Is Harassment Tolerated at Work?

Workplace BullyWhen management tolerates supervisors or colleagues who harass, how can workers protect themselves? 

Supervisors seem at a loss as to how to deal with the issue and employees who abuse others end up remaining on the job, while their targets are left in emotional tatters.   How do you cope?  How do you help?  

I’ve come up with 3 ideas, let me know your thoughts too!

Stay Focussed On The Job

It’s easy to get thrown off your game under this kind of pressure.  Remember to bring everything back to the job at hand.  If you are being bullied identify how it is getting in the way of doing your work well.  Think about the best way to tell your supervisor this. For example, schedule meetings with him or her to discuss your work.  Let’s say the bully is covert–not inviting you to meetings you should me in.  Perhaps, say in a regular meeting with your supervisor: “We’re making headway on this project, and we’ve run into a snag in this other area, there seems to be some communication issues.  We’ve set-up meetings to address things but they seem to get scheduled on the days I’m not at work.”


Watch Out For Things Getting Personal

Being bullied can cause Targets to experience self- doubt and self-blame.  If this is happening, it’s a sign you may be absorbing the bullies’ subtle and not-so-subtle messages.  Analyze who you really are and compare it to what the bully is saying or intimating about you.  They won’t match because the bully is projecting his or her beliefs and emotions onto you.  Keep a firewall up between what the bully is trying to say about you with their actions and who you really are.  This will safeguard your sense of dignity.


Stand Your Ground and Stay Professional

Consistency is your best bet in these situations.  Unwavering professionalism, addressing misconceptions that are being spread around, responding firmly to the different ways the bully will try to violate your boundaries is important.  For example, if the bully tries to make it appear you dropped the ball to your supervisor or colleagues, and you didn’t, provide evidence to the contrary to anyone who may have the wrong impression emailing and saying:  “It appears there was a question about this task being completed, please find attached, the report in question and an email to that effect.  If you have any questions or concerns about this , please don’t hesitate to contact me”.  Don’t let a thing go by.

To hear more on this topic please listen to my 5 minute CBC Early Edition Radio interview.

Dr. Jennifer Newman is a registered psychologist and director of Newman Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development company. Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality. Dr. Newman can be contacted at: 

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