SHESAID resident psychologist Kim Chartres answers your most awkward and confronting questions.
I just started a new job a few months ago and despite the fact it’s doing what I’ve always loved I’m having a miserable time because one of my colleagues is bullying me.
He’s a male colleague and I don’t know if he’s threatened by the fact I’ve come in very enthusiastic and am quite good at what I do, but ever since I’ve started, he’s made my life here hell. He constantly undermines me in front of our boss and other staff, speaks to me as if I’m a child and has sabotaged me on several occasions by deliberately giving me the wrong information on stuff I asked him questions about, which I know he knows the correct answers to.
I’m worried I’ll look like a complainer or trouble maker if I say anything to anyone and I don’t want to lose this job as I’m finally in my dream role, but this colleague is making it a nightmare for me. What can I do?
I want to start by saying congratulations on landing your dream job. What a shame you haven’t been able to thoroughly enjoy it yet. Having a colleague hell-bent on making you feel uncomfortable and appear incompetent is a nightmare I too have experienced, so I can empathize with your situation. I remember it being very stressful. Plus it didn’t make me eager to go to work every day, despite loving my job, that’s for sure.
I also appreciate your desire to handle this discreetly. No one wants to be labelled a complainer or troublemaker particularly so early on. However from what you’ve told me it’s very clear this colleague is seriously harassing you. As to why he’s targeted you, your instincts may be spot on, but all you know for sure is that his objective has been to make you feel bad and undermine you in every way possible.
Chances are you aren’t this man’s first victim as his skill at intimidation suggests he’s likely done this before. Therefore regardless of his motives, you need a strategy or perhaps a few depending upon how determined he is to continue harassing you, in order to disrupt this pattern.
The first thing I suggest you do regardless of how you move ahead, is to protect yourself from sabotage. You obviously love your job and want to keep it, so make up some sort of excuse to ask questions via email and keep a copy of his responses.
Workplace bullies like to hide their inappropriate actions from others, and an email chain creates a paper trail of evidence if you need to go to HR with a formal complaint.
However, sometimes all you need to do to stop a bully in their tracks is to confront them and call their bluff. It doesn’t need to be aggressive, just an informal chat (ideally over email) asking him to stop. If need be, give him a consequence should his behaviour continue, stating you’re willing to file a complaint may be all the incentive he needs.
If that’s unsuccessful you could approach your manager about this situation. Begin by stating how much you appreciate this new position, but you’re having a problem with a colleague, focusing specifically on his actions and avoiding any personal attacks. This way what he’s doing should be seen as a disciplinary workplace issue, rather than two colleagues having a personality clash.
Most workplaces have harassment complaint protocols, so get informed about the process and follow yours accordingly. Make sure you have evidence to support any claim you make and always keep it action based.
Employers have become critically aware of their responsibility to provide a safe working environment, so they should check into any claims. Hopefully it doesn’t come to this, but do consider it a viable option if you continue to get bullied.
Good luck in the future and I sincerely hope you get to enjoy your dream job sooner rather than later.