Workplace Bullying: 4 Tips to Survive

It has been estimated that one out of every seven people is bullied by a supervisor or coworker. Workplace bullying is widespread and in many cases, a very serious problem. Men and women may experience workplace bullying by both sexes, however women are often more likely to be bullied by men. Our concern at JSC, is that it workplace bullying can be especially problematic for persons with special needs who are particularly vulnerable. These individuals are frequently victimized and likely have difficulty coping with harassment in the workplace. They often have difficulty managing their emotions and may lack strategies or plans for dealing effectively in such stressful situations.

Just about everyone has a story about a strict boss or an annoying co-worker but workplace bullies go beyond merely being demanding or irritating. Workplace bullies systematically mistreat employees, sabotage their efforts on the job, are verbally abusive and often attempt to intimidate or humiliate employees in front of coworkers and/or customers. Workplace bullies may also ignore staff members asking for assistance or take credit for other people’s work.

The consequences of workplace bullying can be devastating for victims, especially for employees who may have self-esteem issues to begin with. People who are continuously bullied can suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. They can also suffer from high blood pressure, stomach aches, migraines and other physical ailments often associated with chronic stress. To make matters worse, those who are under constant stress often perform poorly at work, which may inadvertently invite further abuse from the bully.

Although there are few laws that protect workers from being bullied in the workplace, victims of bullying may still have the power to stop the harassment and abuse aimed at them. Most large companies and employers have regulations and statutes in place for addressing workplace bullying and harassment. Make sure your students and clients with special needs know whom to contact. Here are some tips for dealing with workplace bullies to share with your students.

1. Minimize Ammunition

Encourage students to avoid giving possible workplace bullies any ammunition that can be used against them. Bullies look for potential weaknesses in would-be victims and are quick to exploit even the most personal or sensitive information. Students should avoid sharing personal information with coworkers or employers who they don’t know well. These people could turn out to be bullies and may use this information against them in the future. Your students should also avoid becoming too emotional while at work. Bullies tend to target people who are overly emotional. This may be easier said than done for some people, but this can be a great time for your students to practice managing their emotions.

2. Be Assertive, Not Aggressive

Being assertive may or may not be helpful when dealing with a bully. Many bullies will back down from people who stand up to them, but that may also only aggravate them. It is important to communicate to students that while they should stand up for themselves, they should use discretion when doing so and should never become aggressive. If your students have to confront a bully, they should do so calmly and should end the conversation if it seems to disrupt the work environment or has the potential to make matters worse. If they feel at all uncomfortable or unable to take this step, advise them to immediately move to #3 below.

3. Report Bullying

If all else fails, the bullying behavior can be reported to human resources, supervisors, union representatives or employee advocates. Many companies and organizations have anti-bullying policies put in place to protect their employees. Also encourage students to visit online resources. A great one is

4. Speak with Professionals

Finally, don’t be afraid to encourage your students to speak with their doctors, counselors, or other mentors. As we mentioned above, bullying can create a lot of physical and mental health problems for victims, and personal health should always come before a job. As their teachers and advocates, you too can help them develop social skills and strategies that will make them less likely to be labeled “bully magnates.” Your interventions can help them become more effective in a variety of social situations. New found confidence and an armory of socially appropriate skills and behaviors can increase self-esteem and reduce stress, thus supporting mental health.

Copyright 2013 James Stanfield Company. All Rights Reserved.

Source: Tarkan, Laurie. “How to Cope with Bullying in the Workplace.” N.p., 25 Apr. 2013. Web. 8 May 2013.

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