I was 30 years old when I first experienced bullying in the workplace. I didn’t realise it immediately and it took several months for me to unravel what for the most part, felt like a bad mood swing.
When I first started working with Lorraine* I thought we got along great. I’d heard she could be a handful, but given our similarities, I figured I could handle it, she can’t be that bad surely.
After working with Lorraine for a year, I started to feel a little more down than usual. I started to feel more anxious at work and depressed in general. It wasn’t until our senior management emailed out an employee handbook with the bullying policy within, that I understood what had been going on. It all started to make sense as to why I was feeling so low, and honestly, I felt elated so have found a cause for how I was feeling – I was being bullied.
Workplace bullying can be defined as repeated malicious behaviour that undermines, intimidates or denigrates a co-worker.
The signs were gradual over time, I guess I thought nothing of them until I started writing down what I was feeling. If I could go back, I would have done this sooner, this was one of the first things I should have started doing but didn’t – documenting.
The signs for me were mostly feeling anxious around Lorraine, tip toeing around her, nervous to include her in email’s for fear of her negative comments, her constant criticism and her excluding me in general. I felt depressed coming into work and while I knew I was good at my job; I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was never good enough.
Some examples that you’re being bullied are:
- Public shaming
- Unfair and excessive criticism
- Undervaluing efforts at work
- Uninvited to meetings or events
- Unreasonable work demands (impossible targets)
- Passive aggressive behaviour
- Overbearing supervision – taking micro management to new levels.
Deciding what to do about the situation wasn’t easy and so I tried a soft approach at first. I spoke with Lorraine directly. I let her know in an informal way that I didn’t need follow up emails (plural) after her initial one and that given, we sat next to each other, I would much rather her speak with me about the task. I let her know I found it hard to achieve my targets when she had the best and first pick – could I perhaps take the next big client? I felt like over the course of six months I’d tried a number of ways to self-manage the way she was treating me.