October 22nd, 2015
Bullying in the workplace: How to recognize and address it
By Becky Parker, WDAZ-TV (Grand Forks, North Dakota), Oct. 22, 2015
Bullying is an issue people may think is reserved for the schoolyard, or even cyberspace.
But adult bullying in the workplace can have devastating effects on people’s lives.
Forty-five-percent say they’ve been bullied at some point during their career, and another 25% say they’ve witnessed workplace bullying.
We spoke to North Dakota State University professor and researcher Pam Lutgen-Sandvik, who has been studying workplace bullying for nearly 15 years. [Note: Dr. Lutgen-Sandvik is a WBI friend & colleague; her research is featured prominently in the WBI training for professionals, Workplace Bullying University.]
She defines bullying as persistent, hostile, aggressive behavior that can be verbal or non-verbal.
Research shows adult bullying can lead to depression, eating disorders, sleeping disorders, PTSD and physical ailments.
It also increases the person’s stress levels and degrades their mental health by making them feel crazy, scared, and anxious.
“It also bleeds into families. When you’re bullied and abused at work you go home and sometimes there’s displaced aggression when you’re screaming at your family members, sort of that, ‘kick-the-dog’ kind of thing. We do know for sure it reduces people’s satisfaction with their personal lives,” says Lutgen-Sandvik.
Here’s what she says you should do if you are being bullied at work:
• Give it a name – define it as workplace bullying.
• Remember that it’s not your fault – bullies often make the victim feel crazy.
• Get some social support – like a counselor – as bullying can degrade your mental health.
• Take some time off from work to regroup and figure out how to address the problem.
“Trying to make sense of it and figure out what you’re going to do is really difficult when you’re in the environment and you’re constantly bombarded with this aggression and hostility. If it’s possible, take some time off of work so you can kind of get your bearings and figure out, ‘am I going to stay? If I’m not going to stay, what am I going to do here?'”
Many people in a bullying situation at work might want to fight back, but that can be risky.
Often, bullying situations at work involve an element of power. In the U.S., it’s usually a manager, but can also be a peer.
If you do choose to fight back, Lutgen-Sandvik says the best way is to talk to someone who has power over the bully.
Bring specific examples of bullying, have other co-workers to back you up, and have a clear goal in mind.
Lutgen-Sandvik says it is not a good idea to confront the bully directly.
“They will escalate the abuse worse than it ever was before, and drive the people out of the workplace because now they’ve become serious threats to the perpetrator. So, directly confronting the perpetrator, it’s really a very, I would say, dangerous thing to do.”
This is Freedom from Workplace Bullies Week and October is Bullying Prevention Month and Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
Readers may click-to-purchase Adult Bullying, Pam’s chronicle of her decade of research into workplace bullying, written in easy-to-understand prose.