Workplace bullying

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  • #26
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(snip) Bullies in the workplace are after power .... (snip)
--- and very little else.

"I'm bigger/smarter than you."
"My dad can lick your dad."
"My dog's bigger than your dog."
"My watch/TV/clothes/car cost more than yours do."
"I'll sue."
"Mom, he hit me back first."
 
  • #27
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Elaborating on my previous post, this thread should probably in itself indicate that STEM-fields are just as lacking in tolerance and progressiveness as anywhere else. If not worse in some aspects. I see a lot of articles about sexual harassment... :c
Nah WineRedPsy, what you are talking about isn't progressiveness but political correctness and, I suspect, your personal lack of assertiveness. If you have a person who's feeding off the energy of an entire department, amusing himself by mentally hurting other people etc. it won't work being nice to him, talking to him or w/e. Based on what I saw back in HS, I'm certain they understand what they're doing is wrong, they just don't care. Those types you handle by being direct confrontation or by asserting yourself. Sure, physical intimidation would be unpractical most of the time but it certainly is one of the cards one could plausibly use.

The OP asked about how to deal with it. Excellent question.

In my department, people dealt with it by avoiding the bully. Picture a stream moving around a rock - it was like that. People just worked around her, if possible. Going to management was useless because her husband was in upper management, and whatever manager you might go talk to was well aware of the problem already (and probably had to deal with it daily, too!).

It's a horrible thing to have to deal with, very corrosive and inefficient. I'm the kind of person who takes things at surface value. I don't want to play politics or deal with subterfuge, but sometimes I couldn't avoid it.
Couldn't you just band together and make her life miserable? What's the management going to do, fire the entire department? OR: Couldn't you come as a group and demand management handle the problem? If there are 20 people complaining about one person, they will
 
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  • #28
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Couldn't you just band together and make her life miserable? What's the management going to do, fire the entire department?
Things aren't so simple. Harrassing her could easily be twisted by her into an attack on her for her relationship to the upper manager. They could certainly fire one person as an example, and perhaps discipline the rest. It's a very touchy situation when the bully has some kind of special protection, as in Lisa's story.
Couldn't you come as a group and demand management handle the problem? If there are 20 people complaining about one person, they will
This could also easily backfire. Management could see it as the employees trying to take over and dictate hiring and firing policy. They would balk at that for sure, even if they realized the woman was a problem, just to retain their authority.
 
  • #29
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We've been discussing a bunch of different behaviors here. According to that Guardian piece
Simply put, a workplace bully is someone at work who makes getting up on Mondays harder than it needs to be.
That's a definition so broad that you'll never be able to find a workplace that is consistently free of "bullying", and I'm skeptical of any claim that it's more prevalent now than before. There will always be people who are unpleasant to work with. The best thing you can do for your career is to remain objective and professional when you encounter them (and of course try not be one of them yourself).

Specific behaviors such as sexual or racial harassment or abusive behavior that goes beyond objective criticism and performance coaching are a different matter. Large and well-run American companies will have established procedures in place for allowing employees to bring such problems to the attention of senior management without fear of retaliation, and generally you can depend on these to work.

Smaller organizations often do not have such processes, and there the culture will reflect the personality of the boss. Every situation is different, but if you cannot resolve the problem with a private and professional conversation ("Yesterday you referred to me as 'the little lady here' in front of our customer's CIO; I'm sure you didn't mean anything by it, but that's an inappropriate and unhelpful way to describe the lead engineer on the 3M$ contract we have with this guy") your choices may be to talk a lawyer and/or find another job. Life is simply too short to spend it working for people who don't respect you - if you have a choice.
 
  • #30
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Nah WineRedPsy
Since when's the option between "Calm conversation" and physical assault? Confront the person, tell them they're acting horribly and everyone dislikes them for it. If workplace policy isn't horrible as in zoobyshoe's case going to higher-ups is a thing, too.
Attacking them isn't gonna teach them anything than the fact that they should reeeaaaally dislike you, and might get you in trouble with the employer for assaulting a co-worker or even the authorities...

Now,
a thing I think we're forgetting in this thread is that there isn't always "the bully". In many cases it's the group excluding someone or doing all those supression techniques. Group dynamics and stuff. Besides sexual harassment these cases might be some of the more emotionally damaging. They're also the ones decent people might if without self-analyzation and active reflection be contributing to, either actively or passively/unconsciusly.
 
  • #31
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Since when's the option between "Calm conversation" and physical assault? Confront the person, tell them they're acting horribly and everyone dislikes them for it. If workplace policy isn't horrible as in zoobyshoe's case going to higher-ups is a thing, too.
Attacking them isn't gonna teach them anything than the fact that they should reeeaaaally dislike you, and might get you in trouble with the employer for assaulting a co-worker or even the authorities...
Obviously they realize people, especially the victims, dislike them. They aren't stupid, it just isn't bothering them. That established, how are you going to calmly talk them into getting off you back and start including you, talking nice about you etc.? Note that I did not say one should use violence as the default option, I said physical intimidation (not necessarily punching a guy) was an unpractical option, but nonetheless that a decent beating is something a bully deserve.

Now,
a thing I think we're forgetting in this thread is that there isn't always "the bully". In many cases it's the group excluding someone or doing all those supression techniques. Group dynamics and stuff. Besides sexual harassment these cases might be some of the more emotionally damaging. They're also the ones decent people might if without self-analyzation and active reflection be contributing to, either actively or passively/unconsciusly.
A group excluding others aren't bullies, they are just douches more likely. Just avoid them and hang out with other people?

Things aren't so simple. Harrassing her could easily be twisted by her into an attack on her for her relationship to the upper manager. They could certainly fire one person as an example, and perhaps discipline the rest. It's a very touchy situation when the bully has some kind of special protection, as in Lisa's story.

This could also easily backfire. Management could see it as the employees trying to take over and dictate hiring and firing policy. They would balk at that for sure, even if they realized the woman was a problem, just to retain their authority.
Hm those are reasonable points, it's not always that easy I guess. I don't know, as I said I'm still a student, but I still think one should at least do something.
 
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  • #32
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A group excluding others aren't bullies, they are just douches more likely. Just avoid them and hang out with other people?
Apparantly the semantics are a bit messed up, in swedish we use the word Mobbing to mean both bullying and "Group-bullying" and emotional harrassment. As for "Avoiding them and hanging out with other people" it's usually a lot more complicated. I know it mostly in the context of school classes but group dynamics like this are really insidious. It's also not necessarily people being douches, just sort of how the group functions, sort of.
 
  • #33
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Apparantly the semantics are a bit messed up, in swedish we use the word Mobbing to mean both bullying and "Group-bullying" and emotional harrassment. As for "Avoiding them and hanging out with other people" it's usually a lot more complicated. I know it mostly in the context of school classes but group dynamics like this are really insidious. It's also not necessarily people being douches, just sort of how the group functions, sort of.
If by group-bullying you mean the entire workplace/school is filled with scumbags, then what can you do? Soldier on until you find something better I guess. I can't see how excluding someone is bullying though, it's just being an douchebag as far as I am concerned.

I can understand how it can still be emotionally damaging, but it's another issue I think.
 
  • #34
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I can't see how excluding someone is bullying though
It's just an example, and it's a lot more subtle than "Nah yuh cawn't hang wif usss!". It's these minor continued suppresion techniques and subtler forms of emotional abuse. It's not really something you notice unless you're thinking about it and/or is pretty removed from the context. Even if you yourself participates in it, I think.
 
  • #35
Choppy
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Bullying has nothing to do with physical stature or characteristics. I weigh close to 200 lbs, have a black belt in judo and train regularly at one of the most competative clubs in the country, served for three years in the Canadian Armed Forces and worked my way through graduate school with a part-time job as an auxilliary officer with my university's security service. There are very few people who can physically intimidate me.

And yet I have been bullied in the workplace.

Tips for dealing with workplace bullying...
  1. Keep records. If anything happens at work that makes you feel uncomfortable - even if you aren't sure about labelling it bullying - write it down. Record names, dates, times and specific details. Keep these in a safe place (i.e. not at work). Writing it down helps you to be able to articulate your concerns if/when you need to do so.
  2. Identify key individuals responsible for the behaviour. If possible, try to engage the individual in a critical conversation and identify specific behaviours/actions that have bothered you. Sometimes bullies are unaware of what they are doing. Sometimes this can simply serve as step that you've taken (and documented) that justifies further action. Try to have other parties witness the conversation as well. (I do understand this can be hard).
  3. Tell other people/co-workers about the behaviours that bother you. This can help psychologically to de-stress and can sometimes help you to gather critical information that can help you stop the behaviour. Often bullies will target more than one person, and taling about your feelings might help those other people tool
  4. Tell your supervisor. If you don't want to make something a "big deal" you can do this informally and state that you don't desire any action to be taken - you're merely informing. On the other hand you may want to present the written records you've been keeping and make it formal.
  5. Sometimes you may have to make changes in the way you do things to mitigate the bullying behaviour. I don't think people should have to do this. But sometimes it can be the easiest way to stop an undesirable behaviour. For example, if you're getting teased for eating stink-fish sandwiches every day in the cafeteria - consider bringing a different sandwich or eating elsewhere. In a way the bully "wins" when you do this, and in some circumstances, changing what you do will only prompt more bullying, so assess each situation carefully.
  6. Know that you're not alone.
  7. Know also that bullies often dig holes for themselves and if the behaviour is that bad, there's a good chance it will be noticed and th bully will be disciiplined - particularly if people speak up.
 
  • #36
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How do people define bullies here anyway? I get the impression that my image of a bully is different from others' here. For example: "Sometimes bullies are unaware of what they are doing." like choppy wrote, would mean the guy can't be a bully in my book.
 
  • #37
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It is interesting, the attempt, your attempt to personalize events of nearly twenty years ago.

My solution to unpleasant people, virtual or in my face, now that I am retired from commerce, is shunning. In my work place I did not socialize with unpleasant people. SHUN ICKY
 
  • #38
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Hm those are reasonable points, it's not always that easy I guess. I don't know, as I said I'm still a student, but I still think one should at least do something.
Yes, you probably should do something, but you have to be sure you are inside the law and the local rules. Otherwise you can just get yourself into trouble. Generally, even if someone is doing something illegal or against the rules, you are still not permitted to do anything illegal or against the rules to 'remedy' their behavior.
 
  • #39
DaveC426913
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How do people define bullies here anyway? I get the impression that my image of a bully is different from others' here. For example: "Sometimes bullies are unaware of what they are doing." like choppy wrote, would mean the guy can't be a bully in my book.
That's because concentrating on 'bully' is the wrong approach.

Instead of defining what is bullying - with everything else falling outside that definition - consider it as defining the rights of a person not to be intimidated. Any behaviour that is intimidating falls under 'not unacceptable'.

Being too ignorant to notice how you are affecting other people is no excuse - and no defense. i.e. they are still bullies, by way of their lack of self-perception.
 
  • #40
Choppy
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How do people define bullies here anyway? I get the impression that my image of a bully is different from others' here. For example: "Sometimes bullies are unaware of what they are doing." like choppy wrote, would mean the guy can't be a bully in my book.
Bullying can take many forms. It's not just about someone beating you up and taking your lunch money.

Consider...
  • Bullying by harassment (sexual, racial, religious, cultural... although it seems to be acceptable if you're a Leafs fan for some reason)
  • Threatening or intimidating behaviour. ("Don't be surprised if there's a [inappropriate thing] on your computer when you come in on Monday.")
  • Destruction/theft of personal property.
  • Spreading malicious rumours.
  • Bullying by exclusion. Examples include not offering a particular person equal access to social activities or opportunities for professional advancement. (This doesn't mean you have to invite everyone from the office to your birthday party.)
I think there certainly are grey areas. Sometimes a practical joke is just funny. Sometimes it's bullying.
 
  • #41
DaveC426913
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Bullying can take many forms. It's not just about someone beating you up and taking your lunch money.
True but none of your examples cover the specific scenario nicotine mentioned:

Sometimes [ people ] are unaware of what they are doing
 
  • #42
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Workplaces with bullies are toxic and destroy productivity. To me, bullying is typically intentional, but can also include people who are apathetic about how their actions affect others and make minimal effort to be pleasant. I saw a lot of it in High School, but have been very happy that I've personally seen very little of it in college/work (though I've ocasionally heard things that other people have gone through).

I'm in disagreement with the statement made earlier that sexual harassment is a good sign of a promotion at work. Many who sexually harass don't do it with the intent of giving the victim a raise or promotion, unless it is to get them closer so they can further harass them. They'd prefer to subtly undermine the competence and value of the victim in order to convince the harassed and others that they are being benevolent when they are giving the person the credit and recommendations they already deserve (if they even give the person the credit they deserve).
 
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