How to stop office bullying
MSN's behaviour expert Dr Pam Spurr highlights the bully-types you should watch out for in the office
On November 5th anti-bullying month begins reflecting what a vast problem it is. Bullying cuts across all age groups and situations and even if you escaped childhood bullying you might experience it at work.
Unison report more than a third of employees felt bullied at work. That's a huge number of people feeling helpless at the hands of a bully. Because this is what bullies do best - they make their victim feel there's nothing they can do about it.
How do bullies get away with it?
Sadly despite our raised awareness the typical office bully is often clued-up about not going too far. That way they don't draw attention to their bad behaviour - only their target knows about it.
They can also be quite cunning disguising bullying-behaviour by saying, e.g., they’re simply trying to "motivate" team members when they're caught being verbally aggressive.
Knowing the enemy: the different types of bullies
Here are five bullying-profiles to be aware of at work - these show how bullying behaviour varies widely. Plus these five profiles don't rule out other types of bullying.
The Drama Queen/King Bully
Overall Profile : They dominate the office with their panic mentality and dramas. These affect your well-being in two ways - when they have one about, e.g., you not meeting a deadline plus when you endure listening to them dramatise something else.
Key Signs : Potentially anything stressful can set off a drama. They start panicking and muttering about the "problem".
They get physical with signs of their frustration - tear-up paper, knock things over, wring their hands, etc.
They try to get you "on side" explaining how awful the situation is and expecting your verbal agreement. That might be thrown back in your face if someone challenges them about the drama they're making. They happily dump you in it saying you agree with them.
The Over-achiever Bully
Overall Profile : This person is a highflier, goal-directed and nothing stands in the way of getting what they want - including your feelings. They're usually first in and last out of the office.
Key Signs : They'll imply you're not “good enough” and your work is second rate. They demand excessive hours or that you work through breaks.
Their behaviour makes you feel uncomfortable about asking, e.g., for time to see the dentist or GP. They're gung-ho attitude is oppressive and you'll find it impossible to relax - even in your lunch break.
The Subversive Bully
Overall Profile : The most manipulative profile of all, this person realises their behaviour has a negative impact on colleagues. By nature they don't trust others and harbour a lot of anxiety about what your motivation might be towards them.
Key Signs : You never know what to expect from the Subversive Bully - one day they might seem quite friendly, the next they pick on you, and then throw you a curveball.
Their curveballs is their key sign - they'll unexpectedly blame you for something in a staff meeting, they won't copy you in on an e-mail they should do, they say they'll keep you up to date on a project and don't.
Very quickly you don't trust anything they do causing a lot of anxiety within you.
The Angry Bully
Overall Profile : This profile differs from the Drama Queen/King as they are characterised by constant anger or sporadic angry outbursts rather than panic.
Key Signs : You can hear them coming by the doors slamming, they frequently raise their voice and use bad language. They slam phones down and bang doors, etc.
They have no problem with yelling at a colleague if angered. Sometimes they try and excuse their angry nature by saying they can't help feeling “strongly about things”.
You feel like you're walking on egg shells around them wondering if you'll be their next target.
The Cold-shoulder Bully
Overall Profile : Keeping "yourself to yourself" is one thing but they take this to the extreme and uses the silent treatment to create an atmosphere. They'll outright ignore colleagues when it suits them.
Key Signs : Their silent ways make it extremely difficult to be around them. You'll find when you try to engage them in conversation they’ll break it off quickly.
They won't socialise after hours unless they have to - even then they make you feel as if it's the last place they want to be.
You feel second-rate as they appear to look down their nose at you.
How to handle bullying of any type
*It's essential to have a zero-tolerance attitude to bullying of any type. The minute you allow one "episode" of bad behaviour they'll start taking advantage.
*If something your colleague/manager says or does makes you uncomfortable have a response ready. Everyone should be prepared to say something like: that makes me uncomfortable when you say/do that.
*Be ready to repeat yourself because often the bully might challenge you. Simply restate the fact you don't like their angry tone, etc.
*Always have a suggestion ready for moving things on. For instance, say something like, "It'd be great to talk about this when things are calmer.”
*If after two warnings the bullying behaviour continues be direct and put on e-mail as a record that if it continues you’ll complain about their behaviour to HR, your union rep, or appropriate complaints procedure.
*Keep a detailed diary of events including dates, times and content of their behaviour. Where possible keep a paper trail including e-mails, texts, notes, letters, etc.
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