LOS ANGELES—When thinking about bullying, we have this mental picture of a child being harassed at school by other children. For parents, that is a scary thought, but the truth is that bullying is such a terrible "social disease" that is affecting not only our children at school but also many adults in their workplaces.
Photo by Alex Morales
In my experience as a career coach, I have met many people who come to me for guidance on how to deal with that situation and to see if, in fact, they are being bullied at work. The problem here is that since bullying can happen in many ways, not everyone knows how to identify it and how to deal with it.
According to the Safety and Health Assessment and Research for Prevention (SHARP) Program, workplace bullying refers to repeated, unreasonable actions of individuals (or a group) directed toward an employee (or a group of employees), which are intended to intimidate, degrade, humiliate, or undermine; or which create a risk to the health or safety of the employee(s).
Workplace bullying is a problem that can touch our lives when we least expect it. One client came to me once asking me for guidance. When she shared her story with me, I was completely heartbroken. She was working with an auto company and her superiors were treating her badly without any reason. She was humiliated, intimidated, called stupid, a retard and many other disrespectful names. Unfortunately, she needed the job and decided to "put up" with that behavior for as long as she could. This experience was causing my client health and self-esteem problems. One day, she gathered all her strength and she confronted her superiors and left the job.
Workplace bullying, like the one mentioned above, can manifest itself in different ways, and most of the time, the person being bullied is scared and may not say anything. That is why it is our responsibility to identify those possible behaviors that can indicate that one of our coworkers or even we are being bullied, and then do whatever is in our power to make it stop.
According to bullyingonline.gov, here are 10 of the most common ways of workplace bullying:
1) Being constantly criticized and the subject to destructive criticism.
2) Being regularly the target of offensive language, personal remarks, or inappropriate bad language.
3) Being threatened, shouted at and humiliated, especially in front of others.
4) Being undermined, especially in front of others.
5) Being singled out and treated differently.
6) Being the target of unwanted sexual behavior.
7) Being given unrealistic goals and deadlines, which are unachievable or which are changed without notice or reason or whenever they get near achieving them.
8) Being denied support by their manager and thus find themselves working in a management vacuum.
9) Being giving the silent treatment.
10) Being encouraged to feel guilty, and to believe they're always the one at fault.
Learning and understanding the possible signs of workplace bullying and how to confront it can help us create a better working environment for all the people involved, which in one way or another can provide us with the necessary tools to grow as a professional in a healthy, pleasant and fair environment.
Workplace bullying is unacceptable. As professionals, it is our responsibility to change this behavior and to join forces to put an end to this terrible social disease.
If you or someone you know is experiencing workplace bullying, I invite you to speak up. Talk to your supervisor or to your human resources office as soon as possible. They will be able to help you and to guide you in the right direction. Do not wait anymore, because the bullying will not stop until you make it stop.
Remember, you are not alone nor responsible for the bullying behavior. Do not allow this experience to keep you away from reaching your professional goals. I invite you to look for help and never forget who you are and what you can do. That will be the key for your success.