Recently, my housemate filed an official complaint against one of her managers for bullying in the workplace. After making a simple mistake on a financial document, her 50-something year old boss took it upon himself to condemn and humiliate her for doing so in front of an office full of fellow employees.
Interestingly and rightly so, she didn’t take it on the chin. However, not all of us have the courage to stand-up to authority, particularly in the workplace. HR consultant and people management specialist Karen Gately says that it’s important to know that if your boss repeatedly behaves in a way that causes you to feel humiliated, intimidated, threatened or belittled, then you are being bullied.
If you are dealing with this kind of situation, Karen insists that you have two choices; stand up for yourself, or leave. If you do choose to confront the situation but aren’t sure how to go about it, here are her top tips on how to take action.
Don’t go in guns blazing. Take the time to think about what you need to say and how you will go about it, says Gately. “Ask for the advice and support you need from other leaders, HR people on the team, your colleagues, or people outside of your organisation,” she adds. What’s more, be prepared for how your boss may respond. Preparation is key here, ladies.
Hold the bully accountable
There is no justification for workplace bullying, so act with conviction, says Karen. Just because an employer is in a position of power doesn’t mean that they’re permitted to undermine or disrespect you. The HR expert recommends: “Take a firm stance and speak with confidence when you ask your boss to take responsibly for the unnecessary and damaging impact their behaviour has on other people.”
An important factor to take into consideration is that the person may not be aware of the impact that their actions are having. Karen insists that you help your boss to understand why their behaviour matters and discuss alternative approaches that they could take.
Being bullied does not give you the right to reciprocate. In fact, this is neither appropriate nor effective. Instead, maintain your behaviour as a standard that you can be proud of, says Karen. “Your aim should be to influence your boss’s thoughts, feelings and ultimately actions by delivering honest feedback with respect and sensitivity. A support person in the meeting may help keep things on track.”
Talk openly and honestly about why you’ve raised the issue. Maybe it’s upsetting you; maybe it’s causing you anxiety and/or impacting your health and wellbeing. Whatever the reason, it’s important to explain why you or other people have felt bullied and arrive at an outcome that you want to see, recommends Karen.
Avoid personal attacks
As with anything, it’s all in the delivery. Therefore, “avoid criticising your bosses character; rather focus on the impacts of their behaviour,” insists Karen. “Remain objective and communicate your desire for a positive work environment that will enable the whole team to thrive.”