As I was finishing my doctorate in education I decided that I should enter the work force and start using my degrees. I found a great fit as a research analyst at the state level and after the interview and job offer was made was excited to start working with a team of people who also seemed to be very dedicated to the improvement of higher education in the state. However, in a very short time I started to see how wrong I really was. At the time I had no idea about workplace bullying and never thought that a group of mature individuals would ever participate in so juvenile an act. I decided to write this article because I know I cannot be the only one who went through this. It was even harder because it was my first “real” job with my education and it completely demoralized and scared me. In fact, after I left this position I didn't want to work in higher education again. I was so put-off by working in a negative environment that I avoided going back to work for over a year. I instead helped out with nonprofits and charities because I found it less threatening. Eventually I finished my degree and after a long hiatus from applying I decided that I wanted to work in a position that really would give me the opportunity to use my skills for the betterment of working and student-kind. I was lucky because I got over this experience; some people do not. In fact according to the Workplace Bullying Institute (2012) study 77% of individuals who are bullied at work lose their jobs: 28% quit, 25% terminated involuntarily, and 25% are forced out by constructive discharge when bullying at work occurs.
For this article I would like to present some information from the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) to help readers understand what workplace bullying is and the signs that you may be in a similar situation yourself. For full information you can visit www.workplacebullying.org
Workplace Bullying Institute defines workplace bullying as repeated, health-harming mistreatment of one or more persons (the targets) by one or more perpetrators that takes one or more of the following forms:
- Verbal abuse
- Offensive conduct/behaviors (including nonverbal) which are threatening, humiliating, or intimidating
- Work interference — sabotage — which prevents work from getting done
Knowing the signs of being bullied both inside and outside of work is important. Here is a list from WBI to watch out for.
Experiences Outside Work
- You feel like throwing up the night before the start of your work week
- Your frustrated family demands that you to stop obsessing about work at home
- Your doctor asks what could be causing your skyrocketing blood pressure and recent health problems, and tells you to change jobs
- You feel too ashamed of being controlled by another person at work to tell your spouse or partner
- All your paid time off is used for "mental health breaks" from the misery
- Days off are spent exhausted and lifeless, your desire to do anything is gone
- Your favorite activities and fun with family are no longer appealing or enjoyable
- You begin to believe that you provoked the workplace cruelty
Experiences At Work
- You attempt the obviously impossible task of doing a new job without training or time to learn new skills, but that work is never good enough for the boss
- Surprise meetings are called by your boss with no results other than further humiliation
- Everything your tormentor does to you is arbitrary and capricious, working a personal agenda that undermines the employer's legitimate business interests
- Others at work have been told to stop working, talking, or socializing with you
- You are constantly feeling agitated and anxious, experiencing a sense of doom, waiting for bad things to happen
- No matter what you do, you are never left alone to do your job without interference
- People feel justified screaming or yelling at you in front of others, but you are punished if you scream back
- HR tells you that your harassment isn't illegal, that you have to "work it out between yourselves"
- You finally, firmly confront your tormentor to stop the abusive conduct and you are accused of harassment
- You are shocked when accused of incompetence, despite a history of objective excellence, typically by someone who cannot do your job
- Everyone -- co-workers, senior bosses, HR -- agrees (in person and orally) that your tormentor is a jerk, but there is nothing they will do about it (and later, when you ask for their support, they deny having agreed with you)
- Your request to transfer to an open position under another boss is mysteriously denied
In the coming articles we will talk more about why people bully, the effects of being bullied, and how to stop workplace bullying. If you need help now please see your HR representative.