A staggering 90% of workers experience bullying, either as the target or the witness.
The Workplace Bullying Institute defines bullying as, “repeated mistreatment of an employee by one or more employees; abusive conduct that is: threatening, humiliating, or intimidating; work sabotage; or verbal abuse.” Bullying, at it’s core, is about power. When people feel threatened and powerless, they exert power over others through bullying.
As a leadership development and career coach, I’ve worked with clients who were in toxic work environments and experienced bullying. A senior analyst joined a new team and noticed:
- The team was quiet and only spoke when asked directly for input
- The boss age lunch at his desk. Everyone else did the same. No one went out.
- No one seemed particularly happy. In fact, everyone seemed very unhappy.
- Everyone ‘walked on egg shells’ fearful of making the boss unhappy and not waning his attention.
He later learned that this team of nine, used to be 19. All but nine left because of this bosses management and abusive behavior. The boss them began to bully him:
- Sabotage- ‘Don’t worry about presenting on Monday.’ Monday comes and he says ‘John, where’s your presentation?’
- Roadblocks- John and Sally must coordinate before John can finish his project. Sally is literally never available. John cannot move forward.
- Humiliation- In front of the team, knowing full well that Sally kept him from completing his work. ‘John, why haven’t you finished your work?! You’re a Senior Analyst! I thought you were better!’
- Threats- When John dared state he had to consider something; he loomed over his desk and stated loudly, ‘Don’t do anything stupid!’
The bully want to extract the following emotions: shame, doubt, humiliation, pessimism, and depression. Don’t let them! You can always control yourself and your reactions. If this behavior is from coworkers, there are tactical ways of mitigating this behavior and stopping it in its tracks. If it’s from your boss you still have options. I’ve worked with some who’ve stayed and things got much better. I’ve also worked with others who decided to leave.
Understanding workplace bullying is the first step to beginning to retake your power, control, happiness, and sanity.