Career Advice

Standing Up to Workplace Bullying


You are in a job that you love, but your work life is being made difficult by someone at work or even a few people that are making you feel awful or uncomfortable. It can be difficult to work out how to stand up for yourself in the workplace without making things worse.

Everyone needs to feel valued and comfortable in the workplace, but not every company that you work for is going to be perfect. It doesn’t matter if you are new to the company or you have been there a number of months or years, should you start to feel uncomfortable or anxious at work then something needs to be done to confront a workplace bully, whether that is a team mate, someone in another department, or even your own supervisor.

Getting your timing right

When you need to stand up for yourself at work and speak out about a conflict or issue with a workmate, there can be good times and appropriate moments where you can take your concerns to your boss, line manager or the HR department. This can be at a regular review or performance meeting you have with your boss or appointed officer.

If you are not due a review any time soon, then you don’t have to wait to report your concerns. You can ask for a meeting with your boss or HR member to raise your concerns if the situation is getting too far out of hand or your worries are escalating pretty quickly.

It can be handy to document and record the issues you are experiencing and any individual instances that are causing you anxiety. These can be examples such as the following:

  • Being emotionally manipulated by a workmate
  • Being excluded from team meetings or ignored in meetings
  • Being overloaded with work with unrealistic deadlines
  • Being unfairly treated by your boss
  • People issuing you work who you don’t report to
  • Someone else constantly taking the credit for your ideas or work you have done

It is better to raise your concerns with your boss or HR officer and be able to give solid examples rather than going along empty handed. Should you be challenged over your concerns, you can then more easily back up your issues with proof of what has taken place.

Standing up for yourself in the workplace

It may be that the situation that is making you anxious hasn’t yet escalated into something of a major problem. If you can nip things in the bud early then it could save a lot of problems from building up in the future. However, how can you stand your ground and make your point without making too much of a scene and making things worse for yourself?

When you need to take someone aside for a quiet word, the chances are that you will have already practiced and rehearsed exactly what you will say to them in your head over and over again. Being prepared for a confrontation is always your best bet. But you don’t want to rely on your memory alone when it comes to your big moment.

Putting pen to paper can help here. Take some time to actually write out what behavior you want to address with your talk and what you want to say. Having a guide to follow can really help, especially if there is a risk that you will let your emotions get out of hand.

Keeping a clear head, calm voice, slow and clear speech can also help to get your message across to a person without the exchange becoming too heated.

Think of what you have written as an actual statement that reflects how you feel and how unfairly you have been treated. Having a script to follow can help keep you going all the way to the end without worrying that you will forget what you want to say or start to feel overwhelmed by the situation.

Keep calm

Keeping yourself cool, calm and collected all the way through your statement will show the other person that you will no longer tolerate being pushed around at work and will demonstrate that you are made of stronger stuff than they realize. Take a breath before you speak a line. Never react emotionally if the other person says something to provoke you. The chances are they will be trying to make you look bad to win the argument. Take a moment before you speak and stick to your script.

Learn to say ‘NO’

Many people are so concerned with making themselves invaluable at work that they often forget how to say ‘no’. While it is good for your working relationships to help out when a colleague is struggling or under pressure to get something done on time, remember to only take on extra work if they are genuinely struggling and never at the expense of your own work and deadlines.

Saying no can be difficult, so if you are the sort of person that cannot say it out loud as an answer to a request, look at different ways to say no without actually saying ‘no’. an example could be when you are given a stack of work to do that you know you cannot finish on time, instead of saying no, say ‘I can do this but I need to complete X Y Z first so it will have to wait’. You are not saying no, but you are making it clear that you will prioritize your existing work first.

No matter what issue or anxiety you are suffering with at work, you should take appropriate steps to get it resolved as quickly and smoothly as possible with the least repercussions. Leaving issues unresolved can lead to them taking over more of your thoughts throughout the day and eventually end with you taking your worries home with you. The last thing you want is to take your work anxieties home to spill over and affect your family life.

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