Bullying doesn’t necessarily take place when someone gets offended. After all, in today’s world, “offended” often means “have a different point of view.” Because different opinions exist to describe seemingly simple situations, it’s important to understand what bullying is. The Tim Field Foundation defines bullying as conduct that cannot be objectively justified by a reasonable code of conduct, and whose likely or actual cumulative effect is to threaten, undermine, constrain, humiliate or harm another person or their property, reputation, self-esteem, self-confidence or ability to perform.
The Workplace Bullying Institute calls it repeated, health-harming mistreatment by one or more people of an employee: abusive conduct which is verbal abuse, threats, intimidation, humiliation, work interference, sabotage, or a combination of any or all. Incivility or disrespect are more gentle synonyms for bullying, while horizontal violence and lateral violence refer to mistreatment from fellow coworkers or managers and supervisors.
Now let’s define another half dozen terms so you can tell if you’re being bullied. Actually, that’s not necessary because even when we couldn’t define it (probably around kindergarten), we’ve all known when we’ve been treated unfairly. As busy adults, sometimes we need to slow down to fully comprehend a hostile work situation. It’s more subtle because no one is throwing dodgeballs at your head and stealing lunch money.
Are you being bullied? Bullying takes on many forms in the workplace and signs and
symptoms vary. All of a “sudden” is your work not good enough? Are you accused of incompetence despite a history of objective excellence? Do you find yourself feeling sick to your stomach the night before work or obsess about work on your days off? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be in a bullying situation. Tell us your experiences in the comments. We’ll explain what do do next in a later post, but besides our website, the Workplace Bullying Institute is a wonderful reference.