Recognizing a Workplace Bully
People who study workplace bullying tell us that one of the greatest challenges a person faces is recognizing a workplace bully. Many of us find it easier to excuse the bully (“He’s having a bad day”) or blame ourselves (“I made a mistake again!”) than to accept that we are a bully’s target. But until you accept that the workplace bully intends to make your life miserable, you’re powerless to stop him or her.
Below are some warning signs that tell you, “I’m being bullied”:
- You are continually criticized and made to feel “wrong.”
- You’re undermined or even shouted at, particularly when others are around to witness.
- You are treated differently than others. For example, other employees come in five minutes late but when you do that, you’re called on the carpet.
- Offensive language is directed at you.
- When you need information, it is denied to you, although others have access to it.
- The bully sets goals you can’t possibly meet–or changes them, or wants the work accomplished sooner than originally communicated. All these are ways of keeping you off balance.
- You’re expected to work more hours than others, usually without extra compensation. It’s understood–tacitly or overtly–that you face dismissal if you don’t comply.
- You don’t receive credit for your work–in fact, your work may be represented as having been accomplished by someone else, most often the bully.
- You’re the target of sexually demeaning comments.
- You don’t have a clear job description. Job descriptions set out your responsibilities. Without one, a bully can “pile on” the tasks.
Some people tell us, “A bully has all the power.” It would be more accurate to say, “A bully only has power when the target is in denial.”
Recognizing a workplace bully and understanding their behaviour as real and destructive to you is like putting on a pair of eyeglasses to correct your vision. Suddenly the whole world looks different. You can see clearly and can make decisions based on facts, not excuses. Now, that’s power!
Valerie Cade, Founder
Workplace Bullying Expert, Speaker, and Author of
Bully Free at Work