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Five ways to stop workplace bullying.

By ANGIE THOMPSON.

I was once a victim of workplace bullying. I was bullied pretty badly. I was called names, constantly heard whispers and sniggers behind my back and I ended up crying in the bathroom on more than one occasion. I wasn’t in school though.

This workplace bullying happened a couple of years ago.

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.

I’ve never been bullied in my life. Other than the usual harmless teasing throughout my school years, I was lucky enough to make it to adulthood pretty much unscathed in that regard. And to be honest, I had read about ‘workplace bullying’ and that kind of thing, but the concept had never really crossed my mind until it happened to me. I always thought bullying was the stuff of the playground, not the office.

I was so wrong.

For some reason, the person who was bullying me didn’t like me from the start. On my first day, she called me over to her desk and started asking the usual ‘getting to know you’ questions, but something about it didn’t feel quite right. She was laughing at some of my answers in a way that seemed a little… nasty.

I thought I was reading too much into things, so I let it go.

It wasn’t long before I could hear her openly talking about me. She would come over to my desk to offer me ‘tips’ that were extremely patronising and loud enough for most of the office to hear. She would openly dismiss my ideas as stupid, then say something like “Sorry, no offence dear, but you are new. Maybe you’re just not getting it yet.”

Things escalated quickly. She would yell at me for minor mistakes (whether they happened or not) and would purposefully leave me out of important meetings. She would leave very passive aggressive notes on my desk about workplace ‘rules’ that I was breaking.

The problem was, I was new, and a lot of it was so subtle that I felt silly saying anything. But after six months, I reached my breaking point and ended up crying in my boss’ office, and told her everything.

I can’t believe I waited so long to say something.

My boss was fabulous about it. All the things I thought I was crazy for being upset about, she assured me, were totally valid. HR spoke to the bully. She responded by pretty much ignoring me at first, but eventually we ended up with a (pretty) normal working relationship. I think she had done it to a few people, and this was the first time she was pulled up on it. It certainly seemed to shock something in her.

Although I can’t believe I waited so long to say something, I’m kind of glad the whole thing happened because it gave me the chance to learn how to handle situations like that. I’m sure this woman won’t be the only example of workplace bullying I come across in my life, so the lessons I learned will no doubt help me again.

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I did a lot of research while trying to figure out how to handle this woman, and these are the lessons that I’ll take with me:

1. Don’t blame yourself. It’s the bully’s issue

No matter what you do, they’re going to find a way to give you a hard time. It has nothing to do with who you are or your work performance.

2. Do your best work no matter what

Don’t let them push you into a place where you’re no longer doing your best work. That’s what they want. Don’t give them the satisfaction.

3. Don’t try to change them

A bully bullies. It’s as simple as that. Don’t put your energy into changing their behaviour. Just concentrate on being positive. It will drive them crazy.

4. Have empathy

Someone would have to be feeling pretty crappy about themselves if they feel the need to be cruel to someone else. It really helped me to think about how sad my bully must be inside. What was going on with her that she felt the need to treat me that way? When my anger turned to empathy I was able to keep a much clearer head.

5. Say something

This one is the most important. Workplace bullying is serious, and nothing’s too silly to say something about. Everyone’s mental health is important – yours and the bully’s. According to a recent study conducted by the Medibank 24/7 Health Advice Line, Australians take 20 million sick days every year because of stress, and costs the economy over $14 billion annually, so trust me – your employer wants to make sure you’re okay. Being honest about how someone is treating you means you can both get help.

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If Medibank nurses think a GP should be seen, they can use their clinical knowledge to call the preferred GP clinic and explain the condition to assist getting you an appointment.

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