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Steps in Handling a ‘Bully’

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Workplace bullying is harmful, targeted behaviour that happens at work. It might be spiteful, offensive, mocking, or intimidating. It forms a pattern, and it tends to be directed at one person or a few people.

A few examples of bullying include:

  • targeted practical jokes
  • being purposely misled about work duties, like incorrect deadlines or unclear directions
  • continued denial of requests for time off without an appropriate or valid reason
  • threats, humiliation, and other verbal abuse
  • excessive performance monitoring
  • overly-harsh or unjust criticism

Criticism or monitoring isn’t always bullying. For example, objective and constructive criticism and disciplinary action directly related to workplace behaviour or job performance aren’t considered bullying. But criticism meant to intimidate, humiliate, or single someone out without reason would be considered bullying.

Most of the time bullying goes unreported. It is a manager's and leader's responsibility to identify bullies and bullying in the workplace and to take action to protect your team members.

Click here to view a video on  the four types of bully’s one gets in the workplace.

Providing advice to employees who are being bullied...

Begin to take action against bullying with these steps:

Document the bullying. Keep track of all bullying actions in writing. Note the date, the time, where the bullying took place, and other people who were in the room.

Save physical evidence. Keep any threatening notes, comments, or emails you receive, even if they’re unsigned. If there are documents that can help prove bullying, such as denied PTO requests, overly-harsh commentary on assigned work, and so on, keep these in a safe place.

Report the bullying. Your workplace may have a designated person you can talk to if you don’t feel safe talking to your direct supervisor. The Human Resources department is a good place to start. It’s also possible to talk about the bullying with someone higher up if your supervisor is unhelpful or is the person doing the bullying.

Confront the bully. If you know who’s bullying you, bring along a trusted witness, such as a co-worker or supervisor, and ask them to stop — if you feel comfortable doing so. Be calm, direct, and polite.

Review work policies. Your employee handbook may outline steps of action or policies against bullying. Also consider reviewing state or even federal policies about the type of bullying you’re experiencing.

Seek legal guidance. Consider talking to a lawyer, depending on the circumstances of the bullying. Legal action may not always be possible, but a lawyer can offer specific advice.

Reach out to others. Co-workers may be able to offer support. Talking to your loved ones about the bullying can also help. You can also talk to a therapist. They can provide professional support and help you explore ways to cope with the effects of bullying while you take other action.

If you’re a member of a union, your union representative may be able to offer some guidance and support on how to deal with bullying.

Click here to view a video on how you can advise an employee who are being bullied.