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Beat bullying at work


Harassment and bullying at work has increased since the advent of the recession but how can you ensure you don't fall victim? Jamie-Natalie Cross reports on some of the key self-defence tactics employees can use to beat the bullies.

Despite the inroads made with workplace diversity and wellness training, reports of workplace bullying have doubled over the past 10 years and more than one in three employees have fallen victim to intimidation in the workplace in the past six months, according to figures from public sector union Unison.

"In the current financial climate there is extra pressure on managers and workers to get results, which has led to more aggressive targets, increased pressure, more criticism of co-workers and a very real concern for job security", says Dr Daniel Scott, author of 'Verbal Self Defence in The Workplace'.

With unemployment on the increase, tensions within the workplace are at an all-time high as people grapple for jobs. Instead of viewing each other as colleagues, some employees now view their co-workers as competitors and may deliberately attempt to boycott each others’ credibility at work.

"Some bullies, particularly in line management positions, see the current financial climate as justification to give co-workers a hard time", says Dr Scott. "They'll use people's fear of losing their jobs as a stick to beat them with and may even decide to 'clear out the trash' by making their target's work-life hell".

For those currently experiencing workplace bullying, Dr Scott recommends adopting five key tactics to combat the situation.

  1. Say nothing: To achieve stoic entrenchment you must be unwilling to communicate – if this is done the imbalance of conversational power will begin to shift. A person cannot control a conversation if no one responds.
  2. Withdraw gracefully: Try to create a predetermined excuse so, when it’s necessary, you can leave a situation or conversation that is becoming increasingly difficult.
  3. Show positive intent: When the focal point of a conversation is the bully’s ‘problem’ with you, try to shift this by analysing their bullying behaviour and changing the direction of the conversation towards what they really want.
  4. Set compliance conditions: Any time a bully gives one of their ‘problems’, use a conditional closing statement to help resolve the issue if they agree to change their bullying behaviour in some way. For example: “So, if I do this [insert what they want], then you agree to do this [insert what you want]?”
  5. Turn their behaviour back on them: When a bully refuses to acknowledge the existence of a problem it may be necessary to bring the behaviour out in the open by labelling it in such a way that it would hurt their self image. However, try not to be rude or unprofessional; for example: "I really believe that telling everyone in the office I steal stuff when it’s not true is very childish and immature. Why do you need to be like that?" This will put them in the spotlight and people will expect a response.

Bullying is not something to be taken lightly, whether you are at primary school or at work and age has no bearing on its effects. It can lead to stress, affecting your ability to work efficiently and can often lead to individuals avoiding work altogether.

Don’t be afraid to report a situation to your employer as he or she has responsibility to investigate any complaint of bullying. Many workplaces have policies aimed at preventing bullying and harassment at work; they have a duty of care and are liable for the actions of their employees. If you are being bullied, it is within your grasp to prevent it.

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