Bullying in the workplace

By: Christina McCullough, Paragon Engineering Services, Inc., ABC Keystone YP Committee Member

Have you ever been bullied? When the word “bullying” is brought up, most people automatically think this pertains to the kids throwing snowballs at recess or at the bus stop, the popular football quarterback shoving a nerd into a locker in between classes, or the mean girls in the cafeteria who won’t share a seat at their table. These examples might be true and could be how bullying can start early on in someone’s life, but bullying can also occur amongst grown adults in the workplace and make for a toxic and demotivating environment for those experiencing it.

When bullying in the workplace occurs, it can be detrimental to the morale of staff, jeopardize company culture, and ultimately lessen productivity. While this behavior would be viewed as unacceptable by most, there are some cases when this behavior is not addressed due to the concern or fear of losing top-producing individuals within the team who are taking part in the bullying of others. However, it is extremely important for all to know that if you are the recipient of this behavior and are being bullied, it is imperative to address it.

First, let us understand why this even happens. Bullying may stem from a lack of understanding or empathy for people and/or situations or a lack of effective communication. Or, it is also believed that a bully might be deflecting from an insecurity. There may be additional variables and reasons as to why bullying can occur, but in my experience, these are the main sources.

Bullying can take many forms. A person who is always getting made fun of for being different or is the topic of side bar gossip conversations amongst co-workers is being bullied by team members. However, bullying can also occur by management through constantly overlooking an individual for that deserved promotion, though a lack of positive encouragement for a job well done, and more. No matter how you slice it, bullying is a real thing in the workplace, and it is important to know how to recognize it and what to do if you are in that situation.

If you feel that you are being bullied, the best way to handle this situation is to address it head on with the person/people causing the problem. Having a plan on what you are going to say and making sure you go in with a calm and level head to this conversation is always best. In most situations a one-on-one conversation about what is occurring and how it makes you feel can address and diffuse the situation entirely. As mentioned earlier, there could be a lack of understanding of your role or direction you have been given, and once this is vetted out, this results in a greater understanding and appreciation amongst all parties involved. If after this initial conversation the bullying does not stop, then you will need to address what is happening with your manager and ask for additional support or help. In any case, attempting to handle the situation directly is always the best first step.

In conclusion, while unfortunate, bullying in the workplace can happen and can get much worse over time if it is not addressed. Recognizing when it is happening and knowing the best way to approach it will ultimately help eliminate it. For those people who are the instigators and bullying others, try to understand how this might make someone else feel and that it could potentially be handicapping potential and/or ability to be as productive as possible. Ultimately, people are working within a team, and everyone on that team needs to be supported for the overall team to be successful.

At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, but they will remember how you made them feel.”- Maya Angelou

Posted March 30, 2021