Many people who are employed with a company or a family owned business have probably come into contact with a bully at some point in time. There is a big difference between someone who gives constructive criticism in order to help you enhance your job performance so that you succeed in your job, and the bully who has ulterior motives. A bully will repeat a pattern of behavior which seeks to intimidate, offend, degrade, or humiliate another person or persons, in order to make them look better in the eyes of their superiors. Bullying is a form of aggression, which can at times be at obvious, while at other times, more subtle.
There are many ways a bully can make your workplace a miserable place to be. If you have ever been subjected to the spreading of malicious rumors, gossip, or innuendos that are not true, or if you have been isolated, intimidated, deliberately undermined, threatened, had your work guidelines changed constantly, have been yelled or cursed at, or criticized constantly, you have definitely been the victim of a bully.
I personally have been the victim of a bully — one who did everything within their power to get rid of me. Ultimately, this person succeeded. I was devastated and hurt. I couldn’t understand why I was terminated on hearsay, or why the owners chose to believe her and there was nothing I could say or do to change their minds. The only thing I could determine was that it was due to nepotism. I had worked very hard and worked my way up to manager status; I had been with them for ten years, which made it extremely hard, because I really loved my job. I thought I was a valued employee; I always came into work on time and ran my shift successfully. It wasn’t until my employer decided to hire her niece and bring her into a management position that all the trouble started. It seemed she just came in and took over completely. Everyone was walking on eggshells around her all the time. I think we all were in shock and feeling very frustrated at the time which led to vulnerability and loss of confidence in the owner’s decision to hire her. However, we all tried very hard to keep the best interest of the store in mind and did our very best to get along with her and give in to her demands.
Ultimately, this caused a lot of stress for me. I lost sleep and even started to dread going into a job I once loved. The morale in the entire store was at an all time low. A lot of things began to suffer: people started staying out of work and we began to have a large turnover. Our customers began to notice the change as well and the business suffered because of it. I really don’t know why I was targeted, unless she felt threatened in some way by me; I guess I will really never know her reasoning. In retrospect, the owners thought because it was a family owned business, they did not need a written policy and procedure for employees. This caused problems for the managers as well. They often made up rules for us to follow and then change their minds in an instant; there was no structure. There was no termination policy where you received three warnings before you were terminated. Instead, they would deliberately start cutting people’s hours, trying to force them to quit so they wouldn’t have to pay unemployment.
My termination happened before Christmas in 2015. This also caused a great deal of stress, and I ended up having to take early retirement in order to keep money flowing into my household. I even had to cash in my profit sharing and pension plan from a previous employer to keep me going. Although I was heart broken because of the events that transpired, God kept his hand on me and allowed me to make it through and care for my terminally father until he passed away in June. I am very thankful for the time I had with my father.
It is imperative that you understand the warning signs of a bully, especially in the workplace. If you can recognize the signs, it will help you know how to correctly deal with a bullying situation. The following steps may help, so that you won’t fall victim to a bully at work.
1. Evaluate Your Situation
Look at the situation in an objective manner. Is the person mean to everyone or just you? Are you being too sensitive? A bully will single you out and will engage in unreasonable behavior and become aggressive. They will intentionally try to harm you and your ability to do your work.
2. Stand Up For Yourself
Don’t allow yourself to be an easy target for someone. If you allow them to continue to bully you without consequences, there’s nothing to stop your bully from continuing to torment you. Try to remain polite and professional, but set your limits firmly. Remember people will treat you the way you teach them to treat you.
3. Document Your Situation
Take notes on when something happens with this person and how often negative events take place. Keep detailed notes on your interactions with this person and what they said and did. Documenting everything will help you if things start to escalate and get worse. Always act in a professional manner, don’t let the person make you say or do something that you will regret later on.
4. Get Your Superiors Involved
Bullies can be very persistent and irrational. If you have tried everything you know to do, then it will be necessary to get your supervisor or manager involved to help with the situation. Be sure your bases are covered and you have all of your documentation. Stress to your superiors that you wish to find a productive and comfortable way to handle the situation.
5. Find Other Employment
When the bullying is left unchecked, it can cause harm to your mental, physical, and emotional health. If you have tried to rectify the situation, sought out the help of your superiors, and you still see no improvement, it’s time to consider finding another job. You aren’t letting the bully win; you are protecting yourself from further harm.
I pray that you never find yourself being bullied at your place of work. Life is too short to be miserable. I sincerely hope that sharing my story will help you if you find yourself in a similar situation at work.
“From a Mother’s Heart”