I’m afraid to go to work. I wake up in the morning sick to my stomach. About a year ago, I became a victim of bullying in the workplace. At first, I laughed the insults off from a couple of co-workers in my team. Now, the comments have escalated. I am hurt and isolated; I feel like I’m a six-year-old in the school playground.
There is no one I can talk to about this humiliation and intimidation because the two conspirators have more power and authority in the organization. They can influence my manager and his performance review of my work. Some examples are the two team leads are gossiping about me behind my back regarding matters which are not true. They deliberately undermine my work, have removed responsibilities without a reason and are constantly changing my job duties. To top it off, they are withholding necessary information and purposefully giving me wrong information. Last week, I missed a deadline for a document I was working on because one of the bullies was supposed to advise me. I could go on and on.
Please help me. I am on the verge of taking a sick leave.
Signed: Bullying is making me sick (BMS)
You are in a terrible situation at work. It sounds as if you are being bullied at the workplace, according to the definition of the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS): “Bullying is usually seen as acts or verbal comments that could ‘mentally’ hurt or isolate a person in the workplace. Sometimes, bullying can involve negative physical contact as well. Bullying usually involves repeated incidents or a pattern of behaviour that is intended to intimidate, offend, degrade or humiliate a particular person or group of people. It has also been described as the assertion of power through aggression”. I cannot imagine the profound effect these actions have on your mental, physical and emotional health and well-being. Bullying is a serious problem, and a recent Canadian study reported by the CCOHS estimates that bullying in the workplace is three to four times more common than sexual harassment or racial discrimination!
Now, what do you do? There is an abundance of articles in the media and in the Internet on this issue and how to combat it. First, you need to know that in Ontario there is legislation in place called Bill 168 – Violence and Harassment in the Workplace also known as the Bully-Busting Bill where all employers “take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker.” Bill 168 ensures workers will now be protected from violence and harassment through policy and procedure. Please check this out with your Human Resources Department and sometimes the policy can have steps you can follow to bring this issue to the attention of the Human Resource managers.
The CCOHS recommends the following techniques if you feel that you are being bullied, discriminated against, victimized or subjected to any form of harassment:
– FIRMLY tell the bullies to stop their behaviour. If needed, ask a supervisor or union member to be with you when you approach the them.
– KEEP a detailed factual journal/diary of the events. Make sure to keep record of the following:
- The date and time of EACH incident and any patterns (including location)
- Details of what happened every time
- Names of possible witnesses or anyone to whom you disclosed the experience
- The outcome of each event
– KEEP organised record of copies of any letters, memos, e-mails, faxes, etc, received from the person(s). Try to use email as much as possible, when communicating with them, so that you can collect an email record.
– REPORT the harassment to the appropriate authority, as identified in your workplace policy (supervisor or a delegated manager). If your concerns are not taken seriously, proceed to the next level of management.
– DO NOT RETALIATE. If you take any independent action to punish the bullies, you may end up looking like the perpetrator. This could confuse you case and have a negative impact on the perceptions of those responsible for evaluating and responding to the situation.
My last words – look for job at another company, or at least a job with another team within your company! While you are job-hunting, or even if you wish to remain in this toxic environment, make sure to keep your skills current, leverage LinkedIn, take initiative in your job and take on extra curricular activities (if possible at your workplace – like volunteering to run the United Way campaign or start one, if they don’t have it consider starting or joining a Toastmasters group).
All the best with this difficult situation.
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