  2. It may boil down to an inability to manage stress on the other person’s behalf. But why would an inability to manage stress manifest itself in this way and what can I do about it?

My advice to the latter is to discuss any issue with the person in a calm and rational way. And here are some of my tips as to how:

  • Talk about it. Frame any discussion in a way that indicates that you seek improvement. For example, ask them to suggest how these things might be prevented in future. Offer some suggestions yourself to start the ball rolling.
  • Don’t let it fester. If a behavior concerns you think about how you might discuss it calmly.
  • Know your rights. If you feel unsafe at work, advise a peer, or your manager. This is not acceptable.
  • Reframe the negative by focusing on the potential areas of improvement and striving for objectivity.

I believe much of managing the situation can come down to gaining a better understanding of why moments of tensions are arising and better managing the root cause. Rarely an easy task, but a heck of a lot better than the alternative.

What are your best tips for managing negativity in the work place?