I recently read a book by Annie Clayton called “Brilliant, but not Bullied: Workplace Bullying Unveiled: Take Back Control of Your Career.” While I personally have not dealt with workplace bullying, I thought it provided some great information, and that a lot of it could be useful for people who work from home that have dealt with bullying from other co-workers or supervisors. In this post I’ll touch on some of the information she provides in her book – the definition of a workplace bully, how to know when you’re being bullied, and what you can do if you’re being bullied.
What is a workplace bully?
The definition that Annie provides in her book is “Anyone who makes your life a living hell by contributing to or creating a hostile, abusive or intolerable work environment. This is usually done through intimidation, humiliation, criticism and ridicule, or demeaning behavior – Jobbully.com. According to WBI, workplace bullying is akin to domestic violence at work, where the abuser is on the payroll.”
How do I know if I’m being bullied?
Whether or not you’re being bullied is not always easy to determine. Obviously, if you’re repeatedly being subjected to public humiliation, you’re being bullied. However, the definition of bullying in the workplace gets a lot more complex, so if you want to take action against a bully you’ll have to be sure you’re technically being bullied. Things that you need to take into consideration when you’re determining if you’re being bullied include:
- Is the person who’s bullying you usually honest and decent in their behavior?
- Do they usually play political games or stoop to backstabbing?
If the person is normally trustworthy, their actions may not be intentional – they may not even be aware that they’re doing these things. Other questions you can answer when determining if you’re being bullied include:
- Do you find it harder and harder to go to work?
- Are you suffering from stress-related health problems?
- Has your attendance at work or performance dropped off significantly?
- Are you constantly talking about or obsessing about work, even when you’re not there?
- Are your family and friends worried about you and your work situation?
- Do you feel like you’re drowning in emotional stress?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your workplace has become a place that is not good for you, and your health and happiness are being impacted. If you can answer yes to any of the following situations, you’re very likely being bullied;
- You’re repeatedly being given pointless tasks that don’t help you get your job done.
- You’re being set up to fail because of impossible demands.
- You’re being blamed for other peoples’ mistakes.
- You’re being subjected to mind games like the silent treatment.
- You find out that important information is being withheld from you that impacts how you do your job.
If any of the above situations apply to you, you’re very likely being bullied. You can find out more specifically if you’re being bullied by contacting a counselor or someone in Human Resources at your company to find out if you’re being bullied, and find out if they have an anti-bullying process and complaint procedure.
It’s also possible that you won’t be believed if you tell someone that you’re being bullied – that’s why it’s important to create a file of evidence, as well as a journal or some kind of record of events – make it as detailed as possible. In the case of someone who works from home, the file of evidence could include copies of threatening emails you’ve received, copies of threatening instant messages that have been sent to you, text messages you received, information in any meetings you were excluded from, including the date, time, and purpose of the meeting, and why you feel you should have been included.
What do I do if I’m being bullied?
You have a few choices. You can confront the bully directly, or you can go to someone in Human Resources about the bully. If you choose to confront the bully directly, you’re going to need a few things:
- Evidence that you’re being bullied by this person.
- The support of an authority figure, such as a manager or union delegate.
- You’ll need to know your rights regarding bullying and harassment, both at your workplace and according to the laws in your state or country.
- You’ll need to be able to maintain your confidence and be able to be assertive when needed.
- You’ll also need an exit strategy in case fighting the bully doesn’t work in your favor.
If you don’t want to confront the bully directly, you can also ask for help from others in your life, as well as your workplace. If you choose to build a support team , there are a few different types of people you should include:
- A trusted colleague or former colleague – Even though work from home, most everyone communicates with others at the company they work for, whether it’s through instant messaging or a shared message board. Ask for help from a trusted colleague or former colleague you’ve met through those channels.
- A counselor or psychologist. If you’re having a hard time dealing with the bullying, you may want to see a counselor or psychologist to deal with it.
- An EAP counselor – if the company you work for from home has an employee assistance program, you may be able to get help through this program.
- A pastor or priest – Talk to your pastor or priest if you’re active in your church.
- A close friend or family member
- A mentor to support you through the process.
Annie also recommends talking to a union delegate and a workplace lawyer, however since this article is specifically targeted at people who work from home, and most of the companies that hire people who work from home don’t unionize, I didn’t include them on this list.
The above people should fulfill at least one of the following roles:
- Cheerleader – someone who will cheer you on no matter what.
- Accountability partner – someone who is also reaching their own goals that you can check in with on a regular basis.
- Mentor – someone you can meet with face to face that is above the level of success you’re aiming for, and can help you get to the level of success you want.
- Coach – There are coaches popping up in different areas of life – now we have life coaches, fitness coaches, and business and career coaches. If there’s a specific area you need help with, you may want to consider using a coach to help you get there, even if it’s just for a short period of time.
Once you’ve dealt with the bully, how do you get past the experience? Annie discusses this in the last section of her book “Control is Retaken Through Change” I’m not going to get into a lot of detail about it here, because this blog post has already gotten very long, but it’s basically about making changes in your life that will help you focus on other goals or other areas of your life. Does this mean finding a different job? Maybe, maybe not. Basically you want to get involved in more positive activities to re-build your self-esteem and bring some fun back into your life. You could do things like have a play date with small children, connect with playful people, think about things you used to do that were fun, and start doing some of those things again. She also suggests thinking about what you really want from your life, and creating a plan to start achieving those goals.
I hope this blog post has provided some insight into how to determine if you’re being bullied, and how to deal with workplace bullying when you’re working from home. I do plan to write a follow-up post sometime in the future sharing people’s stories of being bullied when working from home, so if you’ve had any experiences with being bullied, I’d love to hear them. And if you’re interested in checking out Annie’s book, you can do so here.