Workplace bullying is still rife in Australian workplaces, a recent Drake International survey of over 800 Australia-wide employees has revealed. More than 50% of survey respondents had witnessed office bullying and over 25% had been a target of bullying at work themselves. Here are five strategies to outwit, outplay and outlast the office bully and be the last one standing.
Stand up to the bully
This is much easier said than done. Bullies pick on people who they feel are weak and vulnerable but bullies by nature are insecure in personality. Stand up straight, look the bully in the eyes and speak to them in a calm, controlled and unemotional manner. Bullies do not like direct confrontation and when they see that they are no longer having an effect, they will start to get flustered and lose their composure.
Don’t give them any material to work with
If you feel that your career is being sabotaged by an office bully, you need to be on your best behaviour. This means you cannot turn up late, keep personal emails to a minimum and make sure you meet deadlines even if you need to work overtime to do so.
If you are sent a snide email, ensure you write a polite response back without any emotion and speak to the bully in a respectful tone. Do not respond in anger. Walk around your office if need be, make a cup of tea or speak to a colleague and then respond in a professional manner.
As tempting as it may be, do not mirror the bullies’ email manner or respond to them rudely. The office bully is just waiting for you to make a mistake so don’t give them any ammunition to work with.
Safety in numbers
Bullies will target employees who appear to be easy targets and are socially isolated. By befriending your work colleagues and having lunch with other friends who work locally, you are less likely to become a target.
Encourage your partner, your family or your friends to visit you at the office for lunch or after work drinks. If the bully can see that you have a lot of support networks, they are less likely to bully you for fear or recourse.
Diarise every encounter that you have with the office bully and keep every email, memo and fax. Details are important so make sure you note down dates, times, any witness and specifics of what was said and the person’s behaviour towards you.
Make sure this is kept externally so forward emails to your home computer and keep documentation at home. You may need this information for any discussions about your colleague or manager or worst case scenario, for legal matters.
Go through the right processes
Speak to your human resources manager, union representative or your direct manager about the problem first. You may feel that your human resources manager and direct manager are ineffectual or may refuse to acknowledge the problem but they should be the first point of contact.
Often if you speak to someone higher in the company, the first question they will ask is whether you have spoken to your direct manager and more than likely send you back to talk to them first. This will only complicate matters as your manager may be annoyed that you haven’t approached them initially and this may weaken your position.
There is no one size fits all approach to stopping a bully in their tracks. An office bully may not be responsive to any given tactic. The most important thing to remember is to act professional at all times, do your work to the best of your ability and seek outside counsel if the situation becomes untenable and it cannot be resolved at management level.