You thought you were finished with bullying long ago, but it seems like you’re going through it all over again – this time by grown adults in the workplace. If you are, you’re not alone. People are bullied by coworkers and even bosses all the time.
Sometimes it’s done as a form of retribution. Maybe you were assigned a high-profile project that someone else wanted. Perhaps your boss wanted to hire someone else for your job but was overridden. Maybe a coworker or boss has an issue with people of your race, sexual orientation or religion.
Workplace bullying can manifest in any number of ways. It can include incessant teasing or being ostracized from conversations, birthday celebrations or (more importantly) meetings. A boss may constantly pick on everything you do, yell at you or barely speak to you. People may gossip or start untrue rumors about you. They may even sabotage you.
Bullying can create a hostile work environment. In some cases, it can make it impossible to do your job.
Some people are equal-opportunity bullies. A boss may just be nasty to everyone. A co-worker may just be a grouch. However, if you feel that you’re being singled out by a bully, it’s important to know what to do (and not do).
Don’t lash out or get emotional (at least in front of them). Sometimes what bullies want most is to get a reaction. Start by trying to talk with the person calmly and telling them how their behavior is affecting you (and/or your work). If that doesn’t change anything, talk to your boss. If your boss is the problem, talk to their boss, or to someone in Human Resources. Have examples of the behavior ready and emphasize how the behavior is impacting your ability to do your job.
If the bullying includes racist, sexist, homophobic or other remarks or actions specific to a protected class, it’s discriminatory. Even if the bullying isn’t overtly discriminatory, that doesn’t mean you aren’t the victim of discrimination.
If you’re the only person in your department who’s in a wheelchair, over 40, a woman or nonwhite and the only one being bullied, that’s an issue. Regardless of the reason for the bullying, no employee should have to endure it. If you aren’t able to resolve the problem, it may be wise to find out what your legal options really are.