Bullying is not just for kids. It’s alive and well in the American workplace — from cubicles to the boardroom. Almost 30 percent of us are targeted by bullies at some time during our working years, according to Dr. Pamela Lutgen-Sandvik, a professor at North Dakota State University in Fargo and the author of “Adult Bullying: A Nasty Piece of Work.” She likens workplace bullying, which she also describes as “mobbing,” to psychological terror and emotional abuse. When the bullies’ victims are added with those who witness it, fully half of U.S. workers are affected. And that makes on-the-job bullying an epidemic, declares Lutgen-Sandvik. Who are the workplace bullies? They are typically what psychologists call high-aggressives. “It’s a thin façade of ‘I’m so great; I’m the center of the whole world,’ but it’s easily punctured and because it’s so easily punctured, they are filled with fear,” explains Lugen-Sandvik. “And the fear is that someone is going to see them as incompetent.” Bullies also have little or no sense of empathy.
If you’re the target of an office bully, here are four tips to deal with it:
1. Name it.
It’s workplace bullying. “Having a name for it sounds small. It’s huge. You can’t believe the relief that people have when they realize that bullying is what’s happening,” says Lutgen-Sandvik.
2. Seek social support.
If you need a counselor, find one. Take advantage of employee assistance programs if available. Talk to friends and co-workers who are supportive.
3. Step back.
Take some time off work if that is possible to gain some perspective. List the pros and cons of the job and determine whether searching for another position is feasible.
4. Fight back.
If the bullying targets only a certain group and involves issues such as gender, racial or other types of discrimination, evaluate options for reporting and legal avenues available. Scrupulously document what is happening.
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