At first, it never even crossed my mind that I was being bullied (Photo: Courtesy)

Hi Chris,

I was enjoying my career until I moved into my present job. Suddenly, I am having a hard time. I am good at what I do, but some colleagues are constantly trying to humiliate me.

To begin with, I did not even realise what was going on. But gradually I started to notice a lot of small incidents, each of which seemed trivial at the time.

And then it crossed my mind that I am being bullied! Is that even a thing? I thought bullying only happened in school. But I am getting stressed and anxious, and my performance is being to suffer.

So what should I do?

Bullied

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Chris says,

Hi Bullied!

You are right, you are being bullied. And it really is a thing in the workplace. Your competence has aroused someone’s envy and exposed their professional and social deficiencies.

Workplace bullies can be of either sex, are very status-conscious, seek positions of leadership, and often draw attention to their position: “Hello, I am the team leader.”

They are usually reasonable performers, but for some reason feel insecure. So they become jealous of more well-balanced colleagues. Bullies are charming in public, but mean and vindictive behind closed doors. Some have a personality disorder.

Their victims are usually effective, intelligent and display a high level of integrity and honesty. Exactly what the bully wants to be, and so jealousy sets in. The bully cannot cope with a trustworthy and conscientious colleague and feels overshadowed.

Bullies, especially female ones, often encourage their coworkers to target the victim as a group, as is happening to you. Bullying is a sign of inept management. Even if they are aware of what is going on, senior managers often lack the interpersonal skills to address it. So what should you do?

Bullies usually have underlying personality issues. So never allow one to get to you personally. Remember their behaviour is driven by their own deficiencies. That is not easy, but will help you to cope with the problem.

You could tackle the issue head-on. Keep a diary describing the incidents, insist on written instructions and follow them to the letter. Bullies make vague requests to try to make their victims look foolish.

Remain polite but distant. Never try to befriend a bully and do not let them know anything personal about you. Do not retaliate, keep calm, build up the evidence and use it when the time is right.

Behave in a professional manner throughout, and draw up and state your case well. A better approach is to move on. Look for another job and learn from the experience. Move on and up and into an organisation with better managers.

Do not allow yourself to become a victim. By growing and moving on you are in control of your own destiny.

All the best,

Chris