I spent some time scanning questions on Yahoo Answers today.  Lots of people wonder how to deal with a bully at work.  They ask questions like “Is this workplace bullying?”, “What is the best way to deal with a workplace bully?”, “Do you take mental health days because of a workplace bully?”, “Where did all these bullying come from?” or plain, “How do I deal with a bully at work?”

iStock_000007993705Small_uncertainBeing bullied in a place where you spend most of your day is soul destroying, stressful and plain horrid.  Of course, everyone has advice on what you should do.  They trot out all the ‘tried and true’ answers … ones that you, like me, have probably already tried and know just don’t work!  I’m sure you have been advised to go tell your boss or to stand up to bully.  They’ll say something like, “Just tell the bully straight out ‘Stop, I don’t like what you are doing!’”  Then there is the most ineffective solution of all … “Just stop being so sensitive.”

I do not agree!  When things are so bad you feel sick at the very idea of going to work, comments like these are not only insulting, they hurt.  They certainly do not help you get the bullying to stop!

So, if asking other people what they would do does not get you far, what’s left to do?

How do I decide how to deal with a bully at work?

iStock_000006890442Small_diceFirstly, a sanity check.  Ask yourself the question, “Is this about me being too sensitive or them behaving badly?”  The ‘right’ answer is not what other people think! It is all about how you feel about the situation.  Are you feeling uncomfortable being at work?  Would you rather not run into that person anywhere?  Do you feel cornered with no way out of the situation?  If you answer ‘yes’ to questions such as these, then it is definitely worth doing some more thinking, investigation and planning.

Feelings are a key factor in assessing whether we are being bullied.   How we feel about what is happening certainly makes a difference to whether we can brush it off or need to consider it further.

So what is bullying anyway?

Without being at all technical, workplace bullying is about being treated in ways that make you feel uncomfortable. Bullying actions make you feel put down or belittled, hemmed in or at risk.  In a workplace this can include being threatened with bad consequences if you do not deliver on unreasonable workload and deadlines.  You might be excluded from meetings and social gatherings or find unpleasant rumours are being spread about you.  To meet the more technical definitions of bullying, the kinds of definitions that feature in workplace policies, the bad behaviours would need to be happening more than a once or twice and over an extended period.

Blood pressure measuring studio shotRegardless of how other people see it, the way you feel about the situation will affect your actions and responses to situations.  You might feel reluctant to go to work even though you like your job.  You may become more and more anxious about things in your life away from work.  In fact, enduring bad behaviour at work … bullying … can cause you significant health problems including interrupted sleep, high blood pressure and nervous reactions.

So, we come back to our sanity check – is someone, or a group of people, in your workplace behaving badly toward you?  If so, you should be asking questions about whether it is workplace bullying.  Well done!  The first step to working out how to deal with a bully at work is to acknowledge that something bad is happening.  And your next step?  Visit HowToDealWithABullyAtWork.com … and get ready for some further investigation and sharpen your pencil for some creative thinking and planning.