We get it, your job is your livelihood and standing up to a bully is much easier said than done, especially if the bully is in a position of power.
Naturally, you are worried about creating tension in the workplace, or what’s worse have the bullying escalate.
Take Alison (not her real name) for instance, she was excited to get a job at a prominent financial institution three years ago, but soon after she started, she experienced a level of toxicity that was not apparent from her research of the company’s culture.
“My supervisor decided that she hated my name and gave me a terrible nickname after a cartoon character and made everyone call me that. Three years on, everyone still only calls me by that nickname. Yes, I think it’s absolutely disrespectful, but I’m also worried that my colleagues would think I’m being petty if I call her out on that,” she said.
As harmless as this may sound, Alison is caught in a clear case of bullying as it undermines her dignity.
To use a position of power to humiliate makes Alison’s boss an aggressive bully.
Other aggressive bullies could verbally and physically attack a victim.
Bullying can also take on more discreet and subtle forms, including spreading rumours to damage the victim’s reputation or taking credit for someone else’s work.
A newer and increasingly more common form is cyberbullying where victims are harassed over messages while others have had compromising photos of them shared online without their knowledge.
As daunting as it may seem to confront a bully, leaving it unchecked will only affect the career you’ve worked hard to build.
Here, Ms Linda Teo, Country Manager of ManpowerGroup Singapore, shares her top five tips for dealing with a workplace bully.
1. Speak up and be firm
If your colleague or manager constantly says or asks you to do something that you’re uncomfortable with, give the person the benefit of the doubt and speak to the person to clarify.
If the issue continues, speak in private again and provide specific examples that have made you uncomfortable. If the bully doesn’t back off after this, try the next step.
2. Document all incidents
Keep a record of every single occurrence, including texts and e-mails. If it is an issue about ownership of work, make sure you have evidence to prove that the work is yours.
Having documents to substantiate the claim is very important should you decide to report the bully to the HR team or seek redress via the legal system.
3. Seek support from your HR or supervisor
If the problem persists, you can consider raising this with your supervisor, the bully may be close to your supervisor, and in this case, speak to your HR department.
These days, companies, especially multinational companies, have anonymous helplines that victims and fellow co-workers can call into to report workplace bullies.
This is where those records you’ve been keeping will come in handy to base your claims.
4. Build a support system
If you know of other co-workers who are being targeted by the bully, you can consider forming a group.
As victims of bullies are often at risk of being isolated by the rest of the department or company, forming a group can be a way of getting emotional and mental support from someone who understands what you’re going through.
Also, by uniting, the bully may lose the power to terrorize. If you’re the only one who is a victim of bullying, reach out to someone you can confide in and trust.
Always remember that you never have to go through this alone.
5. When all else fails, consider legal help
If you have tried bringing it up with your company’s management and it did not work, you may want to seek help from the authorities.
If the bullying has reached unbearable levels, consider filing a civil or criminal suit under the Protection from Harassment Act (POHA), which protects the victim from harassment and related anti-social behaviour through criminal sanctions.
It also provides a range of self-help measures and civil remedies for victims of harassment.