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Career Advice

How to Cope with Bullying at Work

By Krisha Maclang on June 6, 2015

For most of us, bullying was a sad and painful reality in grade school or high school. Whether we were the bully or the bullied, it was a source of emotional trauma and embarrassment. But fortunately, for most of us, bullying also ended in grade school or high school as we eventually became more mature.

But not everyone grows up. There are still many of us who have faced bullies in the workplace, whether we realize it or not. In fact, a bill has been filed to prohibit office bullying by Representatives Rodel Batocabe and Christopher Co because they believe that instances of bullying at work are being overlooked. They want companies to create policies that will ban bullying, harassment, and intimidation at work.

The term “bullying” can mean a lot of things when it occurs at work. It can range from personal attacks on your gender, race, economic background or the like, sexual harassment, physical harm, threats, deliberately giving you impossible tasks, and a range of other behaviors. Your bully can be anyone at work, whether it’s a supervisor or a peer. And even if you’re already an adult, bullying has lasting physical, mental, and emotional repercussions.

Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words can deal a greater blow. What can you do to cope with bullying at work?

Avoid an emotional reaction

Remember when your parents told you to ignore your classmates who teased you because they just wanted to see your reaction? Much like the playground bully, workplace bullies often want to see an emotional response from their victims. While it can be tempting to blow up at the office bully, you may just end up playing his game. Stay calm and rational and realize that this isn’t really about you. It has everything to do with the bully and the issues that he’s projecting on you.

Document the bullying

It helps to act wisely especially when the instances of bullying escalate. Keep track of each incident of bullying and harassment as well as what you have done to combat it. If you can, save each email, note, conversation, text message – pretty much any piece of evidence – that you can so that if you need to escalate your case to Human Resources (HR), you have all the proof you need.

Build your network of support

Getting bullied is understandably emotionally distressing. Instead of allowing it to overwhelm you into silence or clamming up, seek support from a close group of work friends. It will help you mentally and emotionally to know that you have a network of colleagues who you can reach out to for support. By building relationships with your colleagues, you can also ensure that the bully doesn’t turn them against you as well.

Assert yourself

When it comes to bullying, it’s best to take a proactive stand instead of cowering in fear of your coworker. After all, you are professionals and you need to get things done at work.

Sometimes the person you’re at odds with doesn’t realize how far he has taken his actions. Compose yourself and approach the bully to tell him how his behavior is not acceptable. If you can’t confront him alone, bring another person with you who can stay neutral and mediate. Assert yourself without being too aggressive or hostile. This will send a message that you can stand up for yourself without stooping to the level of picking a fight with your bully.

Seek help

It’s your employer’s responsibility to provide a safe and harassment-free environment for their employees. If you have tried talking it out with the bully to no avail, then it’s likely time to discuss your case with your employer, or more likely, your HR department. Remember those bullying incidents you had to document? Those will come in handy here. This will prove that you really are encountering problems with your co-worker. The HR department may be able to issue a warning to your bully or help mediate communication between parties.

Bullying is an awful thing to go through no matter what age you are. But as an adult professional, you have a lot more on the line since you also have a job to keep. Always remember to stay calm and professional as much as you can and take the necessary steps to address the problem at hand. Whether you’re handling this on your own or seeking the help of other people, keep in mind that the problem isn’t you. It’s your bully.

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